In which five Fear the Sword writers answer five questions about the Cavs’ adjusted roster.
1. With the Cavs’ new roster in mind, what should the Cavs’ starting five be next year when everyone is healthy?
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. There’s a good case to start jae Crowder and then Tristan Thompson to the bench, by change a formula that has worked so well?
Zac Lockwood (@thezlock): Isaiah Thomas - J.R. Smith - LeBron James - Kevin Love - Tristan Thompson. There’s a case to be made to start Jae Crowder at the two-guard spot, but being able to use him as the sixth man will give the Cavaliers a great Swiss-Army Knife to show opposing teams different looks.
David Zavac (@davidzavac): Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson. Their best lineups will involve Kevin Love at the five, but try telling Tristan he’s been benched, and there’s no point having Crowder and Love bang like that for more than 10 minutes a game.
Zack Geoghegan (@ZackGeoghegan): Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson. I don’t think there will be much debate to this, either. Crowder would be an excellent off-the-bench two-way player and I think that’s where he will at least start the season.
Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav): Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson. There’s no reason to break up the chemistry between the existing starting lineup. Let’s just plug in Thomas and keep the rest of the starters the same. Jae Crowder could compete to start due to his defensive prowess, but I like have Smith in his current role.
2. If Isaiah Thomas misses a large portion of the season, who should his replacement at point guard be?
CM: Derrick Rose, which isn’t ideal, as he’ll be a downgrade in just a about every way. But he’s better than two other bad options.
ZL: Derrick Rose. Give Rose the time with the starters, but give Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver more minutes overall. With the starting lineup, Rose won’t have to do much at all. In bench lineups, the Cavs need to keep more talent and more energy on the floor. That’s where Cleveland needs to maximize Crowder and Korver.
DZ: I don’t want to talk about it. I’d rather maximize Calderon’s time with LeBron James, so that might actually be my preference, with Rose coming off the bench and playing more minutes for energy, and having more minutes with LeBron where he can spend time trying to create.
ZG: It’s going to have to be Derrick Rose. I say that reluctantly as there isn’t anyone else that should play the starting role. Jose Calderon and Kay Felder are simply not starting caliber point guards at this stage in their respective careers and the team will have to rely on Rose. If Thomas can’t play and Rose can full-speed for an entire season then he should start. But, if Rose winds up with an injury, there won’t be many winning options at that point.
AA: Hopefully someone that’s not on the Cavaliers. Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon and Kay Felder don’t feel like starting point guards for a championship contender. It’s not 2011 and Rose’s multiple injuries have deteriorated his athleticism. Felder hasn’t developed into his full potential and Calderon isn’t a starter this late in his career. Hopefully Altman can find a point guard in the trade market if Thomas is out for a significant amount of time.
3. Who will have their minutes cut the most because of Jae Crowder: Iman Shumpert or Kyle Korver?
CM: Both, but more so Shumpert. The main reason he’s continued to get minutes is that he’s defensive minded and Crowder replaces that. But perhaps the Cavs try Shumpert as nominal point guard again and Korver ends up losing more playing time.
ZL: Shumpert for sure. Iman is on this team to be a defensive stopper on the wing - and now the Cavaliers have a better defensive stopper. There isn’t a better off-ball three-point shooter in the NBA than Kyle Korver, who also gives 100% on every play and has a high basketball IQ.
DZ: I forgot we had Kyle Korver. I’d be surprised if Iman Shumpert is on the team when media day rolls around, so that’ll be my answer. Korver’s skill set works with just about anyone, so it’s harder to see him losing a role.
ZG: Probably both. Crowder will likely be the first man off the bench and he may even start on occasion so he’ll be taking minutes from both of them. Shumpert averaged 25.5 minutes and Korver 24.5 minutes per game. I’d expect them both to drop around 20 minutes or less in favor of Crowder. Korver is a defensive liability and same with Shumpert on offense. Crowder can play both ends.
AA: My guess is both of them will lose minutes. Jae Crowder can do a little bit of both of what Shumpert and Korver bring to the Cavaliers. The ex-Celtic can knock down open three-pointers and be a pest on the defensive end. He’ll be the sixth man for the Cavaliers and take a lot of the minutes that Korver got down the stretch last season. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Shumpert moved before the trade deadline.
4. Rank these forwards in order of how much you’d like to see them in the rotation: Cedi Osman, Jeff Green, Richard Jefferson.
CM: Regular season: Cedi Osman in a Patrick McCaw-sized role ,Richard Jefferson, Jeff Green. Then, in the playoffs, Jefferson, Osman if he plays well and then Green.
ZL: Cedi Osman, Richard Jefferson, bottomless pit, Jeff Green.
DZ: Richard Jefferson, Cedi Osman, Jeff Green. But there are a bunch of big wings on this team, and that’s fairly exciting, even if we don’t like each individual in a vacuum.
ZG: Cedi Osman, Richard Jefferson, Jeff Green.
AA: Cedi Osman -- it’s #CediSZN in Cleveland, Richard Jefferson and Jeff Green.
5. It’s June 2018 and the Cavs are again facing the Warriors in the NBA Finals. What’s the Cavs’ best lineup to counter Golden State’s small ball?
CM: J.R. Smith, Jae Crowder, LeBron James, Richard Jefferson and Tristan Thompson. This lineup can switch, move, shoot and rebound. It means Smith defends Curry, but that’s better than Thomas, so maybe the Cavs can live with it? Otherwise, Thompson defends Draymond Green, Crowder defends Kevin Durant, LeBron James defends Andre Iguodala and Jefferson gets Klay Thompson.
ZL: J.R. Smith - Kyle Korver - Jae Crowder - LeBron James - Tristan Thompson. Kyle Korver is the weakest defender in this lineup, which isn’t even that bad considering his basketball IQ and size. Thompson is the only guy who cannot shoot. They can switch almost everything and have the speed to keep up in transition. Alternatively, Tyronn Lue could really juice the offense and swap Thompson for Love.
DZ: LeBron James, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson.
ZG: Isaiah Thomas, J.R. Smith, Jae Crowder, LeBron James, Tristan Thompson. No matter what lineup the Cavs throw out against the small ball, they will have a player on the court who won’t be able to defend. Whether that’s Thomas, Korver, or Rose, someone will have to hide on defense. In this case, Thomas provides more scoring opportunities than the others and might be the most viable option. Somehow acquiring Dwyane Wade sure would be nice.
AA: J.R. Smith, Jae Crowder, LeBron James, Cedi Osman, Tristan Thompson. This lineup allows for four wing players and a big man on the floor. Smith and Osman should be able to run around Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, while Crowder can guard Kevin Durant rather than James having to do that. James could be a rover in the defense guarding Andre Iguodala and Thompson would have to chase around Draymond Green. There’s a decent amount of shooting and switching ability on defense. There isn’t secondary playmaking, which would be my primary concern here.