Mired in a seven game losing streak, the Cleveland Cavaliers are starting to remind fans of the misery they faced last year. There is a fine line between losing to improve their draft position and creating a losing atmosphere. The Cavs streak of 10 losses in 11 games could be doing just that.
During the last 11 games Cleveland has surrendered 101.8 points per game while only averaging 88.1 itself, leading to an average defeat of 13.7 points per game. Its play at home has been so bad lately that their owner, Dan Gilbert, took to twitter to voice his displeasure.
"One of those nights where I can't find the words to match the emotions (at least non-profane words). Cavs fans deserve better. Much better."
This was tweeted following an ugly 121-84 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in a game that saw Kyrie Irving leave with a strained shoulder. Ugly road losses can be called growing pains, but the Cavs inability to keep games close at home is very concerning. Their seven losses at home by 15 or more points ties them for the league lead with Charlotte and Detroit. (Elias Sports Bureau)
Before losing 10 of 11 games the Cavs had a promising three game winning streak, which included impressive victories against Oklahoma City and Denver on the road. All was well in Cleveland, from a basketball perspective at least.
After a road win against New Jersey where Irving and Tristan Thompson combined for 53 points, showing Cavs fans a glimpse of what the future might be like, Cleveland couldn't hold on in Atlanta allowing Joe Johnson to hit an open three at the buzzer to force overtime and ultimately a Cleveland loss.
Cleveland has struggled mightily following that loss, not eclipsing 40 percent shooting in any of its six games since. Only one opponent during that same stretch, New York, shot below 40 percent.
Following the loss to Atlanta the Cavs are struggling to match the intensity that their opponents are bringing on each end of the floor and must change this soon. While continuing to lose would improve Cleveland's draft stock, how could it affect the young players on this team?
It seems that a lot of the young players have hit a wall, and too continue developing their skills the Cavs need to become a competitive basketball team again. Cleveland misses the hustle and intensity its emotional leader, Anderson Varejao, brings to the court every night.
I don't think it's a coincidence that the Cavs have played their worst basketball the last two years when Varejao was out with injury. Cleveland has said the Brazilian could return in early April, and hopefully when he returns the Cavs will return to the form they displayed earlier in the season.
If Varejao does not return things could get a lot worse with a very busy schedule on the horizon, including a grueling stretch of seven games in nine nights. Those hoping for losses to improve their draft choice might get their wish, but at what cost to the development of the young players on the Cavs roster and the morale in the locker room?