For reasons obvious, the focus of last night’s season opener for the Cleveland Cavaliers was less about players who joined the team this offseason and more about the one who left.
Once again, Kyrie Irving was on the floor for Cavs opening night. Only this time, it was as a member of the Boston Celtics. His nasty breakup with the team which drafted him grabbed tons of offseason headlines, so naturally all eyes were fixed on him and LeBron James heading into the game.
However, with Irving’s only regular season trip to Cleveland now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to focus on the team’s new faces and how they looked in their Cavs debut. The results, specifically for Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder were…not bad.
It sounds tepid, sure, but for these three marquee offseason pickups, the results from opening night were merely mixed.
Just to get it out of the way, yes, I’m very aware we’re talking about the first of 82 games. Clearly there’s no way to get a good read on any player after one contest, especially one who’s getting used to new surroundings. This statement is further reinforced by the fact Cleveland’s starting lineup barely shared the court together over the preseason.
Still, Crowder, Wade and Rose are all going to play crucial roles for the Cavs this year. As a result, we’ll be keeping an eye on them throughout the season to see how they gel and what they’re able to contribute.
For at least two of these additions, the season got off to a slightly rocky start. Wade and Rose, Cleveland’s starting back court, have their work cut out for them when it comes to coexisting on this team.
The former struggled offensively against Boston, providing just eight points on 3-10 shooting while also contributing four turnovers. It was about what you’d expect from someone playing his first game on a brand new team.
Rose fared a little better, ending the night with 14 points and showing a strong ability to get to the hoop. He did, however, struggle finishing at times, often appearing to just throw himself at the basket and hope the ball went in. Toss in his -7 plus/minus rating, and you can see how this back-court is going to take some work.
The issue is Wade and Rose don’t exactly seem to like a great fit when it comes to sharing the floor together. It certainly isn’t any sort of personality clash. Instead, it’s the fact both possess very similar offensive styles, focusing on dribble penetration while not being a threat from long range. This became a general concern the moment coach Tyronn Lue announced Wade would be starting.
One game in, these worries haven’t been eased. Look for Lue to consider making adjustments should last night be a preview of what’s to come.
Of the three marquee debuts, nobody caught more praise than Crowder.
While he didn’t make a huge impact on the scoreboard – eleven points on 3-10 shooting – the former Celtic seemed to make his presence known on every possession. His tough-nosed defense was apparent from the get-go, as he spent the entire game showing off the kind of grit this team has badly needed. Often seen as one of the complimentary pieces of the Irving trade, Crowder may quickly become a huge fan favorite in Cleveland if this is what he can provide.
Again, all of this can be filed away to “it’s still early.” No true evaluations can be made of Wade, Rose and Crowder after one game. The entire team will need a lot of time to finally develop a rhythm and get used to everyone’s respective playing style.
Overall, though, the debuts of Cleveland’s three new starters played out just as you’d expect – flashes of potential with signs there’s still a ways to go before they find their groove.