Only five months after the Cleveland Cavaliers found themselves pitted against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, the team is now facing a completely different fate for the 2018–19 season.
Though the debate over whether or not Lebron James is the best player in the NBA continues, there is no denying the enormous impact his departure has had on the Cavaliers’ overall cohesiveness as a team and, most importantly, their championship chances.
With James’ decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been forced to adapt to an entirely different team dynamic for the upcoming season, as well as to rebuild a franchise that has seen enormous success in recent years.
Lebron James had been the face of the Cavaliers for the entirety of his career there, and with his second departure comes the arduous task of rebuilding and enduring growing pains in order to create a new identity in the post-James era.
Despite maintaining several key players from the previous seasons, including Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, the team is off to an incredibly lackluster start.
The Cavaliers have started off the season 1–8, losing in blowouts to the Atlanta Hawks and the Brooklyn Nets. Many of the team’s averages, such as points per game and 3-point percentage, rank in the bottom third in the league — a far cry from the team’s overall performance last season.
The Cavaliers’ performance thus far can partially be attributed to several key players from last year, who were expected to step up their game, failing to deliver, either on account of injury or just poor performance.
High expectations for Kevin Love’s triumphant return have yet to be met, with the 6-foot-10-inch forward-center shooting just 32.3 percent from the field and only converting on 29.2 percent of his shots beyond the arc, as well as being plagued with a persistent foot injury.
Avoiding their first 0–7 start since the late 90’s, the Cavaliers, under interim head coach Larry Drew, came together to win their first game of the regular season against the Atlanta Hawks. In their second matchup against the Hawks this season, the Cavaliers pulled away with a 136–114 victory.
In combination with the recent ousting of head coach Ty Lue, who led the Cavaliers to three NBA Finals appearances, a championship, and an overall record of 128–83, this year’s team faces a strategic nightmare as to how they will maneuver around the gaping hole left by James on the roster. Unfortunately, the current Cavaliers’ roster lacks the depth, athleticism, cohesiveness, and energy to even make it to the playoffs.
Despite this season’s brutal outlook, the Cavaliers have some hope for the future.
This season, in addition to upcoming seasons, should be viewed as an opportunity to play around strategically with returning players and new talent, as well as with the coaching staff. It is essential that the Cavaliers use this time efficiently to create a new identity for themselves, without James.