So are the Cavs good now?

The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently on a four game win streak and have looked revitalized after they blew up the roster at the trade deadline. The new additions at the deadline are all playing significantly better in Cavalier uniforms and have the Cavaliers growing momentum at the All-Star Break, and all looks well in The Land. However, The Cavaliers have only played a handful of games with their new roster.  Are the Cav’s good now?

Why the Cavs did get better:

Thomas only played 15 games before he was dealt to the Lakers. (Photo by News | USA)

Getting Isaiah Thomas out of the locker room is like removing a tumor. The team chemistry was significantly brought down by Thomas’ presence. He continuously denied any responsibility with the team’s struggles, and pointed fingers at other teammates. Thomas looked awful during his time on the court, Offensively he was inefficient and defensively he couldn’t stay in front of anyone. Getting the bad teammate out of the locker room has allowed the team to show chemistry on the court and healthy excitement off the court.

Thomas wasn’t the only bad player that was dealt either. Dwyane Wade was terrible with the Cavs and people who say otherwise have not watched him play. He’s shooting 45% from the field(3% off from his career average) and 33% from downtown, which is not good. Jae Crowder was a really good player on the Celtics with Brad Stevens, but he was awful on the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers brought in new young talent and did not get rid of the Brooklyn 1st round pick.

Jordan Clarkson has provided great energy since his arrival for the Cavaliers. (Photo by CavsNation)

The new additions have provided new life to the roster, Larry Nance and Jordan Clarkson are playing fantastic with LeBron in charge and now. The Cavaliers have finally put young talent on the court and decreased the average age of the roster by 2 years. George Hill(31) and Rodney Hood(27) are both veterans, but they’re both bringing new life and energy to the roster. Hill is a very serviceable point guard and is a perfect role player to surround LeBron with. Hood has been a knock-down shooter even since he left Duke.

The emergence of the new players have also had a great effect on the other players as well. J.R Smith has played like a better version of himself despite a increased tendency to take questionable shots. LeBron has played well in the games with his new team, scoring 37 points against the Thunder. Even Cedi Osman has played increased minutes and is playing well as a starter. The Cavaliers will look very interesting once Kevin Love comes back, as the team will be complete with the new roster and 2nd best player back and healthy.

Final thought

The Cavaliers look like the team to beat in the East once again. If they build more team chemistry and learn how to play together, they could challenge either the Warriors or Rockets in the NBA Finals.

Why the Cavs did not get better:

The Cavs are not better than they were last year. The Cavs lost in five games to the Warriors and the Cavaliers had to have record breaking 3-point shooting to win game four to prevent a series sweep. The Warriors would have to have numerous injuries to key players for this to even become a series.

Cleveland lost their second best player from last year(Kyrie Irving) and the Cavs need a real second star with LeBron. Kyrie was the only player who actually made Cleveland significantly better other than LeBron.

Without Kyrie, will Cleveland win the East? (Photo by Heavy.com)

You can look down the Cavs roster and say if he wasn’t on the roster, that wouldn’t change the success this team has in the playoffs. That includes Kevin Love. There is no player on this roster with irreplaceable value outside of James.

The Cavaliers gave up on Isaiah Thomas after 15 games. Not only did they trade him, they attached their first round pick for a backup point guard on a lottery team (Jordan Clarkson) and a backup big(Larry Nance) who are both overpaid. Thomas was not playing to the standard he played at last season, but they did not give him enough time to figure out a role with the team and get back into playing shape after his hip injury.

There were rumors of Thomas being rushed back and having no feel for the game. While Thomas is a free agent this summer, trading him at the deadline may be a huge mistake. Thomas is a creator on offense, and besides LeBron, no one else can create on a consistent basis.

 

Cleveland’s trading away of Crowder, Shumpert and Rose is unequiventy good. There was no solid contributions being made from any of them and they were dead weight. Receiving Hill and Hood was a great move, adding talent and getting younger. However, George Hill is just a role player and while Hood shows flashes of being a complete player, he’s still just a good role player.

 

Cleveland now has no team chemistry and the players have no experience playing with one another. They don’t have the talent or chemistry to challenge the Warriors, and could struggle getting out of the East. If LeBron has to carry his team throughout the first rounds of playoffs again, how will he play in the conference finals and finals?

Final Thought

LeBron won’t win a title without a second star player. The Spurs swept LeBron and the Cavs the year he carried them to the finals. One great player can not beat a great team by himself. Plus, LeBron needs more than role players if they want to even compete with Golden State. The Cav’s have no chance of winning the championship with the current roster they have.

NBA biggest storylines

Biggest storylines heading into the All-Star Break

The All-Star game serves as a reminder to observe the current NBA season as whole and the headlines that have circulated the NBA world. Here are the biggest storylines in the NBA to follow heading into the second half of the season.

Where do all the free agents sign this offseason?

Similar to last offseason, you can expect another exciting offseason with lots of high-profile free agents over the summer. The Lakers freed up cap room for two max contracts and are going to look to add to their young core.

The unrestricted free agents for this upcoming offseason include Kevin Durant, LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, Aaron Gordon, Clint Capela, Jabari Parker, Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Zach LaVine and Tyreke Evans.

There’s no doubt that some players on this list are going to stick with their current teams, but a fair share of these players could bolt towards new horizons and change the shape of the NBA. This summer may be a turning point for franchises in the association.

Isaiah Thomas on the Lakers?

NBA biggest storylines

How will Isaiah react to coming off the bench after last year’s All-Star performance? (Photo by Lakers Nation) 

Once again, Isaiah Thomas was traded, this time in a blockbuster deal to the Lakers. The now brief fiasco that surrounded himself and the Cavs is now over. The 5-foot-9 offensive star is a two-time All-Star and finished fifth in MVP voting last season.

However, he’s going to be coming off the bench for the purple and gold. Lots of attention follows the Lakers. Lonzo Ball and Thomas don’t play great defense.

It should be interesting to see how the Lakers backcourt plays out the rest of this season.

Can the Cavaliers win the East?

The East has gotten increasingly tougher, and the Cavaliers are not the same team they once were with Kyrie Irving. While LeBron James is still having a great year, it remains to be seen if all their newly acquired players can change the locker room attitude and subpar basketball that has plagued Cleveland.

The new-look Cavs looked great in their first game, blowing out the Celtics on the road. But one game doesn’t define a season. The Raptors, Celtics and Wizards are all going to challenge the Cavs this postseason, and the Cavs aren’t going to have home-court advantage.

Who will be the first pick in the draft?

NBA biggest storylines

Where will Trae Young fall in the draft? (Photo by USA Today)

In what looks to be another stacked draft class, including Trae Young, Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic and Deandre Ayton, who will go first off the board?

While my favorite player in the pack is Doncic, it could be any of the names mentioned that get their names called first.

Is James Harden the MVP?

James Harden is averaging 31.4 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds per game while carrying the Rockets to the second seed in the Western Conference.

If Harden manages to stay healthy and continue on his torrid pace, it’s unlikely anyone can compete with him for the MVP trophy.

Can the Rockets beat the Warriors?

The Rockets have helped close the gap between the Warriors and the rest of the Western Conference. They’ve been nearly unbeatable when Chris Paul and James Harden are suited up and have the No. 2 offense in the league. The defense ranks in the middle of the pack at 15th. The Rockets have won the season series against the Warriors 2-1, and could end up with the first seed and home-court throughout playoffs.

If both teams manage to stay healthy, it’s likely these two will meet in the Western Conference finals. This Rockets team is going to be the first team to test the Warriors since Kevin Durant joined them.

Can the Warriors defend their title?

NBA biggest storylines

Will anybody beat the defending champions? (Photo from Billboard)

The Warriors have the best record in the NBA and an embarrassment of riches on their roster. Their bench play has not been up to par compared to years past. Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala have had down years for the Warriors. Patrick McCaw, Javale McGee and Nick Young have been underwhelming all season as well. Jordan Bell has also hit the rookie wall. Without David West holding down the second unit, this team struggles without its starters in.

It’s likely the Warriors haven’t stayed focused after reaching the NBA Finals for three years in a row. The dog days of the regular season can cause great teams to lose their intensity. The Warriors consistently don’t show up for games, they show up for quarters. Nonetheless, due to the amount of talent on this roster, that has been enough to win.

The Warriors will likely find their intensity come playoff time. However, for now they look like they’re going through the motions.

What is next for LeBron James?

LeBron James is a free agent once again, and no one knows where he is going to go. James displayed how frustrated he was with the roster before the deadline.

How do the trades change his approach for free agency? The teams that seemingly are rumored to be plausible for him to move to are the Rockets, Lakers and 76ers. There is a very strong chance James leaves Cleveland, again.

 

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Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Evaluating Isaiah Thomas’ new role with the Lakers

On Feb. 7, Isaiah Thomas said in a postgame interview with ESPN that he was “tired of being traded.” Hopefully he wasn’t too tired of it, because one day later, the Cleveland Cavaliers shipped him off to Los Angeles.

In the most surprising trade of the deadline, Cleveland sent Thomas and Channing Frye to the Lakers. In return, they received dunk contest participant Larry Nance Jr. and expensive point guard Jordan Clarkson. Cleveland also traded away its first-round pick (not the Brooklyn pick), which should be relatively low.

Thomas has been underperforming in his contract year, coming off of a hip injury. It is now the Lakers’ job to figure out the best way to utilize him.

Bench player

Thomas began his Lakers tenure coming off of the bench against the Mavericks. Los Angeles utilized a backcourt made up of Brandon Ingram and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, two players familiar with the system, instead of starting Thomas.

Thomas’ agent vehemently stated that he will not be a bench player for the Lakers. He even went as far as to say that Thomas would “demand” a buyout if Los Angeles made him a bench player for a significant amount of time.

All of this is understandable for a player who is trying to get paid in the offseason. Of course he wants to be seen as a franchise player, rather than a bench scoring option.

But considering his lack of production since his injury, it’s also understandable that the Lakers want to hedge their bets. In his 15-game sample size as a Cavalier, he averaged 14.7 points and 4.5 assists. That’s a huge drop-off from the 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game he contributed last season in Boston. It’s reasonable to question whether he’ll ever be the same player as he was in the 2016-17 campaign.

Defense

In his career year last year, Brad Stevens and the Celtics successfully hid Isaiah Thomas’ defensive shortcomings. This was due to the coaching and the overall defensive talent and commitment in Boston.

The Cavaliers, however, could not. In his time with Cleveland he posted the worst defensive rating for any player in the last 25 years. Being historically bad at defense is not a good look, even in a league that doesn’t put a premium on defense.

Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Darren Collison blows by Isaiah Thomas during his time with the Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)

Whether or not he can improve this area of his game will have massive impact on Thomas’ new role. The Lakers are not in contention for a playoff berth, and it’s unlikely that they would sign him after the seasons’ end. Dumping Clarkson’s salary and receiving a pick positions Los Angeles to get two stars in the upcoming offseasons. Signing Thomas to the rich contract he’d likely ask for would work directly against that plan.

However, if he can somehow return to last year’s form and improve his awful defense, the Lakers’ focus could shift slightly. He could even be seen as a piece of their future. It’s all very doubtful, though.

Crowded backcourt

Although Lonzo Ball is currently out with an MCL sprain, the Lakers have all but committed to him as their point guard of the future. That doesn’t bode well for Thomas’ starting point guard aspirations.

Isaiah Thomas Lakers

Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope during a game against the Wizards. (Photo by Nick Wass/Associated Press)

Los Angeles also has Tyler Ennis, Gary Payton II and Brandon Ingram, who can play the position. Couple that with the three shooting guards on the roster, and that makes for a very crowded field. Thomas will very much have to win his starting spot.

Thomas does have his potential going for him though. And the Lakers have enough young talent to mask his struggles somewhat. He also has veteran status, which is invaluable on such a young team.

Again, though, since the Lakers are not in playoff contention, they will be doing their best to give their young players time on the court.

Prediction

Thomas will probably be a spot-starter for the Lakers moving forward. Walton will throw him in the starting rotation in games where offense will be the order of the night.

It makes perfect sense to bring him off of the bench for his first game as a Laker. He’s unfamiliar with the system, and will need an adjustment period before starting him is justified.

Thomas obviously needs more games removed from the hip injury before NBA teams and fans can judge him fairly. But during a contract year on a team where he is a luxury, Los Angeles can do whatever they want regarding his playing time.

Magic Johnson is a former point guard that has a reputation of building relationships with his players. That alone means Thomas will get some starts so he can try to improve his value as he attempts to lock up a new contract.

 

Featured image by Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland Cavaliers trades

Cleveland Cavaliers: What just happened?

Let me paint you a picture. It’s Feb. 7, the Cleveland Cavaliers are 31-22, have lost 13 of their last 20 and their chemistry is a mess. There seems to be no consistency and the new guys that have been integrated aren’t getting it done.

Now it’s Feb 8 and approximately two hours before the trade deadline. One or two guys on their entire roster seem safe from being moved. Dwyane Wade has been traded to Miami for a second-round pick. Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a first-round draft pick have been traded for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Rodney Hood and George Hill have essentially been acquired in multiple team deals for Iman Shumpert, Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder.

So what really did just happen? Are the Cavaliers still the team to beat in the East?

Buyers or sellers?

Coming into the trade deadline, many thought the Cavaliers would be buyers. What that essentially means is that they would put together a package of players in hopes to lure an All-Star level player as a trade partner. They sought out DeAndre Jordan to anchor the back of their defense and to possibly fix the defensive breakdowns they have been having.

That trade didn’t end up going through. Then they decided to evaluate their team based on their recent performances.

The Cavaliers found a way to both buy and sell. They received great players without giving up the team’s two top prospects. It was clear that Isaiah Thomas wasn’t meshing well with the Cavaliers roster. They wanted to move him and get a return for him.

What the Cavs are getting

Cleveland Cavaliers trades

George Hill (Photo by ESPN)

Rodney Hood is currently averaging 16.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He also has a PER of 15.56. He’s shooting 38.9 percent from three, 42.4 percent from the field and 87.6 percent from the free-throw line. He takes the role of starting shooting guard on a Cavs team that has been searching for production at the position.

George Hill’s season averages are 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, with a 14.15 PER. He’s shooting 45.3 percent from three, 46.9 percent from the field and 77.8 percent from the free-throw line. He now steps in as the probable starting point guard and will share those duties with Jordan Clarkson moving forward. There has been a supreme lack of production at the position ever since Kyrie left town.

Jordan Clarkson’s numbers are 14.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game with a 17.18 PER. He’s shooting 32.4 percent from three and 44.8 percent from the field as well as 79.5 percent from the free-throw line. Clarkson has had a little bit of a disappointing season this year. He was buried behind Lonzo Ball and has played less minutes this season because of it.

Lastly, Larry Nance Jr.’s stats are 8.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.5 bpg per game with a 19.55 PER. Nance is extremely athletic. He helps protecting the rim, like DeAndre Jordan would, but to a lesser scale. Nance shoots over 60.1 percent from the field and will be a valuable contributor for the Cavs off the bench.

Will the Cavs become a better team?

The Cavaliers will be interesting for a while now. With Kevin Love hurt, the team is already missing a piece, and with all these new faces in town, it is going to take a while to get accustom to all the different talents. In this situation, it is going to get worse before it gets better. There are a lot of players on this team that are new and don’t necessarily know how to play with each other.

This Cavaliers have 29 games left before the season ends. Barring something crazy, they will certainly make the playoffs. Essentially, the Cavs have 29 games to get accustom to each other before the games really matter and it comes playoff time.

There’s no doubt this Cavs team will be different. Ultimately, they will be better with new faces. This team can only improve on a steadily declining record.

What this means for LeBron

These trades make LeBron James’ decision this summer interesting. In this situation, James got both what he wanted as well as what he didn’t want. He was looking for the Cavaliers to bring in some big superstars instead of above average starters. This team got better as a whole, but still doesn’t have enough fire power to beat the Warriors.

The trade with the Lakers has also helped them free up cap space for this summer. It’s interesting how the Cavaliers have helped one of the teams rumored to be making a push for James. The Lakers now sit in a better situation and look much better as a possible landing spot for James.

 

Featured image from Cavaliersnation.com

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Lakers Acquire

Los Angeles Lakers acquire Isaiah Thomas in trade with Cavs

A crazy day at the NBA trade deadline as the Cavaliers and Lakers have made a trade at the deadline involving 29-year old point guard Isaiah Thomas. The Lakers acquired Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a first-round pick, but it came at a price. Cleveland is receiving Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.

Thomas was just quoted yesterday saying “I’m tired of being traded.” but Isaiah Thomas has struggled mightily this season. He is one of the worst defenders in the league, and his scoring has not been there like it was in Boston. In 27.1 minutes per game, Thomas is averaging just 14.7 points per game and 4.5 assists with a poor shooting percentage of .361 percent.

Part of Thomas’ struggles is his inability to find a role in Cleveland. In Boston, he was called upon to be the leading scorer, but the Cavs didn’t need that. Thomas struggled to fit into Cleveland, and a fresh start should be good for both places.

Lakers acquire

(Photo Courtesy of: BigPlay.com)

Isaiah is on the move to a team that is in the middle of a rebuild. The Lakers are the 11th place team in the Western Conference at 22-31. Los Angeles has young stars such as Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram; the Lakers will probably call upon Thomas to guide these young players.

In Cleveland, the additions of Clarkson and Nance should be a good fit for them. The Cleveland needs role players to stick around Lebron, and their styles of play should fit just that. Clarkson is a better defender than Thomas and score at a decent rate, in addition to that, Nance is a high flying young big man that can potentially set up exciting plays with Lebron James.

 

 

Featured Image From Joe Vardon

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Cleveland Cavaliers time to panic

Is it time for the Cavs to hit the panic button?

The Cavaliers have won the Eastern Conference Finals the past three seasons, and for the past three years, were the clear-cut favorite to represent the conference in the NBA Finals. They’ve had remarkable success in the postseason. Even when they were the second seed in the East, everyone knew who the team to beat was.

When LeBron James played with the Miami Heat, they were always first or second in the conference, and again, were the team to beat. However, the James-led Cavs this year are not in the top two spots in the conference. In fact, this is the lowest win percentage by one of James’ teams since 2007. Along with a poorer record than usual, there is well-documented tension within the locker room, swirling trade rumors and coach Tyronn Lue appears to be on the hot seat.

Will the Cavaliers reach the finals this year? What will happen when James hits free agency this offseason? Here are some of the reasons why Cleveland might soon be in panic mode.

Defense

Cleveland Cavaliers time to panic

James was animated on the sidelines during a blowout loss to the Toronto Raptors (Photo from YouTube).

The Cavaliers rank dead last in points per possession, and this was a team expected to play better defense with the addition of Jae Crowder and subtraction of Kyrie Irving.

On the flip side, Boston has the best defense per possession, and they hold the lowest opponent field goal percentage (43.3 percent) in the league. The impact of a great coach is noticed in its defense. Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich and Brad Stevens all have their teams in the top five in opponent field goal percentage. Likewise, the Cavaliers rank 28th in the league with teams shooting 47.5 percent against them.

Jason Kidd was just fired because the Bucks, a team that has lots of capable defenders, are in the bottom tier of opponent field goal percentage. The Cavaliers have more than enough talent to play at a high level on defense, but it’s the coach’s job to build team defense, and Tyronn Lue has not done that.

If the saying, “defense wins championships” is true, the Cavaliers will have no business making it to the finals, let alone winning the finals.

Isaiah Thomas

While Isaiah Thomas is still slowly getting back into NBA shape, there is no question he lacks chemistry with the team and has digressed from last year. The 5-foot-9 point guard averaged just under 29 points per game last season, and shot 46.3 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from deep while finishing fifth in MVP voting.

This year, he’s averaging a mere 15.4 points per game on 39 percent shooting from the floor and 27.6 percent from 3-point range. His numbers and efficiency on offense are extremely down this year. Thomas has always been a below-average defender, partially due to his lack of height. Without him producing on offense, he’ll be unplayable in the playoffs.

If he doesn’t find his groove and get back to the player he was last year, then Cleveland will be in big trouble in the playoffs. The Cavs are 5-5 with Thomas on the court.

Besides the on-court issues, there are reports that Thomas criticized Kevin Love for not playing in a game because of an illness during a team meeting that included lots of finger pointing, and not a lot of solutions. Thomas has been involved with what seems to be subtle jabs back and forth.

It’s worth noting that last year, reporters couldn’t get any information from players on the Cavs, but this year, there has been a player who shares with the media the updates in the locker room. It’s a safe bet that one of the new additions is the one leaking information to the media, and Thomas is likely the player doing so.

Trade rumors

After playing other playoff contenders, it’s very apparent that Cleveland needs to make a trade to improve its roster before the playoffs. Essentially every player that could be moved in the NBA is on its radar, because the sense of urgency to make a deal is very high.

There’s been lots of rumors about George Hill and DeAndre Jordan among others being traded, and the Cavaliers desperately need to add talent, yet aren’t willing to part with any players who have value, or the first-round pick from Brooklyn.

Reports have leaked that players on the roster don’t think they can beat Golden State. Without the addition of a quality point guard or center to bolster its lineup, this team could be in for a disappointing postseason.

LeBron James

LeBron James is still playing at a very high level and is likely going to finish within the top three for the MVP voting. However, due to the headache he’s consistently causing his team, is his on-court talent worth the baggage he brings off the court?

Cleveland Cavaliers time to panic

Will James leave the Cavs this summer? (Photo by NBC Sports)

James is finally starting to look older on the court, and the years of heavy minutes and playing intense basketball until June is beginning to have an effect on him.

While he’s led the Cavaliers to lots of success in his career, there’s no doubt his relationship with owner Dan Gilbert could be better. Furthermore, the Cavaliers let go of former general manager David Griffin, who James was close friends with, which brings to question how solid of a bond James and the Cavs hold.

With James’ pending free agency, there is a growing belief that he is likely to bolt from the Cavaliers once again and surround himself with better talent as he ages. There’s a good chance this successful relationship between James and the Cavaliers will end soon.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, the Cavaliers have the best player in the league and more playoff experience than any other team in the conference. However, there are other talented teams in the conference, and Boston could be the first team to really challenge Cleveland, especially if Gordon Hayward comes back this season.

It’s unlikely the Cavs can beat the Warriors with the poor chemistry and roster they currently have, and the Eastern Conference has increasingly gotten tougher. It may be time for the Cavs to hit the panic button.

 

Featured image from Sporting News

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NBA Finals rematch

It’s time to stop hyping up Cavs-Warriors matchups

After the Golden State Warriors’ 118-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, it is officially time for the NBA to stop trying to make us care about regular season matchups between these two teams. Almost every NBA Finals rematch has simply not lived up to the hype the NBA has tried to stir up over the past three years.

This rivalry was forged in the fires of the NBA Finals. It wasn’t born of constant division clashes or bad blood between players. In fact, Cavs and Warriors players are almost always very nice to and complementary of each other and their play. Before the game on MLK Day, LeBron James literally hugged Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, the people he should hate the most on this Earth.

Since it was born on one of the biggest stages in sports, it’s hard to care about what these teams look like against each other until they’re back on that stage. The only exciting thing about these games the past three years has been the conversation about potential finals storylines. That’s a fine reason to watch a game during a random Wednesday in November, but it’s not good enough to justify the marquee matchups on the NBA’s most important days.

Recent history

Since Cleveland and Golden State first met up in the finals in 2015, the Cavs have won exactly one regular season game against them. It was an admittedly exciting and contentious one-point win on Christmas Day in 2016. But it is still only one game.

NBA Finals rematch

Kevin Durant dunks during Monday night’s game (Photo by David Liam Kyle/Getty Images)

To find another Cleveland regular season win during the rivalry, you would have to go back to Feb. 26, 2015. Even counting this one is a stretch, because this was before they had met up in the finals. The NBA didn’t even know it was a rivalry yet.

 

For the sake of sample size, let’s count those two matchups in 2015 towards this exercise.

Including the finals matchups, the Warriors have won 17 of the 26 games these two teams have played. That’s a win percentage of .654 over three-plus years. Considering the teams are in different conferences, that’s complete dominance. It seems even more dominant when you look at it under the microscope that the NBA has forced upon the games.

Not counting playoffs, the Cavaliers are 2-6 in eight tries in the regular season since LeBron returned to Cleveland. That’s not exciting. It’s not something the NBA should plan its entire Christmas Day slate around.

Points

In the regular season matchups, the Warriors have beaten the Cavs by an average of 18.3 points. The Cavaliers have won their two matchups by just 6.0 points.

NBA Finals rematch

Durant guards James during a Christmas Day game. (Photo by Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

Since Kevin Durant arrived on the West Coast, the Warriors wins are by an average of 15.3 points if the playoff matchups are included. The Cavaliers have won just twice (again, including playoffs), by an average of 11.0 points. However, that is a bit misleading, considering one of those wins was by 21 points in the finals game where Cleveland scored 49 points in the first quarter and had 86 at halftime.

What does this all mean? It means that when the Warriors win, which is most of the time, they’re almost always winning by over 10 points.

Sure, games can end up with a lopsided score during garbage time that makes them seem less competitive than they are. But with a sample size this large, these numbers don’t lend themselves to putting these games on days where fans are already watching the NBA (i.e. MLK Day and Christmas).

Solutions

No one can blame the NBA for wanting to use these games to boost viewership and sell ad time at a higher price. That’s business, and finals rematches are a proverbial cash grab in that respect. But people wanting to see these games isn’t the problem.

The thing that’s most glaring about forcing these finals rematches down our throats is that fans are going to watch these games. People who know and care about the NBA are compelled to tune in to see if they are going to be surprised by the outcome.

NBA Finals rematch

Curry and Durant celebrate during the NBA Finals. (Photo by Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)

The real power that these games have are drawing in casual fans, and sometimes even non-fans. Those people are going to tune in on Christmas Day, regardless. So why not save your supposed “big guns” for late February or mid-March, when even hardcore fans might be yearning for something else to watch?

Another solution could be slating one of the matchups for very early in the season, October for instance, and then slating the other one for the spring. After the All-Star break and trade deadline, both teams will more than likely have the identity that they are going to carry into the playoffs. If the NBA is really concerned with giving the fans a playoff atmosphere, then let the Cavaliers, who like to build and fill in gaps through trades, finalize their roster.

Of course, all of this is predicated on the idea that these two teams will meet in the finals again, which is hardly a guarantee this season. Having the games before the trade deadline could be a good plan because the Cavs can see what holes they need to fill to be competitive with Golden State in June.

One of the teams will be there, but we’ll have to wait and see whether or not these marquee matchups were just the final blow to Cleveland’s confidence, or motivation to not get embarrassed on the national stage yet again.

 

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Isaiah Thomas return

Should the Cavs have waited to bring back Isaiah Thomas?

Isaiah Thomas said he had “no feel for the game right now,” per Dave McMenamin of ESPN after the Cavaliers’ 17-point win over Portland.

That’s interesting considering his 17 points were scored on 6-for-12 shooting in just 19 minutes. Not to mention those 17 points he scored was the exact margin of victory for the Cavs. Suffice it to say, if he doesn’t have a feel for the game now, may God help the Eastern Conference when he gets it back.

The problem here wasn’t with Thomas’ performance, it was with the team on the receiving end of said performance. Specifically, the fact that they weren’t wearing green and represented by a leprechaun.

The Cavaliers chose to make Thomas available for the game against Portland on Tuesday, eschewing the primetime matchup against his former team in Boston on Wednesday. The team did not want Thomas to play back-to-back games after his long awaited return from a torn labrum, lest they risk an injury to one of the big pieces of their playoff hopes.

So, why not just wait one more day and give the NBA the marquee, probable Eastern Conference finals matchup it has been waiting for? With both teams at nearly full strength, this would be a perfect opportunity for both squads to get a feel for what the other team’s game plan might be in the spring.

First, let’s argue for why he should sit.

Sit him

Very simply, the Cavs and Tyronn Lue may just not have a plan they are ready to execute for Thomas against Kyrie Irving and the Celtics.

Isaiah Thomas return

Isaiah Thomas warms up for his Cavs debut. (Photo by Tony Dejak/Associated Press)

Irving has the best handles in the league, and it won’t inspire confidence in fans, players or the media if Thomas keeps getting cooked by Irving every time down the floor. Not to mention hip injuries limit mobility, so if Lue does have a plan, who’s to say Thomas could even execute it well enough to justify the minutes?

Apropos to that last point, Lue may be playing some mind games with Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Perhaps purposefully not showing Boston what they can do against Irving in an effort to force them to change their defensive set pieces later on in the season.

Another obvious reason for him to sit would be concern over the physicality of a rivalry game. Considering these two teams will almost certainly meet at some point during the playoffs, this will be a chance for both teams to rough each other up to show them what they’ve got. What Boston might have for a 5-foot-9 point guard is a hard screen or a shoulder to the chest that sends him to the floor with a re-aggravated hip.

Finally, the Cavs don’t want to look like they were just sitting on their hands regarding Thomas’ return until he could come back and burn his old team. That is a bad look for an organization that has pretty much dominated the Eastern Conference for three straight years.

Now, why should he start in a potentially dangerous back-to-back?

Start him

The first and most glaring reason for starting Thomas is for the fans. If it’s a forgone conclusion that these teams will be meeting in the playoffs, (which it is, barring some sort of major collapse), then the fans deserve the full playoff atmosphere. With every player that can suiting up and showing us what we’ll get in May.

Isaiah Thomas return

Isaiah Thomas makes his season debut against the Trail Blazers on Jan. 2. (Photo by Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

That’s without even mentioning the great storyline that could have been if Thomas suited up for his first game against his former team that he believes heavily devalued him. But, since he played against Portland, that storyline is less sexy than it had the potential to be.

Regarding playoff atmosphere, why wouldn’t Lue want his best players and best scorers in the game as much as possible? The Celtics are a top-tier team. They can score and suffocate teams defensively. A guy who scored almost 29 points per game last year would be a logical play if points will be at a premium.

Lastly, it makes sense to test Thomas’ hip in tough back-to-backs when the season is not even at its halfway point. Thomas will have the entire All-Star break to rest and rehabilitate. Another injury to that hip is frightening, especially when it cost him nearly eight months. But a full tear is unlikely, and it would be a calculated risk considering the opponent.

Regardless of all of that, the decision has been made. He did not play.

Thomas was not drilling 3-pointers while a man a foot taller than him stumbled to get his hand up. He was not flexing his defensive capabilities against one of the most invaluable point guards in the league. He was also not passing it to the human fountain of youth that is LeBron James.

But, for everyone’s sake, especially the Cavs, let’s all hope he will be by May.

 

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Cleveland Cavaliers NBA draft

Cleveland needs to keep the Brooklyn pick

It is safe to say that the Cleveland Cavaliers have silenced all their haters after tying a franchise record with 13 straight wins. That puts the Cavs at 18-7 and second place in the Eastern Conference.

It definitely took a while for the Cavs to get things figured out. Their struggles early in the season were linked to poor defense and chemistry. This should have been expected considering the Cavs are the oldest team in the NBA and have so many new faces.

Through the first 12 games of the season, Cleveland was allowing an atrocious 114.2 points per game. During this winning streak, they have allowed 101.5. Overall, the team is averaging 107.6 per game, which ranks 21st in the league. It is not the best, but it is an improvement from where they started.

Oh, and the Cavs have accomplished all this without Isaiah Thomas and Tristan Thompson. Imagine how good this team will be once they return to the court.

There is not much doubt that the Cavs will be back in the Finals for their fourth straight season. However, there is also not much doubt that they will be facing the Golden State Warriors for the fourth straight time, and losing to them once again.

The Cavs aren’t getting any younger either. There have also been trade talks about the Cavs bringing in DeMarcus Cousins or DeAndre Jordan. But in order to do that, the Cavs would most definitely have to part ways with their first round pick they acquired from the Brooklyn Nets. Cousins and Jordan also are both free agents next season with Cousins being unrestricted and Jordan with a player option.

Sending off a potential No. 1 pick and possibly players like Thompson and Iman Shumpert for a player they might not be able to keep is not a smart move for a team like the Cavs. They need to start preparing for the future. Players like Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Channing Frye, Jeff Green, Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon and Iman Shumpert all could be gone next season.

Now not all of those players are really considered losses, but this team needs to add some young talent for the future. That is why instead of using the Brooklyn pick as a trade asset, the Cavs need to actually use it.

NBA Draft lottery

The NBA will have a new lottery system in place for the 2018 NBA draft. The new system has leveled the playing field for the league’s worst teams.

Cleveland Cavaliers NBA draft

The Cavs are not getting any younger. (Photo by STACY REVERE/GETTY)

Previously, the worst team had the greatest odds at the first overall pick. Now the worst three teams have the same odds at receiving the first pick.

As it stands right now, there are nine teams worse than the Brooklyn Nets. However, a handful of those teams should finish ahead of the Nets by the end of the season. Even if the Nets don’t finish as one of the three worst teams, the Nets could still end up with a high pick. Even with the previous lottery system, there were always teams winning higher picks than teams that were worse than them. The new system makes it even easier for those teams to get higher picks.

This class of rookies is stacked with talent with names like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Lauri Markkanen and Dennis Smith Jr. already looking great. This next class of rookies is going to be pretty good as well.

Top prospects

If you have not heard, Marvin Bagley is very good. The Duke freshman is the undisputed first overall pick for the 2018 NBA draft, and rightfully so. Bagley is averaging 21.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. He is first in the NCAA in total points, second in total rebounds, second in double-doubles and is showing range with a 3-point percentage of 35. Bagley is going to be a beast in the NBA.

Even if the Cavs cannot get Bagley, there is still plenty of other talent. Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. was going to be battling Bagley as the NCAA’s top player, but an injury in his first game this season has sidelined him for the season. We all know how good Porter can be based on his film. His injury has not hurt him much in the latest mock drafts either.

Arizona freshman big Deandre Ayton is also looking like a stud early on. Ayton is averaging 19.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. He has size at 7-foot-1 and 250 pounds and freakish offensive ability.

There is also Mohamed Bamba from Texas. He is not known for his offense yet, but his defense is amazing. The 7-footer has a 7-foot-9 wingspan and is averaging four blocks per game. He game is much like Tristan Thompson, also a former defensive stud at Texas.

Don’t forget about Miles Bridges either. Many expected the Michigan State sophomore to be in this year’s draft, but he returned to the Spartans instead for another big season. Bridges has been picking up where he left off so far. His season averages are not as high, but it is still early and from watching him you know he can be an NBA stud.

Keep the pick

The the current age of the Cavs, some may argue they should focus on winning now. However, with some of the team’s top players like Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Jae Crowder, Tristan Thompson and most likely LeBron James returning to the team next season, why would they need to plan a massive rebuild?

The fact is, most of the Cavs’ stars are not that old. They can make the Finals in the next two seasons at least with their current roster. But if they don’t want to be left behind once all these players are finished, they need to start preparing for the future.

Yes, there is no guarantee Cleveland gets the top pick, or even a top three pick. But there is also no guarantee DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan would stay either. What you can guarantee is that this next draft class is going to be loaded with talent, and the Cavs will have a top 10 pick to get one of those players.

This offseason, the Cavs need to focus on getting younger and keeping Isaiah Thomas on the roster. They can start by getting him anther great teammate to work with.

 

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Best team Eastern Conference

The best team in the East

The Boston Celtics have the best record in the NBA at 8-2 after a huge win against the Thunder with an insane 18-point comeback. The Celtics have the perfect team to perform well in the regular season with a core of young talent that will finish atop the Eastern Conference.

The new-look Celtics

The Celtics currently hold the best record in the entire NBA. With the favorite Cleveland Cavaliers falling apart, it’s hard to see another team challenge the Celtics for the No. 1 seed.

One of the biggest reasons for the Celtics’ success is how Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier have been playing. These three are all playing with fire this season, averaging more than 20 minutes per game, which is only going to help them improve in the long run.

Best team Eastern Conference

Photo from NBC Sports

The bench is filled with solid impact players, especially big guys like Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis, which is something they have been missing in the last few seasons. While Baynes is an established player who the Celtics cooped up in free agency, Theis is a rookie from Germany that has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 5.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and almost a block per game.

Kyrie Irving is getting it down on both ends of the floor and showing all the critics how good his defense really is by leading the entire league in steals this season. Irving has found himself in Brad Stevens’ constant ball movement offense. He’s been able to create so many different looks compared to his time in Cleveland.

Have the Celtics figured out their rebounding problem? Currently, the Celtics are fifth in the league in rebounds, which has been a weak point in recent years. It seems like there is a sense of urgency in defensive rebounding, especially with Tatum and Brown.

Al Horford has been picking up his game as of late, consistently finishing with around 15 points and ten rebounds per game. He just looks like he has more drive than last season. I feel like he’s attacking the paint way more than settling for his patent free throw jumper.

Overall, the entire defense looks really strong. They have held their last eight opponents to under 95 points in each game. If the Celtics keep up this defensive intensity, they might even be able to finish with the best record in the league.

What’s up with Cleveland?

The oldest team in the League is struggling early to secure wins in the early part of the season. The Cavaliers made a bunch of different acquisitions this offseason, but none of them seem to be paying off in regular season play.

Best team Eastern Conference

(Photo from Cavs Nation)

The Cavaliers have been battling through a few injuries this season as well, most recently losing Tristan Thompson to a calf injury that should keep him out for a month. This is a devastating loss for a team that already struggled in rebounding and interior defense.

Currently, the Cavs are 4-6, losing five of their last six games. They rank in the bottom four of the East and just lost to the Atalanta Hawks, the worst team in the entire Eastern Conference.

The team has so many old flashy names, but that doesn’t necessarily make a good team. You need to have roles filled, and the Cavs are lacking in a lot of key areas right now.

I do think once Isaiah Thomas comes back, the team will have more structure and chemistry, but that won’t be until around the All-Star break possibly. Can the Cavs figure it out in time and stay around the top of the East where they belong? Or will they fall to the bottom and have to claw back in the second half of the year?

 

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