The Cavs won last night. More importantly, the Cavs looked good doing it.
After 5 games, things are going better than a lot of people thought they would. The Cavs aren’t 0-5, they haven’t been blown out, and both Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson have played well, for the most part. Things may not look great in terms of where the Cavs will ultimately end up this season, but by no means is the outlook as morbid as many prognosticators originally believed… suck on that ESPN, Yahoo, CNNSI, CBS Sports, Fox Sports… ok, so t was just about everybody saying the Cavs would suck.
In last night’s drubbing of the Charlotte Bobcats, Kyrie Irving led the way scoring 20 points, dishing out 6 assits, and snagging 3 rebounds. He also had an impressive come from behind block, a la “The One who Shall Not Be Named,” that brought back memories of a few years back. Thompson was solid off the bench with 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. Not bad. Not bad at all.
So what exactly do we make of the Cavs after the first 5 games of the season? Like I said, the Cavs aren’t nearly as bad as everyone thought they would be. Looking at the rosters on paper they’re certainly better than the Wizards, Nets, Bobcats, Pistons, and Jazz. On the court they’re definitely outperforming all of those teams and then some. More importantly, they’re fun to watch. This isn’t the same plodding offensive attack we saw under Mike Brown. This is different. This is fun.
The real story though is Irving. So far, with the exception of a nervous opening performance, Kyrie Irving has been great. Byron Scott decided to roll with him as the starting point guard, despite playing only 11 games in the past calendar year, and it looks like it was the right choice. There was speculation that Scott would use Ramon Sessions as the starter early in the year until Irving got his sea legs, but after impressing in the preseason Irving did enough to earn the starting spot. It now looks like he’s done plenty to cement himself as the starter for the long haul. Has he been Magic Johnson? No, but he hasn’t been Brevin Knight either.
Irving is doing exactly what a point guard in Byron Scott’s offense needs to do. He’s managing the team in the half court sets and getting them out in transition when the opportunities present themselves. Scoring-wise, Irving is picking his spots well and as a result is leading all rookies in scoring with just over 13 points per game. Most importantly of all, he’s distributing the ball well in the early stages of the season and getting teammates involved. Like I said, he’s doing exactly what you want a point guard to do. Now if he could reduce the number of turnovers he’d look even better.
So do the Cavs have enough to do something crazy like make the playoffs? In the weak Eastern Conference where 30 wins could snag a team the 8th seed it’s always a possibility. Combine that with the compressed schedule where youth is actually an advantage rather than a disadvantage and things looks even more promising for the Cavs. Afterall, they’re one of the youngest teams in the NBA and should be able to hold up better than the decaying carcasses playing in Boston, San Antonio, L.A. (the Lakers), etc.
But… and this is a big but, the Cavs really need to hold off a year before making the playoffs, at least. The worst place to be in the NBA is in the middle. You don’t want to be picking in the teens of the draft. At that point you aren’t getting the type of impact player than can really help a team reach that next level. Combine that with some of the talent that will undoubtedly be available in the draft this year and it becomes even more important that the Cavs get a top 5 lottery pick.
However, there’s still a long way to go before we start worrying about the playoffs. Whether they actually make it or not is unimportant. What is important is that the Cavs are fun to watch again, they’re entertaining. This isn’t the same team that lost 20 some games in a row last year and looked defeated on a nightly basis. There’s a youthful exuberance here that can be built on.