August 16, 2014

Is There Any Hope Beneath the Frustration for the Cavaliers?

I keep trying to tell myself to remember that it’s still early in the season. And then I quickly try to forget that fact.

It’s far too early in the season to be this frustrated. Particularly when none of us expected the Cavaliers to be any good this season anyway. I predicted before the season that this Cavaliers team would be absolutely atrocious on the defensive end. So why am I so frustrated and angry when my watching it come to fruition on the court? I don’t know.

Here’s what we do know, though. The Cavaliers are 5-21 on the season. In his 2+ years at the helm, Byron Scott now has a record of 45-129. That’s a win percentage of 25.86%. The Cavaliers’ win percentage this season is 19.2%. Only one team in the NBA has a worse record than Cleveland. The Cavaliers are 23rd in scoring, and 23rd in opponents’ scoring. 26th in offensive efficiency and 27th in defensive efficiency. 27th in eFG% and dead last in opponents eFG%. They have exactly two players with an Efficiency Rating about 13 (where 15.0 is average).

No matter how you look at it, this team stinks. It’s the unfortunate truth. There has been precious little player development other than Anderson Varejao stepping up his game and Kyrie Irving’s offensive talent shining through. Beyond that, nothing but stagnant disappointment.

Look, I’m not breaking new ground here. Those familiar with this site know how frustrating the Cavaliers can be from time to time. I’ve written many of these words before. The thing that’s different now is that I’m starting to get tired of it, and I’m getting a sense that many fans are growing weary with the lack of forward movement as well.

I think we can all separate the excuses from this argument as well. It’s definitely worth noting that the Cavaliers are dealing with a ton of injuries1, there’s not a lot of talent on the roster to begin with, and the schedule has been insanely brutal and there’s no real respite from the schedule until February, either. So a lot of the frustration can be explained away.

So take it with a grain of salt. Maybe if everything was going the Cavaliers’ way the team would be 11-15 rather than 5-21. That would have the Cavaliers 11th in the East and a couple games out of a playoff berth. So perhaps this is all for the best.

It’s not like this Cavaliers roster isn’t capable of playing good basketball. The Cavaliers’ starting 5 of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao still have the 5th best +/- of any 5-player combination in the NBA. In 8 of their losses the Cavaliers have held a lead for a longer period than their opponent.

So there are some signs buried beneath the surface that in some aspects things are getting better. For the previous two seasons the Cavaliers have been overwhelmingly uncompetitive in games. This year, the Cavaliers are certainly giving the effort. They’re hanging in there against teams they shouldn’t. But ultimately, they lack the talent and depth to make enough plays and get enough stops down the stretch to win the games.

Wednesday night the Cavaliers will play against another frustrated franchise, the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers it’s a road game on the wrong end of a back to back. It’s the 4th consecutive back to back the Cavaliers have had to play. All in all, it’s their 8th game in the last 13 days. So once again, don’t be surprised if the defense falters and the Cavs kind of hang around for a while before ultimately letting the game slip away. It’s what this team does.

I think it’s ok to preach patience and also be frustrated with this team. We can recognize that it’s a process and they are on a certain rebuilding path and also get annoyed with the long stretches of really bad basketball. It’s ok to question the development of players like Tristan Thompson, to question whether Byron Scott is getting through to this team, to wonder if the Cavaliers draft picks have all been the best. But it’s important to understand while asking those questions that everything is fluid right now.

Players can and do get better. Coaches adapt. This roster is so young that to think this is as good as it gets is marginally ridiculous. But the questions for many us refuse to go away no matter how patient we try to be. It’s been a trying two months to open this season for sure. There are still 4 months to go. All we can do for now is hope things get better and the patience part gets easier.

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Image Credit: AP Photo/Amy Sancetta

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Footnotes:

  1. 3 players wearing masks, Andy’s knee, Gibson’s elbow, Waiters’ ankle, etc, etc, etc []
  • http://twitter.com/GreatestHurley Jason Hurley

    I think you hit on it perfectly – there is no player development. Why isn’t Thompson showing improvement? What about Gee, Samuels, Casspi, and Sloan? These are young guys that seem to be floundering – making the same mistakes night-in and night-out.

  • MrCleaveland

    Is there any hope for this year?

    Hope not. Maybe another lottery pick will finally get us on the right track.

  • Harv 21

    “This year, the Cavaliers are certainly giving the effort.”
    And this is where my analysis diverges. Maybe it’s the portions of games I happen to watch but in addition to little apparent skill development since last year (Tristan, Gee) I see a ton of disinterest on the court, a lack of hustle, little energy on defense by anyone other than Andy. Last night was outrageous in the 4th quarter, they just stopped playing any defense and everyone not named Kyrie or Andy barely moved on offense. It was their first of 4 games in 5 nights, they were playing at home against a team that can’t win on the road and they gave no effort.

    Starting to wonder why Byron can’t or won’t enforce hustle, through minutes or benchings. Don’t care so much about the losses, but no one should expect the fans to care more about the game than the players.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I would agree that it’s not a consistent effort. And sure, that’s a problem too. I really just meant compared to the last 2 seasons. I see more effort out of this year’s team. I do think they’re trying.

    It’s a fine line, though. I usually am hesitant to discuss effort to begin with because a lack of talent often disguises itself as a lack of effort.

  • Chucky Brown

    I believe Gee has progressed to his ceiling,
    as for Casspi, Samuels and (especially) Sloan, I just do not believe they have NBA talent
    Lats nights game may have been the hardest to watch since the early Bulls debacle. As hard as it is to come to grips with, I think the time to trade Andy is near.

  • http://twitter.com/007EthanLange Ethan Lange

    Can’t remember what their record was, but the Thunder had an awful start to their season in Westbrook’s rookie year (Durant’s 2nd)

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Indeed. I remember the Cavs played them early in the season and they were awful. When the Cavs played them the 2nd time, they gave the Cavs a tough game. I remember how much better they had gotten in just a few weeks. Hope the Cavs can do something similar.

  • JacobWFNY

    2007-2008 Seattle: In Durant’s first year and Seattle’s last, the Sonics went 20-62. A handful of regulars (Wilcox, Durant, Wally, Kurt Thomas, Collison) hovered around the 15.0 PER line, but none were better than 16.3. Durant also was heavily criticized for his 45.1 efg% — he’s been at 52.2% since that year.

    2008-2009 Oklahoma City: In Durant’s second year and Westbrook’s first, the Thunder start 1-12 leading to P.J. Carlesimo’s firing. Scotty Brooks comes in and the team kept faltering all the way to 3-29. But they finished the year on a 20-30 run, ending at 23-59. Durant (20.2) was only regular above 15.2 in PER this year, and Westbrook was that second-best guy.

    After that season, OKC was viewed as a potentially playoff Cinderella for the next year. Most projections had them missing out in the competitive West. They didn’t.

    2009-2010: 50-32, 8th place, lost in first round (4-2) to LAL
    2010-2011: 55-27, 4th place, lost in West finals (4-1) to DAL
    2011-2012: 47-19, 2nd place, lost in NBA finals (4-1) to MIA

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    3-29 sounds a lot like 5-21. So Cleveland has that going for them at least.

    Really, though, this is good stuff Jacob. Thanks for getting the exact figures for us.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    And a trade a big one like somehow a Kevin Love or maybe Pau Gasol otherwise I don’t see another lottery pick (especially one like Thompson) doing much of anything. Meanwhile Irving takes a step closer to his rookie contract being over and I’m eerily reminded of the LBJ era.

  • mgbode

    thanks for going through and putting this out there. Presti’s run of draft pick prowess is unprecedented, so I doubt we’ll see the same arc, but it is good to see that even with that prowess, the Thunder suffered similar struggles.

  • mgbode

    I go back and forth on it. I want to believe it’s just lack of talent and injuries, but then I watch the defensive transformation that Mark Jackson has done in GS and wonder how much blame Scott should also be held accountable towards.

  • mgbode

    how are you reminded of the LBJ era? LeBron made us instantly good in a putrid East and took us out of the lottery after his first season. We then threw our cap room away on Damon Jones, Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall. We didn’t have any draft picks because Paxson gave them away like candy on Halloween.

    this is most definitely the opposite of the LBJ era. might end the same, but the building is on a different foundation.

  • Harv 21

    I do hear the point about effort and talent blurring. My prob is when they are playing some defense, rebounding, grabbing loose balls and moving on offense – and then they just stop. Like last night. And if the opposing team picked up their energy, you might have to play a little harder and certainly not get passive in response. Scott’s system installed 3 years ago and hard training camps should be starting to reflect a certain product. JJ Hickson was jettisoned b/c of his inability to sustain energy and concentration. Tristan was supposed to be the upgrade – but played harder last year. Gee was re-signed as an energy/defense guy – I’m wondering if he’s relaxing off his contract.
    What I’m worried about cannot all be “I’m still unsure where I’m supposed to be, coach.” I’m seeing some regression. Hope it’s temporary, rather than players mailing it in because they’re tired of losing or secure in a contract.

  • FearTheRoo

    Collecting draft picks, then taking guys like Waiters, Zeller, and TT. Sorry but other than Irving I have yet to be impressed with any picks. Not to mention the FA’s signed and trades have been pretty bad too.

  • Return of the (Alex) Mack

    Luke Jackson

  • mgbode

    yes, that was our one lottery pick and even that was at #11. he did score 40pts in a D-League game though :)

  • Dave

    I’d argue that Zeller has been quite good for where he was picked. He’s been a solid rotation big on a team that doesn’t have a lot of solid rotation players. That’s exactly what the Cavs thought they were getting with him, long after the really good players were gone.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    One hopefully to be All-Star (Irving) who is head and shoulders better then the next best player on the roster who has to carry the entire team and franchise. That’s how I’m reminded of the LBJ era. But you are right LBJ was a superstar and he couldn’t do it so all the more reason to get Irving as much help as possible sooner rather then later.

  • Steve

    Considering Irving’s defense, I’m not sure he’s head and shoulders better than Varejao.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lnicholas2 Lee Nicholas

    Gee hasn’t shown improvement? He could barely stay on an NBA roster a couple of seasons ago. Donald Sloan is in his second season after being genuinely on an NBA Roster. Casspi was on the decline going into us trading for him but is acutally showing life this year…. Not all of those examples completely lack improvement. Samardo is mostly useless, I’ll grant you. I do think we’re going to see more improvement from Thompson with Mr. Ilgauskas helping him out.

  • BenRM

    After I take a breath, I’m going to give them until the next third of the season is over and then reevaluate.

    It is clear to any non-fanboy that the Cavs have played one of the most difficult schedules to date. I am done, however, blaming injuries. Losing this many games because of injuries signifies lack of depth (and talent). The Cavs lack depth. They might also lack talent (besides 2 players…maybe 4).

    No way I start getting (incredibly) upset yet, but I’m watching you, Cavs!!!! Watch out or you will be on the receiving end of some heated but well written internet comments!!!!

  • porckchopexpress

    I’m just going to gripe on TT for a minute. It drives me nuts that a guy with his athletic ability has to take so much time gathering himself to go up with the ball. There was a play in the 4th where someone drew defenders to him and made a nice underneath dish to a wide open TT. By the time he brought the ball down to his knees and started to rise KG had recovered enough to foul him good enough to prevent the and one. Instead of a shot at a 3 point play TT clanked a few freethrows.
    I’m beginning to buy into a theory I’ve developed that Byron Scott was aware that he was viewed as “too hard” on players in NJ and NO. So when he came to the Cavs and got paired back up with Baron Davis, he moved too far in the opposite direction becoming more of Romeo Crennel figure. I can’t beleive that old Byron would let Dion jog back on defense while Rondo is blowing by him, or not pop a blood vessel screaming at Kyrie on the 1000th time he ducks below a pick n roll rather than fighting through over the top.
    I dunno, I agree its a bad team to begin with that has played only something like 6 games without injuries, but for a group of young players most of whom are not on guaranteed pay day contracts, there is an alarming lack of urgency. I watched some old man who must be Uncle Drew’s cousin, put on a Paul Pierce jersey tonight and torch the Cavs. Gahhh, I’m in full ramble mode from frustration

  • A.L.I

    WOW another puff piece and passing the buck attitude of a Cleveland sports expert, yes lets wait till Hell freezes over then we might get better. If you have nothing constructive or truthful to say why bother, Cleveland fans deserve better than this soft pedaling of reality. Lets face it the CAVS suck because we never question the management. We never demand something better and we are mired in our very own mediocrity. Please save me your biting comments I am not the bad guy save that for people who are systematically screwing our professional sports teams year after year by making horrible decisions (i.e the article above is the perfect example of that lets get rid of the last proven player we have for more has beings).