When the Cleveland Cavaliers limped out to a 5-7 record, the NBA world rushed to say they were over the hill. They were too old, too slow, and—as age tens to not reverse—would be unable to improve.
After twelve straight victories, however, it has been the oldest veterans on the Cavs who have gotten the team rolling. This begs the question: Do the Cavs need to get even older to have a chance against the Golden State Warriors?
The Cavaliers starters have struggled for most of the season. Even during this twelve-game streak, too often the starting unit falls behind and can’t seem to get back up without some assistance. Luckily, the Life Alert bench mob of Kyle Korver (36), Dwyane Wade (35), and Channing Frye (34) have a +21.3 net rating. When paired with other veterans such as Jeff Green (31), LeBron James (32), or J.R. Smith (32), the Cavaliers put tennis balls on their walkers and roll over their opponents with little remorse.
As you can see below, there is a direct and scientific correlation between a players’ age and their effectiveness for this Cavaliers squad. The younger players such as Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Derrick Rose, and Jae Crowder are merely typical millennials, ruining everything.
If you need any more evidence, look at the starting units. When Jose Calderon (36) was added to the starting unit, they took off, outscoring their opponents by 7.6 points per 100 possessions. With the younger Derrick Rose (29), that same unit was outscored by 17.6 points per 100 possessions. And that’s even with Rose’s knees being roughly 74 years old.
Of the four-man units that have played at least 50 minutes together, the nine best defensive lineups for the Cavaliers feature either Wade or Korver or both. While you would expect the Tristan Thompson (26), Jae Crowder (27), or Iman Shumpert (27) to be the defensive catalysts for the Cavs squad, it’s the old guys providing Matlock-down defense.
So while the Cavs were lucky that the 25-year old Kyrie Irving demanded a trade this offseason, they find themselves between a rock and a hardy candy place when Thompson and the 28-year old Isaiah Thomas return from injury. While both are solid players, they are clearly far too young to help this Cavaliers team.
So how can the Cavaliers get even older and give themselves a chance to win another title? Glad you asked. Here are some potential targets:
At 40 years old Vince Carter presents an opportunity for the Cavs to get as old as possible. A former high-flyer who has transformed himself into the ultimate glue guy, Carter could be like Jeff Green on Metamucil.
Another 40-year old who would fit well with the older squad. Pairing him with Jose Calderon could give the Cavs the only all-bald spot backcourt in the NBA.
While he is 37 years old, it’s difficult to imagine the Golden State Warriors parting with him to help their rival. Their owner also revealed they know the secret of older players when he said they were “light years ahead” of other teams.
At 39 years old he matches the age profile and still has a lot left in his game. He’s a franchise icon in Dallas, but if the Cavaliers dangle the Brooklyn Nets pick they received in the Irving trade, I imagine they could make it happen. That pick has little value to the Cavaliers anyway, as adding a teenager to a squad that desperately needs to be older would do far more damage than good.
Cavaliers GM Koby Altman has some tough decisions to make. He scores points for bringing in Calderon and Wade, but the trade of Richard Jefferson (37) looks worse every day. Can he find the Cavaliers the really old players they need to beat the Warriors and convince LeBron to stay?
Time will tell.