The Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the busiest teams during the NBA’s 2014 offseason. Between bringing back their hometown hero, LeBron James, a few of his cohorts, and trading for Kevin Love, they are, arguably, one of the most likely teams due for a major turnaround this season. While they are likely to receive more wins this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were given a slight warning from a former Miami Heat teammate of James’, Mario Chalmers, after his remorseful Finals performance.
In a recent interview, Chalmers admitted that he was not himself in the Finals. He explained that his confidence was completely shaken by his teammates, saying that they needed him as they got further in the playoffs. As it turned out, Chalmers averaged a dismal 4.4 ppg, 2.8 apg and 1 spg, a far cry from what a starting point guard should contribute to a championship caliber team. While Chalmers did admit to part of the blame for the Heat’s woes against the San Antonio Spurs, he also said it was not put squarely on his shoulders. Instead, he stated how he believed many on the squad, sans LeBron James, took a back seat during the series.
Chalmers did not bluntly state it, but his explanation of players taking a back seat could be translated as many on the team allowing James to carry the team. As such, it serves as a warning to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the upcoming season. Without a doubt, James is probably the best athlete and overall player currently in the NBA. Overall, he can do everything from scoring, rebounding, setting his teammates up and playing a pivotal role on the defensive end. With that, much like other greats from the past and currently, it can be difficult to not take advantage of the fact that he can do everything. It was exemplified during this year’s playoffs when James put up record numbers of 27.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.8 apg and 1.8 spg.
The problem, arguably, for the Heat during the Finals was the lack of depth. At times, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade assisted James. Occasionally, Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen helped. Unfortunately for the Heat, it was far and few between, unlike their rival Spurs, who made a concerted effort in having everyone involved.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers, it is quite possible there might be a similarity to James’ Heat. Certainly he has younger second and third options in Kevin Love (26.1 ppg, 12.5 and 12.5rpg) and Kyrie Irving (20.7 ppg, 5.8 apg and 3.7 rpg and 1.4 spg). Dion Waiters had an excellent season last year, averaging 15.9 ppg. Anderson Varejao, the only player remaining from the Cavaliers from James’ previous tenure in Cleveland, was solid by averaging 8.4 ppg and 9.7 rpg. It is beyond the starting lineup that questions start to arise. Marion, who was picked up during the offseason, is still a solid defender, but his production continues to be on a steep decline. Mike Miller and James Jones are favorites of James, but it remains a question mark whether they can consistently contribute to the squad. Beyond that, there is not a whole lot of depth on Cleveland, which should raise concern amongst Cavaliers’ fans. Much like the Heat from last season, it will be tough for Cleveland to vie for a championship without the depth that the Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and even the Washington Wizards have.
Depth aside, the real question coming to the Cleveland Cavaliers this season is whether or not the team will gel. Kevin Love has put up great statistics over the last number of years. However, he has yet to make the playoffs, and it remains to be seen whether or not he can play when the pressure is on. Kyrie Irving is used to being the number one option. While he is a great player, he is not the true point guard that James, Love, and the rest of the squad needs. While Waiters had a great season last year, his role will be considerably demoted, which could cause a lack of motivation and cause him to “take a back seat” like Chalmers and the Heat did during the Finals.
Most certainly, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be the most talked about team this coming season. Between having the top player in the game and one of the top offensive players and rebounders in the league, anything less than a trip to the Finals will be looked upon as a failure. The Cleveland Cavaliers receive a quality lineup, but between the past history of many LeBron James’ squads and a warning from his former teammate, Mario Chalmers, victory is far from guaranteed.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey