In January, after a loss to a short-handed New Orleans Pelicans team, LeBron James blasted the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster.
James lamented their lack of depth, saying they’re “top-heavy as s—. It’s me, [Kyrie Irving], [Kevin Love].”
James also said they need a playmaker and they would be in trouble if him or Irving got injured.
James quietly backed off those claims after GM David Griffin shot back, saying they were “misguided,” and the Cavs need to improve internally.
On Tuesday, it was reported that Kevin Love will miss six weeks to get a scope on his knee. For James, it might be time to resurface those calls for help.
The Cavaliers are already short-handed. Important contributors in Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov walked in free agency, Mo Williams retired just before training camp, Chris Andersen tore his ACL in the beginning of the season and just got traded, and J.R. Smith has been out since December with a thumb injury.
Through all of this, James has carried a worrisome workload. James is averaging nearly 38 minutes per game, his most since returning to the Cavaliers. However, James is also 32 years old and has played in the Finals for six straight seasons. That’s six straight years of playing over 100 games, into June, for one of the most physically gifted players in the league.
James was not wrong about needing help, and with Love out, those calls are going to become more dire. Love is having his best season with the Cavs, averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game on 38% three-point shooting. With Smith also out, who is going to make up those points for the Cavs? Players like Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, and Channing Frye could likely each chip in a few more baskets per game to make up the difference, but it’s safe to say the workload on James and Irving is going to increase.
The Cavaliers don’t have a lot of room to play around, either. They have a two-game lead on the second-place Celtics, a 4.5-game lead on the surging Wizards, and a six-game lead on both the Hawks and Raptors. The Raptors, in particular, might be a worrisome team for the Cavs. Toronto agreed to a trade that will land them Serge Ibaka, a defensive, floor-spacing big man who solves many of their issues and allows them to match up better with the Cavs.
Losing the first seed may not mean a ton to the Cavs if they have their entire team healthy by the postseason. However, there’s no doubt that having home-court advantage through the playoffs would make their lives easier.
The Cavs will no doubt be active in looking for small trades and watching the waiver wire for players that could contribute to their bench. It seems unlikely they would make any major moves (e.g. trading Love), meaning Griffin will have to get creative to find reasonable ways to improve the team.
In the meantime, James’ workload seems likely to increase if the Cavs want to stay atop the conference.
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