Is “Small Ball” the Way to Go? A Cavs Update by Logan Leduc ’17

Cavs Small Ball

As the Cavs walked into the Oracle Arena on Christmas day, revenge was on their mind. The Cavs went out on the floor with the usual starting 5: Irving, Smith, James, Love and Mozgov. Sadly, this was not the Cavs’ night as they lost once again to the Warriors in a low scoring 89-83 ball game. Plain and simple, the Wine and Gold could not hit shots and while they held the high scoring Warriors to just 89 points, it was Draymond Green who ended up killing the Cavs. The Warrior’s usual threat, Steph Curry, who was battling injury throughout the game, surprisingly didn’t hurt the Cavs. Nor did his “splash brother” Klay Thompson. The only Warrior the Cavs couldn’t seem to stop was Draymond Green.

When the Cavs put Kevin Love on a much quicker Draymond Green, bad things happened. Additionally, Mozgov was not quick enough on the rotation to front Green, allowing easy points inside. Eventually, Love would sag off too much, afraid of being beat to the rim. This would allow Green to use the given space to drain a three. So what’s the fix? It’s quite simple really. The Cavaliers must play “small ball.” Look around the league–many teams use the method to be quicker and to strengthen their defense on the perimeter. The Cavs stuck with their usual lineup until just recently.

Many were stunned as the Cavs went into Portland against a Trail Blazers team without their best player, Damian Lillard, and got absolutely manhandled both from the inside and the outside. Suddenly, Tristan Thompson was getting more and more minutes and his production proved important getting the Cavs two wins in Phoenix and Denver to split the 4 game Western Conference road trip, at 2-2.

Furthermore, the red-hot Orlando Magic ran into a Wine and Gold wall recently as the Cavs would start Tristan over Mozgov to get out, run, and play quality post and perimeter defense from the start. The game was never in question as the Cavs blew out the Magic by a final score of 104-79. The Cavaliers would also run with that offense against the Raptors and after taking a 26-13 lead in the 1st, the Cavs would never lose the lead. The Raptors fought back but eventually the Cavaliers would turn it into a blowout with the emergence of Kyrie Irving who would go for 25/8/6. There are many reasons “small ball” works with the Cavs. Starting Tristan allows you to have a big man that can defend the perimeter which is a huge plus to this excellent Cavalier defense. Tristan can guard a player like Draymond Green and it became obvious on Christmas that scoring became much tougher for Green when Tristan had guarded him. Another reason is that Mozgov is clearly still not 100 percent back from that knee surgery he had in the off-season, so allowing him to come off the bench in short spurts can be beneficial to the Cavaliers’ success as it did against Orlando and Toronto. Additionally, when LeBron played for the Heat, they found much success in putting a guy like Battier at SF and moving LeBron to PF. That team won 2 titles by the way. Finally, if the Cavs need anymore motivation to try “small ball,” they lost to the Warriors in the NBA Finals in 3 straight games when the Warriors stopped starting Andrew Bogut and the tired Cavs couldn’t keep up with the small lineup the Warriors put out there.

The Cavs are currently 26-9 on the season and with LeBron getting out and running, not to mention his shot is looking so much better, and with Irving returning to full form, the Cavs will be quick and even quicker if they try “small ball.” Multiple sources report that the Suns and the Cavs are in talks of trade. The Suns would part ways with a man that’s bad for their locker room, Markieff Morris by sending him to Cleveland in exchange for the Cavs 10 million dollar trade clause that came with the dropping of Brendan Haywood. If need be, the Cavaliers could throw in a guy like Joe Harris but the Suns and Morris are so fed up with each other that the Cavs may not have to push too hard. Whether this report is true or not is still yet to be determined but I second the trade because the Cavaliers don’t actually have a listed backup PF. For those who don’t know, Tristan is considered a center. Morris, a guy who averages numbers like 16 and 7 can really provide a scoring punch, defense on forwards, floor spreading, and overall toughness to the bench. Whether it’s true or not, Cavs should jump at that opportunity if it so arises. For now, the Cavs have a tough next 3 games on the road as they will battle the Mavericks, Spurs, and Rockets before coming home for another meeting with the Warriors. The rest will take care of itself. There are plenty of games still to go but when the postseason hits, expect BIG things from the Cavs.

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