Ty Lue Report Card: Offense is Better, Defense Is Worse

There’s enough of sample size to evaluate if the Cavs coaching change was worth the drama it caused, or if it was one more reactionary Cavs thing that didn’t impact the present. For all of the headlines and instant furor that firing David Blatt created-whose only crime was LeBron James entitlement, meaning he was no worse than Mike Brown- the bottom line remains the same. The Cavs are a good team but not a great team. The Cavs destroyed the tree but didn’t change the root.

This fairy tale has yet to have a happy ending. The 22 games under Ty Lue support the theory the Cavs issues are deeper than the surface inconvenience of players divided. Here’s something to chew on. Perhaps the Cavs problem wasn’t the coaching at all but the personnel. Perhaps you can’t buy team chemistry. Perhaps you shouldn’t let a player be both a player and a GM, and allow him to get rid of your#1 draft pick who will be a dominant player in this league for a decade, a shooting guard, of which you don’t have iconic talent at the position. Andrew Wiggins would have made the Cavs special. Perhaps you shouldn’t have overpaid just about everyone to have the highest payroll. For all of those reasons, David Blatt took the fall. But are the Cavs any better?

No. But they aren’t any worse either.

Under David Blatt, the Cavs were 30-11, a 73% winning percentage, on track for a 60 win season. Under Tyronn Lue the Cavs are 15-7, a 68% winning percentage, and on track for a 58 win season.

The Ty Lue Cavs give up 100 points frequently. They’ve done it the past three games. In Lue’s 22 games, the Cavs have allowed the opponent to score over 100 points 63% of the time. David Blatt allowed such games 17 times (41%)

Last night against Sacramento, the Kings had a 60 point first half as the Cavs defense was a no-show until the third quarter when they became a little more serious and even then the Kings cut into a 4th quarter deficit to make the last two minutes meaningful enough where the Cavs had to close the deal on a bad team. It has plagued the Cavs all year, their casualness.

Rarely, if ever, has their been a NBA Finals loser that the next year, the entire team in tact, has approached the season in such a blase, who cares manner. Often watching the Cavs you wonder: where is their heart? Lost is the hunger, the ambitious drive, the determination to right a wrong.

Incorrectly, David Blatt was accused of not instilling a culture of desperation. But then, neither has Ty Lue. The Cavs haven’t changed their psyche. They only changed what was on the surface.

And they changed Kevin Love. Sort of.

Under Blatt, for whatever reason, Kevin Love was a man without country. He would wander around the arc and languish, starving for some crumbs to be thrown his way. Lue has moved him around more and he touches the ball more. Last night he had 75 touches, the third most on the team and he made 52 passes, the third most. He missed his uncontested field goals 63% of the time and he missed his contested field goals 80% of the time, team lows.

On Monday night, the humiliating loss to a severely depleted Memphis team, Love touched the ball 56 times, 32 times less than LeBron James and 34 times less than Kyrie Irving. That’s why Love looks invisible compared to the James-Irving private club. He’s still not getting the ball. In the Memphis game, he made 40% of his contested shots and 0% of his uncontested shots.

The Kevin Love problem didn’t automatically evaporate with David Blatt being given his walking papers. The Cavs brain trust still hasn’t figured out how to incentivize Love the way the Warriors elevate Draymond Green so Love is an integral part of what the Cavs are trying to accomplish.

2015-16 Touches (36 minutes) Passes (36 minutes) Contested Shots % Uncontested Shots%
Draymond Green 82.4 63.7 46.2% 48.6%
Kevin Love 71.8 51.0 42.2% 41.0%

But, the Cavs offense under Lue is much better even as they still over dribble and rely on isolation more than they should. When they are engaged, they can score, pretty much at will. Their 107 points a game under Lue doesn’t really tell the story. They’ve scored 120 points in the past 2 out of 3 games, and under Lue, have dropped 120 points two other times.

In Lue’s 22 games, the Cavs have cracked the 110 plateau, 11 times. 50% of the games. Under Blatt, that only happened in 7 games, 17% of the time.

The Cavs mistakes the past few years are legendary. They drafted Anthony Bennett who is the worst #1 draft pick in recent memory. Even horrible Michael Olowokandi (Clippers, 1998) stayed with the team that drafted him for four years. Not waiting on LeBron James before hiring a coach showed impatience. Allowing LeBron James to dictate the personnel, where they give up Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love, was a lack of institutional control. Believing chemistry could be bought and paid for, and not recognizing the league was getting younger, faster, with a lot floor spacers, make them seem clueless as to what the product on the floor currently is, and antiquated.

But if you are your record, as the late Chuck Daly would say, the Cavs are still the best team in the east. They still are the Eastern Conference defending champions. They are everyone’s choice to get to the Finals with Ty Lue as their coach and David Blatt watching somewhere in the world.

Was it worth it, worth the headache of a rewind, of learning all over again?

We’ll know in June.

photo via llananba