by Evan Sobol
A quick glance at the NBA Eastern Conference standings would take many basketball fans by surprise. The Cleveland Cavaliers, who have won the conference the past three years and won a Championship in 2016, sit at ninth in the standings.
The departure of star point guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics was definitely a tough pill to swallow for the Cavs, but many think the team got even better in the offseason. They acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder and a 2018 Nets’ first round pick in the trade. Cleveland also signed veteran point guard Derrick Rose and LeBron’s best friend, Dwyane Wade, to one-year deals. The roster is almost entirely different from last season, but it is bolstered by veteran players who have already proved themselves in the league.
Through 13 games, the Cavaliers are 6-7. Derrick Rose has missed the last two games with an ankle injury and could miss more time. This puts the Cavs in a tough spot because they do not have a true starter at the point guard position. Thomas has been injured since last season and will be out for almost another two months. According to CBS Sports, the team will have him return in January.
Dwyane Wade has not played like himself lately. This season he is totaling just 8.5 points-per-game, much less than his career line of 23. He has been playing a lower amount of minutes, possibly to stay fresh for the later part of the season.
Although the Cavs have issues across the board, they should still make it into the playoffs with ease. It is only November. Games do not usually matter until late December. LeBron James is also playing very well. He is currently putting up 28.5 points-per-game and has 8.5 assists per game. James has also proved himself this season at the point guard position. He started at the point on Oct. 24. against the Bulls and recorded 34 points and 13 assists in the 119-112 victory. It is possible he could see more starts at the position if Rose’s injury struggles continue. We can’t not forget that LeBron has been to the Finals each of the last seven seasons.
The East is also still a very tight conference. Just two teams have at least 10 wins so far. The Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and New York Knicks are in front of the Cavs right now, but neither team has made the playoffs in the last four years. It would be a surprise if their success continues. The Sixers have a talented young squad but lack experience. Orlando has been playing well, thanks to accurate 3-point shooting but lack experience as well. The Knicks have been led by Kristaps Porzinigis and his 30.4 PPG, but it will be tough for his scoring success to continue. The team also does not have reliable options at point guard.
Down the stretch, I think the Cavs will finish in the top four of the Eastern Conference. The return of Isaiah Thomas will provide the team with more scoring opportunities. Wade should play better down the stretch with increased minutes. No need to worry, Cavs fans.