After watching the Cleveland Cavaliers absolutely dominate the Boston Celtics, I think we can all agree, LeBron haters included, that the Cavs are the favorites to come out off the East. Can they beat the Warriors? That’s a question I’m still not ready to answer.
It saddens me to say that I was one of the many who thought the Cavs, entering this season, would dominate all year long. I even thought that once Isaiah Thomas was inserted into the lineup they would become even more unstoppable. So the lesson we all learned from this is that, unfortunately, the NBA is not fantasy sports. You can’t just throw statistically great players on one team (key word: statistically) and expect for everyone to just automatically be on the same page and for everything to work out perfectly. Great teams typically have players with diverse skill-sets who even each other out once they get on the court. The Cavs had proven scorers, most of whom were exiting or already out of their prime, and unreliable defenders. At its worst, it’s a recipe for disaster. And we clearly saw it at the very worst.
With their most recent acquisitions, this looks like a whole new team. So let’s jump in. Here is my list of top 5 game changing players for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In fairness, since he is the greatest player on the planet, I’ve excluded LeBron from this list.
5. Cedi Osman
Who is this guy? I didn’t even know he was on the team till a couple days ago. Cedi Osman is the Cavs’ rookie from Turkey who was recently inserted into the starting lineup, though this likely won’t last for too long now that Rodney Hood is with the team. In Osman’s first NBA start, he put up 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. With his strength and speed, he’s shown he can be a capable scorer and playmaker while also being very aggressive on the defensive end.
If Osman gets playing time, he has shown he can make an impact on the floor. However, once Kevin Love is back from injury it’s very unlikely that Osman will be receiving any minutes at all. He probably knows this, so look for him to go all out as he continues to play this season. Keep this guy on your watch list in deep fantasy basketball leagues.
4. Jordan Clarkson
For the past couple seasons, I’ve considered Jordan Clarkson (when he was in LA) as the Marcus Smart of the West so acquiring arguably the best point guard off the bench in the league was a huge acquisition by the Cavaliers. He can do everything from hit the open 3, to drive and score or dish to the open teammate, and he can also defend. He will be the energizer bunny off the bench, which is huge since there are now a lot of “top heavy” teams in the league meaning that the bench usually consist of sub par players.
Jordan Clarkson will likely never be a consistent starting point guard in the NBA but he is clearly at his best when you look at him as the Lou Williams/ Jamal Crawford type who can come off the bench and completely change the game for the team.
3. George Hill
George Hill is the definition of efficiency in the NBA. He doesn’t try to do too much and never does too little. This is the type of guy that will work perfectly in a LeBron James-run offense. I know, Hill by no means is anywhere near the talent Kyrie Irving was for the Cavs but, hey, LeBron won two championships with Mario Chalmers as his point guard so I’m sure this can work.
One of the many good things about George Hill is that he is battle tested and has been through tough playoff match-ups when he was on the Indiana Pacers, which seems like forever ago. Don’t be surprised if we see Hill as a go to guy in the clutch whether it is defensively or on the offensive end. Hey, he’s done it before.
2. Rodney Hood
By far, the biggest acquisition the Cavs made by the trade deadline was getting Rodney Hood. Tyronn Lue should keep Hood coming off the bench but give him starters’ minutes. This way when LeBron needs to rest, Hood can go in and dominate, and then they can go ahead and bring him in the game in crunch time moments.
Rodney Hood is the Cavs’ closest next person to be able to go on the court and, efficiently create his own shot. The crazy thing is that he’s only getting better, which is why Coach Lue will likely have no choice but to place Hood in the starting lineup.
1. Kevin Love
Coming off of reports that teammates (aka Isaiah Thomas) was blaming Kevin Love for the Cavs’ struggles and deserting the team, I think it was a blessing in disguise that Love got injured. It really showed that he is a key component to this team. Before Isaiah Thomas came back from injury, Love was having his best stretch of games in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform. He was playing like the best power forward in the game (of course, not named Anthony Davis) and this was because the team had constant ball movement, allowing him to launch threes all game. And as Kevin Love does well offensively it gives him the momentum to be more aggressive and be a ball hog on the boards.
Kevin Love can most definitely demoralize another team when he starts to get it going offensively. It is unfortunate he quickly becomes the scapegoat whenever the Cavs’ play poorly but there’s a reason this team is still yet to trade him. Don’t forget, he was the man that defended unanimous MVP Stephen Curry one-on-one in the closing minute of game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, which resulted in the Cavaliers obtaining their first NBA Title and completing the best finals comeback in NBA history. Think this way, Love will be back and well-rested for the playoffs. Watch out.
This new Cavs team hasn’t even practiced yet. Once all become familiar with one another by the time the playoffs begin, this will be one of the scariest teams in the NBA. And it’s really because this team has depth, their young and athletic, and it’s clear who the go-to guy is. But, of course, to actually know you have to play the game so time will tell whether or not this team is the real deal.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my top 5? And is this team ready to make a run for the title?
Till next time,