Let’s be honest, eight games into the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t even look like a playoff team, let alone a championship contender. After a hectic offseason, the new-look Cavs are looking to make their fourth-consecutive Finals appearance. In season’s past, many would just write off these early-season struggles and say that the wine and gold are just bored, LeBron James and crew know that they can sleep walk into the Finals and then flip the switch, and it doesn’t matter because it’s the regular season.
This season seems different. With plenty of new faces and without Kyrie Irving, the Cavs seem to still be finding an identity. Quite old, that identity doesn’t seem to be their defense. Cleveland has allowed 111.9 points per game, good for 26th best in the NBA. They have scored just 105 points a night, which is 17th in the league. Considered a deeper team than any other team James has had in Cleveland, that sure doesn’t seem like the case so far this season. At 3-5, the Cavaliers have lost four straight games: at Brooklyn, at New Orleans, vs. New York, and vs. Indiana. In their latest two home games to the Knicks and Pacers, the wine and gold were blown out on their own court to two teams that they should have easily taken care of.
Even with all their struggles, Dwyane Wade, one of the veteran leaders on the team, took to UNINTERRUPTED to calm Cavs fans and make sure that they know everything will be alright in the end.
— UNINTERRUPTED (@uninterrupted) November 3, 2017
“I’ve seen a lot [of interactions on my social media] lately because of the struggles of our team and the struggles of my place, of trying to figure out my role here. …I’m here to help this team in whatever capacity I can from a veteran standpoint, from a second unit standpoint, and I’m trying to figure that out. I’m trying to star in that role. We’re all trying to figure this out together. …20 points a game ain’t gonna happen. If I’m playing 23 minutes one night, I’m going to try and be the best I can in those 23 minutes. If I’m playing 15 one night, I’m going to try and be the best in those 15. I came here, to the Cavs, to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We’re trying to figure it out as a team, I’m trying to figure it out as an individual. And it will get better. …The role here is different, and you always try to star in your role.”
Wade isn’t the only one who has struggled so far, but he’s averaging just 7.7 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 25 percent from long distance in 21.9 minutes a game.
Luckily for the Cavs, they are just one-tenth of the way through the regular season and have plenty of time to figure things out, both offensively and defensively. Although they are without Isaiah Thomas, the wine and gold still seem to be missing a spark on offense. Their outside shooting, or lack thereof, is definitely something to keep an eye on. The Cavs are shooting just 33 percent from beyond the arc. We all know James needs shooters around him, but outside of Kevin Love and Kyle Korver, they don’t seem to have any consistent outside shooters.
Even with all that said, their defense is the biggest issue. Whether it’s because they are a step slow because of their age or just not caring defensively, the Cavs have been quite an embarrassment on that side of the ball. Their transition defense is lacking, they give up wide-open threes, and are just getting beat in almost every area on that side of the floor.
Cleveland still has 74 regular season games to figure things out, but hopefully it happens sooner rather than later. It almost seems as though many Cavs fans don’t pay attention until April when the postseason begins, but for the first time in quite awhile, their struggles in the regular season may be worrisome. If they want to turn it around, it all starts with the leadership of LeBron James and Wade and goes from there. Now it’s up to those two and the rest of the team to improve their play on both sides of the ball before it’s too late.
“They can just flip the switch come April” doesn’t seem like a possible solution anymore. Given their age, the Cavs need plenty of time to play together and at full speed. Hopefully for their sake, they are given the opportunity to do so and us Cavs fans can look back at these early-season struggles and laugh at ourselves for freaking out so much in October and November.