The Cavaliers season is currently in a downward spiral. They have now lost four games in a row and eight of their last ten games after last night’s 118-108 home loss to the Golden State Warriors. This stretch of bad basketball included back to back road losses to Minnesota and Toronto by a combined 62 points. Cleveland now sits as the third seed in the Eastern Conference at 26-17 and 7-1/2 games behind first seed Boston.
The Cavaliers defense is ranked 29th in the NBA ahead of only the Sacramento Kings. The interior defense has been non existent. The Cavs are 27th in the league in blocked shots and 23rd in opponents points in the paint. Cleveland does not possess a legitimate rim protector on their roster.
There is also some turmoil amongst the roster that has surfaced in this past week. First came the report that there were complaints in the locker room about players agenda’s getting in the way of their performances on the court. There was also a report of some Cavaliers players getting agitated with Lebron James accusing him of chasing assists to improve his MVP chances. Another Lebron complaint is that he is slowing down the offense by walking the ball up the floor and taking too long getting into the offense.
The Cavaliers have had similar January struggles in the past few seasons but the 2018 struggle seems more genuine. Cleveland is the oldest team in the league. J.R. Smith has disappeared on both ends of the floor. Jae Crowder has struggled to fit in with his new team all season and is not the physical defensive stopper that he was with the Celtics last season. Tristan Thompson has hurt the Cavaliers offense since returning and has cemented Channing Frye to the Cavaliers bench. The Cavaliers were 18-3 in the 21 games that Frye filled Thompson’s spot in the Cavs rotation. Isaiah Thomas is still working his way back into shape but has disrupted the Cavaliers offense as he tries to fit in while learning to play with his new teammates.
After the loss to Golden State last night some of the Cavaliers veterans expressed concern that the teams roster is not equipped to win a championship and that the defensive issues are not fixable.
All of this has put an immense amount of pressure on Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert and General Manager Koby Altman to make a trade or trades to improve this roster. Cleveland does not have an abundance of trade assets on this roster but they do have their 2018 first round pick as well as Brooklyn’s 2018 lottery pick acquired from Boston in the Kyrie Irving trade. The Cavaliers are not in favor of moving the Brooklyn pick as it provides them some protection in the event that Lebron James does not re-sign. The only way they are willing to trade that pick is if it brings back a player that would clearly give them an advantage over Golden State. Unfortunately those type of players like Demarcus Cousins and Paul George are not available. They are more likely to use their own first round pick in a deal combined with expiring contracts to provide cap relief to another team.
There are 23 days until the February 8th trade deadline. The Cavaliers are expected to make at least one deal before then. Whether or not it is a deal that puts them over the top remains to be seen. It is also possible that Cleveland stands pat and saves their assets for the off season. If they choose option two we very well may be watching Lebron James last season in Cleveland.