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From The Basement: Panic time for the Cavaliers?

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From the Basement is a weekly column in which the Hullabaloo Sports team discusses its opinion on contemporary sports issues.

Though the Cavaliers have made each of the past three NBA Finals, do they have what it takes to capture the Eastern Conference crown for a fourth consecutive year? Cleveland is currently third in the Eastern Conference standings, but the team is showing quite a bit of inconsistency, having recently lost to the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons.

The Cavs tried to address areas of weakness at the trade deadline, but will new additions George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood be enough to push Cleveland past Boston and Toronto and into the NBA Finals?

Scoring has not been a problem for Cleveland at a rate of 110.1 points per game, fifth in the NBA. The Cavaliers have also had no problem distributing the ball, averaging 23.5 assists per game, ninth in the league. So, where does the problem lie?

Several key characteristics of this season differ in comparison to Cleveland’s past three Finals-bound campaigns. Cleveland is allowing opponents to score at a shockingly high rate of 109.8 points per game, 25th in the league and almost three whole points higher than last year’s campaign. In addition, the Cavaliers have had quite a bit of trouble in the rebound category, averaging 42 per game, 23rd in the league.

The Cavs tried to address these struggling areas with a complete team overhaul. At the trade deadline, they traded Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, Dwayne Wade and Channing Frye away to acquire Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood and George Hill. But will this overhaul actually improve the team?

This trade did in fact seem to bring life to the Cavs, as the team went on a brief four-game winning streak. This success eventually fell off, however, in recent losses to the Washington Wizards and San Antonio Spurs.

While the trade brought a brief spark to the team, the Cavs still seem to be struggling defensively and on the boards. Nance and Hill gave the Cavs a slight boost on the boards and on defense, but this change was not drastic enough. The team simply traded mediocre players for other mediocre players.

In order to make a true impact both in the rebound category and defensively, Cleveland needed to make an improvement at center. Starting center Tristan Thompson is averaging career worsts in both scoring and rebounds at 6.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. In addition to sluggish scoring and rebound statistics, Thompson is averaging a career worst 0.4 blocks per game, an abysmal average for a starting center. With numbers like these, it is absolutely shocking that the Cavaliers neglected improving at center.

While new additions Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood will provide youth and scoring boosts off the bench, the Cavs have done little to improve in terms of rebounds and defense, especially in the paint. Hill seems to be settling into his starting role but will be using his defensive skills on guards around the perimeter. Nance will provide a slight boost on the interior but looks to be coming off the bench, limiting his potential impact.

What the Cavaliers desperately needed at the deadline was a defensive-minded, rebounding center. Kevin Love can only do so much at power forward and has struggled with injuries. With the center position being left as is, Cleveland neglected their biggest need.

The Cavs will face their toughest road to the Finals yet this year in Boston and Toronto. LeBron’s free agency looms as well. It is undoubtedly panic time in Cleveland.

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
From The Basement: Panic time for the Cavaliers?