As the Kevin Love trade looks to be clearly moving forward, with the Cleveland Cavaliers trading away Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and at least a pick, the Cavs roster also seems to be coming into focus. One concern that has been mentioned constantly since LeBron James has returned has been how the players fit with his game. Everyone sees the positives of bring Love and James together, as well as Love and Kyrie Irving, on the offensive side of the ball. Those that want to keep Wiggins often note the need for another defender to pair with James.
Fit has been a struggle for Irving and backcourt mate Dion Waiters. It is why many, including this writer, expected Waiters to be dealt this off-season, and he still might. Both Irving and Waiters play well with the ball in their hands and have struggled to play off the ball on offense. Adding James, a ball dominate player in his own right, to those two seems to add a ton of redundant parts on offense. On defense Waiters has shown the ability to body up and use his strength to defend but neither Irving or Waiters is even average on that end of the floor.
It seems as though both players have matured to the point that they understand the need to learn how to play better cohesive basketball, not just with each but with James. According to ESPN that process has already started:
“You do think about (changes) because you’re going to be playing with the greatest player in the game,” Irving said. “I’ve talked to several teammates about how we’re going to have to change our games.”
“I have to make adjustments,” Waiters said. “I like to have the ball and we have Kyrie, and he likes to have the ball. So I have to find ways to impact the game without having the ball. I’m planning to go watch tape to see what D-Wade did when he played with LeBron. I need to learn how to be effective out there with him.”
Two players that seem like they are on the same page for once. That is the power of LeBron James but it is also the power of maturity. Both Irving and Waiters have tried it “their way” for a couple of years and it hasn’t worked. As they mature, and get to play with other coaches and players with USA Basketball, their perceptions seem to be changing.
James and Irving may have the most difficulty working together at some level. Mostly because James has never played with a point guard anywhere near as good as Irving. It has forced him to be the de facto point guard since his rookie season. During his time with the Cavs he often hinted at wanting to play with Jason Kidd. Irving is a better shooting, less defense version of Kidd. For James to learn to play off of a PG like Irving will be interesting. For Irving there is no model for him to look at to try to figure out how to play around James. Yet it is exciting to think of him running pick and rolls with Love and James or being a spot up shooter during a James/Love PnR.
For Waiters it is different. He gets to look at Wade’s tape and see how he can excel off of James. Waiters has always had a ton of Wade’s game in him. His game looks the part of Wade’s with far less success. His shooting form is better then Wade’s and he should likely improve that playing with James, Love and Irving. A James/Irving PnR with Waiters, Love and Mike Miller /Ray Allen posted around the 3 point line might cause any coach to have a heart attack. On defense if Waiters can learn how to play solid to above average the loss of Wiggins would be mitigated on that end.
All and all it is a great sign that both Irving and Waiters realize their need to change, adjust their games. Players being bought in to what is happening on the floor and what is best for the team is the biggest thing that James, and winning, brings to the Cavs. Unlike last year, players will know their roles on the court and have a reason to sacrifice for the good of the team. Winning cures many ills. Adding LeBron James and Kevin Love, along with an extended Kyrie Irving and free agent signee Mike Miller makes for one huge off-season.
What do you think about Waiters’ and Irving’s comments?