With the regular season over, a few members of the Fear the Sword answered some questions about the Cavs. Feel free to answer the questions yourself below in the comments.
1. True or False: the Cavaliers were more successful in the regular season this year than they were in 2014-15?
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): 100 percent yes. There was no 19-20 start, no weird LeBron sabbatical and less drama. David Blatt's firing, LeBron's tweeting and all of the other nonsense was definitely there and some kind of issue. But the Cavs were the best team in the East, won more games and clicked at several points in the regular seasons. Plus, assuming Iman Shumpert is good to go once the playoffs start, they are also healthy. That's huge.
Alex Ralston (@aralsto): False. The Cavs are not the Wizards or the Hawks. For a team of the Cavs caliber the regular season is not about winning games or the seeding or any of that. The regular season is about staying healthy and preparing for when the real games start. I do not think that firing David Blatt for Ty Lue helped prepare this team for the playoffs in anyway. Lue's rotations are vexing and the rumored chemistry issues still allegedly exist. As for staying healthy, Iman Shumpert just had his knee drained and at some point this year Timofey Mozgov died so they failed in that regard too.
Alex Raulli: True. The Cavaliers maintained first place in the Eastern Conference for essentially the entire season. Their worst 10 game stretch this season was 5-5 early in the year with Kyrie out and LeBron missing in one of the losses. No, they didn't finish the season on a tear like last year, but we also didn't start the season 19-20 with a 1-9 stretch during LeSabbatical. The Cavs didn't spend the season floating throughout the standings, only clinching the No. 2 seed very late in the year. And the best lineups still crushed the opposition, which means the Cavs are capable of ‘turning it on' during the playoffs.
Trevor Magnotti (@Illegalscreens): Yes.....somehow. 19-20 feels so long ago, but it's hard to put the drama and catharsis of this year ahead of a year that saw rumors to trade Kevin Love and fire David Blatt after 41 games. This team certainly had its issues, but they played better and more consistent basketball than the 14-15 version. By far this was the more successful season, even if you get the feeling that long-term some serious questions were raised.
Mike Mayer (@MikeMayer1964): True. I know LeBron doesn't care about playoff seeding, but I do. For this team, getting homecourt is one of two things that matters during the regular season (the other being making sure everyone is healthy for the playoffs). Since they'll have the top seed in the East, and their three key pieces are healthy and playing fairly well at the right time, this regular season was about as successful as it could have been.
Scott Recker (@scottmrecker): True. Mostly just because they had an identity established early on, even though there were injuries to key players and turbulence along the way. There wasn't a Dion Waiters situation. They are deeper. Sometimes they played better than last year, sometimes they played worse. But, they seemed to be continuously worked toward clicking as a unit, rather than being on the edge of breaking apart.
Jack Zink (@jackson_zink): False, but it's close. The Cavs finished with a better record, a better seed (the No. 1 seed, which is their goal) and had less drama (that's here-or-there, but the Cavs did it this year with a better record throughout the year. However, they were a better a better team at the end of last season than they were at the end of this season, and even better than any point of the season this year. And because of that, they went into the postseason last year with higher odds to win a championship than they they do at this season. Of course, part of that has been at the wrath of Golden State and San Antonio and their dominance -- which, of course, has dominated every other team's season as well.
2. It's probably safe to assume that LeBron James is the Cavs' MVP. Who would Cleveland's second most valuable player be?
CM: I think there are strong cases for both Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love. Both were hugely important for the Cavs in their own way. But I have to go with Love. He wasn't as consistent as Thompson, but there were games where he did carry the offense and he looked like the player the Cavs probably expected to get when they traded for him. Thompson isn't a bad pick or wrong by any means, but Love's highs were higher than Thompson. That gets him my vote.
ARton: Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith all had excellent seasons and were integral players on the Cavs, but for me, Kevin Love was the MVP runner up. His production was obviously very valuable, especially given Kyrie Irving's struggles. Love also dealt with a variety of distractions very admirably this season. Between coming back from shoulder surgery, landing a big contract and Danny Ainge constantly sliding into his DMs, Kevin had a lot of reasons to fit out, but luckily this season he fit in.
AR: While J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson had great seasons, I think Kevin Love was clearly the second most valuable player on the Cavaliers in 2015-16. 16.0 points per game on 55.3 percent true shooting, along with 9.9 rebounds, is excellent production. His defense was quite good, with a +2.52 DRPM. And overall his RPM was +5.35, which is No. 10 in the entire NBA. Kevin Pelton argued for him to be on the All-NBA third team. No other Cav except LeBron is even in the conversation for such an honor.
TM: The Cavs finally paid the man, and he was in and out the team's most consistent player, even more consistent than LeBron at times. Tristan Thompson took a step forward defensively this year, and his comfort level playing at the 5 allowed the Cavs to slowly park Timofey Mozgov on the bench for more and more time as the season progressed. The Cavs were +7.9 per 100 possessions with Thompson on the floor, and just +3.5 with him off. He posted career-high rebounding numbers, which seems insane, and he led the league in individual offensive rating, per basketball-reference. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were definitely more productive at times, but no one gave more consistent production night in and night out than the rightful 2016 Sixth Man of the Year.
MM: I will go ahead and agree with Trevor. While Love and Kyrie are better and were probably more productive, Tristan Thompson has a ton of value on this particular team. You can count on him to play every night, and his versatility gives them a lot of flexibility. He can start or come off the bench. He can rebound and is pretty useful defensively. For all of the talk about how the pieces on the Cavs don't always seem to fit, the fit would be much, much worse without Tristan.
SR: I would say Kyrie. Sure, he was injured for a while, plus it took him a month to work back into form, but his ability to score all over the court keeps LeBron from being forced into taking an abundance of late shot clock, low-percentage shots â something that happened quite a bit early on. We all know that LeBron helps Kyrie's game, since Kyrie's not exactly the truest of point guards, but that effect goes the other way as well.
JZ: This was tough, but I'd have to say Tristan Thompson. Look, I realize he still can't hit a 15-foot jumper and has regressed as a free throw shooter, but that's not the reason the Cavs gave him a 5-year, $82-million contract this past summer. He's improved on the defensive end and has been just as good -- if not better -- than he was on the offensive glass, where he has been one of the best in league this year. The biggest thing from Thompson this season? He played every game and, despite a split role between starter and reserve, stayed drama-free all season.
3. True or False: the Cavs were a better team under Tyronn Lue than they were under David Blatt? Use whatever criteria you'd like.
CM: True, but only because the mood seems better. The numbers don't necessarily point to a different team, but there's not more worrying if the Cavs hate their coach. There have also been several moments that indicate Lue actually can communicate with the team in search of improvement. That really wasn't possible under Blatt.
ARton: False. The only person who could have done a better job than David Blatt is an actual fighter pilot.
AR: Neither true nor false. For all intents and purposes their performance was the same. Win-loss record was slightly better pre-All Star break. Point differential was slightly better post-All Star break. The defense was better early in the season. The offense was better later in the season. It's a toss-up. Lue needs to fix his rotations for the playoffs, however. Blatt proved to be an excellent game planner during the postseason last year. It remains to be seen if the same is true of Tyronn Lue.
TM: False. Under Blatt, the Cavs' defense was top-5 in the league (99.9 DRtg), while the offense was humming at around 105.9 for ORtg. Since Lue took over, the offense has gotten better, ticking up to fourth in the league, but the defense has gotten worse, to the point that the Cavs finished 10th for the season. Blatt also was more consistent with his lineup rotations, which sounds absurd, but Lue's rotations have had no fluidity and have directly influenced the outcomes of games, primarily due to his tendency to rely more than he should on Mozgov. That doesn't mean I think Blatt should have stayed - his chemistry issues and lack of offensive creativity probably made his demise inevitable. However, I still think this team overall was better with Blatt at the helm than Lue.
MM: True, I guess. I still don't think firing Blatt was necessarily the right move, and I definitely don't think Lue is a better coach. But the Cavs ended the regular season playing better than they had all year. I don't know if Lue had anything to do with it, but at this moment, they are a better team than they were when Blatt was fired.
SR: Only the playoffs will tell. Blatt had a great post-season run last year, and the defense was, for the most part, brilliant when the chips were down, but I like how Lue aims to get the team out in transition more. We'll have to see, because with a team like this, in a conference like the 2015-16 East, the only thing that matters is winning playoff series after playoff series.
JZ: I agree with Scott, as far as the playoffs being the determining factor. Whatever happens in the playoffs will be the answer to that question.
4. How would you sum up Timofey Mozgov's regular season in gif form?
TM: It wouldn't be Fear the Sword if one of us didn't pick this:
5. What's your favorite moment, game or performance from the regular season?
CM: Watching J.R. Smith buy cotton candy off the bench in a preseason game was great. The Thunder game where Love went off was great. But watching LeBron and Kobe Bryant duel one last time was a lot of fun. The Cavs won easily and it wasn't really a serious back and forth duel, but seeing two icons go at it one last time will be one of the few regular season games that will be remembered years from now. Witnessing history, even minor history, is cool.
The hater's delight answer, by the way, is the three-pointer Matthew Dellavedova air-balling a three that would have beat the Bulls.
ARton: My favorite game from this season was the February 21 beat down of Oklahoma City in their house. Love had a game high 29 points and the Cavs won 115-92. It was one of those games where everything fell into place perfectly. LeBron filled up the entire stat sheet, Tristan was a monster on the boards and Love looked like the player he did in Minnesota. It was a nice reminder that the Cavs are an extremely talented basketball team and can be dominant. I am ready to see more of that kind of play in the playoffs.
AR: J.R. Smith shooting 7-9 from deep in the first half against Milwaukee to break the Cavaliers franchise record for three pointers made in a season. A fantastic way to cap a great season for him. I really hope he sticks with Cleveland for the remainder of his career.
TM: Cavs 120, Kings 111 on March 9 was an excellent one. Coming off the loss to the Grizzlies D-League All-Star team, the Cavs hadn't played a solid game in about three weeks, and got down early once again to the Kings. They trailed at half, 60-54, but worked their way back into the game, behind 30 points from Kyrie Irving and 25/11/6 from Lebron James. Most important was this was perhaps the first game since Lue was promoted that we saw the Cavs have a rough start and actually pull off a comeback, and the way they did it, relying on their stars working to get everyone open looks and playing with emotion, helped show that this team can come together and beat anyone at any time. On the downside, though, it probably says a lot about the season that my favorite game is a game where the team actually looked alive and felt feelings because they came back to beat the Kings.
MM: Way back on December 11th, the Cavs crushed the Magic in Orlando. It was the first time this season (I think) that LeBron looked like vintage LeBron. He was zipping passes all over the place and blowing by people on his way to the basket, finishing with 25 points and eight assists in 29 minutes. (Shameless plug: I wrote this about him after the game.) It was a really nice reminder that he was still capable of being the player in the world for a game, even if he can't do it every single night anymore.
SR: Iman Shumpert wearing a David Bowie t-shirt on the bench when he was inactive ... Possible tie: J.R. Smith buying cotton candy from the bench during a preseason game.
JZ: The Halloween party, hands down. How many times do you get to witness J.R. in a baby suit and LeBron doing the best Prince impression since Dave Chappelle.