With Kyrie Irving Out, Who Should Start?


Last night’s Cleveland Cavaliers pre-season game against the Miami Heat was interesting. For a ton of reasons. The Cavs gave fans a lot to be excited about even with Kyrie Irving out and LeBron James not having a great game statistically. Anderson Varejao and Kevin Love were effective while Dion Waiters and the rest of the team seemed to move the ball well.

Not totally sure how to explain this, except old habits die hard:

Without Irving in the lineup the Cavs had to make a move to replace him in the starting lineup. Coach David Blatt has a number of options in case Irving is either injured, sick or just taking a night off. Which one do you think is best?

Start Matthew Dellavedova

Blatt went with this last night starting the second year man out of St. Mary’s College by way of Australia. By inserting Delly in the lineup Blatt doesn’t have to make any other adjustments with players, roles or minutes. Instead he inserts a Mario Chalmers/Norris Cole type player, with less 3 point shooting history, alongside a still great offense.

Delly won’t having amazing stats but he will keep the ball moving and play good on the ball defense. In other words he won’t get in the way. Delly has improved his 3 point shooting but struggles some when pressed bringing the ball up the court. With Waiters and James in the starting lineup he will have far less pressure to do so.

Move Dion Over to Point and Start Mike Miller

Waiters likes having the ball in his hands. While Blatt’s offense calls for “ball guards” instead of traditional positions, Waiters at the point makes a ton of sense. He can set the offense up, play off of James and Love while still controlling the game. While Waiters and Irving are very different in their games, Waiters still gives the Cavs a guard who can take his man off the dribble.

Pairing Waiters with Miller in the backcourt the Cavs will ensure Waiters, and the rest of the offense, the kind of space they have with Irving on the floor. Miller is a solid veteran who knows how to play and is deadly from the three point line. Miller’s struggles on defense and spotty health history create some concern for this starting five.

Go Big Inserting Shawn Marion

The Cavs could also go big by inserting Marion into the starting lineup. Marion has been a starter for most of his career and can handle the big minutes. Waiters would still slide over to the point with James sliding up to the 2 spot. (Imagine a Karl Malone sized shooting guard.) Marion then fills in as the small forward.

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Marion can defend multiple positions allowing he and James to switch most picks. Last year, in some terrible 3 guard lineups, Waiters even guarded some small forwards adequately. Marion would be a defensive improvement over Miller while still giving some three point shooting. Not as deadly, or versatile, Marion can post up in the corners as a catch and shoot guy. This will still allow Waiters and James to attack with Marion and Love ready to shoot from deep.

Best Option?

There really isn’t a best option here. All three make some sense. Inserting Marion would be a ton of fun while starting Delly keeps some consistency. The shooting of Miller would keep spacing at the highest level but his defense and injuries could stop that right in its tracks. Thankfully we expect, and hope/pray/wish/etc, that this isn’t something Blatt has to do very often. Irving is expected back shortly from this minor ankle injury.

Which option do you think is best? Or do you have a better one?