“The Return” not going as expected
By Peter Santo
Life without LeBron James was a nightmare for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team quickly dropped to the bottom of the standings after the superstar forward took his talents to South Beach in 2010.
Born in Akron, Ohio, drafted by his hometown team, and back with them after a very turbulent few years. Free agent choices by James that included names like “The Decision”, when he chose the Miami Heat over returning to the team that drafted him, but this summer, Lebron made “The Return”, doing exactly that.
When he decided to leave, he joined two All-Stars in Miami. This time around, he did the same thing, teaming up with fellow All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Instantly, the question was how many championships rather than if there will be any championships. These questions could be considered to be unfair but with three MVP-caliber players, the question must be raised. However this season, things have changed, for all three players.
James is currently scoring 26 points a game, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. Kevin Love is averaging 17.5 points and 11 rebounds. Kyrie Irving is at 21 points 5 assists. Kyrie’s and Lebron’s stats have not changed drastically, with Kyrie only dropping one assist from last season and Lebron’s stats staying approximately the same.
Love on the other hand has taken some major hits to his individual stats. He has dropped almost 10 points and 3 rebounds per game. He has received a lot of criticism for this drop in production but given the caliber of the players around him, he is expected to do more.
James recently took 2 weeks off to rest emotionally, mentally and physically. The team had struggled mightily, clearly not living up to the championship or bust expectations. But recently, with the acquisitions of some needed pieces, things are beginning to turn around.
Before the recent trades people looked to two important stats to prove that the Cavs are not the unstoppable force they, along with all basketball fans, thought they would be. They currently sit 18th in the league in total defense, which includes everything from points allowed per game to rebounding. A championship caliber team, like the Spurs of last year or Miami the previous years, have always played extremely strong defense when they needed it the most.
The other important statistic to look at is point differential. A team with three All-Stars and a good supporting cast should not have difference of 1.7 points per game vs opponents. Things needed to change, and quickly.
It began with giving up Dion Waiters for a first rounder and two rookies and a 2nd rounder for JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. Waiters was a player who always wanted to do more, but never fit alongside Irving and James in Cleveland. They received an excellent defender in Shumpert and a proven scorer and 6th man off the bench in Smith. Those were both places the Cavs needed to upgrade.
To address the Cavs biggest flaw, the inability to protect the rim, they brought in Timofey Mozgov from Denver in exchange for two first round draft picks. Critics say this was too much to pay for a center who is unproven so far, but it was a necessary move and Mozgov is a 7-footer who has improved every year in the league.
It is unclear whether Lebron will ever win a championship in Cleveland, but after the recent moves it is clear that he has the supporting cast to do so.
Tim Rey also contributed to this report