What is Wrong With The Cleveland Cavaliers?

OK, so we are just 10 games into the 2017-18 NBA season & for some they may yawn at this. For those who watch the Association, there is an alarm going off in The Land. The Cleveland Cavaliers are 4-6 through the first 10 games of the season. 10 games? What’s 10 games? 10 games are roughly 12% of the season. I usually break the NBA season down into quarters: 21-21-20-20. What do I look at? Statistics, trends, team continuity, just to name a few. Normally I wouldn’t read too much into a 10-game stretch, but for the Cleveland Cavaliers, they look incredibly human. The Cavs are supposed to get this mythological pass to the NBA Finals & automatically be matched up with the Golden State Warriors for their 4th consecutive meeting. The Dubs are 7-3, they’re fine. Well, how come you grant a pass to Golden State but not to Cleveland? I grant the pass of 3 loses to Golden State because winning 70% of your games results in roughly 57 wins, that’s achievable. That & the Dubs have a plethora of scoring options, like 3 of the best in the Association.

The Cleveland Cavaliers won their first game against the Boston Celtics (Gordon Hayward injury game) & then their second against The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo (I can spell that without looking it up), they beat up the putrid Chicago Bulls, & LeBron had to score 57 for the Cavs to beat the Washington Wizards… by 8 points. They Cavaliers have lost to the Orlando Magic (6-4), Brooklyn Nets (3-6), New Orleans Pelicans (5-5), New York Knicks (5-4), Indiana Pacers (5-5), & Atlanta hawks. (2-8). Those teams are a combined 26-32. Why?

Even thought he Cavaliers are 8th in the NBA in scoring offense at 108.5 points per game here’s a quick look at some very telling & terrifying numbers:

                                                Opponents pts/game: 113.4 (28th)

                                                Point differential: -4.9 (24th)

                                                Opponent FG%: 47.7% (27th)

                                                Opponent 3PT%: 41.7% (30th)

                                                Turnovers/game: 15.6 (20th)

Bottom 3rd in the league, in 5 very important defensive statistical categories. So defense is a serious issue. But the offense isn’t blowing the doors off of anyone either. The Cavaliers are scorings just 6.5 fastbreak points/game (28th) & they’re 25th in the NBA in 3PT shooting at 33.4%. I also want to draw your attention to the fact that Cleveland has 1 player getting more than 10 minutes per game who is 26 years of age or under (Tristan Thompson).

This past off-season, Cleveland was forced to trade Kyrie Irving & the main piece of that deal has still yet to play a game for the Cavs- Isaiah Thomas, who wont be back until around January due to his hip injury. The Cavs got older, slower, less efficient, & declined in shooting. This team will go only as far as LeBron James can carry them, averaging 28.8 points/game,7.2 rebounds, 9.1 assists in a team-high 38 minutes/game. He’s the only player on the roster who plays more than 30 minutes/game & the only player with a Player Efficiency Ratings above 20 (32.0), Kevin Love is second best on the squad with a PER of 19.6.

Bottom Line: The Cleveland Cavaliers miss Kyrie Irving, a whole hell of a lot more than they thought they would. Kyrie is playing 33 minutes/game, & is leading the Celtics in scoring (21pts/game), Assists (5.6), Steals (2.4) & PER at 22.5. Oh, by the way, Kyrie also has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.8, which would lead Cleveland. Boston has won 8 in a row for a record of 8-2 this year, the best in the NBA . Kyrie is 17th in the NBA in Win Shares/48 minutes, 16th in BPM (Box Plus/Minus) 15th in Offensive BPM & 9th in VORP (Value Over Replacement Player {think of this stat as baseball’s WAR}).

What’s wrong with the Cavs? They lost their second best player & one of the 20-best players in the entire NBA. Can Isaiah Thomas fill that void? Cleveland fans better hope so, or that lone 2016 title is what they will have to hang their hats on for quite some time…

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