Since he took over as the lead man nearly three seasons ago, Cavaliers’ head coach Ty Lue has been under a microscope, constantly being scrutinized for every move he has made. Such is life when Earth’s best player is on your roster. With LeBron James in Los Angeles this season, it finally affords Lue a chance to run his team with minimal distractions.
Lue’s biggest strength till this point has been his communication and leadership. Over the last few years, the Cavaliers have shuffled rosters mid-season, brought in numerous veterans and somehow they found themselves in the NBA Finals each year. While it had something to do with that guy from Akron, Lue’s ability to manage egos, prepare veterans, while simultaneously running the basketball side of things was impressive.
2018-19 is going to present a totally opposite, bizarro-world problem for Lue. The Cavaliers’ head man is going to need be the face of the team and win with a group that’s led by Kevin Love on the court. Veterans J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Kyle Korver and Channing Frye are still on the team, But it’s going to be a squad that’s centered around Love, first-round rookie Collin Sexton and the emerging Cedi Osman.
While Cleveland was sleepwalking through the regular season to the playoffs the past few years, they will have to compete every night to even be in the playoff mix at the end of the season. It’s going to take a total shift of focus from the head of the snake — as Lue was commonly referred to — all the way down the bench.
Next, Lue is going to have to shift his offense to fit around their newly-signed franchise player. Love has shifted from the team’s third option to their second option to the Cavs’ primary option now. Lue will have to run more actions to help Love get established in the game early and keep his rhythm going. There will no longer be an experienced, intelligent floor general like James to help run the offense on the floor. The burden is going to fall on the shoulders’ of Lue to design an offensive system that complements the new-look Cavaliers.
Lue will also have to revive the careers of some of the Cavaliers’ younger players, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood. Both were acquired via trade mid-season, but didn’t impress in the playoffs. Clarkson’s still under contract and Hood will be with the Cavaliers for the 2018-19 season. Both players are highly capable on the offensive end, but it was certainly masked in the Cavs’ web of problems last season. Lue will need to sprinkle some magic dust on those two wing players to help increase their production.
The biggest challenge for Lue is going to be their prized possession from the Kyrie Irving trade — Sexton. The rookie looked energetic during the preseason, but will have growing pains during the regular season like any rookie. Lue is going to have to mentor Sexton and enable his growth so that he’s able to be the face of the Cavaliers’ franchise after Kevin Love.
In his Cavs’ tenure, Lue has been tasked with coaching LeBron — a ginormous challenge, but easy at the same time, because it’s LeBron James after all. With Sexton, Osman and Love, the challenge is going to be entirely different.
When Lue signed up for the job three years ago, I’m sure he never imagined this scenario, but nevertheless here we are. Critics always thought Lue’s job was difficult with LeBron in the building, I don’t think it’s even close to the level of difficulty for what Lue has in store this season.