Whenever you’re thoroughly dismantled the way the Cleveland Cavaliers were by the Golden State Warriors, it’s inevitable to have some concerns. Like any loss, there are easy excuses to find. End of a long road trip. Missing J.R. Smith. Both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving dealing with nagging injuries. But those excuses don’t change the fact that the Cavs were systematically crushed by an incredibly talented Warriors roster. With that being said, as a Cavs fan is it time to panic?
The answer to that depends on your expectations. If you were of the belief that the Cavaliers should be the favorite heading into the Finals and are the better team? Yes, you should feel some panic. This Warriors roster is arguably the most talented team in NBA history. The match-up problems created by Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are immense. Their supporting cast is just good enough to hush the concerns that it would sink the team. Unless the Cavaliers were to go out and acquire a Jimmy Butler or Paul George, they aren’t going to enter the Finals as the more talented roster.
If your concern is that the Cavaliers can’t compete, then it’s probably time to take a step back and relax. While the Warriors are the more talented team, this is easily the best roster the Cavs have ever assembled. While last season required injuries, suspensions, and heroic play to dig the team out of the hole they put themselves in. The gap between the two teams was far greater last season.
The lesson to learn from Monday’s game is one that’s already been taught in previous encounters. The Cavs simply cannot win if they play the Warriors style of play. One of the advantages the Cavs have is the ability of LeBron James to control the pace of play. To keep the Warriors in the half-court and limit possessions. The team had seemingly no interest in playing that style on Monday and were left scrambling to find their assignments in transition. In order to beat the Warriors, the Cavs must have the “going to war” mentality they displayed in the NBA Finals, as well as on Christmas. That level of effort and control of the game is what helps level the playing field between these teams. Without it, the talent gap becomes more evident and the odds of winning shrink.
The other thing to be mindful of is the situation the team is in. This roster is well suited to get the absolute most out of LeBron. Outside of J.R. Smith, every key player has made meaningful improvements this season. Iman Shumpert has improved as a ball handler and shooter. Tristan Thompson has blossomed as a rim protector and improved his vision as a passer. Kevin Love looks like he did in Minnesota and Kyrie Irving is having the best season of his career. Love with plenty of his prime left and Irving just beginning to enter his will help extend the window for LeBron as he ages.
It would be foolish to take for granted what having LeBron means for this organization. His presence allows the Cavs to have a realistic shot to repeat as champions. But while enjoying the second LeBron era, it’s important to not take the front office for granted. After years of less than stellar management, David Griffin has brought stability to the organization. From the annual welcoming of quality role players, to retaining the services of the core and locking them up long-term. With the new collective bargaining agreement, many teams, including the Warriors, will be faced with tough decisions in the near future. It will force a redistribution of talent throughout the league. With Irving, Love, James, Thompson, Smith, and Shumpert locked up long-term, the Cavaliers will remain title contenders for the foreseeable future.
All you can ask from a team is for it to put itself in position to have a legitimate shot at a championship. The Cavs, while not the favorite, are in a better position than they were last season. With the weight of the drought gone, it’s more productive to try and enjoy the sustained greatness this team has obtained. They don’t appear to going anywhere any time soon. While failure to repeat may feel devastating, there are 28 teams that would kill to be in this position. So should you panic? That’s up to you and where you want to set your expectations. There’s no right or wrong way to approach fandom. But whatever your decision, it’s important to understand just how special the situation the Cavs are currently in.