Regardless of what happens during the regular season, the Cleveland Cavaliers will widely be considered the team to beat in the Eastern Conference playoffs. That doesn’t mean they’re good enough to win the NBA title, though.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports “multiple players” are concerned that the team’s issues cannot be corrected.
“Several prominent players … expressed doubt that the problems — an aging roster, defensively challenged personnel and a glut of redundant role players — could simply be worked out through patience and a chance to coalesce when fully healthy.”
It’s a brutal yet honest reflection of Cleveland’s state. Although the offense is outstanding at times, a porous defense lessens the impact of that potent scoring attack.
According to NBA.com, the Cavs boast a 109.9 offensive rating (fifth in the league) but a 109.4 defensive mark (second-worst). That difference is largely because of players like Kevin Love and J.R. Smith — and since he returned from injury, Isaiah Thomas.
Cleveland has dropped nine of its last 12 outings, including four consecutive games. The team only leads the Indiana Pacers in the Central Division by 2.5 games.
As long as the Cavs have LeBron James and other All-Star talent, they’re going to be a threat in the East. However, even if Cleveland navigates the conference, it simply cannot match up with Golden State. That showed Monday when the Warriors surged in the second half to win 118-108 on the road.
Cleveland might try to reshape its roster before the deadline, perhaps targeting Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan or a defensive-minded wing to bolster that end of the floor. But there’s no easy, quick fix for the Cavs.
And that will likely lead to their downfall in the postseason.