In the last couple of years, the NBA offseason has become just as important as the actual season. Teams of reporters now follow every move of front office execs, free agents, and “sources” loosely associated with those in the know. This summer was especially bad. The drama over Lebron James’ free-agency was centered around him staying with the Heat (where he successfully went to 4 straight NBA finals, winning 2 titles) or leaving for a host of clubs – most interestingly the Cavs, his hometown team and the team where he started his professional career. After an in-depth self-penned (sure, it was self-penned) letter published in Sports Illustrated, the weeks of tension were finally lifted – Lebron was coming home.
As the summer progressed, the Cavs continued to work to put together an all-star team – acquiring Kevin Love and other important supporting members of Lebron’s past. In the end, the team looks quite formidable. With a “big three” of Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, and Kevin Love, they are currently 5/2 to win the title, according to Las Vegas odds.
Unfortunately for them (and the myriad Cleveland fans yearning for a championship), they’re not going to win the title this year. Allow me three important reasons why:
1. New Teams Take Time to Bond
This is the most often repeated reason, but it’s true. Four years ago, the Heat (the last “super team”) started 9-8 and everybody freaked out. They got all the way to the finals and ran up against the Mavs, who were their opposite in many ways – a team led by a single star and a team that had been together (for the most part) for several years. The discussion for the Heat that year in the finals centered around “who gets the ball in crunch time”, and although the team publicly denied there were issues identifying it as “Wade’s team” versus “Lebron’s team”, they failed the eye test.
Do I think this team will start 9-8? No. They will likely start off hot. Very hot. Lebron is more matured and skilled. Kyrie is coming into his own as one of the top point guards in the game, and Kevin Love has run through teams in the pre-season. Adversity will come to this team at some point, however. Love hasn’t been the healthiest guy in the league the last few years, and the incredible number of games that Lebron has amassed might finally catch up with him. If they lose 2 (or 3, or 4) straight, if they lose in dramatic fashion in one of their nationally televised games at home (ps, there’s a lot of these), how will they react?
Lebron constantly speaks of patience…of giving the team time to gel and form a unified offensive and defensive front. Many think that’s false modesty – but I think he’s right. We’ll see if he can actually display that patience (and more importantly, can Kyrie and Love).
2. Dion Waters
Dion is crazy.
I should just end there, but let’s talk a little more about him. Realistically, shooting guard is the position that has the least defensive responsibility in many cases, and in most offenses like this one – where there are two dominant forewards – the 2 can truly be a wing, a kick-out option, or a decoy. Unfortunately, that’s not Dion Waters.
Simply put, Dion has led the team in shot attempts in every game thus far. David Blatt, coach of the Cavs said recently
“I don’t think he should lead the team in shots. On the other hand I don’t really care. I just want us to take good shots and make them. But we’ll look at it. It’s something we really should look at it and we will.”
“I told him, with every team there is a guy they want to kind of place the blame on, and it will be Dion on our team,”
That says a lot – but let’s look at some video, shall we:
Why did he shoot that three? No, really – why? Did you see the ball movement? Did you see the team moving beautifully without the ball – spacing out the defense? That certainly did not justify a three from 4 feet behind the line.
3. They Lack a true Center
I hate beating up on Varejao, so I’ll keep this quick. Basically, he’s a Power Forward. The Cavs moved him to center when Lebron left (or more appropriately when Ilgauskas left). All of the playoff runs during the first Lebron tenure featured Z at center and V at the 4. Now, we’re to believe that Varejao is to be the center (or Tristan Thompson…we’ll just leave that one alone for now).
In addition to the fact there’s no way he can body up a host of centers in the league (Noah, Lopez, Gortat, Hibbert to name four in the east), in the three years following Lebron,Varejao played a MAX of 31 games a year. Last year he more than doubled that to 65, but fell off DRAMATICALLY in both points and rebounds per game.
I’m sorry – it’s just not happening (insert gossip about the Pacers blowing everything up and trading Hibbert to the Cavs).
I will say…they have the best player in the world, the best young point guard in the league, and a nightly double-double. They are going to be real real good.
I just don’t think they can win the title this year.