With Media Day less than a week away, the NBA season will be here before we know it. For the Cleveland Cavaliers, it has been one heckuva chaotic offseason. Whether it’s them signing Derrick Rose to the veteran’s minimum, Kyrie Irving’s trade request which eventually led to a blockbuster deal with the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas’ hip injury that seems to be something that won’t be compensated by the chip on his shoulder, or a number of other things, Media Day will be quite different this season than it has been the last couple years.
With Irving in Boston and Thomas due to miss at least the first part of the season, Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue already seems to be contemplating what he will do with not only the starting lineup, but the rotation as well, along with how he will use players when they are actually in the game.
To start the season, it seems as though Tristan Thompson will remain as the starting center and Love will have an expanded role in the offense now that he is option No. 2, at least until Thomas returns from his hip injury.
Here’s what Lue told cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon on Tuesday:
“Right now we’re just trying to get all of our pieces together and right now Tristan’s our starter,” Lue said. “I’m just thinking we’re going to run a lot more stuff through Kevin, more at the elbows, like we’ve done the last year and a half. Just trying to figure out with our new pieces and our new players and just see what works best for us.”
Although it seems obvious that Love will have a bigger role in the offense with Uncle Drew’s departure, it not only means that he will likely have more shots, but No. 0 will likely have the ball in his hands much more. Whether it’s creating for himself, getting the ball at the elbow or in the post, or knocking down the long ball, you can expect Love to have a big season, one year removed from his best season as a Cavalier.
Now why wouldn’t Thompson start, you ask? Along with Thomas coming to the Cavs, the wine and gold also acquired Jae Crowder, a versatile and athletic forward who can guard a number of positions. Because of that, some people, including ESPN’s Zach Lowe, seem to think that Crowder should (and eventually could) start alongside James, which would make Love the starting big man.
While having that versatility in the starting lineup would bring plenty of options, using Crowder as the team’s sixth-man makes the most sense. You could then bring him in for virtually any of the players in the starting lineup, along with allowing Lue to mix-and-match depending on who the opponent is and how the Cavs start against said opponent. Keep in mind, the head coach has already been working on lineups to utilize Crowder’s ability to guard a number of positions.
This isn’t about finding different ways to take some of Thompson’s minutes away, but rather to have both James and Crowder on the floor together in order to maximize the newest Cav’s versatility.
Whether Lue decides to start Crowder or Thompson when the Cavs host Irving and the Celtics in the season opener on October 17, he will probably try a number of different starting lineups throughout the season to try and see what works best, both in terms of the starters on whoever comes off the bench. Then again, it’s about who’s on the court at the end of the game, not at the start of the game.