Cavaliers ten talking points ten games in.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have not kicked off the 2017-18 season the way the team would like. They dropped five of the first nine games, which included a particularly frustrating three-game skid that opened the floor to familiar questions about the defense. To further compound the situation, injuries to a starting five that is looking to find a stride have prevented the team from sticking to any one game plan. Throw that on top of a squad of new faces, and there is plenty to bring to the discussion table.
Lebron seemed to play with conviction against the Washington Wizards. His 57-point performance tied the franchise record for most points scored in a game. Although a career performance for James, it felt like one his signature silencing acts after the discussion leading up to game time. Bradley Beal even went as far as accusing the Cavs of tanking to avoid the Wizards in the 2016-17 season.
The Cavs hosted the Atlanta Hawks for game ten of the regular season. The game exhibited many of the same defensive struggles the Cavs have seen thus far. Dwayne Wade turned out a bright performance. He was 8-18 from the field and scored 25. His progress moving forward is dire to the heart beat of this team. They need more games like this from Wade. Kyle Korver was a three-point engine. He drained five of his eleven three point attempts. Lebron was the assist beneficiary of many of them. The Cavs fell 117 to 115. Since the Cavs are now ten games into the new season, here are my ten early-season talking points.
The Cavs continue to play poor defensively. – They are 28th in the NBA with 113 points per game allowed going into the Hawks matchup. Defense has been one of the biggest question marks for this team over the last three years. At times, complacency has been their biggest issue. This year, the Cavs are running new lineups with veteran players. They are already at a disadvantage when teams are throwing their youth at the Cavs because they cannot match the pace of play. This in combination with a lack of chemistry has hurt the team.
Injuries are nagging – Lebron admitted recently that he has not felt at his best because he had been dealing with a lingering ankle injury throughout the preseason. That’s the least of the worries on the injury report, however. Tristan Thompson exited the game against the Pacers with a calf injury. He is expected to miss at least a month. The Cavs will certainly miss his presence under the glass during that time.
Lebron James doing Lebron things – Lebron James decimated the Wizards for 57. Through nine games, his was averaging 61 percent from the field and nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc. He also leads the Cavs in every major stat category other than rebounds per game. James arguably had the best season of his career last year, and it seems as though he is looking to repeat.
Kevin Love and LBJ keep the little chemistry this team has alive – The same song and dance from the previous three seasons. Love is a threat in the post and from three-point range. The keen basketball IQ and passing ability of James allows Kevin Love to really stretch out between those two points of the floor. If the Cavs improve their chemistry elsewhere, the two will occupy defenses long enough to get some other key players involved.
Dwayne Wade – The acquisition of D-Wade is one of the more exciting in recent memory. Opening up his game against Atlanta, he received a pair of well-placed dimes from James to sink mid-range jumpers. Small patches of his game are beginning to show through. Cavs fans should exercise patience while watching Wade catch up to this program. He may be a veteran in the league, but his experience with Lebron is worth its weight in minutes on the court.
Transition offense – This has been an area that the Cavs have traditionally done well. Through ten games, there is much left to be desired. Specifically, Derrick Rose has struggled. Passing lanes aren’t seeming to open up for him, and his finishing has been far from clinical. This may be an opportunity for Wade to find his way back into the starting squad should he remain on the uptick while Rose searches for his consistency.
Kyle Korver –Korver has put his stamp on a number of games already this season. Unfortunately, lack of wining has sort of overshadowed that. His is shooting nearly 50 percent from three-point land. His hustle play is another key for the Cavs. During the second quarter of the Atlanta Hawks game, Korver was involved in a number of 50/50 balls. Even during the slump, Korver has remained a spark off of the bench.
Three-point shooting – The Cavaliers are only recording an average of 34 percent of their three-point shots. A number that falls short of expectations. Inversely, 41 percent of opponents’ three-balls found the net. This disparity in scoring is one of the obvious numbers on the score-sheet that must be improved. This is especially true in the deep scoring atmosphere in today’s league.
Complacency – The Cavs simply play with no urgency at times. Three Cavalier defenders handed a series of offensive rebounds to the Hawks through inaction in the middle of the second half. Any sort of comeback that the Cavs worked towards became more out of reach every time the team was caught ball watching. That lack of urgency was one of the biggest negative take-aways from last season. That must be cut out if the Cavs are going to pull things together.