Injuries. Trade. Inconsistency. Three words that sum up what’s happened to the Cavaliers bench in the past month. Once a strength of the team in the early season, these three factors have relegated the bench to a shell of its former shelf. It’s no coincidence that the Cavaliers are spiraling downward as a result. Let’s take a trip down memory lane at what the bench was at the outset and other relevant Cavalier news items.
- Ramon Sessions, Daniel Gibson, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, and the revolving door of Ryan Hollins, Samardo Samuels, and Semih Erden formed one of the highest scoring benches in the league. Before you knew it, the Varejao injury eventually pulled Thompson out of the second unit, Gibson is likely lost for the season, Sessions was traded to the Lakers, and Gee was promoted due to the ineffectiveness of Omri Casspi. A few weeks later and with Kyrie Irving out of last night’s game against the Knicks, the Cavaliers brought ten-day contractor Lester Hudson, Casspi, trade acquisition Luke Walton, midseason signee Manny Harris, Samuels, and Erden off the bench with recently signed Donald Sloan starting for the injured Irving.
- Couple the bench’s dropoff with the recent struggles of Antawn Jamison (12.9 points per game in the last ten) and the repeated poor performances from Anthony Parker (under 40% shooting on the season, just three double digit scoring games since returning from injury at the end of February), and you essentially have three players producing and keeping the team afloat. Irving, Gee, and Thompson are the three who have increased their production and stepped into the key roles on this team. One point, one wing, and one big man, hopefully all in the wine and gold for the foreseeable future.
- Remember when everyone was in a fit about the Cavalier competing too much, pushing for a playoff spot, and ruining their chances at a high lottery pick? Do you remember what I kept saying to anyone that would listen? “Things would take care of themselves”. By that, I meant that the Cavaliers were undeniably playing over their heads when they were in the playoff picture. I also believed that trading Sessions and a key injury (like Varejao’s) would have this type of effect on a team that lacked depth.
- To me, this has been far from a disappointing season. The Cavaliers and their key young players had some early season success, grabbed several banner victories against playoff teams, and now they’re in a position to add another key piece around Kyrie Irving. The overwhelming negativity regarding how things have played still boggles my mind. Four picks in the Top 40 of the upcoming draft, four keepers from the current team, and no bad longterm contracts? To borrow Nick Gilbert’s line, “What’s Not To Like?”
- The Cavaliers are currently fifth and within one game of fourth best odds in the draft lottery. At that slot, they should be able to get one of the dynamic wings in Florida guard Bradley Beal, North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes, or Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. If the Cavaliers can pair one of those three with Kyrie and Tristan, I like the odds of the team’s dynamic changing next season.
(Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP)