A New Identity
The Cavaliers have made some subtle, yet important changes.
by Dylan Lowther / @OntheDylanL
The Cleveland Cavaliers, holders of last year’s second worst record in the NBA faced many problems heading into this year’s offseason (wish I could talk about free agency).
Of course all of the holes of a 19-63 team have not been filled, but the front office has changed the image of this franchise.
The Cavaliers general manager, Chris Grant, is often telling reporters about the “culture” that he is trying to establish in Clevelan, but nobody, including myself, understood what “culture” he was talking about. This past season, there was nothing that resembled any sort of “culture” about the Cavaliers team.
The Cavaliers’ biggest fault was that they had no identity, at all. So the culture that Chris Grant was talking about was a complete mystery to everyone watching the Cavs.
For example, here are some of their per game stats as a team from last season: They averaged 95.5 points per game, which was sixth worst in the NBA last year, also, their opponents averaged 104.5 points per game which was good for eighth worst in the NBA.
Of the bottom 15 teams in points allowed per game, they had the lowest points per game average. This means that they were in company with teams that were offensively oriented, teams that would give up big numbers, but get them back.
The Cavs gave up points as if they were a team like the Knicks, but they didn’t score like them. This had them stuck in an awkward place where they didn’t have a direction. Going into each game with no real style, or identity would result in them losing in every way possible.
The Cavaliers were also holders of the League’s second-worst field goal percentage, at 43.4 percent, but they were giving up the fourth-highest field goal percentage to their opponents, 47.5 percent.
Once again, this points to them having no style of play.
The Cavaliers also allowed the best three-point percentage in the entire NBA, 41 percent, they had the seventh-worst at 34.2 percent. They also ranked fourth worst in blocks per game and steals per game.
At the end of the year, there was no doubt as to which team had the most work to be done in the offseason, and that would be the Cavaliers.
The subtle, yet remarkable rebuilding process began for the Cavaliers on June 23, the day of the 2011 NBA Draft.
With the first overall pick, the Cavaliers chose Kyrie Irving. Most people will look at his ability to create for others and score on his own and ultimately conclude that he was deserving of the No. 1 overall pick this year.
Kyrie Irving is all of the above, but most importantly, he is a top-notch defender at the point guard position. That is another reason why he is compared to Byron Scott’s former point guard project, Chris Paul, who is the best defensive point guard in the NBA.
DraftExpress had this to say about Irving: “Defensively, Irving won’t have any problems from a physical standpoint in the NBA, as he has good size, strength and lateral quickness…He’s already way ahead of where most freshman are on this end of the court too, as he plays with good intensity, has excellent fundamentals, and shows great timing jumping in the passing lanes.”
Two picks later, the Cavaliers were on the clock again, this time they chose power forward, Tristan Thompson.
This reaction was mainly based on me convincing myself before the Draft that Valanciunas was the second coming.
After getting over the heart-breaking selection (in my eyes at the time), I realized that Tristan Thompson is a fine player. He was the best power forward prospect in the Draft, but most of all, he is a defense-first player.
When mentioning Tristan Thompson, the first things that are talked about are his motor, his rebounding, and commitment to defense. Thompson led the Big 12 conference in blocks, and was second in per game rebounding, This landed him the Big 12 Freshman of the year award. He is also a guy who loves to get into the open court.
When Irving and Thompson were introduced with Chris Grant and Byron Scott in Cleveland, Grant told the media repeatedly how Irving and Thompson were high-character guys who fit into the Cavaliers’ culture. Finally, this “culture” is forming.
Not only did Grant pick up Casspi, another player who loves defense, has a high motor, and hustles non-stop, but he let go of the inconsistent effort that JJ Hickson would give the Cavaliers.
Hickson clashed with Byron Scott, because Scott wasn’t content with the effort he would give at times during the season. Hickson became better as the season went on, but he never gave the consistent effort that a player who wants to rebound and defend would give.
He showed flashes of hard work such as the game against Blake Griffin, sadly, for each great play, there was a mental lapse.
As for the addition, Omri Casspi is a gritty player, he is extremely intense, plays hard, has a great work-ethic, and runs.
These three moves during the offseason have given the Cavaliers a new identity heading into next season (whenever that is).
With a core comprised of hard working, committed, and defensive oriented players, the Cavaliers now have gained an identity as a tough team that was much needed.
What can we say about this lineup?
In the backcourt there is a point guard who has been compared to Chris Paul due to his offensive and defensive abilities, and a shooting guard who can block shots, steal the ball and has been asked to guard the other team’s best playmaker by Byron Scott numerous times due to his improvement defensively.
The frontcourt features a small forward known for his gritty, hard-nosed play, intensity, and willingness to play defense. He is accompanied by a power forward, who as a Freshman in an elite conference led his conference in blocked shots and came second in rebounding, and he is standing next to arguably the best pick and roll defending power forward-center in the NBA who is no stranger to the All-Defensive Second-Team.
The Cavaliers have found a tough, gritty, defensive-first identity that they were lacking last year.
The Cavaliers still have much work to do, a team with a 19-63 record won’t be contenders over night, but they now have solved a serious problem, they have a style, an identity.
Now Chris Grant doesn’t seem crazy when he goes on about the team “culture.”