Cavaliers

Don’t Turn on These Cavs If They Can’t Beat the Warriors

Facing a team as impossibly well constructed as the Golden State Warriors tests the limits of our ability to analyze what we see. The temptation whenever a team loses is to find fault in what they are doing. The premise of any sporting event is that either team could win if they play to the peak of their potential. This Warriors squad may have changed the math, or maybe more accurately, erased the math for one side of the equation.

The Cavaliers are a “Super Team” by any sense of the word. They have three legitimate All-Stars and a handful of high-quality role players. But our traditional sense of a Super Team is this Cavaliers team: One generational player surrounded by an additional All-Star or two, and then some role players. I’d argue this Cavaliers squad ranks among the best Super Teams to ever grace the NBA.

But Golden State is not a normal Super Team. They are a team with two legitimate MVPs; arguably the second- and third-best players in the NBA. Behind them is the likely Defensive Player of the Year. Any one of these players could anchor their own Super Team, let alone be the second or third cog in one.

And then there is Klay Thompson. Maybe no one helps outline this incredible collection of talent better than Thompson. On any given night, he can be the best player on the court. He has secondary skills that make him unguardable. Forget that a 6-7 shooting guard is already on the longer endThe difference between Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry is not their ceilings, it’s their consistency. What Klay can give you every third or fourth game, Curry and Durant are giving you nightly.

That’s the difference in this series. Kyrie Irving has struggled. Tristan Thompson has struggled. J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver have struggled. These are all players that can reach incredible highs, but can’t do it every single night. For the Warriors, a stretch of two or three games where Klay struggles barely registers. They are getting what he can give them from three other players every single night.

For the Cavaliers, this variance didn’t matter against nearly any other opponent. LeBron James is going to be the best player on the court against any team. As long as Irving or Thompson or Kevin Love show up, the Cavs likely win. Higher-variance players like Smith and Korver add another option that again has very high highs, but with less consistency.

That doesn’t work against the Warriors. You’re going against two MVP caliber performances and a Defensive Player of the Year every night. It would take herculean efforts from the entire roster for the Cavaliers to overcome those odds. When you throw on their higher-variance players like Thompson, Andre Igoudala, Zaza Pachulia, or Shaun Livingston, the math stops mathing.

So, yes, Kyrie Irving hasn’t been great for the first two games. But it has only been two games. His “bad” has still involved 21.5 points on 40 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three. He’ll likely explode in Game 3 or Game 4, because that’s who he is. Kyrie Irving can outplay Steph Curry any given night, he just can’t outplay him every night.

The same goes for Tristan Thompson. While Kyrie has only been slightly below his normal play, Thompson has been a shell of his normal self. In his role as the fourth best Cavalier, this would normally be a concern, but not a catastrophe. Against the Warriors, it’s a death sentence.

I’ve seen people calling the Cavaliers soft or questioning if some of the guys on this squad, the same guys who won a ring last season, have what it takes. They do. They proved they do last year, and should live above any of this sort of criticism. They could very well find a few wrinkles that work and flip this whole series around. If Kyrie comes alive, if Tristan dominates the boards, this team can absolutely make a run, even against the Warriors’ loaded squad. We’re only 12 months removed from them showing us exactly that.

But if not, it shouldn’t be viewed as the Cavaliers failing to live up to their side of the bargain. What changed was who sat on the opposing bench, and even the Cavaliers’ best may not be enough to overcome that.

  • Jeff Nomina

    Agree with this. Tried to sort of cover it by saying he has other skills beyond his shooting but yeah – his defense has been great. Meant more his offense wasn’t necessary for GS to be great.

  • KFunk

    What KD did was like what James did, but exponentially so. And I think the national narrative reflects that

  • Steve

    There were very few people who felt that Irving and Love provided the wrong culture for Lebron to win games.

  • humboldt

    Yes, he was joining players with the potential to win championships, but recall from his letter that he felt the team was pretty far away from being a competitor. Durant went into a situation where he was instantly plugged into a historically good team that won a title in 2015 and missed a second by 4 pts in 2016.

    I won’t concede that these decisions are exactly the same – that’s bollocks!

  • Jeff Nomina

    I actually agree somewhat w Steve, here. LeBron has done this twice, now. It’s not the exact same (KD leaving a good team to join the team that beat him is a new wrinkle) but the precedent was set by LBJ. And it was LBJ’s play last year that forced the extreme version of it to happen w GS recruiting KD. I’m pretty against super teams in general, tho – even if we have one.

    The thing we are seeing that is interesting is that KD joined another MVP level player, but that hasn’t damaged his standing nationally for dominating this series. No one is talking about it being easy for him – the narrative is that he is passing LeBron as the best player in the league. So what we’ve learned is that there’s no real downside for players to form these teams. Their legacy won’t be tarnished. We’ve gone all-in on the RINGZ culture as a society, and we’ve decided that is solely what players will be judged on.

  • CBiscuit

    Holy false equivalency.

    Lebron came to play with all stars in our town? Lebron came to play on a lottery team that had Kyrie and TT, a first round pick who hadn’t set foot on an NBA floor, and a pile of bodies. Then he led us to the Finals.

    Durant came to play on a team that just set an NBA record for most wins, had already gone to back to back Finals and was loaded with Green, Curry, and Thompson, plus a great coach and a solid bench.

    Not even the same universe dude.

  • KFunk

    I guess we can agree to disagree. James had to come and be the clear leader of inexperienced guys. KD went to a team chock full of leaders, with a stable coaching staff, and three home-grown all-stars who were coming off a record-setting season. The situations were very different. Only similar in that both teams had good players. GS was waaaaaaay more established though, and adding KD was plug-and-play. That was not the case for James at all

  • Steve

    He didn’t say they were far from being a competitor, but that he wasn’t promising a championship. And that was nothing more than a lesson learned after the “not six, not seven”.

  • Pat Leonard

    Joe Lacob and the other owners have plenty of money (and they’re making a ton off of this team). They’ll pay the tax, but the question is for how many years. I don’t know if it’s 1 more year, 2, 3… probably hard to imagine more than that.

  • KFunk

    I live in Oakland, and even I haven’t talked to a single person who thinks the James and KD moves were the same.

  • humboldt

    Verbatim from the Letter:

    “I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys.”

    Could Durant have written such an account of his decision?

  • KFunk

    Yeah, because there are repeater escalators

  • jpftribe

    I saw a tweet that said $1.3B in committed salaries for the next four years.

  • mgbode

    there’s a double-standard for all things LeBron

    anyway, I do think it was closer to what LeBron did in Miami… they thought they would win not 1 not 2 not 3 rings… but there is still some of the same thinking when he came back to with the big caveat that LeBron did not join his main rival in either circumstance

  • Pat Leonard

    Exactly… they’re going to have to shell out some exorbitant figures, but I don’t know exactly how deep their pockets are OR how much they make off of the Warriors that isn’t included in their share from the NBA.

  • KFunk

    In addition, the roster turnover since James joined the Cavs has been so much more than GS has had to do. And that is perhaps the strongest point

  • Steve

    The Vegas odds on the Cavs winning a championship in that first Lebron year: 5:2. The Vegas odds on the Warriors winning it this season: 2-1.

    Golden State’s being established gave them all of a 5% increase in odds of winning the championship. We are so ridiculously underrating what people thought of the Lebron-Love-Irving combination from a few years ago.

  • humboldt

    Yes, this is a total straw man argument, but hey, it’s better than work, right? 🙂

  • KFunk

    I do fear they will pay the tax long enough to wait out the rest of LeBron’s prime

  • Steve

    You’re reading a helluva lot between the lines to say what you want it to say. He specifically didn’t promise a championship. That is all.

  • KFunk

    I hear you. And I do remember they were seen as a potential super team. The main difference is how established the teams were. Especially the coaching staff/system. There’s no comparison there.

    It’s like the difference between opening a new business with some business partners vs. joining GE

  • Steve

    “The main difference is how established the teams were. Especially the coaching staff/system. There’s no comparison there.”

    I think we’re just seeing this from two different angles. I think we can only look at it from the perspective of when it happened. The Cavs were seen as just as much a juggernaut. But, yes, when we look at what really happened, where we saw that we may have overlooked flaws in the Cavaliers defense, and their propensity to not get along so well in the locker room, yes, a big difference between the Warriors seemingly steamrolling to a title this year, and us stumbling over ourselves just a bit too often is a lot of that other stuff.

    I’m not trying to argue that it didn’t play out differently, but that the perspective of “star joins team” was pretty much the same.

  • KFunk

    That Cavs team started Dion Waiters @ SG.

  • KFunk

    I understand where you’re coming from.

    I think, looking back at the narrative, it was that “the Cavs have started something new, and have the potential to be great” and that “GS is already historically great”

  • Pat Leonard

    I would bet on LeBron having an extended prime, but I agree that he’ll be on the decline by then for sure. And who knows what the Cavs will look like in 4 years. Ty Lue is not committed to playing Kay Felder or any other youngster to help build for the future.

  • Garry_Owen

    Please tell me that turning on the Cavs is not even a thing. If it is a thing, I don’t want things in my life. No things.

  • KFunk

    Besides the rival comment, I think the key point here is that James was more like a GM who built the team (of young, totally unproven players, BTW), vs. KD who simply joined a historically great team/organization/culture. James clearly had more to do to lead his team. KD is more “along for the ride” if you will

    It’s equivalent to a QB leading the Browns back to prominence vs. a WR who joins Brady & the Pats

  • KFunk

    Yeah, there is bound to be a considerable amount of roster turnover. I really wonder how/if the Cavs can get some players who are still in their prime

    That Felder pick was all Gilbert, and was awful

  • KFunk

    Agreed

  • Harv

    dubleduh

  • Chris

    “Please tell me that turning on the Cavs is not even a thing”

    Lots of people turn on the Cavs… how else are we supposed to watch? Not all of us are hot-shot prodigy lawyers who can afford to attend all the games in person.

  • chrisdottcomm

    I think you two are arguing the wrong point…. the better case is LeBron backchannel communication with Wade/Bosh/Riley to form the original Heatles in comparison to the Warriors getting KD.

  • Garry_Owen

    And the Amish fans?

  • chrisdottcomm

    This offseason’s move as we are well aware is the emergence of MVP Cedi Osman.

  • Chris

    No hope for them. The pregame display and the big screen would have them banished to purgatory for millennia.

    Unless they’re on sabbatical… what happens on sabbatical stays on sabbatical.

  • mgbode

    either way, LeBron manufactured a contending team. yeah, Durant just put the ice cream on top of a championship pie, but the difference isn’t as large as some are portraying.

  • mgbode

    should we power block or zone block this year?

  • RGB

    There’s always the Mennonites.

  • humboldt

    Lebron’s original decision to head to Miami is much more analogous to Durant going to GS; he even alludes to this in the text of his letter: “[A championship in Cleveland] will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010.”

    The return to Cleveland was not motivated by a win-now calculus, and was profoundly less cynical than joining the Heat.

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  • chrisdottcomm

    The who what now?

  • Chris

    mennoniteusa.org actually has a pretty well put-together website

  • Garry_Owen

    Little known fact, there, uh RGB, but the Amish are simply a branch of the Mennonite belief system, all under the Anabaptist tradition.

    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/nuKwpkUNNrA/hqdefault.jpg