Cleveland Cavaliers: Nowhere Near Time To Panic

Jan 23, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue (C) huddles with his team during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena. The Bulls won 96-83. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 23, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue (C) huddles with his team during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena. The Bulls won 96-83. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite the recent changes, this is not the time for the Cleveland Cavaliers to panic or worry at all.

For LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the real basketball season does not start until April when the playoffs start. At 30-12, the Cavaliers are still leading the Eastern Conference by two games over the Toronto Raptors and are 5.5 games ahead of the third place Chicago Bulls. The Cavaliers still have three long months to figure everything out.

Admittedly, even after the firing of now former head coach David Blatt, there still seems to be turmoil in the locker room. New head coach Tyronn Lue has indicated that it does not seem as if this team is having fun playing basketball.

In the aftermath of Blatt’s firing, Cleveland Cavaliers beat writers indicated that there had been a divide between players and coach. That especially was the case with Lue’s awkward situation between being an ambassador for players and a supporter of his head coach. The bottom line of the situation is that there was a clear elephant in the room with Blatt as the head coach.

The bright side of everything just mentioned is that the Cleveland Cavaliers management clearly has the guts to make changes, even if it subjects them to scrutiny from the rest of the league. Fans, coaches, players, and anyone else with an opinion, both inside and outside the city of Cleveland, have chimed in with comments to Blatt’s firing.

Many have accused the Cavs as being just as dysfunctional as their cross-city counterparts, the Cleveland Browns. As the Cavaliers, under the direction of Lue, scramble to develop a new identity, that scrutiny will not subside anytime soon.

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Perhaps the better way to interpret the Cavaliers’ front office decision-making is that of commanding excellence. In his first press conference after Blatt’s firing, Cavs general manager David Griffin said “Frankly, ‘pretty good’ is not what we’re here for.”

For Cleveland fans this should come as a relief.  The other two Cleveland franchises are mired in hilarity and mediocrity, while Blatt was fired for his inability to command respect and excellence, despite a .664 regular season win percentage during his time in the NBA.

A couple of weeks past the one-year anniversary of a week that saw the Cavaliers change the whole dynamic of their team when they traded guard Dion Waiters. In return, Cleveland received J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov. Now, the Cavaliers have indicated that, even with what they have achieved last season and so far this season, is that they are pulling no punches to take the next step.

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Under Lue, the Cleveland Cavaliers are developing a new identity that Lue himself said would take a couple weeks to master. Following an uninspired showing against the Bulls, Lue indicated many of the Cavaliers players were not in peak condition to play the up-tempo way he wants the team to play.

This comment, coupled with the lackadaisical showing Saturday night, got blown out of proportion. If anything, this comment should have eased some of the concerns of Cavs fans.

Against the Bulls, the Cavaliers shot a paltry percentage from the foul line and settled for far too many three-point jumpers as the night progressed, both indications that what Lue said about conditioning is true. This should not be alarming.

Lue was not insinuating that the Cavaliers are out of shape, in general. Rather, he was perhaps suggesting that their functional conditioning and ability to play an up-tempo pace is not yet where it needs to be. This is a non-issue. The more the Cavaliers play at this pace, the more it will improve.

In fact, the move by Lue to play at a quicker pace should be a welcome one for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and one that makes them perhaps more competitive. The Cavaliers have plenty of offensive firepower that is not utilized and much of this utilization is due to lack of opportunities and not lack of efficiency.

According to stats compiled by ESPN, the Cavaliers rank 28th out 30 total NBA teams in possessions per 48 minutes, while they rank fifth in total offensive efficiency. Translation: the Cavaliers need to utilize their efficiency by getting more possessions.

More possessions will help the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big three get the touches they need to be more effective. In the offensive system the Cavs were operating in under Blatt, there were less touches to go around and for players such as Kevin Love, the third member of the Cavaliers’ big three, it was difficult to get in a rhythm. When Love struggles early, the Cavaliers have been forced to go away from him because touches for other players are at a premium.

A more free-flowing system will allow touches to come more frequently and allow all players (not just Love) the opportunity to find a rhythm as the game continues, even if they are unable to get off to a hot start. Similarly, those who get off to a hot start will have the opportunity to continue that as the game goes on, which has not always been the case for players not named James or  Kyrie Irving.

Coinciding with the firing of Blatt, there have been rumblings that the Cleveland Cavaliers could be looking to make a change to the roster. Those rumblings are apparently real, given ESPN’s Brian Windhorst’s tweet that many of the Cavaliers players speculated that they were meeting because Love had been traded.

Reading between the lines, it seems obvious that either that the Cavs are not happy with the return they are getting from Love, that Love is not happy with his role on the Cavs, or both.

If the Love trade rumors are true, it likely would not happen in the near future, if at all. The timing of Blatt’s firing perhaps says that the Cleveland Cavaliers may wait to make a decision on Love once they have a sample of how Love will perform in Lue’s new system.

It seems as if scouts and general managers think that Love could function well in an up-tempo system. Thinking back to the summer of 2014, the Golden State Warriors were major players in the sweepstakes to acquire Love once he was made available.

If Love is able to get more touches on offense, he will be able to make up for his well-documented deficiencies on the defensive end, while also creating mismatches for opposing teams.

Problems for the Cleveland Cavaliers may appear to get worse before they get better, but the month between now and the NBA trade deadline will be a feeling-out period.

Next: Where Is Blatt's Next Coaching Stop Going To Be?

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