The Cavaliers are just past the halfway point in their season, and as typical in Cleveland, things are never dull. As a result, a team of FtS writers are here to break it all down.
1. It's been a few days since the Cavs canned David Blatt and promoted Tyronn Lue. After having some time to think about it, does this move help or hurt the Cavs' title chances or do they stay the same?
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): Maybe I'm being an optimist, but I feel like this can't hurt the Cavs. Lue has talked about making changes that on paper would make the Cavs better and if Blatt really did lose the locker room and Lue has its respect, it only has its help. That being said, drastic change in the middle of the season isn't a great look for a team that hasn't developed a concrete identity in a season and half of basketball. Is a coaching change going to help that? Probably not, at least not with a half a season left and the Warriors looking better than everyone by a large distance.
Carter Rodriguez (@Carter_Shade): We don't know yet. I think it's nice that Lue is well regarded and well-liked in the locker room, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's going to take the team to the next level. It also doesn't mean we're doomed. We just literally don't know almost anything about the way he coaches, so I'm gonna hold off on answering this just yet.
Trevor Magnotti (@IllegalScreens): I think what little chance they had has been totally nuked. Changing the way you play drastically in the middle of the season, especially when pace is your largest change, is something that will set back the team's continuity, for better or worse. It just happens. I don't think the Cavs were beating the Warriors and I think that beating the Spurs was more possible but still unlikely. Now, we basically have to reset and wait to see what kind of impact Lue can have, and if that impact is enough to take them to the next level, and I just don't think there's enough time for that to happen, and that's IF Lue can actually be the difference.
William Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle): As time goes by, the less I'm willing to believe it's a lateral move, or a slight improvement, and the more I'm inclined to think it was a mistake. Wading through the post-Blatt firing / Lue promotion fallout has been tricky, but I'm not buying that Blatt was the entire problem (or even the lion's share of it) any more than I am these fluffy "Lue as a savior" pieces. The reality is, one of the best coaches in European history (who made several savvy tactical moves in the playoffs last season) is out the door, and a 38-year-old rookie head coach has replaced him. That's concerning. There's no reason to believe the Cavs' title chances (however slight they were to begin with) are any better than they were; if anything, they're considerably worse.
Mike Mayer (@MikeMayer1964): I'd say that changing coaches halfway through the season almost always hurts a team's chance to win the title, unless things were just so bad that the players absolutely could not stand the previous guy. Maybe that was the case here, but I doubt it. It might end up being the right move in the long run, but it's hard to see the Cavs winning it all with a head coach who will have half a season under his belt come playoff time.
2. True or false: playing faster will improve the Cavs' offense?
CM: Yes, yes, yes. As everything does with the Cavs, this starts with LeBron. And as he all know, LeBron is the major reason why the Cavs play so slow. Getting him pushing the pace is going to open things up for everyone. Additionally, Kyrie Irving's skillset should translate well at an increased tempo and you can adjust the style when Kevin Love is in with second units to give teams different looks. It'll require Lue to actually extend the rotation - which has its own risks - but it makes a lot of sense.
CR: I mean, it ought to. The Cavaliers are a strong transition team, and anything that gets LeBron with a head of steam is fine by me. Also, the number back this up, per this graphic Synergy tweeted out:
This suggests, to me, that the Cavaliers need to be running more. Sure, they're as hyper-efficient as they are because of how they pick their spots, but this seems like a worthwhile move even if there's a drop in efficiency.
TM: True. Almost every player on the Cavs benefits from playing faster. Kyrie getting more space to create in transition is good. LeBron not being allowed to stop the ball is good. J.R. transition threes and quick-hitter PNRs for TT are good. I've really never understood why the Cavs try to grind out possessions, especially with the turnover issues they've had at times. In theory, I like playing faster because the Cavs can score lots of points, and lots of points are good.
WB: True, but only if the rotation gets deeper than it did on Lue's first two nights. You cannot play up-tempo going 8-deep, as Lue did against the much younger Timberwolves on Monday night, especially on back-to-backs. More playing time would also keep Mo, Andy, Richard, and James Jones a bit happier, I think. Happy is good.
MM: It should help their offense, but probably at the expense of their defense, and I'm just not sure it will make a difference. Also, as others have said, they might not have the depth for it.
3. Rank these problems in from most severe to least severe: mid-year coaching change, Kevin Love's fit, Kyrie Irving's struggles, Timofey Mozgov's continued struggles and LeBron's broken jumper
CM: The mid-year coaching change, Kevin Love's fit, LeBron's broken jumper, Timofey Mozgov's continued struggles and Kyrie Irving's struggles. The coaching change is something that needs to be better evaluated, so it might be okay, but right it's a serious unknown. The Love issue ranks so high because Love might not be playable vs. the Warriors and LeBron's jumper - largely because of his reliance of it - is concerning too. Mozgov's looked better lately and Irving's return to form is likely just a matter of getting comfortable.
CSR: Kevin Love's fit, LeBron's broken jumper, mid-year coaching change, Timofey Mozgov's continued struggles, and Kyrie Irving's struggles. I expect Kyrie to get back to form as he puts in more minutes, Mozgov isn't as important as others to this team, the coaching change at least has the benefit of some continuity, so while those are concerns, those aren't devastating to me. What has me worried is Kevin Love's ability to stay on the floor against elite teams, and how the Cavaliers can leverage his skills enough to make it worth having him out there. We've seen that his current usage against such teams hasn't justified the means, so Lue has a task to figure out. LeBron's jumper freaks me out more than most. What peak LeBron has above any other player is an insane amount of versatility. If he's a better passing/dribbling Blake Griffin on offense, he's not as dangerous, nor can the Cavs get as creative as they'd like.
TM: Really worried it nukes the entire season and beyond: Mid-season coaching change. Wondering if it will get better because of potential impacts down the road: Love fit, LeBron's jumper. Somewhat inconsequential even though it presents issues: Mozgov. Things will be Fine: Kyrie.
WB: Mid-year coaching change is first, because Lue is such an unknown. LeBron's broken jumper is second, only because it seems like it's been gone for a really, really long time. The struggles of Kyrie and Mozgov, as well as Love's fit, don't concern me all that much. Irving is still getting his legs back, Mozgov is still perfectly capable of giving the team a big body when they need it, and while Love's "fit" still isn't neatly settled, he still helps a ton when he's on the floor.
MM: Coaching change, Mozgov, LeBron's jumper, Love's fit, Kyrie's struggles. Kyrie will be fine. I'm not overly worried about Love's fit because good basketball players should be able to figure it out, eventually. It's easy to forget that we're still fairly early into this big three. And if he doesn't, there will be other teams willing to trade for him. LeBron's jumper is concerning because, well, he'll need a jumper as he gets older. But shooting is a skill that has always aged well, so I imagine he'll get it back at some point.
4. What do you make of the argument that the Cavs would be better trading Kevin Love and applying his salary to players that allow them to better matchup with Golden State?
CM: It does make a lot of sense in the sense that the Cavs would gain something (likely versatility) from getting a few players back for Love. But at the same time, you also lose something by trading Love. I get the logic, and in some ways support it, but I also can't imagine being the one having to make that call.
CSR: *Throws up everywhere.* I hate it, almost every single suggestion I've seen. Zach Lowe floated a KCP/Marcus Morris/Ilyasova trade for Love and I almost fell out of my chair. Teams trading the better player rarely win a trade, especially when, in that instance, you'd be trading for guys with very unreliable track records. Just because the Pistons are good this year doesn't mean you'd be able to count on these players. A home run deal would have to come through before I'd consider trading Love.
TM: I would like to learn who these players are that are going to be able to give the Cavs a better chance, be available through trade or free agency, and will cost less than or equal to the cost of Love's $20 million. I'm sure every other GM would like to know the same.
WB: The idea has some merit, but I would never have the stones to pull off such a deal. The Cavs would be selling one big piece for several smaller pieces; while it'd possibly help with Golden State in one series, there's no guarantee it would actually work, and what then? Cleveland would be stuck trying to find a third big piece all over again. Those don't just fall out of the sky and into your lap; best to do everything in your power to hold onto the one you've got.
MM: Look, I do think there's something to the idea that the Cavs would have a better chance to win this year with some combination of players replacing Love. As Trevor points out, it's not clear exactly who those players are, but I can see it being true in theory. Trading Love would be shortsighted, though. For one, if and when LeBron/Kyrie/Love really figure things out, they're going to be really good. Second, as LeBron gets older, Kyrie and Love will be the future of the team. They can't just give up that future.
5. In his wild and wacky year and a half tenure, what was your favorite David Blatt moment or quote?
CM: "A basketball coach makes 150 to 200 critical decisions during the course of a game, something that I think is paralleled only by a fighter pilot. - David Blatt on May 11, 2015
I mean, he's not wrong. He was photoshopped into a ‘Top Gun' photo as Maverick, but he's really Goose.
CSR: "I'm so over this s**t." - David Blatt, in my imagination
TM: "That man was naked" - LeBron James
WB: THE FIGHTER PILOT QUOTE. OL' AIRMAN BLATT, FOREVER FLYING THE FRIENDLY SKIES IN MY IMAGINATION.
MM: "I've been in front of some presidents in other parts of the world, actually." -David Blatt, upon hearing that President Obama would be at the Cavs-Bulls game