Expert NBA Handicapping: The Cavaliers Post-LeBron
To the surprise on absolutely no one with even a small part of a brain, the Cleveland Cavaliers were left in total and utter disrepair with the departure of LeBron James to the Lakers. I mean, what else could you possibly expect? The guy hates young players, collects old teammates that make him comfortable, doesn't let a coach have a mind of his own, and takes the team on his shoulders when there is heavy lifting of any kind to do. He's the greatest player we have ever seen, but as a franchise builder he leaves a whole lot to be desired. And while it didn't come as a huge surprise that he moved on, he didn't leave anything behind, and he wasn't traded for any assets. He was just gone.
Even if you saw the writing in the wall and knew it was going to be a rough season, though, you probably didn't see things going as badly as they have so far. At 2-13 they have the worst record in the NBA, and there is no clear path from where they are to respectability. Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. It's a total mess. And talking about messy situations is kind of fun, so let's explore what's going on, shall we?
Kevin Love: To try to stop the bleeding from James' departure, the team signed Love to a five-year, big money contract in an attempt to prove that he is the centerpiece of a team that is perfectly fine without whatever that guy's name was. It was a risky situation because he has struggled mightily to stay healthy the last couple of years, and that has continued. He hurt his toe in the preseason, played just four games - he played very well when he did play, for what that's worth - and then he opted for surgery. Now he is out until sometime in the new year. Whether Love is capable of anchoring a team is a question for debate, but what is clear and certain is that a team with a Kevin Love-sized hole in an already-depleted roster isn't going to be any good. He won't solve everything miraculously when he returns, but he certainly won't hurt.
Collin Sexton: The team drafted what they hope is their point guard of the future, the guy who will make everyone forget about the Kyrie Irving debacle, when they took Sexton from Alabama with the eighth pick. His transition to the pro game has been, to say the least, rocky. It's not that much of a surprise - he was a score first, last and only type of point guard in college, so it was going to take a while for the rest of his game to emerge at this level. And while he is scoring fairly well in the NBA - 13.2 points a game - he's not distributing particularly well, and his defensive play is pretty much a study in exactly what not to do at any given time. It's a complete mess. More than his struggles themselves, though, the biggest problem has been the gap that has opened between the veteran guys who were around for the team's success, and the young, new blood. Sexton symbolizes the latter, and some of the former guys - Tristan Thompson. Kyle Korver, and others - have had a clear and significant problem with the youngster. It was going to be a struggle no matter what, but a tense, hostile workplace isn't going to make things any easier. The only way Sexton will get any better is with plenty of playing time, but in the short term at least that comes with all sorts of issues. It's a problem for a team that has no shortage of them.
J.R. Smith: Smith's time as a Cavalier has very likely come to an end, meaning one more tie to the James era is gone. Smith wanted to be traded, but he was being something of a good citizen while waiting for a deal. But then he went nuclear in an interview, saying that the team didn't want to win; that they only cared about getting the best draft pick possible. It wasn't received well by management - even though it isn't untrue - so now Smith is off the team and waiting to be moved. His production and effort level weren't great this year, so he won't be a loss on that front, but it's all just more drama for a team that certainly doesn't need more.
Coaching: Larry Drew had been an assistant with the team but was named interim coach when Ty Lue was fired earlier this season. To Drew's credit, he had no interest in sticking around with no security, so he got a new deal that keeps him in place for the rest of the season. But few people think he has any long-term future - including him. It's an entirely thankless job for him and one that will only get harder as the season progresses, the losses pile up, and his inevitable firing nears. It's yet another mess.
Betting performance: The Cavs can't even do this right. Despite the dismal 2-13 record, they are 7-8 ATS, which means they haven't produced a profit on the season betting on them or betting against them. Things have been a little better for bettors on the total front, where they have gone "under" the total nine times in the 15 games.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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