The Cavaliers are the reigning NBA Champions and current Eastern Conference leaders. So why is it that the team that sits atop the basketball world seems to be in such disarray? Because the team currently residing in Cleveland is still not good enough to win another NBA Title. And that is why for weeks now we have heard rumors about trade possibilities in the works and even heard it straight from King James’ mouth that the Cavs need another playmaker. But is that true? Does the team that just won the World Championship and is in 1st place in the East really need to add another piece to repeat and win it all? No. Not because what they have is good enough to win another championship, but because there doesn’t seem to be any conceivable way for them to improve their roster anymore.
Right now, with Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, and Kevin Love in their starting-five the Cavaliers have the best roster in the Eastern Conference, and maybe the best in all of basketball behind what I consider the greatest collection of talent in any sport ever, this year’s Golden State Warriors. The mid-season pickup of sharpshooting guard Kyle Korver gives the Cavs a beyond-the-arc threat they have been missing, making this year’s roster arguably better than last year’s championship team. But does that mean that Cleveland is set up for a repeat with their current team? Absolutely not.
Despite this year’s Cavs averaging nearly the same amount of points as last season’s (110.6-110.9), and allowing roughly the same amount of points as they did last season (105.4-104.5), this year’s Cavs will face a much tougher task in the NBA Finals. Sure, last season’s Warriors were the most accomplished team in history, with a record 73 wins during the regular season, but this year’s Golden State squad is even more loaded with Kevin Durant taking over for Harrison Barnes; which means the Cavaliers are going to have to get a lot better than they were last summer when they squeaked by the Warriors in 7 games.
The question is, and has been since news of the Durant signing, “How can the Cavaliers compete with that kind of move?” And the answer is simple. They can’t.
The only way to compete with the Warriors is either to hope they somehow lose in the Western Conference Playoffs, or hope that somehow their “Big 3” can outplay the Warriors “Big 4”. And the truth is, they can’t. Steph Curry is better than Kyrie Irving. Draymond Green is head and shoulder better than Kevin Love. Durant vs. Lebron might swing in favor of the Cavs, but Cleveland has no answer for Klay Thompson, who in this writer’s mind is the best shooting guard in basketball. And with this glaring discrepancy in talent between the two teams that are near-locks to play in this year’s Finals, it makes sense for the Cavaliers to try and find another star to match the Warrior’s “Big 4”.The problem? There might not be one available.
Many rumors have flown through the air about what moves owner Dan Gilbert and GM David Griffin were looking at as to who could team up with Cleveland’s “Big 3”, but there is no realistic option out there.
Rumored to help out James, Irving, and Love in Cleveland have been Lance Stephenson, Nate Robinson, and Mario Chalmers, all of which are not only free-agents, but unwanted free-agents. And of course the most talked about rumor to get a superstar in Cleveland was the talk about trading Kevin Love to the Knicks in hopes of getting Carmelo Anthony, but that would be the worst thing the Cavs could do at this point.
While there is little doubt that Melo is as talented a scorer as there is in the NBA, his game is far from well-rounded. And the Cavaliers, who rank 13th in total defense, should want to keep Kevin Love, who is at least an average defender compared to the near-James Harden type defense that Carmelo Anthony brings. And it’s not like the Cavs are desperate for the kind of scoring that Carmelo can produce. Cleveland ranks 4th in points per game this season. Throw in the fact that Love is a bigger body than Melo and forces power forwards to defend more than just the low-post and elbow areas of the court, and it is plain to see that the Love-for-Melo trade wouldn’t be in favor of Cleveland’s chances to repeat.
So if not Carmelo Anthony, then who? Where do Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers turn to for help?
They can turn to their own roster. The fact of the matter is, Cleveland’s “Big 3” is good enough to win the weak Eastern Conference. And if Tristan Thompson can be a physical big man, JR Smith can return from injury more consistent from beyond the arc, and if Iman Shumpert can do more than be an average role-player the Cavaliers have a chance at stealing a game or two from the Warriors in the Finals.
But until those things happen, it looks like another Herculean effort by Lebron James could go to waste. Not because the Cavaliers don’t have enough playmakers, but because no team in history has as many as the Warriors.