The Cleveland Cavaliers started the season strong with a 28-8 record but stumbled in January losing seven of their next 12 games and are nursing a 33-15 record. This has allowed other contenders in the Eastern Conference to close in on the Cavaliers’ top-seeded record.
Amid the Cavaliers’ dismal performance, their franchise player LeBron James called out teammates and management. James wants the head shed to add talent and depth to the roster which he says is “top-heavy.” Injuries have depleted the shallow Cavaliers’ bench.
The Cavaliers only have 11 active players on their roster out of the 15 allowed by the league. Chris Andersen is out for the season, J.R. Smith will still return before the playoffs, and Kevin Love is day-t0-day after missing about a month due to a back injury. This means that LeBron James and superstar guard Kyrie Irving have been playing heavy minutes during the regular season. This is not a good thing since the Cavs need to save their starters for the playoff grind.
Last month, the Cavaliers traded for Kyle Korver in an attempt to replace the shooting of Smith. Cleveland sorely lacks shooters to spread the floor and give space for their top players to operate. Reportedly, they just conducted tryouts to bring in a much-needed back-up point guard or at least another playmaker. Among those invited to the tryouts were former James team mate Mario Chalmers and shooter Kirk Hinrich, whose age (36) may be a deterrent. They are also looking at free agent Lance Stephenson who is younger and much more versatile among those invited.
The trade deadline is February 23 while the deadline for a free agent is March 1. The Cavaliers can get one player for their free roster spot and even waive some players to free up the roster.
While the Cavaliers are sputtering, it is by no means a cause for alarm. For starters, they don’t have any serious rivals in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and the Washington Wizards are simply outclassed by the Cavs. The Celtics are probably a year or two away from dominating the East.
What the Cavaliers need to look out for is the NBA Finals where it is expected that they will meet their nemesis Golden State Warriors who are loaded with the offseason addition of Kevin Durant.
While James’ detractors have called him a crybaby for calling out his management mid-season, he has perfect reasons to do so. For starters, James is no longer a spring chicken at 32. He only has three world titles under his belt and he would need 2 or 3 more to cement his legacy. The Cavs today are much weaker than last year while their main rivals have loaded up.
Cavs management is scrambling to give more support for James and he will have that in the next weeks as players will be added. So to all the naysayers, the Cavs are down but definitely not out.