If you would’ve made a wager on a site like Betway that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be sitting at 4th place in the Eastern Conference, 52 games in the season…….would you make it? My guess is no. Prior to the start of the season, some experts pegged the Cavs as one of the deepest teams in the NBA. As the season is past the midpoint, that notion is far from the truth.
To say that the Cleveland Cavaliers are a mess is an understatement. Since Christmas, they have loss 13 out of 19 games, which includes them giving up 116.3 points per game in games they were defeated in.
The Cavaliers' fall from Eastern Conference supremacy has been a culmination of many things. The effort, defense, shooting and coaching are easy things to notice, but the issues run deeper. While it’s seems impossible to fix the current mess, there is a glimmer of hope. Let’s take a look at a few ways to fix the Cavaliers for the rest of the season.
Trade Isaiah Thomas — or Make Him The 6th Man
At this point, I doubt there will be any suitors for Thomas. Since coming back from his hip injury, Thomas is averaging 14.9 points and 4.4 assists per game, which are far and away worse than last year where he was an MVP candidate. Thomas’ issues run deeper than the numbers. On defense, he is a huge liability as he can’t guard anyone or many not even attempt to. His defensive rating per 100 possessions is currently 116, the worst among active players. Just a week ago, Thomas had been trending as the worst defensive player for a single season in the last 25 years.
It's close to impossible to package I.T. in a trade, so here is plan B. Prior to looking look a miniature Allen Iverson in Boston, Thomas was one of the best bench players in the NBA in Sacramento and Phoenix. With his penchant for scoring in bunches, he can focus solely on getting buckets as a 6th man. Thomas’ game doesn’t mesh well with LeBron James, therefore, staggering them where they aren't on the court at the same time could bode well for the Cavs. Thomas is best when he is playing with role and effort players. While Cleveland doesn’t have a stable of those players either, it will give Thomas a chance at being the best version of himself.
Deal With LeBron Being A Free Agent
The Cavaliers are familiar to the circus surrounding LeBron as he nears free agency. This is nothing new and the Cavs should focus on the task at hand and try to make it to a fourth straight NBA Finals. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman know that James will not commit long-term, and he will not waive his no-trade clause. Yes, this is an inconvenience to some of his teammates, but when you are one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA, you can do what you want.
Send Tyronne Lue Packing
In the realm of professional sports, the coaches are always the scapegoats. The Cavaliers have quit on Lue and it doesn’t look like it’ll get better going forward. We’ve seen how a coaching change alters one’s team psyche going into the pivotal part of the season. Just as recent as a few years ago when Lue replaced David Blatt, the Cavs surged and won their first NBA championship under Lue. While it’s unfortunate to fire the coach that helped bring the first title in team history, but a new voice is needed in the locker room.
Trade Tristan, J.R. — Or Both
Let’s be honest, I highly doubt that any team will trade for Tristan Thompson or J.R. Smith, but it’s worth a try. There is a litany of reasons why teams won’t be interested in them, but largely it’s due to their hefty salaries. Even in today’s NBA where the salaries are inflated, Smith and Thompson are vastly overpaid for what they bring to the team. At one point, Smith was a consistent knockdown shooter and arguably the team’s best perimeter defender while Thompson was relentless on the glass. Neither remains and to be honest, LeBron James should warrant some of the blame. While Thompson and Smith were in contract negotiations with the team, James was adamant about getting his homies paid. While it’s commendable for The King to stand up for his teammates, they are now dead weight on this Cavaliers team.
More Cedi, Less Crowder
This may seem like a reach, but Cedi Osman can be a key player for the Cavaliers if used correctly. Not to say that Jae Crowder can’t be, but it’s worth a try to ignite some new life into the team. In limited time, Osman has displayed that he has the ability to be one of the most versatile players on the team. What stands out the most with Osman is that he can shoot the ball, he's a high IQ player, and he gives effort unlike most of his teammates. Crowder isn't the same player in Boston that was the ultimate role player. If given the chance, Osman can succeed in that role.
Defense Can't Be Optional For LeBron
It all starts at the top. When the leader of the team doesn’t play defense or give effort, the rest of the team will follow suit. LeBron is still good for a jaw-dropping chase down block, but overall his defense is fading. As evidence to that, James is tied for a career-low defensive rating of 108 per 100 possessions. It’s not because of age or a lack skill, it’s because of effort. James has the right to take plays off, but in the end, it doesn’t benefit his team. Now that there are 30 regular season games to go, it’s time for James to revert back to the elite defender that he is in order to change the landscape of the team.
Have a Damn Party
The Cavaliers seem to be the best when they are having fun. We haven’t seen any Instagram photo ops or any parties compared to earlier years. Heck, isn’t ironic that today is Isaiah Thomas’ birthday? That said, let’s get DJ Steph Floss on the 1’s and 2’s to put on some good tunes to have a good time to increase team chemistry.
Believe in Kevin Love
It's a blessing in disguise that Love is injured. Now that the Cavs are at a new low, he can't be blamed for their recent woes. Love is the typical scapegoat in Cleveland, but when he returns from injury, it’s time for everyone to bury the hatchet and put their faith in their All-Star forward.