Cavaliers Post-Trade Deadline Overreaction Column

Friday night in Atlanta the Cleveland Cavaliers took the court for the first time since their massive roster changes at Thursday’s trade deadline and boy did things look different! Kyle Korver hit seven 3’s to score 30 points off the bench, LeBron went 22-12-19 for his second straight triple-double, and Cedi Osman filled up the stat sheet with an efficient, productive 38 minutes in his first career start. Despite the fact that none of the players acquired at the deadline were present for the win, many members of the media are crowning the Cavaliers today in a typical but hilarious overreaction.

In writing about the moves the Cavs made, I said that they reestablished front-runner status in the Eastern Conference, but I’m not mailing them the trophy without seeing what things look like when Clarkson, Hill, Hood, and Nance arrive. Let’s have a look at the good and the bad from the Cavs’ first post-trade deadline game.

The good from Friday’s win

The main takeaway is that the Cavs played with more energy and enthusiasm even though the reinforcements haven’t even arrived yet. Old and broken down NBA vets don’t play much defense and it has manifested itself repeatedly as LeBron’s boys have been ranked at the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency all year. Last night the Cavs had more steals, blocks, and rebounds, while forcing more turnovers than they committed. They harassed Taurean Prince—a career 38.6% three point shooter—into going 0 for 9 from beyond the arc, and held Atlanta to 43% shooting from the field.

A positive on offense was the Cavs getting more production from Jeff Green and Kyle Korver. The two subs got 32 minutes each, which is more minutes than their respective season averages, and used they that extra run to combine for 54 points. LeBron recorded a season high 19 assists and Cleveland had 31 assists on 46 made field goals. The 123 point total is well over their season average and nine turnovers is a number they can live with.

While positivity abounds today, there is still a lot of work to be done.

The bad from Friday’s win

I don’t want to take all the air out of the Cleveland balloon, but the win on Friday did come over the Atlanta Hawks who have the worst record in the NBA. Atlanta has been a little better at home than Cleveland has been on the road, but the third place team in the Eastern Conference is supposed to trash the last place team no matter where they play, especially if that third place team has LeBron. I mentioned that the defense was better, but you can be “better” at something than you were before while still being “bad” at it overall. Atlanta scored 107 points which is above its season average so the Cavs’ defense still has work to do.

The bad offensively for Cleveland is the other side of the Korver/Green coin mentioned above. There are only so many minutes to go around and you have four players coming in who are used to getting theirs. Osman stepped up and staked his claim to some minutes, but he plays the same position as Nance. Ty Lue is going to have his work cut out for him in figuring out all the moving parts and optimizing lineups, but there are only 28 games left before the playoffs start.

To be determined . . . .

For one night the Cavs shared the ball, played hard, and beat down an outclassed opponent, but the experiment is just getting going. I mentioned that Osman got his first career start which means in turn that it was the first time Cleveland used a starting five of LeBron, JR Smith, Jose Calderon, Osman, and Tristan Thompson. While it’s a change that appeared to work, more changes are coming. The Cavs have just two more games before the All-Star break, but both are on the road against some of the league’s best (Sunday @ Boston and Tuesday @ OKC). No matter what lineups they go with or how the minutes are doled out, only time will tell whether last night’s performance is something we can expect come playoff time.