It’s been a rough January for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have gone 2-6 over their last eight games – the worst stretch the team has endured with LeBron James on the court since 2014.
James recently called out the organization and lamented the team’s need for a backup point guard or playmaker, which prompted trade rumors and national conversation about what’s wrong with the Cavs.
Two days after his outburst, the Cavs fell to the Sacramento Kings (18-27) in overtime at home.
Kyrie Irving is averaging 35 minutes per game, four more minutes per game than 2015-16, and James is leading the league in that category (37.5).
While the front office is in pursuit of a backup point guard, the two Eastern Conference All-Star starters continue to carry too much of the load on what LeBron called “a top-heavy roster.”
Irving reflected on those comments and gave his thoughts on whether or not he thinks he is being relied upon too heavily.
Kyrie Irving asked if he and LeBron James are carrying too much of the load as the "only 2 playmakers on the team" pic.twitter.com/kCBtPu4Dj8
— Matt Medley (@MedleyHoops) January 26, 2017
“The way our lineup is set up right now, when we’re both in there, we share responsibilities. When one of us is out, the other one comes in. That’s just the dynamic of our team right now.”
Irving didn’t call out the organization or criticize the coaching staff, but for a team with aspirations of repeating as champions, it doesn’t seem like an optimal formula to get past a juggernaut in the NBA Finals.
Whether it’s Golden State, San Antonio, or possibly a dark horse team, James and Irving will have to be playing at a high level and to do that, the Cavs will need both of them as fresh as possible heading into that series.
The Cavs fell into a tough situation at the start of the 2016-17 season and haven’t done anything to really address it through three months of the season.
Matthew Dellavedova’s departure to the Milwaukee Bucks was a big loss for the Cavs, who received roughly 20 minutes per game out of Delly, even when Irving was fully healthy in 2016.
Cleveland had an unfortunate situation with veteran point guard Mo Williams, who wrestled with the idea of retiring before the season, and indicated to the Cavs he was going to play.
Once the deadline to announce his retirement passed, Williams once again changed his mind and underwent surgery, leaving the Cavs on the hook for his contract, as well as taking up a roster spot.
The Cavs tried to plug the hole with unproven guards Kay Felder and DeAndre Liggins, who leave much to be desired.
While Liggins had brief NBA experience and two impressive seasons in the NBA D-League under his belt, he’s mostly valued for his defense and is a far from ideal option to run the offense.
Felder, a 5-foot-9 rookie, has grown over the course of the season, but still has a long way to go.
Iman Shumpert played some of the time at backup point guard early in the season, but when J.R. Smith went down in late-December, it forced him to play more shooting guard.
The Cavs added Kyle Korver to play shooting guard and step up for Smith’s absence, but the three-point sharpshooter is a liability on defense.
James let his voice be known on Jan. 24, holding nothing back and essentially pressuring the front office to make a move. General Manager David Griffin is already reportedly in conversations to find that playmaker or point guard, but the longer this goes on and the Cavs have that hole on the roster, the risk of overusing Irving and LeBron grows, and the potential to repeat as champs diminishes.