Are the Cavs Just One Piece Away?

Kyrie Irving, Byron Mullens

Though the Cleveland Cavaliers were amassing wins at a better-than-last-season pace, the giant elephant in the room continued to be the winning percentage of the Wine and Gold opponents.  Prior to Saturday evening’s win over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, the Cavs had not topped an opponent that had been among the better teams in their respective division.

Cavs head coach Bryon Scott likened it to finally winning the second of a back-to-back slate, something that his team finally accomplished in their 10-point win over the Knicks in late January. His team had long been in games against formidable opponents, but the ever-popular knowledge surrounding ‘how to’ when it came to winning simply was not there with the young, spry Cavaliers. The overtime loss against the Indiana Pacers served as a trope for this belief; the fact that Kyrie Irving — the team’s hopeful leader for the next decade, under the microscope of “was he the right pick?” — missed the game-winning lay-up only helped to cement this belief.

Fast forward to a point in the season where Irving has played in more contests as a professional than he did as a collegiate ammeter and fans have a reason to believe, despite the team’s sub-.500 schedule. The rookie point guard is splitting fourth-quarter defenses as if every single opponent is the 2005-06 Washington Wizards. It’s nearly impossible to blame the Cavaliers for not having beaten a top-tier opponent heading into Saturday’s contest as the happenstance of the schedule merely provided the team with some regional opponents (the Detoits and Charlottes of the world). Once the more-renowned teams rolled into Quicken Loans Arena and the team subsequently took off for an all-too-long road trip, the dust has finally started to settle. And the standing image: one that can’t help but convey the idea that this team is one scoring threat away from becoming a playoff contender.

The Cavs topped the Mavericks despite shooting 39 percent from the floor. The Boston Celtics shot over 50 percent from the floor a few nights earlier and barely escaped Cleveland with a three-point win. It took 16 three-pointers (at a 76 percent conversion rate) for the Nets to top the Cavs by the same three-point margin. If Antawn Jamison hits one of his 12 missed field goals against the Lakers, and Daniel Gibson and Anthony Parker don’t combine for 5-for-17 from the floor, Mike Brown gets the loss against his former team.

A lot of what-ifs to be sure, but these what-ifs are easily fixed by an infusion of talent. The hustle and determination and know-how is already there. This Cavaliers team is working, earning additional possessions, keeping things close and interesting enough for Irving to work his magic yet again. It is these elements that were missing one season ago when the team was bruised and battered and barely winning 19 games. You can’t teach will, and as Doc Rivers said about Irving roughly one week ago, he wills this Cavaliers team to wins.

The upcoming schedule brings a battery of high-octane foes in Miami, the Los Angeles Clippers, your eight-seed Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlantic Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers. What the end result of these games are remains to be seen, but if the last two weeks of play are any indication, the win total may not be the deciding factor when giving this current Cavaliers team a year-end grade. Reading between the lines, it’s tough to argue that this team has not only turned things around faster than anyone deemed possible, but that Chris Grant and his litany of assets can only make things better.

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

  • Kiddicus

    We just need a 6’8″ 250 lb SF with a 46″ vertical. I hear Miami has a guy…

  • DocZeusX

    No unless that piece is Dwight Howard. The Cavs could certainly make the playoffs with one more piece but real contention is years and years away.

  • Grahamhall

    Shane Battier has a 46″ vertical?! No way, lets trade for him!

  • Anonymous

    One more piece to maybe battle for the 8th playoff spot but as I see it a center, a small forward and a shooting guard are needed. 

  • Anonymous

    We need a big time scorer at the 2 or 3 and a real center. The article makes the point about getting scoring help, and I think it’s right. With a center you can slot Andy back into the 4, where he’s more comfortable, with TT as his backup. Maybe Samuels or Erden can backup at the 5, maybe Andy still plays double duty at the 4 & 5, but this starts to become a team with a real chance to compete with those two additions.

  • Harv 21

    couple of things re their recent play:

    – 4th quarter outbursts the last week might be partially related to Byron Scott’s notorious conditioning drills. Mavs just gave Dirk time off to try and get in condition and are considering same for Odom, who faded at the end against us. Kyrie just has old man body language, bending over and pulling his shorts like he’s tired  all the time. But his drives and shots late in games have plenty of juice.

    – This Andy intensity is off the charts, ridiculous, even for him. Looks like he’s on some kind of mission but who knows what and who knows how long he can sustain it every minute on the court. Wants all-star selection? Happy to play after virtual year off? Auditioning? Byron has found a button activating a new gear? Whatever it is, if you just focus on him up and down the court the last 2 weeks – including the look on his face- he’s maniacal. Penny for yor thoughts, Andy.

  • Anonymous

    Call me a cynic, but I don’t really care about making moves to get the 8th spot in the playoffs. The 8th seed shouldn’t even be in the playoffs IMO. It’s almost like a participation trophy. 

  • Anonymous

    I should note, however, that I am very pleased with this team.

  • Anonymous

    and depth.  obviously Irving is staying.  if we kept AV, Gibson, and Gee, along with Tristan and Casspi improving to be rotation worthy players, then we would “just” have to add thsoe 3 spots.   But, to get those 3 spots filled, we will likely have to deal some of those assets leaving us with no depth.

    it’s going to be a few years, i’m going to enjoy the ride up.

  • steve-o

    As of right now only PG and PF are at all set, and the bench is solid elsewhere. Starters at G, SF and C are needed. The most most difficult piece to obtain is a dominant C since there are only a handful of them on the planet. Over the next couple years if we adequately fill G and SF but not C, we only become the next Atlanta Hawks, even if our SF is a then 30 yr old balding Akronite.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I6423N7UCT3SVURBC55JGXFYAU Bobby

    I am a little surprised from the reaction early on in comment. I think they are closer then most are giving credit for. I think they are another legitimate scorer (say Barnes or Lamb) from being a mid-lower tier playoffs team. They are another player after that to be up with the top teams. I think AV could be a C if needed, because there really are not dominant “big” centers in the league anymore. But, I wouldnt pass on the opportunity to get one either. But another 4 or 5 that can add scoring (along with the other scorer) puts this team up there with any. In theory, Dwight and Lamb/Barnes makes them contenders. Realistically, probably 2 years after this before they are real contenders (since Dwight aint coming here).

  • Mullin216

    They are getting there. I still say they are maybe 2 or 3 years away. The good thing is the East is always changing. Boston is getting old, Howard it likely leaving Orlando, etc. It will likely be Miami, Chicago, Indiana, and Philly as the top teams and then everyone else. I could see them contending real soon. 

  • Anonymous

    but, we are playing just well enough right now that Barnes will be gone, likely MKG will be gone and Lamb might be there (if we select around #10).   then, if we do get one of those guys, good luck finding a legitimate center at the end of the lottery or in the higher draft playoff spots the next year assuming that the draft picks helps us.

    your realistically scenario is only if we hit on a legitimate scoring wing threat and a center (or near allstar level PF) in the next 2 drafts.  the lower we pick, the less likely that is.

    i’m optimistic Grant will do the most that he can to improve the team, but I think it is going to be incremental improvements for the next 3-4 years to get back to actual ‘contender’ status.

  • Anonymous

    and Atlanta.  don’t think they are true contenders, but they should get lumped in with Indiana and Philly as the 2nd tier teams to Chicago and Miami.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Sure, if that piece is Michael Jordan, circa 1991. Otherwise, no. Promising potential thus far, but let’s not get carried away.

  • Anonymous

    I agree except for Gibson. I think it is time to move on from him. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I6423N7UCT3SVURBC55JGXFYAU Bobby

    What are the chances of signing a guy to be that last 4/5 guy? I mean, the odds of getting a “true” center are virtually nothing since there are so few and the position is changing to such an athletic on at that now. I think they need to find a tall guy that has a decent shot and can play with his back to the hoop every now and then. But this offense isnt built for the big immovable force on the post.

  • porkchopxpress

    I’d say they are a minimum 4 years after this one from being a legitimate contender, if everything goes right.  First you have to nail this years draft, which makes next season fitting pieces together and maybe making the 8th seed.  In year 2 you get into the playoffs and realize how important home court is, year 3 is the year you make conference finals and lose a tough series to a team that knows how to put you away (Bulls/Heat)  Year 4 is when the team you lost to the year before is tired from playing so many deep seasons, and you are just a little better and presto Championship!  its really that easy

    On the players they need I think they need to be very careful not just getting “a scorer”.  Kyrie needs to dominate the ball to be effective, which means if you go sign a 2/3 that needs to stand on the arc and pound the pebbles off the ball while the shot clock runs down, you aren’t using Irving right.  INMVHO they need a Rip Hamilton type guy that moves endlessly and knocks down10-20 footers with ease, also a Rudy Gay type that is effective making moves to the basket without having to dribble an excessive amount. 

    So basically, nail 2 highly specific types of players in the draft, pray that injuries and or the millioniares curse doesn’t afflict Irving/Thompson.  Seek out three role players in FA hope you don’t ruin chemistry by bringing those guys in, wait a few years and hope that your team peaks just as the dominant teams of now are regressing. No problemo

  • Anonymous

    Kwame Brown was just signed by GS to be a backup defensive center for $7mil this season.    So, as long as we are willing to pay big $$ for limited skillset guys, then we can do it.  But, getting to contending status is going to mean we need better guys in our rotation to account for that weakness.

  • Anonymous

    “INMVHO they need a Rip Hamilton type guy that moves endlessly and knocks down10-20 footers with ease, also a Rudy Gay type that is effective making moves to the basket without having to dribble an excessive amount.”

    but how do we get Barnes AND MKG in this draft (they are the perfect player-comp’s for what you said above)?

  • Anonymous

    “INMVHO they need a Rip Hamilton type guy that moves endlessly and knocks down10-20 footers with ease, also a Rudy Gay type that is effective making moves to the basket without having to dribble an excessive amount.”

    but how do we get Barnes AND MKG in this draft (they are the perfect player-comp’s for what you said above)?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I6423N7UCT3SVURBC55JGXFYAU Bobby

    Trade sessions to a team trying to make a playoff push, while taking on a bad contract and getting an unprotected 1st rounder. That team misses the playoffs, and their pick happens to get selected in the top 3, while we dwindle down the end of the season and land the #4 (or so) pick.

  • Anonymous

    so you’re saying there’s a chance!   hey, why not.

  • Anonymous

    We are 2 players away. We need one inside and one outside scoring threat. Easier said then done but we have to have a scoring off guard/small forward and we need a scorer inside at the 4 or 5. Gee can be our defensive stopper and varejao can be our player that does the things you don’t see on the stats type player. Tristan is good depth inside but we would need some new players on bench too. Regardless Kyrie is sweet and if we pick as good next year this means we only need to sign one free agent that will make a difference.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I6423N7UCT3SVURBC55JGXFYAU Bobby

    I was just giving a nice scenario that I saw once. I forget what team it happened too ;)

  • CORY_BRYANT86

    i would love to see DH in a wine and gold uniform…

  • Cory_bryant86

    couldnt agree with u more if we could.just find those the players.that could at least hold there own

  • Omar’s Magic Glove

     Is it possible that the one piece the Cavs need is J.R. Smith?  I read he would be available soon from China and is looking for two things the Cavs can provide: A featured position as the lead scorer and a lucrative multi-year deal?

    On another note, the other move I would like to see the team make would be a trade with the Lakers.  Sessions and Jamison for Gasol and one of the Lakers young gaurds (Gaudelock preferably).  This trade is good for both teams.  The Lakers get a ball handling point guard they are looking for in Sessions, as well as salary cap relief by getting rid of Gasol and getting Jamison’s expiring so they can make a run at Howard in free agency.  The Cavs get a scoring all star PF and another young guard.  

    New Cavs starting lineup:
    C-  A.V.
    PF-  Gasol
    SF-  Casspi
    SG-  Smith
    PG-  Irving

    Bench:
    C-  Samuels, Erdehn, Hollins
    PF-  Thompson, Harrangody
    SF-  Gee, Eyenga
    SG-  Gibson, Parker
    PG-  Gaudelock