I looked at the Cavaliers as a whole about a month ago and I, unfortunately, still see some of the same weaknesses that I noticed before. However, due to his head injury, the return of Mike Miller was delayed and the chance to make the rotation changes that should elevate the team were then delayed. The movement of Mike Miller to the starting lineup was the first of a series of moves that I think will improve the Cavs rotation short term and even more long term. Last night was a glimpse of that. I went into a little more detail on my scribbles of November 23rd, please look at that again if you would like more context.
The Cavaliers would benefit greatly in my view from a rotation that starts with Kyrie, Miller, LeBron, Love, and TT. I know that is a bit of an undersized lineup, but it makes the most sense to start games. The “Big Three” and knockdown shooter Miller provide plenty of offensive firepower to start games. TT is a much better complementary player to that group because he cleans up misses and, frankly, plays better defense than either Love or Varejao. It is no accident that he is often in the lineup at the end of games. So that is one change I am still waiting for David Blatt to make. He is such a heady coach don’t be surprised if this change comes sooner than later.
The rotation for the Cavs should be Marion to spot LeBron and, at times based on defensive needs, Miller or Love. The most important thing he could do would be to give LeBron the rest he needs over the course of the season. Delly to backup Kyrie, of course, and run the offense with Dion. Waiters to come in for Miller and Andy to spell Love across the quarter and into the second. To bad for TT but he is the youngest big. He can extend through the first if needed. I think Jones should be the 10th man in the rotation to come in at SF and move Marion to the 4 when TT needs to come out or the offense needs a kick.
I don’t see a role for anyone else off the bench until injuries dictate that. I do like Harris for sure and am wondering about Haywood?? He obviously has very little or nothing left in the tank to not be used as an occasional rim protector. We don’t see him in practice and don’t know the true story here about his recovery from the injury. If he has anything left, then you will probably see him as a “surprise” rotation addition in short stretches when we play teams with great bigs such as we will see Sunday against Memphis. If he has nothing, then he is only here to be used as a trade chip in this off-season. A valuable role for sure but I would like to see more. Amundson is also someone who can get spot time depending on fouls and the like, but he also is undersized.
I agree 100% with LeBron when he says this existing team can make a strong run to win it all (code word “ultimate goal”) if they buy in and learn to play as a team and trust each other. Almost no media person or blogger believes that but I do. That being said, it is quite obvious that wing defense and lack of size hurts the Cavs often and begs the question of whether we need to make a substantial change. My point here is one of caution. This Cavs team is far from done growing together. They still are lazy at times. They still do not value their own words and fight to compete on defense as they know they must. The lapses are often large and long causing games that would otherwise be a blowout to be a grind to the end or loss. Better effort throughout would actually SAVE energy for the players in the final analysis. They would have more nights to sit out entire fourth quarters and conserve energy. I hope they realize that soon because the current approach is going to wear them out and make injury more likely.
The other caution is my continuous reprise to Trade Dion Waiters At Your Peril. I know that many say he “can’t fit in” or is a “bad fit”. I think that is very far from the truth. He is actually a perfect fit on this team if he begins to truly understand his role and embrace it. Dion has the potential, with determination, to be an excellent defender. His potential is far beyond Kyrie’s because of his ability to play above the rim and his quickness. But, as we have seen, Dion rarely uses that talent to it’s fullest because he saves it for the offensive end. This is the exact same thing Kyrie did until this year. Plus, on the offensive side, he still would be the most talented scorer of the rotation players and be the second option often as starters sub out or in. So he will get his chances on the offensive end if he is patient and can knockdown shots. Dion, with the right attitude and mix of players, can have 14-18 points off the bench and 6 assists per game. Playing with Andy will give him a viable pick and roll player who is the best player we have for that kind of 2 man action. Dion can thrive in that role if he simply gets past himself and understands what he must do.
And that is the reason that so many say he “can’t fit”. Many believe that Dion is a malcontent that can’t be controlled. I think if you read the Brendan Bowers article on Dion, you will understand that isn’t necessarily the case. Dion comes from a rough place and a rough background. He is emotional but thoughtful and does care about winning. He had hoped it would be easier with LeBron because of open looks. What he didn’t plan for is his usual early season struggles offensively and an inability to knock down shots as he did near the end of last year. I ask that everyone step back a bit from the “Dion must go” group and give him more of a chance to find himself. I think that, given time, he can do that.
I will say this, if the Cavs decide to use their last viable player trade chip (Waiters) in a deal, it had better be a blockbuster for the team. Not a Kosta Koufus or similar talent. If they are going to sell out for a rim protector, it had better be a nasty one who is athletic (like we played last night – Plumlee). A soft rim protector with limited athleticism just won’t do if we want to advance. Tyler Zeller, while not really a rim protector, would have helped just as much because he is athletic and 7 foot. I still regret we needed to give him up, but I know we did.
Yes, the Cavs have a ways to go for sure. And Windbag (eh Sorry I mean Windhorst – disrespectful) tried to bring that home today. But I think with the right rotation and time to grow, we still have a championship team as currently constituted. The time to tweak the team might be in the off-season, but I know that won’t be the case. We will make a deal and maybe soon. I just hope it is the right one.