I don’t envy any of the beat reporters who had to talk to LeBron James last night.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have lost five of their last seven games. Said skid includes an all-out mauling at the hands of the rival-but-not-rival Golden State Warriors, as well as an embarrassing and lazy loss to the underwhelming Portland Trail Blazers. Things came to a head last night when Cleveland laid an egg against the New Orleans Pelicans, who were playing without superstar Anthony Davis. The Cavs were instead torched for 36 points by backup forward Terrance Jones.
For obvious reasons, said defeat was a boiling point for Cleveland. Such a fact was made clear by James’ expletive-ridden post-game comments.
“It’s like when you don’t have bodies. It’s tough,” James said, noting the lack of help available for the Cavs. “The f—ing grind of the regular season. We’re a top-heavy team. We have a top-heavy team. We top-heavy as s—. It’s me, [Kyrie Irving], [Kevin Love]. It’s top-heavy.”
After reiterating numerous times Cleveland’s depth issues, he hammered the point home as clearly as he could – “We need a f—ing playmaker.”
Well OK then.
For those who’ve followed the Cavs this year, this sentiment from James is nothing new. Even after the team traded for Kyle Korver, he noted Cleveland’s need for a veteran backup for Irving. However, last night was the first time he was this emotional about it.
Let me start out by stating an obvious fact – James is right. Irving is playing too many minutes, and there’s no solve for this on the current roster. James has been picking up a lot of slack, but rookie Kay Felder isn’t ready to be a dependable backup.
I want to follow it up, though, with something James and the rest of the Cavs need to realize. Yes, adding another body will help the cause. At the same time, Cleveland is foolish if it’s relying solely on the trade market to fix its current woes.
Again, Cavs GM David Griffin can ill-afford to sit on his hands as the trade deadline nears. The roster as it currently stands can certainly make a deep postseason run, probably even to the Finals. Is it enough to topple Golden State or the San Antonio Spurs? It’s hardly a sure thing.
With that in mind, Griffin is (hopefully) pursuing potential options to help ease the burden for Irving. A solid backup point guard will definitely help Cleveland out, both by giving stars more of a breather and shoring up a bench unit which has been painfully inconsistent this year.
Of course, a trade won’t fix Cleveland’s current lackadaisical play. It won’t fix the turnovers the team has been giving opponents hand-over-fist more often than not. It won’t automatically repair the currently porous defense which just got rolled over by a New Orleans team coming off an embarrassing 29-point loss to the last place Brooklyn Nets.
Again, I’m not saying a trade won’t help Cleveland. I’m just noting how important it is for the Cavs to realize there’s a lot to clean up, and acquiring a new player won’t solve all of this.
This fact is further hammered home by a basic, yet concerning question – what does Cleveland have to offer another team?
Griffin has handed out first round picks left and right, as 2021 is currently the earliest the team can select a player that early. There’s also Iman Shumpert, who seems to be a popular name when it comes to trade chips. That said, he’s excelled since being inserted in the starting lineup, and for a team which badly needs help outside of its big three players, it wouldn’t make sense to deal someone who’s contributing.
Even if the Cavs decided to offer Shumpert, who can they get for him? How high is James setting the bar when it comes to this “playmaker” he’s clamoring for? Unless Griffin gets far more creative than what we’ve seen in the past, the playmaker Cleveland is likely to acquire probably won’t be a fourth superstar.
This just further reiterates the Cavs players can’t just keep going through the motions under the assumption a magic trade is coming soon that’ll fix all the problems. Sure, it’s likely exhausting playing as often as James and Irving are lately, which only limits how much these two can do as games wane on. At the same time, banking on a trade to right the ship is too much reliance on fool’s gold.
While the Cavs do need to make a move, there’s more than a few things the current players need to handle on their end, issues which can’t be solved by a trade no matter who it’s for.