The Cavaliers have scored 780 points in seven games this season. They have an offensive rating of 114, which is about the same as the Warriors had during their record-breaking regular season last year. However, this Cavaliers team isn't exactly built along the 'strength in numbers' approach. To date, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have scored 481 of the 780 Cavalier points. You can pick any two of the Big Three and they've combined to score more than every other player on the roster combined. Five rotation players (J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson, Mike Dunleavy Jr.) currently have the lowest usage rates of their careers.
But that's okay. Low usage tends to lead to high efficiency, and thus far the Cavs haven't disappointed in this regard. Moreover, while the Big Three are collectively carrying a huge offensive load, no individual member is being forced to do too much. Kyrie Irving leads the pack with 33.2 points per 100 possessions. Kevin Love comes in next at 32.5 points per 100 and LeBron James comes in third at 30.8 points per 100. That’s a far more egalitarian distribution than in any previous iteration of LeBron’s Big Three. The top guy has always surpassed 36 points per 100, while the third banana never scored more than 27.2 points per 100. There was a clear order, with LeBron first, Kyrie or Dwyane Wade second, and Love or Chris Bosh third. But this year it’s more like 1A-1B-1C, with LeBron slotting in last.
While this may not last it’s an interesting approach. As fans we’ve often clamored for LeBron to allow Kyrie and Love to take on a bigger role in the regular season, allowing him to conserve energy for the vastly more important games at the end of the year. It just makes sense, particular as more distance comes between LeBron and his athletic prime.
Of course, LeBron is making up for the relatively low scoring load in other areas. He has, after all, won two Eastern Conference Player of the Week awards. He's posting career high marks in both offensive and defensive rebounding along with assists. The Cavaliers didn’t really find a replacement for Matthew Dellavedova during the offseason, so LeBron has essentially absorbed his playmaking duties. He might be the strongest player in the league, yet he’s averaging an absurd 9.9 assists per game. The Big Three as a whole has 68 percent of the team’s assist total. This makes the game easier for the rest of the players, and it’s led to a microscopically low TOV% for the team as whole.
Where could the Cavaliers improve? Well, with the Big Three carrying such a large role on offense, they could really use some help on the boards and on defense. To date, the team has been sub-par in both areas. After having the second best defensive rebounding rate in 2015-16 the Cavs are 24th in that department right now. Granted, Kevin Love could be doing better in that regard, but he could also use some help from the likes of J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson and Mike Dunleavy Jr. All of these guys are tall for their position, and have shown an ability to hit the boards in the past. The Cavs need them to step up.
Likewise, the defense as a whole has been mediocre. I don’t think there’s a need to single any one individual out, but I think the team as a whole needs to communicate better and just put more effort into their defense. This is certainly an area where the Cavs need their role players to step up. And the Big Three have to pull their weight, too. Often they make up 60 percent of the lineup; the team just can’t afford for them to take too many defensive possessions off.
While there certainly is room for improvement, I’m optimistic moving forward. Several players are likely to start shooting better in the coming weeks and months, and the Cavaliers have been taking the right kind of shots. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ORtg went up a couple ticks in the near future. This team is playing better regular season basketball than we’ve seen from them before, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.