Former Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach Ty Lue said this season won’t be measured in wins and losses, but rather “wins and lessons.” With that in mind, and in honor of his memory, WFNY is going to follow along with what we learn every week.
The lessons continue for the Cleveland Cavaliers, as they were schooled by the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night. The loss dropped the Cavaliers record to 1-8 which is the worst in the NBA. As if another loss wasn’t enough, the Cavs were also taken to task by The Athletic’s Joe Vardon, laying out a situation as dire as any we’ve seen in Cleveland.
What lessons did we learn from both the loss and the inside look at the locker room?
Tristan Thompson is the Cavaliers’ best healthy player. The bar is incredibly low, but Tristan has been giving the most consistent effort. He is scoring further from the basket (shooting 55% on attempts three to ten feet from the hoop after a previous career high of 44%), and grabbing a higher percentage of offensive rebounds that at any point in his career. Tristan is only two years older than Larry Nance Jr. and has outplayed the Nance Jr. significantly this season.
The New Cavs feel a lot like the Old Cavs. Do you still have nightmares of watching the Cavaliers fight and fight and fight to make a two-pointer before giving up an easy three-pointer on defense in last year’s Finals? Then don’t turn on any Cavs games this season. The Cavaliers’ defense is allowing the second highest three-point percentage against, while the offense is shooting the least amount of threes of any team. You would think removing so many three-point attempts would increase the Cavaliers’ field-goal percentage, but they rank 20th in that statistic.
Collin Sexton needs better opportunities. The young point guard has not played well, and outside of a few stretches in a few games, there has been little hope. But he has also not been put in positions to succeed, sharing the court with Jordan Clarkson for 155 of the rookie’s 213 minutes this season. Clarkson is putting up eye-popping ball-hogging numbers, using 29% of possessions when he’s on the court with either a shot or turnover, while assisting on only 8%. As Zach Lowe pointed out, only two guards in the last decade of used more than 26% of their team’s possessions while assisting on fewer than 10% and both were spot-up shooters. Clarkson has been a good scorer, but pairing him with Sexton is doing major damage to the rookie.
Larry Drew isn’t the answer. A lot has been made about the Cavs’ inability to even hire an interim coach, and Joe Vardon’s article referenced earlier indicates Drew is looking not only for a pay increase but an extension for both him and his staff into next season. Drew has experience in the league and the trust of the players, but watching this team since he has taken over gives little hope that he is going to guide them in a way that is beneficial long-term. They aren’t playing a better style of basketball, they aren’t giving more effort, and they aren’t playing smarter lineups. The only difference between Larry Drew and Ty Lue so far is that Drew decided to play his hand through the media whereas we had little idea that General Manager Koby Altman and Ty Lue had any issues. The Cavaliers need to investigate other options, including James Posey of the Canton Charge. They left themselves in a terrible position when firing Lue, but they don’t need to save face by making another mistake. If there is any franchise that can get away with another misstep, it’s the team that’s reputation can’t get any worse.
Koby Altman might not be, either. There have been reports of miscommunications, players left in the dark or worse, coaches clashing with the organization’s outlook; all leading back to a vacuum in power. Koby Altman has the difficult task of reining in owner Dan Gilbert’s worst impulses, but it is difficult to say he has done so. Did he anticipate this team would truly compete for the playoffs? And if you had to choose his best move as general manager, what would it be?
The Cavs play the Orlando Magic on Monday and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.