Before readers get emotional, I'd like to make something clear: I am a huge Cavaliers fan. As with all Cleveland sports teams, I invest a bit too much emotionally in their fortunes. When they win, I get excited and violently masturbate to box scores for hours at a time. When they lose, I turn off the lights in my room and cry like a little girl.
So call me what you want, but don't question my fandom. Thanks.
Simply put, the Cavaliers are not, as so many of you would like to think, favorites to win the championship this year. Once again, we are putting too much confidence in Mo Williams; have you guys forgot about last year already?
Mo Williams is NOT an adequate second option on offense; he's a glorified role player mistakenly named an all-star last year. He does one thing well, and that's shoot.
He doesn't drive, he doesn't penetrate defenses and he doesn't demand double teams. He gets open looks on a regular basis because LeBron, Shaq, and Delonte West are good at drawing defenders away from him, and he generally capitalizes. But trust me when I say that he will get shut down by the better defensive point guards in the league (think Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul).
I know this realization will be hard for some of you to come to terms with, and I know that you probably discredit me because you don't want to believe it. But facts are facts. Numerous Zone Ratings (provided by the awesome 82games.com) prove that the vast majority of Mo's shots are either threes or 15-18 foot jump shots. His free throws per game, an indicator of how often he drives to the basket to initiate contact, are also extremely sub-par.
To further hammer my point home, allow me to paint a picture for you:
Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, Cavs vs. Celtics. LeBron is having a career day, but nobody else is stepping up. The Celtics' defense has been frustrating our big men throughout; Shaquille O'Neal is being double teamed, but can't seem to find an open man to pass to. Z can't hit any of his patented jump shots, and Andy isn't clicking with LeBron in the pick and roll.
Luckily for the Cavs, solid defense has kept them in the game until the beginning of the fourth quarter. LeBron is taking a break, and needs the team to provide some offense in his absence.
Where do the Cavs go?
LeBron is getting his points, but he can't win the game on his own. Naturally, the Cavs put the ball in the hands of Mo Williams with LeBron on the bench. It's Mo's time to shine; time for him to take some of the burden off of LeBron's soldiers.
Unfortunately for him, Rajon Rondo is playing great man-to-man defense. He hasn't gotten an uncontested shot all night; his only points have come off of a Rondo foul in the first quarter, and that foul came on a jump shot.
Mo calls for a pick. Shaq provides, but Kevin Garnett and Rondo don't give any ground. The shot clock is at 10; somebody needs to get into the paint, fast. Upon realizing that the pick-and-roll won't work this possession, Mo passes the ball to Shaq, who immediately gets double-teamed by Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. He attempts to maneuver through the double-team, but can't, finally passing to a semi-open Mo with three seconds left.
Rondo quickly gets in Mo's face, immediately eliminating the open look. Mo dribbles to his right, and desperately fires up a mid-range J with a second left on the shot clock.
Brick. Celtics' possession.
This is obviously a theoretical game, but the aforementioned possession sounds way too familiar; it sounds like the majority of the playoff games that the Cavaliers played in last year.
Bottom line: Well-coached defensive teams with athletic point guards shut down Mo Williams. They just do. He isn't capable of creating; he's only good at finishing what others start. He doesn't penetrate, he doesn't attempt to beat his defender off the dribble (not that he's fast enough), and he doesn't demand defensive attention.
LeBron is outstanding, but he can't win games against good teams without other players stepping up. And, unfortunately for the Cavaliers, there simply isn't a player on the roster capable of actively creating shots for others.
Silver lining time: The Cavaliers play arguably the best defense in the league. They are completely capable of taking opposing stars out of their games, as has been evident in their recent routs of the Lakers and Hawks.
And, despite the harsh criticism I've placed on Mo, I firmly believe we can win a championship with him as our point guard. He doesn't really need to do much more than hit open jump shots.
If he isn't unjustly forced into the role of second-fiddle to LeBron, the Cavs will be in good shape. Naturally, this means that Cavs are, as always, one player away .
The Cavaliers are a great team, and their defense will keep them in every important game. But until they get a legitimate second offensive player, they should not be considered the league's best.