It was another frustrating week for the Cavs. They went into the all-star break winning four of their last five games but didn’t resemble that team at all in their embarrassing losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Atlanta Hawks.
Here’s what we learned from a discouraging week.
The offense is in a bad place.
There’s a lot of reasons why this week was bad for the Cavs. The most glaring is on the offensive end as the Cavs scored 82 points apiece in both games. Friday’s game against New Orleans included a 9-point third quarter that featured a 1 for 23 stretch from the field. Sunday’s game wasn’t any better as they scored only 2 points in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter which prompted J.B. Bickerstaff to pull his starters.
The lack of three-point shooting explains a lot of their problems on the offensive end. The Cavs shot 37.7% from distance on 30.3 attempts in the seven games prior to the all-star break. Cleveland went 15 of 62 (24.2%) from deep in the two games since which included Collin Sexton going 1 for 8 and Cedi Osman going 2-10. That doesn’t explain all of their offensive problems, but it does show that this offense can’t function without consistent shooting.
The Larry Nance Jr. and Jarrett Allen pairing hasn’t gone well.
Nance hasn’t looked great in his first two games back from injury which isn’t surprising given the current state of the team. I was interested to see how he and Allen would work together since they weren’t able to share the floor much before the injury. Nance and Andre Drummond formed a formidable pair on the defensive end (105.5 defensive rating in 18 games) so there were reasons to believe that a Nance/Allen pairing could replicate some of that success which would buoy what could be a clunky offensive fit.
Unfortunately, the early returns aren’t promising. Nance and Allen lineups had a 120.4 defensive rating, a 73.5 offensive rating, and a -46.9 net rating in the 51 minutes they played together this week. These numbers could be taken somewhat lightly since the Cavs were awful in those two games which were partly out of either’s control.
The low offensive rating reflects what we saw on the floor. Nance and Allen have overlapping skillsets and are best used in similar ways on offense (rolling to the rim, finishing lobs, drop offs to the dunker spot). It’s tough to build a modern offense with two bigs who operate in similar spots offensively. This problem is magnified when you add Isaac Okoro who isn’t currently providing consistent scoring/shooting from the wing.
You can’t make sweeping judgements about a pairing from a couple games, but it is something to keep a close eye on. This team and offense needs shooting as shown from their success with Dean Wade in the lineup. However, you can win basketball games with defense as evidenced by the Nance and Drummond pairing. Nance and Allen will need to combine some combination of both pairings if they are going to be a success frontcourt.
The Kevin Porter Jr. situation is tough.
The Cavs are in a difficult spot with their rebuild. It’s clear they have something with Sexton, Allen, and Darius Garland, but the ceiling of that trio is very much in question. They need more, but there’s no guarantee they’ll ever find themselves in a spot to select a franchise changing player given the new lottery odds and their place in the standings. Throwing Kevin Porter Jr. into that mix would’ve made things make a lot more sense on the basketball court while still leaving them in a position to add talent in the upcoming draft.
It’s been tough as a Cavs fan to see Porter dominate the G-League and have a 27-point game Friday night for Houston. However, it’s also important to remember that Porter didn’t fall to the 30th pick in the draft because people didn’t believe in his ability to play basketball. The Cavs also didn’t trade him to Houston for a non-existent second round pick for basketball reasons.
We don’t know all the facts about the KPJ situation, but what we do know is disappointing. Assigning blame is one of the first things we do when something goes wrong. Often times, there isn’t just one thing, person, or incident to blame when things fall apart. All we know is that it did.
Second guessing what we see on the basketball floor is easy. It’s what we do as fans. This isn’t something that should be looked at and second guessed in that same light. There are things more important than basketball. Hopefully, Houston can allow Porter to succeed both on and off the floor. For whatever reason, it’s clear that he was only able to succeed in one of those things here.