Thursday, April 19, 2007

Does this count as a season review?

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.


jdog4484 said...

Whats not to like about this season?

Larry Hughes is healthy for once, Sasha can actually play, Gibson can knock down a jumper while playing some D. Drew was a little more consistent, Z isn't struggling. We won 50 games, what were you expecting? 55 games? 60?!? could we have beaten the bobcats those times and that boston game? yes, but we did win out down the stretch to keep the pressure on the Bulls to keep winning, and we won huge games late in the season at Detroit, and AT CHICAGO, which ultimately allowed us to grab the number 2 seed.

The Cavs are better than last year, their record just may not show it. Look at their team last year. Eric Snow was still starting and playing a lot of minutes. No Sasha, and No Gibson. Z was struggling against Brendan Haywood. Larry was completely ineffective at all aspects of the game (thanks to his loss of his brother and his injury). Our best offensive play is a Lebron James/Andy pick-and-roll (ok that hasn't changed but still).

To say they "underachieved" is harsh. They won 50, and got the number 2 seed, while winning games they had to and winning tough ones on the road. Sasha emerged as a player for this team while regulating Eric Snow to the bench (which counts as double). getting the number 1 seed would have been overachieving. i don't think you can ask more out of this team for the regular season (besides maybe a trade for a point guard).

The point of the regular season is to set yourself up for a good run in the playoffs, and the Cavs fortunately have done that best out of each of the contenders. Go ask the heat if the regular season matters.

Erik said...

Time for my periodic Charley Rosen rant.

He gave the Cavs a D-plus grade among playoff teams, and he probably had to be convinced to go that high. His original grade was probably the famous Bill Simmons "F-minus-squared because there isn't anything lower."

Whne is Fox Sports going to sit up and realize that Rosen is a horrible analyst? He lets his personal bias and emotion into his writing so blatantly, and often the results are ridiculously far-fetched.

Fox sells him as an authority on basketball because he's an ex-coach, but really he's more like a pundit out to rankle people.

I for one, can't trust him to deliver objective analysis. To me, he's very bad at the job he was hired to do, and he damages the credibility of Fox Sports as long as they continue to treat him as an analyst.

Ben said...

Oh, I agree that this isn't isn't a waste. But they lost a bunch of games solely due to effort. And having watched them night in and night out, its frustrating.

Is the team in better shape? Oh hell yes. And yes they got the second seed, which is fantastic, but that's more of statement about their conference than it is about their team at this point (like when NJ and Philly went to the finals. Should those GMs have been satisfied with their teams? No, they made the finals not because they were awesome, but because the East sucked donkey balls). What I don't want to happen is for Danny Ferry to say to himself: we don't need to make a lot of moves (or hire an offensive coach), we made the ECF.

I love the fact that they got the easy bracket and they'll have a decent playoff run, but I don't want that good run to mask their problems (the offense needs to be fixed and pronto).

Did I like the fact that they won their last four and kept the pressure on Chicago? Yes. Did I like the fact that they had to? No.

This season hasn't been a waste. We know Sasha can play (and at this point it's more likely that Pavs is LeBron's 'Pippen' more so that Hughes), Gibson has a future and Shannon Brown showed signs of life.

But losing games they should've won, losing (big) games because they didn't show up (that last Heat game was brutal).

It's all wiped clean now that the playoffs are starting. And ultimately playoffs make or break what kind of year you have. But I don't think it's unfair to say they underachieved.

Ben said...

Charley Rosen is a joke. There is no reason to read his analysis solely based on the fact that he predicted that LeBron's ceiling was only as a mediocre player.

Ever since he missed on that prediction (and left ESPN) he's bashed the Cavs with every chance he's gotten.

My solution, don't read him.