He can score, he can rebound, he can play D. He is generous to charities and is a locker room leader. Luol Deng is a terrific land for the Cavs, but as far as on the court production I think the sum of his influence has been overlooked, and it fits the Cavs largest problem.
I want to start with Deng's worst game this season. 18 shot attempts, 0 FT attempts, 6 pts, 4 turnovers. Yes, he pulled in 13 rebounds, but that is still a really bad game. Also in the mix would be his opening night performance- 4 pts on 8 shots, 5 reb, 4 assists, 3 turnovers. A weak game in an opening night blowout by the Heat, and his second worst game of the season. I want to talk about his 3rd worst game of the season, but that comes a little later, first the worst games of the season from 3 of the 4 most important players on the Cavs- Dion, TT and Andy.
Dion has several ugly games to choose from- 3 pts, 6 rebounds on 10 shots? 2 pts, 2 TOs, 0 rebounds/assists/steals/blocks? 6 pts, 0 rebounds, 4 turnovers and 1 assist? The competition for the top spot is stiff, but his second worst level of performances also has a number of slop-fests- 14/1/5 on 17 shots, 6/2/2 on 6 shots- ect, ect.
Thompson's worst games look a little different, but he has several 2 pt, 4 rebound games, and he has 6 games this season with 1 made FG or less- all on at least 5 shot attempts.
Andy, sweet Andy. We love him, he is good, he plays hard, but he has 11 games this season with 5 or fewer pts. Think that is just a weird cut off? He has another 5 games of 6 pts. Sometimes he grabs a dozen rebounds to make up for his lack of impact, but not every time. Of those 11 games 5 of them have ended up with a number lower than 8 in his rebound total.
I could go on with other players, I won't mention the expired contract formerly know as Bynum, but Miles, Clark and Jack have also been inconsistent in their play. A large part of the Cavs poor record has been getting blown out early in games and either never mounting a comeback, or clawing back but falling short. These deficits are frequently caused by not 1 or 2 players going cold but everyone on the court missing open looks, or stepping out of bounds in the corner, or dribbling off their leg. The overlap of several players just tossing up enough bricks to build an orphanage is what has led to humiliating defeats against teams the Cavs can clearly compete with.
This brings me to Deng's 3rd worst game of the season- I don't know if I can identify it. Perhaps its his 16 pts/4 reb/4 TO on 15 shots from last week, or a 17/7/4 with 3 TOs on 19 shots from mid- December. Again, these are the best contestants for his 3rd worst game of the year.
Isn't that a beautiful thought? If Kyrie struggles early and is 1/5 with a couple of turnovers, and TT is hiding behind some behemoth instead of fighting for offensive boards, we will cast our eyes around for a savoir and we wont be relying on streaky outside shooters like JJ, Miles and Clark anymore. We won't be praying that Gee will nail a random corner three to stop the bleeding. We will look to a guy that can score, that rebounds well, that passes well. That plays D with a combination of intelligence and intensity.
Think of a 6-8 version of Dellevedova, but one that can drive and finish and had a decade of NBA experience on D.
So, my friends, I leave you with that thought while I go put on a clean pair of shorts.