The Point Four-ward: Deflation Station

Last week, I touched on a handful of things that could give an unexpected boost to the Cavaliers’ 2016-17 season. Now, in the interest of fairness — and in recognition of the fact that one championship may not have entirely washed the ingrained pessimism from every Cleveland fan’s heart — I present to you the other side of that coin: four things that could completely derail the Cavs’ title defense.

1.) Injuries: Over the course of an 82 game season and the playoffs that may or may not follow, every NBA team will deal with injuries. They’re unavoidable. According to the site In Street Clothes, the 2015-16 season was a relatively healthy one. The league’s total for missed games due to injury (4,496) was lower than  its average over the past 11 years and nine teams had fewer than 100 games missed due to injury, the lowest in the site’s database that goes back ten years. The Oklahoma City Thunder were the luckiest, losing just 23 games due to injury after years of losing both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for significant time. The New Orleans Pelicans, meanwhile, got eaten alive by the injury bug, losing over 350 games to injury, most in the league last year.

The Cavs were 11th in the league, with just over 100 games lost due to injury last season. So, outside of the games Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert lost at the start of the season, the team had a very healthy season.

What’s more, besides the game Kevin Love (concussion) missed during the Toronto series, the Cavs were healthy in the playoffs, where the games missed by rotation players — Steph Curry, Blake Griffin, and Chris Paul, just to name a few — was at its highest level in decades. Injuries even played a roll in the Finals, where the Golden State Warriors lost starting center Andrew Bogut mid-way through the series and were forced to watch the Cavs attack Steph Curry, who was clearly not one hundred percent.

As the Cavs learned in the 2015 playoffs, the real question with injuries is “Who?” and “When?” This year’s team is built to be able to withstand a season of bumps and bruises, but an ill-timed injury to LeBron James, Irving, Love, or even Tristan Thompson could make defending their crown too tall an order for those left standing.

2.) Shallowing up the Depth: It’s not just the Cavs’ top players who need to stay healthy. This Cavs team is deep, versatile and experienced. Of course, in getting that experience, many of the team’s reserves have racked up a lot of miles on the court. While injuries can happen to young players, as well, subjecting older players to the stress of playing a lot of minutes certainly doesn’t help keep them spry.

With head coach Tyronn Lue already thinking about managing James’ minutes, as well as those played by the 36-and-over crowd of Mike Dunleavy Jr., Richard Jefferson, James Jones, and Chris “Birdman” Andersen, an injury to one of those veteran reserves could be just the first domino to fall.

An injury to Jefferson, say, could mean more minutes for Dunleavy, who is just a season removed from a back injury that forced him to miss significant time. Those additional minutes could put Dunleavy at risk and, should he go out, the Cavs could be in the position of having to lean more heavily on James, not allowing him the rest he needs to hit the playoffs running a full-speed.

3.) Die By the Three: The Cavs put on quite a three-point shooting display in the playoffs last year. But, really, their reliance on the premiere floor-spacing shot began during the regular season — in which the team was third in the league with 29.6 three point attempts per game and tied for second with 10.7 threes made — only to find its most successful version during the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

During the playoffs, the Cavs shot 40.6% from deep and made the second most threes per game while only shooting the fifth most as a team. That is some incredibly effective long-distance shooting.

Smith shot a career-best from deep and the addition of Channing Frye made the Cavs capable of knocking down the deep ball from every position.

Smith, of course, is still unsigned. Should he come to the team unhappy with his new deal, maybe that impacts his performance on the court. Maybe James, who rediscovered his jumper for stretches during the playoffs, making the Cavs nearly impossible to defend, returns to his career-worst numbers shooting outside the paint. Maybe Love, whose three point percentage (36%) was the lowest it’s been (outside of the 2012-13 season in which he only played 18 games) since he started making a name for himself by stretching the floor continues on his own downward trend.

The Cavs have enough good shooters that it’s unlikely that they take a complete dive from outside the arc. Still, this team is built to take and make those shots. When they don’t, they become a much less imposing unit.

4.) The Rubber Match: For a team like the Cavs who have played better as underdogs than favorites these last two years, the best thing that could have happened to their title defense season did, in fact, take place: Durant signed on to play with last year’s runner up. Heading into this season, all the attention is on the Warriors, not the Cavs, which should help the team go into 2016-17 with a chip on their shoulder and with something still to prove.

There’s no telling who will end up playing in the 2017 NBA Finals, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see a Cavs/Warriors rubber match in June. If that happens — and if the Dubs are playing at the hypothetical, ridiculously high level that some are expecting — the Cavs may not have the personnel to pull off the upset for a second year in a row.

But that, as they say, is why they play the games…

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Cjef
Guest
Cjef
2 years 2 months ago

A possible angle to address the log jam at power forward is to look at how the Sacramento Kings with Webber made it to the finals. They had a lot of tall scoring, playmaking forwards. They might have a few plays that could help with depth if some of the guards fall over or don’t work out.

EvilGenius
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Only KLove and CFrye are PFs on this team (TT and Birdman play center and LBJ mostly plays SF or point-forward). Not much of a logjam…

Cjef
Guest
Cjef
2 years 2 months ago

Good point. The substantive point I was making still stands though given that there a lot of high IQ forwards who can shoot and pass.

EvilGenius
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Come back soon JR…

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
2 years 2 months ago

That last one looked like he broke his arm!

EvilGenius
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

I could watch this all day…

Cavs rookie Kay Felder going through the same passing drills that old http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=17660469

Warriors Fan
Guest
Warriors Fan
2 years 2 months ago

Thoughfully written on balance and fun read, thanks.

TheOtherJason
Member
TheOtherJason
2 years 2 months ago

“Steph Curry, who was clearly not one hundred percent.”

Respectfully disagree – can’t it just be we beat him, rather than he must have been injured?

Warriors Fan
Guest
Warriors Fan
2 years 2 months ago

He was injured without question, well he missed games to show for it and he was not 100%. Ofcourse, with the same Curry warriors did get 3-1 lead, so no excuses, Cavs won by pulling off one of the biggest upset ever. So kudos to Cavs but as warriors fans, we know Curry was not right and think result would have been different.

jae
Guest
jae
2 years 2 months ago

No excuses they got beat. Admit it. They got Lebronzed. 73 /9 to losers and they almost got beat by westbrook and durant. Cavs earned the win.

Warriors Fan
Guest
Warriors Fan
2 years 2 months ago

that is true and as I said, no excuses especially losing from 3-1 lead.

Cols714
Guest
Cols714
2 years 2 months ago

He was not injured. He was throwing tantrums like a baby. What a fraud.

Warriors Fan
Guest
Warriors Fan
2 years 2 months ago

Curry is loved by 90% of NBA fans and is top selling jersey last time it was counted. So, you are in minority to not see joy in unanimous MVP’s game in the games when he is not busy defeating Cavs.

http://store.nba.com/pages/Top_Selling_Jerseys

JAE
Guest
JAE
2 years 2 months ago

Curry is fun to watch just like Jordan was. He is the best shooter in the league ever, but is he the best player no. Swap Curry with Lebron on GWS and they would become a better team. If you put Curry on the Cavs they would not win a championship. They are both great players but one player impacts the whole game more. Lebron and he has from day one in the league, durability, drive and focus.

Warriors Fan
Guest
Warriors Fan
2 years 2 months ago

Lebron is the best player in the world, irreplaceable. Just may be Warriors milked Curry more than Cavs milked Lebron. Also, no argument that Curry was the MVP.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

My response when reading WariorsFan’s love poem.

Warriors Fan
Guest
Warriors Fan
2 years 2 months ago

lol. But that is the fact, most votes for all star, most jerseys sales, unanimous MVP and players voting him MVP – that is popularity. You may not love him but most others do.

This site is about Cavs and not about Warriors, only wanted to chime I could say with confidence that Curry was not 100% in finals and far from the MVP.

JAE
Guest
JAE
2 years 2 months ago

I can say with confidence the MVP on the warriors is Draymond Green. With out him they are not the same team. Bron already served KD and he’s coming for a 2nd slap.

Warriors Fan
Guest
Warriors Fan
2 years 2 months ago

Just like how Lebron did much better in Miami with better talent around than with Cavs before that, KD will do much better with warriors. Lebron and KD’s games are different too, both can inflict damage in their own different way.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Give it a rest. Say something original, Cols, or can it.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Why was he trying to dunk between dead balls then? I saw nothing to suggest his he wasn’t 100%. Conditioning and rhythm might’ve been off, but that’s on him.

Warriors Fan
Guest
Warriors Fan
2 years 2 months ago

At times he did look like good enough like coming off bench against Portland from injury and scoring 40+. He was able to get it going through aided by adrenaline rush but coming back from 1-3 against OKC did take a toll. You will not find him struggle like this, not last two years. He went <33% from 3 in of last 5 games against Cavs, that is a rarity for Curry. I understand why you will not agree with me, so we have to agree to disagree.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Because Cleveland did something no other team had done: consistently seek him out on defense and isolate on him. Further, he was intimidated by his inability to score inside. He saw LeBron blocking his shots in his sleep. That’s why he didn’t drive on Love at the end of game Seven. He was three hunting because he was terrified of getting blocked. I just don’t even understand your adrenaline rush argument. There was nothing wrong with Curry physically other than being tired from being the entire focus of the Cavs’ offense in crunch situations. But I welcome his excuses.

The Warrior’s sense of entitlement and hubris was part of their downfall. So I’m happy for them to keep making excuses instead of taking responsibility for the loss.

Warriors Fan
Guest
Warriors Fan
2 years 2 months ago

actually Nate, not a single time warrior players gave the excuse of injury or fatigue when they played, and they shouldn’t because they are competitors. Every player that deep into playoffs would be carrying some kind of ailment.

EvilGenius
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Kyrie wasn’t 100% for Game 7…

http://www.espn.com/nba/playoffs/2016/story/_/id/16273911/kyrie-irving-cleveland-cavaliers-hurts-foot-expects-good-game-7

… but he still outplayed Steph right down to that last epic shot…

Cols714
Guest
Cols714
2 years 2 months ago

We agree that you are wrong. Dude just isn’t a true MVP.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Of course he’s a real MVP. The MVP is a regular season award, and he had amongst the great regular seasons of all time. Your obstinance can’t change reality.

Cols714
Guest
Cols714
2 years 2 months ago

This team is deeper and better than last years team. We have a whole year of Frye. Dunleavy will be a great 3 point specialist and we got rid of the dead weight that was Mozgov. We may also get an improved Shump.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Except they lost the best backup PG in the NBA.

Cols714
Guest
Cols714
2 years 2 months ago

Who was good December until about March and then he sucked so badly he fell behind a kneeless Mo Williams in the rotation.

December-March Delly will be missed, but Dunleavy will easily take his place as the smart passer, taller quicker release three point shooter and smart help defender.

JoeyB
Guest
JoeyB
2 years 2 months ago

NBA Champion Matthew Dellavedova.

Cols714
Guest
Cols714
2 years 2 months ago

Darn tootin. NBA champion Delly.

NOMAD
Guest
NOMAD
2 years 2 months ago

I AM GOING TO APOLOGIZE AHEAD OF TIME FOR BEING SELFISH / SELF CENTERED ( AS I KNOW ALL OF YOU HAVE FAMILIES / CONCERNS ) MY SON IS LEAVING FOR 2 YRS TO AFRICA / PEACE CORPS TOMORROW ( HE HAS SET UP HIS OWN BLOG—-( SKIPSIESEL.WORDPRESSER.COM—-) IF YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS FINE YOUNG MAN ) I AM GOING TO NEED ” ALL OF YOUR HELP ” TO GET THRU LETTING HIM GO THANKS IN ADVANCE AND AGAIN MY APOLOGIES FOR BEING SO SELF CENTERED —YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST !!!

EvilGenius
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Good on your son, NOMAD! The apple doesn’t fall far…

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Don’t apologize! That’s awesome. Best of luck to you and your son. There’s always room on this blog to plug people trying to make the world a better place.

JMay
Editor
2 years 2 months ago

Fun fact, if you work for the Peace Corps you can NEVER work for the CIA or any other US intelligence agency.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

It appears that may not be entirely true judging from this Reddit.

TIL if you were a member of the Peace Corps, you are disqualified from working for military intelligence. from todayilearned

Though you cannot work for the Peace Corps if you’ve a connection to intelligence. Part of the reasoning behind this is so that people will trust that the peace Corps is not a front for the CIA, etc.|

https://www.peacecorps.gov/about/agency-jobs/eligibility/usg=AFQjCNFfZuRscyVXimRG0LtWQWvAguHHgA&sig2=-feSJL2Hykak_KcyeQN5Ug

JMay
Editor
2 years 2 months ago

It appears the “never” portion is where the hangups are.

JMay
Editor
2 years 2 months ago

The reason is completely legitimate and was explained when I first heard the explanation. However, as far as the CIA, a few years back I was considering a few “next step” things and was speaking with an old professor of mine who was ex-CIA and one of the primary things I remember was that she suggested I not pursue the Peace Corps if I wanted to work for the CIA, as I would be disqualified. Perhaps in recent years that has shifted toward only military intelligence.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.

JMay
Editor
2 years 2 months ago

Good luck NOMADSON!

EvilGenius
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

EvilGenius
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Get it fellas!

EvilGenius
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Yes! Even though he’s in a hoodie and it’s against his own guys… still awesome to see LBJ playing the game again…

Raoul
Guest
Raoul
2 years 2 months ago

Playing in a hoodie is goofy. If someone gets their hand caught in it when you are running, it will be like a horse-collar tackle.

EvilGenius
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Good stuff Robert! The only other things I’d be concerned about would be complacency from a championship hangover, although most of that should be gone by the new year, and outside distractions for guys like Shump (obvious) and TT (Kardashians). But in all honesty, as long as they get to the post-season relatively healthy, there’s no reason they won’t be in a strong position to repeat at least a Finals trip with a real shot to repeat…

KI Jelly
Guest
KI Jelly
2 years 2 months ago

Why was point 3 so negative? We just won a championship! Be positive about next season. Whatever happens we have a kickass team!

KI Jelly
Guest
KI Jelly
2 years 2 months ago

Nevermind, I didn’t read the intro. Or the previous positive article. I am going to read it now to pump myself up!

KI Jelly
Guest
KI Jelly
2 years 2 months ago

It was all so negative :(

NOMAD
Guest
NOMAD
2 years 2 months ago

BELIEVE THAT THEY WILL TRY TO KEEP AT LEAST 2 IF NOT MORE ” YOUNG BLOODS ” FROM TRAINING CAMP TO INFUSE WITH THE VETERANS—THE OTHERS WILL BE GOING TO CANTON TO IMPROVE ON THEIR SKILLS –AND IF THEY DON’T FEEL REAL CONFIDENT ABOUT THE “YOUNG BLOODS ‘—- CHALMESR / COLES WILL BE SIGNED ——-ALSO COME TRADE TIME ( I KNOW I HAVE TIME WARPED ) GRIFF WILL WORK HIS MAGIC TO DO WHATEVER IS NEEDED TO COMPETE / WIN ” THE RUBBER MATCH ” AND HAVE ANOTHER TREMENDOUS PARADE ” IN THE LAND “

Cols714
Guest
Cols714
2 years 2 months ago

Who put up the most recent poll?! There’s only two correct answers, Richard Jefferson or Mike Dunleavy are the only two answers. Voting for anyone else is just like throwing away your vote (same as for voting for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein in the upcoming election).

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

I’d take the odds on McRae. Wheels could definitely come off the wagon for oldbies Jefferson and Dunleavy. Look at Paul Pierce last year, one year removed from killing it in the ‘offs for Washington.

Cols714
Guest
Cols714
2 years 2 months ago

Of course you would. You love being wrong.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Not quite as much as I love trolling you.

Raoul
Guest
Raoul
2 years 2 months ago

Cols! Go stand in the corner.

Cols714
Guest
Cols714
2 years 2 months ago

Good article. Only injuries can stop this team from reaching the Finals. They are definitely better and deeper this year than last year.

JMay
Editor
2 years 2 months ago

I’ve gotta say, I was expecting a JR alert yesterday.

Mike Podracky
Guest
2 years 2 months ago

So was I. Last year at this time, I was already feeling somewhat mad at TT over his holdout, but I don’t feel that way about JR yet. Again the Cavs are in the weird position of essentially negotiating against themselves, and it’s time for JR to pull out the pen.

Rober’s four points are all solid, however, I don’t know if I would characterize Durant going to GS as the “best thing that could have happened to their title defense.” I beliee, the best thing was if Durant had stayed in OKC. Integrating Durant into the lineup, coupled with all the player losses from their now shredded “strenghts in numbers” lineups, will be a challenge. If the integration goes well, I would rather have seen KD still paired with Westbrook. Many of those open shots Harrison Barnes missed will be taken by Durant. Nevertheless, with LeBron, we can beat any team in a seven game series unless the Cavs had to play a lineup of Jordan/Magic/Kareem/Bird/Duncan in their primes.

GreekCavsFan
Guest
GreekCavsFan
2 years 2 months ago

Where is the shooting going to come from in that hypothetical lineup you came up with at the end? We would shoot them out of the building! /s

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

Jordan, bird, and magic could all shoot in their primes.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 years 2 months ago

And Kareem probably learns to shoot if he played in this era.

GreekCavsFan
Guest
GreekCavsFan
2 years 2 months ago

Noboby but Bird had legit three point range. They didn’t have to though, as the they were playing what appears to be a different sport now. I bet they could stretch their range a few feet back though, since they are all all-time greats.

Cols714
Guest
Cols714
2 years 2 months ago

Hahahahaha. Good post. Every time I read “strength in numbers” it makes me laugh. What a joke of a team.

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