Cleveland Cavaliers Playoff Preview; First Round vs. Detroit Pistons
With the 2016 NBA Playoffs now underway, let’s take a look at this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers Playoff Preview.
The Cavaliers have one goal in mind: to win the NBA championship. Anything that falls short of this expectation would be deemed a failure. Reaching that goal will prove to be tougher than ever as the Eastern Conference has gotten considerably better this season.
Even if the Cavs manage to make it out of the East, they will likely have the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs waiting for them in the finals. Let’s analyze what needs to happen in order for the Cavaliers to make a championship run.
Keys to Success
Steph Curry will undoubtedly win the MVP once again this season, but there is no one more important to his team than King James. If LeBron isn’t playing at an elite level come playoff time, their chance to win a title goes out the window.
With the Warriors getting all the attention this season, you can bet James will be playing with a chip on his shoulder. For the longest time, Lebron has been regarded as the NBA’s best player, but that has changed since Curry took the league by storm.
LeBron could be making his sixth straight finals appearance this year, which is an incredible feat, but just getting to the finals won’t be enough anymore. If he wants to sit on that throne and be considered the best player in the game again, there’s only one way to do that; he needs to lead his Cavaliers to their first championship.
There is a case to be made that if the Cavs were completely healthy last year that they could be the ones defending their title right now. For them to lose two all-star caliber players, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, it’s hard to question that argument. The bottom line is, we will never know what would have transpired, so questioning what could have been is pointless.
This season didn’t get off to a great start either with Kyrie missing the first 28 games with a dislocated knee cap he suffered in last years finals. Love has been relatively healthy, but has played with lingering back issues for most of the season. In order to win, they need their stars to be healthy and playing at a high level. If the 2015 finals were any indication, LeBron can’t carry the entire team on his back. He will need all the help he can get.
The Cavaliers have everything they need to be a championship contender. Their downfall is a lack of team chemistry and loss of focus. This is what keeps them a step behind the Warriors and Spurs. Throughout the season, they have continued to get attention for all the wrong reasons. Whether it be the firing of their coach, rumors of LeBron not getting along with Kyrie and Love, or meaningless things like LeBron unfollowing the Cavs on Twitter.
They need to shift their focus to winning basketball games and leave their drama at the door. The truth of the matter is: Lebron, Kyrie and Love don’t have to be best friends to be successful. They just need to figure out the best way to compliment each other on the court that benefits the team. The amazing thing is even with all the distractions, they still hold a record of 56-23 which is 1st in the East and 3rd best in the league. They also have the 4th best offensive rating in the NBA at 108.1.
There are still some areas of concern that will need to be addressed. For one, this team does not create many turnovers, which translates to very few fastbreak opportunities. They rank 15th in points off turnovers and 18th in fastbreak baskets. In the playoffs, there is more emphasis on defense and as a result scoring decreases. So, you want to get as many easy baskets as possible. The Cavs won’t be able to do that if they’re not forcing more turnovers. Another issue is a lack of inside scoring, with no true presence in the post they currently sit 21st in points in the paint.
A solution to rectify this would be to get Love consistently involved in the offense. At times, he looks lost out there on the court and it’s easy to forget he’s even on this team. One way to get Love more engaged is to regularly feed him the ball in the post, instead of just making him a spot up shooter.
There’s no need to worry about LeBron’s role in the offense as he has the ball the majority of the time. In last year’s playoffs, LeBron was visibly exhausted at times and didn’t have much energy by the 4th quarter. This year, it would be wise to take advantage of a healthy Kyrie and let him run the offense more, which would allow LeBron to stay fresh for the entire game.
The Cavs will also need solid contributions from their supporting cast. Matthew Dellavedova is a pesky defender with
good court awareness and a solid three point shot. Tristan Thompson is another important piece and can help with his offensive rebounding and defense. The Cavs also have great three point marksmen in J.R. Smith, James Jones, and Channing Frye, who all shoot the long ball at about 40%. Veterans Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson, Timothy Mozgov and Iman Shumpert also provide scoring depth when called upon. All of these guys will play a significant role in the determining the Cavs Playoff success.
The key to winning their first Championship is playing a selfless game with solid communication, mutual trust and respect. The Warriors and Spurs are proof of that. The Cavs must learn to play for each other if they hope to have a parade in Cleveland come June.