Coming into the 2015-16 NBA season, the reigning champions have a problem they didn’t expect to encounter.
Though the Cleveland Cavaliers retained most of their championship core, they were hit with a surprise when backup point guard Mo Williams told the team at the start of training camp that he’s retiring.
Following the offseason departure of Matthew Dellavedova, who signed a four-year, $39-million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Cavs are suddenly shallow at point guard.
Kyrie Irving is the team’s starting point guard, and LeBron James, of course, handles much of the playmaking duties. However, behind Irving, the only other true point guard is Kay Felder, whom the Cavs took with the 54th pick in the draft this June.
Unless the Cavaliers dip into free agency in the middle of training camp, the lack of depth at perhaps the most crucial position on the floor will put unwanted pressure on Irving and James. Should either go down with an injury, the playmaking duties will fall almost squarely on the other. It would also mean Felder would be thrown into the fire to play big minutes as a backup point guard.
Going into the season, this isn’t the situation James wants to find himself in. With seemingly annual runs into late June, James has made a point of taking his foot off the gas slightly during the regular season (though that doesn’t include taking many games off). If Irving were to get injured, that would leave him to almost exclusively run the offence, forcing him to play heavy minutes.
The same is true in the other case. Since returning to Cleveland, James has acted as more of a facilitator than Irving, who is more of a scoring point guard. If James were to get injured, Irving would be forced into more of a playmaking duty, and though he’s seven years younger, after the championship run last season, Irving could also use more rest this year.
And, of course, in the worst case scenario, if both were hurt at the same time, the Cavs would be in deep trouble.
There are still serviceable, veteran point guards on the free agent market, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Cavs explore adding one. Opting not to would undoubtedly be taking a risk over the gruelling 82-game season.