Friday, April 18, 2008

Here we go

Alright, I haven't exactly been thrilled with the Cavaliers' recent stretch of play. They've played .500 basketball since the trade, the defense comes and goes and the offense seems to have reverted back to 2006.

But (and trust me, it's weird to write this) Bill Livingston makes a good point in his recent column:
They took a six-game West Coast road trip early, when they were undermanned by
the holdouts. Record: 3-and-3.

They played 21 back-to-back games, with the second on the road 17 times. Record: 8-and-13.

Suddenly daring, General Manager Danny Ferry swung a three-team trade in February that had players flying hither and yon.

The deal tore up the roster, yet still provided many shooters who can't defend and defenders who can't shoot. Record with the new players: 14-and-13.

They won their "Alamo game" after the trade, beating Washington with six players and two minor-league call-ups.

Most of all, LeBron James missed seven games and did not finish an eighth.

Record: 0-8.

Winning just five of those games would have increased their victory total from 45 to the 50 victories of 2006 and 2007.

The Cavs have not had good luck this year. Karma bit both Varejao and Pavlovic in the ass, Z, Big Ben and LeBron have all had back issues and Daniel Gibson missed signifcant time with his ankle injury.

The trade hasn't exactly been a flying success, but at the same time, key Cavaliers (Z, Gibson, Pavlovic) all missed serious, post-trade action. Mike Brown hasn't figured out how to use these guys properly; most of the blame would lie at his feet, but you can only expect so much when you overhaul the roster mid-season (when guys can't stay healthy). All of this can easily account for 5 victories (and I think we'd be resting a bit easier if this Cavalier team had 50 Ws again).

However, I'm still not confident heading into the second season. They're limping into the postseason, Brown can't find a lineup he likes (with Pavlovic out, I'd like to see them start Wally and bring Devin Brown off the bench) and the defense doesn't show up consistently. They are not playing they're best basketball and everyone knows it.

Washington seems very confident, but I'm not sure how much that is going to actually help them. This series scared me at first (and it still does to a certain degree) but the Wizards keep yapping and talking trash. I'm not sure that's the best idea with LeBron James suiting up for the opposition.

Also, the post season is when Mike Brown does his best work. I'm not sold on Brown as a game day coach; I don't like his sub patterns, I don't care lack of fire (I could use some more well placed technical fouls) and they routinely get caught off guard following time outs (mostly from zone defenses). I also don't like that he's been experimenting with the lineup this late in the year (Damon Jones deserves to be on the court) but some of that can be explained by the injuries. That being said, Brown plans well for series. He has grasp of the 'big picture' issues (how they'll defend, what they'll try to do, etc) and I don't see why this will be any different (I don't care how good LeBron is, you don't be a much better Detroit team without a coach with some talent).

As for my prediction... I'm torn. I understand every reason why someone would choose the Wizards this time around. The poor trade results, the injuries, the lack of cohesion... I get that (plus, you have to factor in Washington's revenge factor). But I don't know if I'd bet against LeBron, especially considering how well he's played at times this year.

King James just got a bunch of days off... it's playoff time... and DeShawn Stevenson has been calling him overrated for weeks now... I don't see myself picking again LeBron and co. in this siutation.

Cavs in 7.

3 comments:

Erik said...

John Hollinger drew a parallel between this year's Cavs and last year's Heat, which is a scary proposition considering the nosedive the Heat took in going from NBA champs, to 44 wins and swept out of the first round, to the worst team in the league in two years' time.

I know a lot of national media types probably think this is the "real" Cavs and that the team that made it to the Finals last year was an anomaly. But I'll still hold fast to my belief that this is a transitional year.

Give this team the playoffs, summer and training camp together, and let's see where they are next November. If Ferry can add a star-caliber shooting guard, re-sign West and Gibson, and get at least one meaningful piece in the draft, I'll feel pretty good about this team for 08-09.

The Cavs have good talent. But it's a matter of that talent jelling and staying healthy, which has so far proved to be a major challenge.

Ben said...

The Cavs have gotten no love due to their injuries. People assume that LeBron has no talent around him anyways, so when said talent goes down, people don't appreciate that the Cavs are missing major parts of the roster (Z, Gibson, Pavlovic and Varejao are all major pieces).

However, I believe that the Cavs are in a much better situation (for player movement) than they were pre-trade.

I agree that this is a transitional year and I'm more than OK with that. I've been saying all year that if the Cavs were ever going to have to tear down before rebuilding, now (LeBron's first year in a new deal) is the best time for it.

Anonymous said...

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