Ok, so no, I don’t think the Cleveland Cavaliers (17-30, 10th in the East) are actually tanking. Or, shall I say, losing on purpose. I believe Byron Scott is trying to get his team to play well, and I believe the players are (mostly) trying their hardest to win.
But with the news of Daniel Gibson’s torn tendon threatening his season, and with Anderson Varejao still some time away from returning, the fact is the Cavaliers right now aren’t deep enough and, quite frankly, not good enough, to win very many games.
Tonight’s game against the Detroit Pistons (17-32, 11th in the East), then, is a battle for draft position. If the Cavaliers lose tonight, which would be their 5th in a row, they would be tied with Detroit and looking to move up another slot in the lottery.
After tonight, the Cavaliers have back to back games against Milwaukee and at New York. Then we head to April, which should be an interesting month. The Cavaliers have two games against San Antonio and Indiana and one game each against Milwaukee, Orlando, Philadelphia, New York, Memphis, and Chicago. Outside those difficult games, though, will be the real fascinating games. We will see matchups with Toronto, New Jersey, Charlotte, Detroit, and two against Washington.
If this were like European Soccer leagues where relegation was a real threat, these would be some of the most entertaining games of the season as these teams all battled to stay on the top flight. Instead, we will see a bunch of bad basketball as teams jockey to secure their ideal spot in the lottery.
It’s hard to say, when you look at the bottom of the standings and see all the teams on losing streaks, if these teams are losing because they’re tanking, or if they’re losing because they are just all really bad basketball teams. Whatever the case may be, the battle for the bottom is on.
For those wondering, the Cavaliers are currently in the 8th spot, giving them a 2.8% chance at Anthony Davis. I say forget the #1 pick (I’ll take, but let’s not be greedy here), and let’s just hope for a top 3 pick. At their current 8th spot, the Cavs have a 2.8% chance at #1, a 3.3% chance at #2, and a 3.9% chance at #3. For those wondering, they have a 72.4% chance of picking 8th, a 16.8% chance of picking 9th, and an 8% chance of picking 10th. Not great odds. Although, to be fair, the Cavaliers won with the Clippers’ lottery pick last year…the #8 spot in the lottery. So maybe this is Cleveland’s lucky spot.
So where do the Cavaliers need to get? Let’s say anything over 10% is a decent enough chance of winning. For the Cavaliers to have a 10% chance at #3, they need to climb (or is it fall?) to the 5th spot in the lottery, where they would have a 10.7% shot at #3. If they can find it within them to get all the way to 4th in the lottery, they would have a greater than 10% chance at each of the top 3 spots (11.9% for 1st, 12.6% for 2nd, 13.3% for 3rd).
The Cavaliers are 1 game ahead of Detroit and Sacramento, 2.5 games ahead of Toronto, and 3 games ahead of New Jersey right now. It would be pretty hard for Cleveland to surpass New Orleans, Washington, or Charlotte, so for the rest of the season, we’re looking at a 5 team battle for lottery position between Cleveland, Detroit, Sacramento, Toronto, and New Jersey.
That battle begins tonight at the Q when the Cavaliers welcome in the Pistons. The Cavaliers are 2-0 against Detroit this year, and they are probably pretty happy to see Detroit in town as they look to snap this 4 game skid. Of course, last time the Cavs had Ramon Sessions, Alonzo Gee, and Tristan Thompson all coming off the bench. Now Sessions is gone, and Gee and Thompson are starting. The Cavaliers have no bench right now, aside from Manny Harris who is trying to showcase his ability to the team.
For the Cavaliers to win this game, Kyrie Irving must outduel Brandon Knight, Alonzo Gee needs to have a big night using his athleticism to beat Tayshaun Prince off the dribble, and Tristan Thompson must find some way to neutralize Greg Monroe.
If anything, I think you could argue the Pistons are worse than they should be and the Cavaliers are better than they should be. The Pistons have some nice players. Monroe, Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Maxiell, Ben Gordon, Jonas Jerebko, and Prince. If I’m making a list of nice players for the Cavaliers, I’m listing Irving, Gee, Thompson, and Antawn Jamison. I give the Pistons the definite edge in talent right now.
These are the growing pains. It’s frustrating after watching 2.5 months of this team competing hard and winning some nice games to suddenly see them look lethargic, beat down, and overwhelmed. I guess the easiest thing for fans to do now is just enjoy the ride. Be happy when they win, and be happy for the lottery position when they lose.
Now if you’ll excuse, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.