Feb 27, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
The Cleveland Cavaliers are a playoff-caliber team that is extremely unlikely to make the playoffs.
With a 114-104 win Wednesday, the Cavaliers extended Oklahoma City Thunder’s losing streak to a season-high three games. Unlike the previous two teams to defeat the Thunder, the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland is fancied by nobody as a title contender.
Really, the Cavaliers are a longshot to even make the postseason. But maybe we should stop considering Cleveland such a pushover.
The Cavaliers have gone 12-13 since acquiring Luol Deng, definitely the winning percentage of a playoff team in this year’s Eastern Conference. But their 11-23 start ties them down like Kyrie Irving’s contract keeps him in Cleveland.
They just can’t go anywhere.
At 23-36, the Cavaliers are four games out of playoff position. That might not seem like an impossible deficit – and it’s not. But at this stage of the season, it’s further out than most people realize.
The eighth-place Hawks are on pace to win 37 games. To best that – Atlanta has already clinched the tiebreaker over Cleveland – the Cavaliers would need to finish 14-9.
Cleveland hasn’t started a 23-game stretch with a record of 14-9 since LeBron played for the team.
It’s a shame the Cavaliers waited so long to trade for Deng and then Spencer Hawes, because they’re starting to get intriguing – by the standards of this Eastern Conference, at least.
Since Hawes joined the Cavaliers, their most used lineup has been Kyrie Irving-Jarrett Jack-Luol Deng-Tristan-Thompson-Hawes. Despite going 1-3 in their four games with Hawes, that lineup has really excelled:
- Offensive rating: 112.8
- Defensive rating: 102.8
- Net rating: +10.0
By comparison, Cleveland second-most-used lineup in that span has featured Zeller in place of Hawes, and the results have been dismal:
- Offensive rating: 85.6
- Defensive rating: 115.6
- Net rating: -30.0
To be fair, the lineup with Zeller has largely been positive over the full season (105.6/98.7/+6.9). The point isn’t that Hawes is the answer. Hawes is a different type of player – more skilled, more finesse – who helps the Cavaliers match up against a wider array of opponents.
This is what a playoff team, the team Dan Gilbert wanted all along, looks like. He, and his organization, just took too long to build it.
Before beating Oklahoma City, the Cavaliers lost three straight – two to the Raptors and one to the Wizards. The Raptors (trading Rudy Gay) and Wizards (trading for Marcin Gortat) will almost definitely make the playoffs, because they made their big moves sooner. Not only have those two teams won more because they’d had their improved rosters a longer portion of the season, they’ve developed chemistry for longer.
Cleveland is still finding its way, learning how its pieces fit together best. Already, the results are promising. By the end of the season, I’m really interested to see how good these Cavaliers can be.
But it’s almost definitely too late for them to translate that success into a playoff berth. Merely playing like a postseason team, when you start 11-23, is not enough.
After the season, Deng and Hawes will become free agents. Cleveland will be back at square one – likely not content with building the Eastern Conference’s best playoff team that wasn’t.
Sep 17, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT
Cousins has won over Team USA’s brain trust.
Sep 17, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
There’s a lot of room for improvement, let’s just say.
Sep 17, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT
Kyrie is going to have to adjust to a different role on the Cavs, but if he does watch out.
Sep 17, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
Rajon Rondo looms over everything – on and off the court
Sep 17, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT
This is long overdue.
Sep 17, 2014, 9:01 AM EDT
He may not start but he will get plenty of run this season.
Sep 17, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Dominique Wilkins is one, but you know the hedge fund guys are in, too.
Dwight Howard’s drivers’ license in Florida suspended, he racked up 10 red light violations in Orlando
Sep 17, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
He has 10 citations for running red lights. Impressive, I don’t care how many sports cars you own.
Sep 17, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT
Well, it’s better than his golf swing.
Sep 16, 2014, 10:45 PM EDT
There haven’t been many better.
Sep 16, 2014, 8:33 PM EDT
Germany qualifying for the Olympics, even with Nowitzki, is an uphill battle.
Sep 16, 2014, 7:23 PM EDT
It seems fitting.
Sep 16, 2014, 5:59 PM EDT
Guaranteed Duncan likes this better than another trip to the All-Star Game.
Sep 16, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT
Half his salary the first year is guaranteed, a sign he is expected to make the final roster.
Sep 16, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT
We’re sorry to do this to you.
Sep 16, 2014, 4:19 PM EDT
The guaranteed deal is huge but the Wolves are deep at the three. He’ll struggle to get minutes.
Sep 16, 2014, 3:17 PM EDT
Orlando also announces signing of Peyton Siva
Sep 16, 2014, 2:33 PM EDT
Stojakovic’s 3-point bombing made Sacramento better for quite some time
Sep 16, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT
Kirilenko played by far career-low 19 minutes per game last season
- LeBron James on Kyrie Irving: “I believe Kyrie can be the best point guard in the league.” 1
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Boston Celtics 1
- Dwight Howard’s drivers’ license in Florida suspended, he racked up 10 red light violations in Orlando 9
- Tim Duncan to appear in “The Punisher” comic book 6
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: New York Knicks 10
- Klay Thompson’s agent: Thompson better two-way shooting guard than Kobe Bryant 49
- Report: Greg Oden’s drinking an issue during season, alleged domestic assault 30
- Kevin Durant calls Allen Iverson “pound for pound” best ever 29