The Cleveland Cavaliers have 50 wins in back to back seasons.
(Just think about that for a second)
I mentioned the other night how much difference a year makes. Last year, the Cavs got their 50 wins by taking control down the stretch, finishing with a 14-3 spurt. They peaked at the right time and went into the playoffs riding high. They beat the Wizards and then lost the Greatest Second Round Series in Cleveland Sports History to the Pistons.
Naturally, expectations were raised for this year; the Cavs were 'a rebound away' from upsetting the Pistons, LeBron was unstoppable and Larry Hughes was coming back - they had to be better.
Well, the regular season ended last night and the Cavs again have 50 wins, though I'd be hard pressed to find anyone that is satisfied with that total this time around.
It's been said (by Erik and some commenters over at Windhorst's blog) that this is what we should've expected; Ferry didn't make any roster overhauls, he stood pat and brought the same group of guys back. Are we really surprised at 50 wins?
Well... yes and no.
If I were to tell you before the season that Larry Hughes would notched 70 games (second most of his career), the Cavs suffer no major injuries, Eric Snow, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones would all have their minutes cut and Sasha Pavlovic would average 12 points as a starter, you would tell me that 50 wins is expected?
The fact is, they underachieved. I think Ferry, Mike Brown and LeBron all share part of the blame (as does Larry Hughes and his terrible shot selection). Has it been a wasted year? No, I don't think so. They found out that Sasha Pavlovic can actually play and that Daniel Gibson can shoot (really really well). LeBron also faced the first real criticism of his career (90% of it justified IMO) and it was proved without a shadow of a doubt that they need to hire an offensive assistant (and soon!).
The Cavs lucked out last night in landing the 2-seed (and a matchup with the depleted Wizards). Everything bounced their way and their bracket is extremely kind (Detroit, Miami and Chicago are all on the other side. The Cavs will only have to face one of those three).
This gives the Cavs a very easy road to the Conference Finals and right now there should be no excuses not to get there. That would something tangible that Ferry can point at to show that the Cavs have improved over last years squad. And while an ECF appearance would be nice (and good for LeBron and the young guys), simply getting there isn't much of a step up for the franchise.
Would it be a good thing? Of course. But hopefully the Cavs management won't put too much stock in the first two rounds. The team obviously needs a overhaul and a trip to the Conference Finals hopefully won't mask that. The offense needs serious work, they needed a point guard yesterday and someone needs to tell Larry Hughes that he doesn't have to shoot contested 20 footers all the time (also, it's totally OK to pass the ball ahead on a fast break).
Just like the signing of Eric Steinbach shouldn't mean that the (Joe Thomas) offensive (Joe Thomas) line (Joe Thomas) is fixed (or thinking that signing Westbrook means the fans are cool with letting Sabathia and/or Pronk walk), making a trip to the ECF (against weak competition) doesn't mean that the roster doesn't need major work (or that they've taken The Next Step). This is a team that lost twice to New York and Charlotte, got killed by Phoenix twice, showed up 2 out of 8 quarters against the Mavericks, went 2-6 against Detroit and Miami and blew games against Boston, Atlanta, Portland and Philadelphia.
But maybe I'm too negative. Can I really be bitching about a Cavalier team that has won 50 games in back to back seasons and has one of the top players in the game?
Yes. Yes I can.