Cavaliers in need of fine-tuning

By Mubarak Salami

Last time I checked, championships are not won on paper. Someone should tell that to the oddsmakers in Vegas as well as the handful of media writers and NBA insiders who have already decreed the Cleveland Cavaliers as a favorite to win the NBA Championship this upcoming season.

I mean sure, the Cavs look extremely good on paper. They have arguably three top-20 players, among them Lebron James, who is widely recognized as the best player in the world. With all of their star power, Cleveland’s starting lineup will be second to none. They even have the benefit of playing in a weak Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately for them, the NBA title isn’t just handed to the team with the best resume. Games are won on the court. The Cavaliers have the potential to become a championship contender, but right now they are just a bunch of new faces that have never played together. There are still several questions regarding this team that raise palpable concern.

For starters, how well will all their new additions mesh together? A conglomerate of talent doesn’t always equate to success. Take for instance the Los Angeles Lakers’ team two years ago. Their starting lineup consisted of four future Hall of Famers, yet the team was swept out of the first round of the playoffs.

This takes time. Players need to get accustomed to each other’s styles and tendencies. The team will not become a contender overnight.

Another reason for trepidation with Cleveland is their bench.

Every good championship team needs a strong bench to contribute and relieve some pressure off the starters. This has never been more evident than this past June, when the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat in six games to win the NBA Championship. San Antonio had a surplus of role players who performed big in key situations. Their overall team depth ultimately proved to be too much for Miami to handle, a lesson I’m sure Lebron James has not forgotten and will be sure to bestow upon his new teammates.

The Cavaliers also just hired a new coach, David Blatt. After successful coaching stints in Russia and Turkey, Blatt has come to the United States to try his luck. Known for his offensive prowess, it will be interesting to see how effective Blatt will be at implementing various defensive schemes.

With players such as James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, who are so offensively gifted, scoring the basketball will be effortless for this team. It is on the defensive side of the ball where Cleveland will have to primarily focus.

How motivated and willing will this offensive juggernaut be to defend?

At the end of the day, defense wins championships, and Cleveland will have to follow suit if they hope to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.

Now don’t get me wrong, Cleveland will be good, very good. They very well might find a way to blend together quickly, learn to buckle down on the defensive end, and go on to win a championship this year. That would be no surprise.

Though, it would be a surprise if they managed to do so with no growing pains or bumps in the road along the way.

All I’m saying is don’t declare this team the cream of the NBA crop just yet. 

Oh and there’s a team that plays about 350 miles west of Cleveland that the Cavs might need to worry about in their conference. I think their colors are red and white and I hear they’ve got this “defense” thing down to a tee. They’ve got some stars of their own, but we’ll just have to wait and see how this year plays out.

When all is said and done, it will be interesting to just see if more is actually said or talked about then done.

Mubarak is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected] and @justmubar.