How Concerned Should Cleveland Be?

Ten games into the 2017-18 NBA season, I asked “What is Wrong With the Cleveland Cavaliers”? Well, 38 games later, many people are scratching their heads trying to figure out the same thing. We are now seven games past the mid-point of the season & the Cavaliers are still struggling to find themselves. After a Thursday night loss back on November 9th, to the Houston Rockets, the Cavs had fallen to 5-7 on the year before a massive winning streak began just two days later. A seven point win over the Dallas Mavericks on November 11th began a 13-game winning streak in which the Cavaliers looked like they had returned to their championship contending form. That win streak tied the franchise record for consecutive wins (’08-’09 & ’09-’10) & had the Cavaliers sitting in a good position at 18-7. After a loss a couple of days later to the Indiana Pacers, the Cavs would rattle off another solid 5-game winning streak & would split of pair of games (a loss at Milwaukee & a win vs. Chicago) before a highly anticipated matchup on Christmas Day on the road in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors.

A road loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day 99-92 isn’t anything to be ashamed of, the Cavs still hadn’t got Isaiah Thomas back on the court, Derrick Rose was out (again) & of course it’s the “Warriors”… But they played without Steph Curry. That loss, when the Cavs dropped to 24-10 on the season, is the focal point of where the Cavaliers are at this very moment. LeBron James had been shooting at career clips across the board, especially from 3-point range, until that game. LeBron went 7-18 from the field, but just 2-7 from the long line. The Cavs got some high scoring out of Kevin Love who finished with 31 points & 18 rebounds but he was 9-25 form the field. The issue was that James & Love had given the Cavaliers a combined 51 points, while the other 8 players who saw time on the floor gave them 41.

Cleveland has three wins since that Christmas Day game in Oakland, or the same number of wins as the Orlando Magic & Sacramento Kings. The Cavaliers aren’t getting any consistent production out of anyone not named LeBron & even the King has been in a slump. Before that Christmas Day game, James was shooting 40.6% from 3, after Christmas it’s down to 18.6%. LeBron, who led the league for a majority of the first half of the season in minutes-played has dropped down to fourth at 36.9 mpg. Nobody else averages more than 30 minutes/game (Kevin Love is closest with 28.4 mpg). Well, what about Isaiah Thomas? Have a look at these numbers:

Kevin Love before Isiah Thomas' return:

Love since IT's return:

A very small sample size for IT, but Love’s drop in production, along with the fact that JR Smith gives the Cavaliers next to nothing on offense & even less on defense, Iman Shumpert played his first game Tuesday since November 17th due to injury, Derrick Rose has played in 10 games this year due to a myriad of different issues, Dwayne Wade has aged, Kyle Korver has had a dip in production & let’s face it, this team just isn’t good.

Cleveland had a meeting after Kevin Love left last Saturday’s game vs Oklahoma City with an illness. It was a 148-124 loss, that shook the Cavs to their corps. A full-blown blowout of a meeting that included players, coaches, the GM, & even the team owner is just a glimpse at how dysfunctional this group is. The team chemistry isn’t the only dysfunction, their defense is absolutely atrocious. At what point do you call out someone’s pride for giving up an ABA-style 148 points in a single game? We all knew going in that Cleveland would only go as far as LeBron could take them. Adding names like “Wade”, “Rose”, “IT”, might seem cool on paper, but at the end of the day it’s nowhere near good enough to win a title.

A story came out earlier this week that stated Kyrie threatened surgery if he was not traded, sounds like spin & damage control to me, deflect the attention of the team meeting & focus it on the story of Kyrie wanting out. But, could the story of Kyrie wanting out almost be a window in as to why he wanted to leave a championship contender with LeBron James on the team? Trade rumors have been circulating for some time, but are now coming to the forefront with all kinds of names being thrown around. Allegedly (according to reports) LeBron was upset with the front office that the Cavs didn’t get either Paul George or Eric Bledsoe when they were available…

That Christmas Day loss to Golden State showed once again, that without Steph Curry, the Warriors can still win. They’re young, deep, & stingy defensively… or the exact opposite of the Cleveland Cavaliers. That single game was a microcosm of the entire season. How concerned should Cleveland be? DEFCON 2 or, damn near nuclear. Contending this season is highly questionable, keeping LeBron past this 2018 season also seems to be looming large as well.

-Anthony Bellino hosts “The Fox Sports Morning Blitz” weekday mornings from 7am-9am on Toledo’s Fox Sports Radio 1230.