Someone is Missing the “Kid”

The Cavaliers miss Kyrie Irving. They miss the scorer playmaker who could do things off the dribble. They miss his arrogance in the fourth quarter mixed in with his three point shot making. They miss his slicing and dicing talent and how young he is. They miss the whole Kyrie Irving package, dagger threes, playmaking, switching hands and finishing. Their defense without him is worse than their defense was with him and their offense is inconsistent.

The Cavs have lost four games in a row and 9 out of 12.  LeBron is doing LeBron James things but he is doing a lot of non LeBron James things like holding the ball, not honoring his teammates, taking bad shots. For the first time in a long while, his teammates are publicly grumbling about his hero ball. What is the obvious elephant in the room is that the Kyrie Irving offense covered up Cavs mistakes. He reduced the team’s stress.

Call Kyrie Irving the “kid” all you want. But pencil in the “kid” for 24 points a game. Other than LeBron, this version of the Cavs has no one scoring 24 points a night.

Let’s talk numbers.

The Cavs are 24th in offensive rebounding, meaning no second chance points. The Cavs are 21st in steals. A lack of quickness on the perimeter and average fast break opportunities has them ranking 15th in fast breaks. They are 24th in field goal defense, 23rd in 3-point defense. They allow the 20th most points. They allow more points than the Hawks and 76ers. Their pace is average and their defensive rating is garbage (second to last).

Earlier, Dwyane Wade benched himself for J.R. Smith but Smith has been worse. He’s shooting 37% and 35.0% from three. It makes you want Wade back in the starting lineup. At least he’s shooting 44%.

Who Should Start? Points FG% 3-Point% Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
Dwyane Wade 11.1 44.5% 33.3% 103 110
J.R. Smith 7.6 37.5% 35.0% 102 114

But defense is the main problem.   On Friday night, Indiana shot 47.6% from three.  Point guard Darren Collison shot 81%, 75% from three. Crazy Lance Stephenson shot 54%.

The game before, the Raptors beat the Cavs by 34 points. They shot 42% from three and took 17 more shots than the Cavs. Fred VanVleet (who?) made 72% of his shots. Pascal Siakam made 70% of his shots. In fact, the Raptors bench scored 57% of the Raptors total points, dropping a cool 76 on the Cavs inattentiveness. The Cavs limped to defeat looking bewildered and confused.

Last night, the Cavs took 9 more shots than the Warriors and lost by 10.  They shot 25% from three. Kevin Durant had 32 points. Steph Curry had 23 points on 53% shooting and 50% from three. Draymond Green had 16 rebounds and 9 assists, game highs in both categories. The difference in the game was the three ball. The Warriors made 5 more threes than the Cavs. Or, the difference in the game was defending the three ball. The Warriors were able to and the Cavs were not.

Most people thought that without Kyrie, who was defintely a weak link on defense, with him gone, the defense couldn’t get worse. It has.

 The Deplorable (Defense) Points Allowed FG% Defense 3Pt Defense Defensive Efficiency
2016-17 107.4 (20th) 45.7% (17th) 36.2% (17th) 21st
2017-18 108.5 (25th) 47.1%% (24th) 37.2% (23rd) 28th

The ones who like to pretend defense doesn’t matter and say the Cavs always do this have a point. The Cavs always do this.  But last season they had a second elite scorer to mask their defensive atrocities as they bought in to great offense hiding deplorable defense. But without a scoring point guard (Isaiah is shooting 28% from three) who can shoulder the offense and give LeBron a rest, this isn’t the same Cavaliers offense. They don’t feel right. The season is half over and they are not cohesive, nor are they together. They look like a bunch of parts told to play together and trust LeBron James.

LeBron has been through too much in his career to micromanage this latest lowlight but what is glaring are the details the Cavs are not paying attention to, the missed assignments on defense, the lack of energy. They are old and so they can’t play the pace a lot of the young guns play. But no rebounds, no rings.

The cliches are being trotted out. It is still early. It is not April yet. Isaiah is still trying to fit in. The East is weak so the Cavs aren’t in any danger. Just wait. This always happens.

This time last year, the Cavs were 30-13.  They had lost 5 out of 7 which would become 6 out of 8 before they went on a 12-4 run. It is what they do.  There is a lot of leeway given to them because we see this over and over again. The Cavs are judged by what they can accomplish in the postseason.

But they don’t pass the eye test, not to mention they can’t beat the Warriors as constructed. That has less to do with Kyrie being gone and more to do with not having the offensive and defensive depth and young athletes who can score, create, beat their man off the dribble and defend the rim.

They are not the same potent team as last year. Last season, they led the league in three point percentage. Without Kyrie’s three point dominance, they have dropped to 5th in percentage. Add to the mix their catastrophic defense has taken two steps back, the chemistry issue, too much hero ball from LBJ, too much iso ball from everybody, and not enough bodies moving and passing.

Do they miss Kyrie? Yes. They miss the “kid”.  Do they suddenly look old? Yes. Can an old LeBron save the Cavs like he did in the past, absent a companion elite scorer to balance his game out and not much at the rim, reducing his stress?

No.

 

photo via llananba