The Cavs were thought to have bought a one way ticket to the championship. More like a ticket to nowhere.
The New Year just kicked off, and the Cavaliers are in a slump. They’ve lost three of the past four games, are barely above five hundred at 19-15, and stand at fifth place in an embarrassingly weak Eastern Conference.
Basketball fans, bettors, and the entire city of Cleveland expected the moon and the stars when Lebron announced his return and the team traded for Kevin Love. And the Cavaliers haven’t delivered. They’re slow, don’t play defense, and players have openly bickered with first-year head coach David Blatt.
It looks like sportswriters and online sportsbooks in America online sportsbooks in America—bookies like Bet365, Bovada, and BetVictor each gave the Cavs top odds—jumped the gun. This team is bound to improve as the season wears on, but it has little chance of competing for the title.
But hey, there’s always next year. Here are four reasons why the Cavaliers will win the 2015-16 NBA Championship:
#1: They will load up on athletic wings
This team’s biggest weakness is its lack of speed and quickness on the wings, save for Lebron. Starting shooting guard Shawn Marion should have retired a few years ago. Ditto for Mike Miller. Dion Waiters lacks the quickness to stay in front of opposing shooting guards. Not that it matters, because he doesn’t put in the effort anyway. Joe Harris and Matthew Dellavedova don’t look like they belong in the NBA.
The good news is that the situation is easily fixable. The Cavs can sign two or three inexpensive defensive specialists in the offseason—Iman Shumpert and Demarre Carroll would be excellent fits—and trade Waiters for someone with a winning mentality. They can also use their first rounder on a defensive-oriented player.
#3: They can invest in a true center
While the Cavs defensive woes are largely due to their dearth of athletic wings, they’ve also suffered from the presence of a rim protecting center. Through the early part of the season they’ve relied on old warhorse Anderson Varejao to man the middle. While his passion and experience are valuable, he no longer has the talent to be an effective starter.
Even worse, the lack of a competent backup has forced Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to play significant minutes at center, a role neither is suited for. This offseason the Cavs can, must, and will shell out for a legit starting center. The best free agent option looks to be Brandan Wright, who is the perfect foil to Varejao: athletic, young, and still improving.
#3: Kyrie Irving will be a year older and wiser
Kyrie has made major strides in his fourth NBA season. With Lebron handling most of the playmaking duties, he can focus on what he does best: scoring. He’s averaging a shade under 21 points per game on 46 percent shooting. And he hasn’t even found his three-point stroke yet, shooting only 35 percent from downtown, a number which is bound to increase.
Kyrie has shown the will and dedication to go from talented neophyte to true star. The best part is, he’s only 22 years old. Most writers expected Love to be Lebron’s main sidekick, but it looks like Kyrie may wind up being that guy.
#3: They will be better coached
Everyone is asking: Will David Blatt be fired by the Cavaliers? ESPN recently reported “a growing level of worry within the Cleveland Cavaliers organization about first-year coach David Blatt and his ability to reach the team.” Those “reports” may just be rumors, but the NBA is not the place to find job security. Online gambling sites in America are already taking wagers on whether he’ll be fired after the season.
• The Cavaliers are 5th place in the East
• Rumors: David Blatt could be fired
• Online sportsbooks in America rethinking the Cavaliers odds
If the Cavs do let Blatt go, there are plenty of qualified coaches on the market. Mark Jackson, George Karl, and Jeff Van Gundy are just a few.
There’s another scenario, however. And this one looks a lot better for Blatt:
Blatt adapts to the NBA game, the Cavs improve, he keeps his job, the team surrounds Lebron, Kyrie, and Love with a better supporting cast, and the Cavs win the 2015-16 NBA Finals!
Blatt knows basketball. He has won Euroleague championships and coached the Russian Olympic team. He just needs some time to figure out how to maximize the abilities of the players he has. Whether he stays on board or not, next year’s edition of the Cavaliers will be better coached.
Somewhere over the rainbow
Those who bet on the Cavaliers to win this year’s finals are freaking out, and understandably so. They’ll almost certainly lose that wager. But everyone should take a deep breath and have faith that next year’s team will be a lot better.
Recall the 2010-2011 Season, Lebron’s first year with the Heat. Expected to be an unbeatable super team, they lost. They won the NBA championship the following season. Expect something similar from the Cavaliers.