5 Reasons the Cleveland Cavaliers Are Headed in the Wrong Direction
There are times when the camera shows coach Byron Scott, and I can't help but think he is wondering the same thing we all are. How can a team play with such passion and be fundamentally sound one minute, then so careless and indifferent the next?
He seems like a coach who knows his young team should be farther along than they are, yet can't quite put his finger on why they're not.
The Cavaliers are now three years into the massive rebuilding project that "The King" left behind, and they are simply not making the type of progress they had hoped for.
The following reasons point to a very unsettling trend, that perhaps they may have even gone backwards. A frightening, yet very realistic fear for all fans of the wine and gold.
Their Best Player Is 30 Years Old
Many would say the best player on the Cavaliers is Kyrie Irving. While we can all agree Kyrie is one of the NBA's brightest young talents, he has not been the best player on the Cavaliers this year.
That title belongs to Anderson Varejao. He is having a phenomenal year, leading the league in rebounds with 15.1 per game, and is averaging a career high 15.3 points per game while shooting almost 54 percent from the field.
Unfortunately, when you play with the type of reckless abandonment that Andy does, time is not on your side. He is 30 years old now, and has quite an extensive injury history, especially in the last two seasons where he has played in only a combined 56 games.
For a team that still seems a ways away from contending, this is not good.
Questionable Draft Picks in the Post LeBron Era
The Cleveland Cavaliers are going the route of the Oklahoma City Thunder and trying to build from the ground up, almost exclusively with draft picks. While this is a proven strategy, it means you better hit more than you miss.
They hit a home run with Kyrie Irving. He will be an NBA superstar. The results for the other picks, however, have not been as inspiring.
In 2010 they did not have any picks. This was a fallout from the previous regime, going "all in" in an attempt to win a title and keep LeBron in Cleveland.
In 2011 they drafted Irving No. 1, but of their other three picks, one was traded, one currently plays in Turkey, and the fourth-overall pick, Tristan Thompson, has been marginal at best. This year he is averaging 8.8 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game (which is only up slightly from his rookie season) and plays 30 minutes per night.
Both of their draft picks this year have been very inconsistent. Dion Waiters, their top 2011 pick, is averaging 15.2 points, but is only shooting 36 percent from the field (24th among shooting guards).
The Cavaliers' other top pick, Tyler Zeller, may end up being worth the three picks they used to trade for him, but right now the results have been mixed. He had 15 points and 7 rebounds against L.A. on November 5th, then had three points and two rebounds in 26 minutes against Dallas on November 17th. His whole season has gone this way.
The Defense Has Taken a Step Backward
A team led by Byron Scott is supposed to be heavy on effort and tough on defense. This has simply not been the case this year.
The Cavaliers do well rebounding the ball behind Varejao and creating turnovers; however, they are dead last in the NBA in blocked shots with just 2.6 per game. In fact, their leader in blocked shots during the first 12 games of this season was Alonzo Gee, who is their starting small forward.
Now compare them to previous years, and even the 2009 Cavaliers who finished 19-63, ended the season 23rd in the NBA in total defense and held opponents to 47.5 percent shooting.
The Reserves Are Providing Little Relief
The Cavaliers' bench has steadily gotten worse these last three years.
In 2010-11 their bench, according to hoopstats.com, was a very respectable 11th overall in efficiency. They averaged 35.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists and shot .434 percent from the field per game.
Fast forward to this season and the Cavaliers have one of the worst benches in the NBA. Their efficiency rating has dropped all the way to 29th. They average 24.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and shoot .377 percent from the field per game. All are at or near the bottom of the NBA.
Progress Is Ultimatley Measured in Wins
The Cavaliers started off the 2010-11 season 5-5 in their first 10 games, but only won 14 more the rest of the season.
In 2011-12 they started off 5-5 as well, and were even in the running for the playoffs until the All-Star break. They would eventually fold and finish the year winning only five of their last 27 games.
This season the Cavaliers' losing ways happened much earlier. They started off just 2-10 (with one win coming against the winless Wizards at home) and are currently just 4-13, good for second worst in the NBA. Some may point to the fact that they have been without star Kyrie Irving, however they were just 2-8 with him in the lineup as well.
If you look at the winning percentages for the last three seasons—0.232 in 2010-11, .318 in 2011-12, and .267 this year—like everything else, these are trending in the wrong direction.