The defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers have finally hit the All Star break, thus ending a tumultuous first half of the season.
From the raising of the championship banner to losing two key pieces of the squad to Lebron calling out the front office, the team has been long overdue for a break and they’ll finally get eight days to rest and recharge for the second half of the season.
Business as usual
The team currently sits at 39-16, first place in the Central Divison as well as the top seed in the Eastern Conference, currently ahead 2.5 games of second place Boston.
They’ve been dominant at home with a 24-5 record but have been struggling on the road with a 15-11 record. The road record is third best in the Eastern Conference behind Boston (17-11) and Atlanta (16-13).
Forward Lebron James is playing at his usual MVP level. In 52 games played, James is averaging 25.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game.
He’s however second in the league averaging 37.5 minutes per game. The miles on Lebron’s body are going to soon catch up to him and break him down. The second half of the season should see less minutes per game or games missed by James to rest him up for the postseason. No reason to wear Lebron out before the Cavs try to repeat.
Kyrie Irving continues to show why he’s one of the best players in the league and the perfect number two man behind Lebron James.
On pace to have his best season of his young career, Irving is averaging 24.4 points and 5.9 assists per game en route to his fourth All Star game. Now he’s also averaging over 35 minutes per game and with his history of knee injuries, it would also be wise to rest him as much as possible.
Tristan Thompson continues to be the iron man on the roster. He’s been active in all 55 games thus far and despite the potential distraction of dating a Kardashian, Thompson’s play hasn’t decreased.
Averaging 8.2 points and currently a career high 9.7 rebounds per game, Thompson is the Cavaliers force in the paint and will be looked to carry this team defensively heading down the stretch.
With two key injuries already, the Cavaliers can’t afford anymore as we head towards the postseason.
Picking up the pieces
Mid-December for the Cavaliers came with some key injuries.
First, veteran big Chris Andersen tore his ACL during practice, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. The team brought him in for the enforcer role he was known for on the championship teams in Miami. The Cavaliers traded him to Charlotte to open a roster spot earlier this week.
Then, guard J.R. Smith fractured his thumb just prior to Christmas and has been out since. After signing a four year deal with the team, Smith was struggling shooting the ball (34% from the field, 36% from 3) and only averaging 8.6 points per game. He’s expected back in late March, early April.
Smith’s injury forced Iman Shumpert to step into the starting lineup and when Shumpert isn’t dealing with his own injuries, he’s been effective on both ends of the floor. He’s on pace for a career shooting percentage year (42.5% from the floor, 40% from 3).
And just this week, the team lost All Star forward Kevin Love when he underwent knee surgery and will miss six weeks due to it.
Love was having his best season with the Cavaliers averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game despite the frequent trade rumors involving him and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. Love is expected back in April just before the postseason begins.
The Cavaliers traded Mike Dunleavy and Mo Williams to Atlanta for Kyle Korver in early January adding another three point specialist to an already stacked deep shooting team.
Korver hasn’t disappointed for Cleveland so far. In 19 games, he’s shooting 51.5% from long distance and averaging 11 points per game for the Wine and Gold.
The latest new face is forward Derrick Williams who’s currently on a ten day contract but will likely be with the team for the remainder of the season. He has gelled with the team right from the start, being a viable option off the bench.
He’s averaging 9.8 points and 3 rebounds per game in four games so far and with Love out, Williams along with Channing Frye (9.2 points, 3.8 rebounds per game in 48 games) will hold down the power forward position until Love’s return.
The trade deadline is one week away on February 23. The Cavaliers are limited with assets to deal but will try to improve the roster. If they don’t improve it by the deadline, watch for potential players who get bought out and become free agents.
The team has already been linked to these potential options
- Mavericks center Andrew Bogut
- Mavericks point guard Deron Williams
- Lakers point guard Jose Calderon
- Nuggets point guard Jameer Nelson
The Cavaliers are looking for a big man and a backup point guard. I believe general manager David Griffin will address these spots as the team needs depth and guys who can play now with the injuries piling up and the goal to get Lebron, Kyrie and others rest before the postseason.
As for the second half of the season, the Cavaliers will look to maintain the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
There’s some key/marquee matchups to look forward to including:
- March 1 and April 5 vs Boston Celtics
- March 12 vs Houston Rockets
- March 18 vs Los Angeles Clippers
- March 27 vs San Antonio Spurs
- April 12 vs Toronto Raptors
The first half of the season may have seemed like an eternity but this second half will go quick and before you know it, the postseason journey towards another potential NBA championship will be here.
Enjoy the ride Cavalier fans.