Don’t be so quick to crown the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 2014-15 NBA champions before the season starts. I get it, they have the best player in the game, but they have a lot more holes than you might think. Sorry to burst some of your bubbles, but Cleveland will remain without a title for another year.
Just because the team went into “win now mode” by acquiring Kevin Love doesn’t mean they should just be handed the trophy. What has Love really done? He has a lot of potential, but he certainly hasn’t won at this level. In six seasons Love’s teams in Minnesota have a combined record of 153-323.
He gets a pass because nobody really knows his true value. Is he a product of stat-stuffing on bad teams, or is he one of the best big men in the game? I don’t think anyone can truly answer that question just yet.
He’s an absolute animal on the offensive and defensive glass. He can finish down low with an assortment of post moves while also stretching the floor with long range shooting. His ability to ignite the fast break immediately with a long outlet pass can’t be overstated either.
Nobody will mistake Love for a high-level defender, but not all of that is his fault. It’s who he is and has always been. He’s never been a shot blocker. He’s been a guy who plays conservatively on the defensive end. I’m not saying he doesn’t try, but he can’t be the rim protector other guys are. When put in pick and roll situations he is often too conservative and struggles to recover to guards or post players in space.
My concerns then shift to the combination if Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Irving has never been a lock down defender either. The team is noticeably better on the defensive end without him on the floor, giving up eight fewer points per game. Sure he can put up offensive numbers, but at what expense? He’ll be able to get to the basket easier with LeBron James on the floor, but how’s he going to do without the ball in his hands? He’s acustumed to creating for others. With James on the floor he will be the guy who dominates the ball. Can Irving knock down open shots? Up to this point he’s been pretty average in that category.
Waiters simply hasn’t met a shot he doesn’t like. He’s a “chucker.” The guy will throw up contested three pointers just because he’s open whether it’s in the flow of the offense or not. His willingness to stay engaged in the game has also come into question in the past. Sometimes he looks lost and you can forget he’s even on the floor sometimes.
As for the collective group of Mike Miller, James Jones, and Shawn Marion, I just ask how much more do these guys have left in the tank? There’s a reason they swap teams and come as ancillary pieces in trades or free agency. These guys are inconsistent and can’t always be counted on for solid production. Jones and Miller are specislists. If they aren’t giving you hot shooting then they won’t even be on the floor.
Lastly, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson are solid pieces. James will find them for easy scores and they will be pests in the post and in transition. Nothing spectacular, but they benefit greatly with James inserted into the offense.
So if James is asked to continue to guard the opposition’s best player, or multiple positions during the playoffs isn’t he back in the same position as he was with Miami? He has unique skills that allow him to guard all positions on the floor, but not at the same time. Multiple guys have to step up and prove themselves as two-way players for this to turn into a title contender.
This team is unproven. In the “Big Three Era” only Boston has been able to win a title in their first year. I’d gladly take Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in their prime, as a collective unit, before I’d take Love, James, and Irving. James is one of the best players in history, but this team has way too many questions surrounding it for me to buy in right now.
Picture from: Getty Images