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The Cleveland Cavaliers were due for a steep decline this season. During the summer, they lost their head coach and the game’s best player while their fans and players suffered a deep emotional loss as a result.
To make matters worse, their best player this season, Anderson Varejao, will miss the rest of the year because of an injury suffered in practice, Mo Williams has missed significant time, forcing rookies and mid-season free agent signings like Manny Harris, Alonzo Gee and Christian Eyenga to not only play, but start, and there have been a few occasions this season when first year head coach Byron Scott and J.J. Hickson, who is seen by many to be the future of this team, have had their disagreements.
The NBA has truly never seen such a disaster. It’s not necessarily a lack of effort that has killed the Cavs, which is the case for most bad teams that get off to bad starts, it’s just that they simply do not have the talent to play high level basketball night in and night out. Add in the fact that a good chunk of the players on this roster still don’t understand the offense that Scott has implemented while playing the worst defense in the league and it’s rather easy to get why the Cavaliers are in a historically bad position.
Ever since LeBron brought his talents back to Cleveland and humiliated the Cavs in what was basically a 50-point blowout, the Cavaliers are 1-26. The lone win came over the Knicks, who were on a two-game losing streak at the time, and it required an overtime period. Every other game has resulted in a loss for the Cavs, including a 55-point loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles.
More on the Cavs and their abysmal season after the break…
On the year, the Cavs are an embarrassing 8-37 and excluding their opening night win over the Celtics,which was a game the Cavs had every reason to win (C’s were coming off of an opening night thrashing of the Heat, they underestimated the Cavs and Cleveland came out with something to prove), their other seven victories have come over the 76ers (twice), Wizards, Nets, Bucks, Grizzlies and Knicks. Of those six teams, only the Knicks have a record above .500.
The Cavs have lost their last 18 games in a row, only threatening to win once against the Nets. In January, they are 0-13 with games against Nuggets, Magic and Heat (which I am 99.9% are going to be losses, too) coming up before the month ends. That leaves them with a pretty poor shot of picking up a win in the entire month. Certainly, there are plenty of reasons for this Cavs team to be down, but going an entire calendar month without feeling the elation and joy of victory, which would no doubt be sweeter for a team that gets to have that feeling as rarely as the Cavs, has the potential to kill this team’s spirits for the rest of the year.
Byron Scott does not deserve to be fired and the players do not deserved to be heckled to death. This is simply one of the worst situations an NBA franchise has ever had to go through. The 2009-2010 Cavs were a team built around LeBron James with a bunch of complementary players and when you take a dog that has just given birth away from its puppies, those little guys are going to have a hard time doing anything on its own without her. LeBron would set-up the offense, initiate the offense, revive the offense, bail out the offense, create the offense and break the offense for Cleveland. In more than one way, he was the offense in Cleveland during his tenure there. Mo Williams was a nice second option for a team getting 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists from its number one guy, but when he’s asked to take over that role, you’re team is likely doomed.
There’s really no point in analyzing what the Cavs’ individual players are doing at this point. Every night, it seems as if Antawn Jamison is going to take 20 shots and score just above 20 points while the rest of the team struggles to find an open look from anywhere on the floor. Take a look at the Cavs’ 13 losses in January and how they performed as a team.
Jamison was the leading scorer in eight of these 13 games and in the other five games, a different player led the team in scoring. This is not to say the Cavs have balanced scoring, but what they do have is completely inconsistent scoring. Even Jamison is inconsistent in the way he gets his points and how efficient he is on his way to his final tally mark. More often than not, his efficiency is down and he’s spending way too much time on the perimeter.
You can also see that in the month of January, the Cavs have been held in double digits for offensive efficiency eight different times, which is horrendous. Cleveland ranks last in the league in offensive efficiency, scoring just 97 points per 100 possessions and the only times they legitimately passed that mark was against the Mavericks (no Dirk or Caron Butler) and the Nets (well, they’re the Nets). Defensively, the Cavs are allowing 108.9 points per 100 possessions on the season. Incredibly, that ridiculously high average for the year has been topped eight times in January. The only time this month that Cleveland has held their opponent below 100 points per 100 possessions was against the Bulls, who almost always play an ugly style of basketball no matter who it’s against, and Chicago still ended up winning by 13 while holding the Cavs to 81.4 points per 100 possessions.
So, what’s next for a team without the personel to compete in almost all of their remaining games? What is there left to gain from this year for the Cavaliers?
To be honest, there is not much left for the Cavs to salvage this season. They have an odd mixture of young players and veterans on their roster and while its nice to see Eyenga, Gibson and Hickson get some burn that can better prepare them for the next few years, they also have Jamison, Ramon Sessions and Joey Graham still under contract after this season.
Proposing that an NBA team should tank to increase their probability of getting a top level draft pick is never a good idea because of the lottery aspect but the Cavs have reached such a low point that you can almost guarantee they’ll end the season with the best odds of getting the number one overall pick, even though Minnesota and Sacramento have just two more wins. After the season, Mo Williams will likely depart, Anthony Parker‘s contract will expire and Jamario Moon‘s team option will likely be declined.
Clearly securing a franchise level talent is a must-do for the Cavs this off-season. Attracting a big name free agent either this summer or next doesn’t seem to be a realistic possibility just because taking the place of LeBron with the cast of characters they have right now is a daunting task, so Cleveland will have to build its way back into relevance by picking up role players willing to tough it out in Cleveland while landing a stud in the draft that can revive their franchise in at least half the way that LeBron did back in 2003.
But until that night in June, where the possibility of a resurgence will be alive once again because of a potential packed youngsters’ decision to turn pro, we should all feel for Cavs fans. The situation they are in is one of the worst imaginable for a fan of the game and they deserve a lot of credit for still backing the team instead of jumping ship with LeBron or abandoning the sport all together. It won’t happen this year, but you have to hope a player like Jared Sullinger or Terrence Jones or Perry Jones can bring some excitement and passion for the game back to Cleveland, because it appears LeBron took that along with him to South Beach, too.