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Are the Recent Moves Enough to get the Cleveland Cavaliers Back on Track?

Updated on January 17, 2015

Cleveland Cavaliers 2015

J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson are now teammates in Cleveland to start the New Year.
J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson are now teammates in Cleveland to start the New Year. | Source

J.R. Smith now playing alongside Lebron James

So far Lebron's return to Cleveland has resulted in wildly inconsistent performances from the Cleveland Cavaliers. This has the Cavaliers with a winning record currently, but they are not at the top of the Eastern Conference. A place where they hope to be by season's end. With Lebron James suffering from fatigue and Kyrie Irving suffering a recent injury, it became apparent that the rest of the Cavaliers roster is not good enough to be a top contender in the NBA this season. Management for the Cavaliers responded by trading Dion Waiters in a three team deal that brought back Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. They then traded two future first round draft picks to Denver for center Timofey Mozgov. This fills the Cavaliers need for a big physical presence in the middle of their defense, along with a shooting guard to complement the skills of Lebron James and Kyrie Irving. While Mozgov and Smith may have not been the best players available, given the Cavaliers current situation with highly paid stars on the roster, they will have to settle for what these two players can provide. With this in mind, a further look at what these players provide will help to present a clearer picture on the Cavaliers ability to get back on track.

Timofey Mozgov

Mozgov is not a very well known player to NBA fans after putting up very pedestrian numbers in Denver for the past few seasons. At 7 feet and 1 inch tall he is an imposing presence in the middle of the paint whenever he is on the court, and the Cavaliers needed exactly that to achieve their goals for this season. After Anderson Varejao was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, it became necessary for the Cavaliers to bring in another center to provide depth in the front court. Mozgov should be able to benefit from the presence of Lebron James and Kyrie Irving the same way Varejao did over the last few seasons when he started to average nearly a double-double after Cleveland drafted Kyrie Irving. Mozgov has enough offensive skill to provide the Cavaliers with a scoring presence in the post, especially with Lebron James setting him up for good offensive looks. Most of Mozgov's impact will be felt on the defensive end of the floor where he should serve as a rim protector and shot blocker throughout the remainder of the season for Cleveland. If Mozgov proves to be a great rebounder for the Cavaliers, they will slowly become one of the better defensive teams in the NBA with both Kevin Love and Timofey Mozgov cleaning up the defensive boards.

J.R. Smith

Smith faces a significant transition as he joins a Cavaliers roster where he will not be able to take the number of shots that he accustomed to taking. As a volume scorer who can create his own shot, J.R. Smith will now be relegated to being a role player that complements the Cavalier's stars. As a player with significant athleticism, Smith will be asked to make his initial impact with the team by providing great defense before his scoring opportunities will increase as given to him by his teammates. The transition here for Smith as a player who dominates the ball, will be to find a way to complement James and Irving without always having the ball in his hands when he is on the floor. Smith will likely be asked to be a spot up jump shooter who stretches the floor with long distance shots. Once Smith is able to establish his catch and shoot ability, he will then have the opportunity to create looks closer to the basket by utilizing a pump fake from the perimeter. With Lebron James and Kyrie Irving having a huge say in what happens on the floor, J.R. Smith will have to share the basketball the way they do in order to gain their trust in him as a role playing teammate. With strong defensive work ethic and smart shot selection, J.R. Smith can be exactly what the Cavaliers were looking for in Dion Waiters before the trade.

How will playing time be distributed?

Initially both Mozgov and J.R. Smith will have to work hard to show that they can complement James, Irving and Kevin Love in the Cavaliers starting lineup. With Shawn Marion and Tristan Thompson already complementing the efforts of their star teammates, the newcomers will have to earn their minutes with strong showings off the bench. With Shawn Marion being an aging veteran and J.R. Smith being an extremely athletic player in his prime, it should not be too difficult for Smith to earn starter's minutes quite quickly. For Mozgov competing with a young and effective Tristan Thompson, the job will not be nearly as easy for him. With Thompson averaging nearly a block per game, and nearly a double-double, the Cavaliers are in good position with whoever is earning playing time of the two players competing to be the center for Cleveland. With this situation where the team now has plenty of depth as well as competition for starting jobs, the Cavaliers are now in great position to reach their potential as they play out the 2015 part of their season schedule.

Will the Cavaliers get to the top of the conference by season's end?

Despite some of the bad losses recently for the Cleveland Cavaliers, they are now positioned to make a strong run at the top spot in the Eastern Conference. When both Lebron James and Kyrie Irving return from injury there will be more than enough talent in Cleveland to win nearly every game they play. If each of the new players are willing to sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team, then the Cavaliers will be able to meet their full potential in 2015. Losing Anderson Varejao was a big loss for the Cavaliers when it happened, but now being able to turn to Timofey Mozgov will help them to overcome that loss. With the Atlanta Hawks currently at the top of the Eastern Conference standings without any transcendent talent to match what Cleveland has in Lebron and Kyrie Irving, the top spot in the Eastern Conference appears to be still very much within reach for the Cavaliers. With bench depth now intact, the Cavaliers can now turn to Iman Shumpert to give them quality minutes in the absence of Lebron James, along with spelling him at the point forward position after his return. With most of the 2015 schedule left to play for the Cavaliers, they will look to put it all together in a run that attempts to match what the Heat were able to accomplish in the second half of the 2013 regular season.

Sources:

http://www.nba.com/2015/news/01/05/cavs-release-on-three-team-trade/

http://www.rotoworld.com/player/nba/1070/anderson-varejao

http://espn.go.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/4298/timofey-mozgov

http://espn.go.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/6474/tristan-Thompson

http://espn.go.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/510/shawn-marion

http://espn.go.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/2444/jr-smith

http://espn.go.com/nba/standings

http://fansided.com/2014/09/09/cleveland-cavaliers-trade-rumors-timofey-mozgov-tristan-thopson/

Cleveland Cavaliers 2015

Will the Cleveland Cavaliers finish the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference?

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    • profile image

      Lalaine 

      3 years ago

      Thanks for being on point and on tatgre!

    • QC_1983 profile image

      Quentin Congress 

      3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      You have a point there, I think he can serve in a role similar to what Chris Bosh did in Miami, although Love can defend centers like Bosh could.

    • Josh Ruga profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Ruga 

      3 years ago from New Jersey

      Love is definitely a good basketball player. He has great fundamentals with his box outs and other aspects of his game. He also has great size. He does not possess the elite athleticism that other stars have however. He can be a factor because of his long range shooting, his rebounding and his court vision though. Tim Duncan is a star by using his abilities as much as possible and combining it with smarts to play the game at a high level. That is how Love can be a star with the Cavs.

    • QC_1983 profile image

      Quentin Congress 

      3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      I still think Love can be a factor with this team. I like J.R. Smith, he can be a great asset for us if he stays focused. And, I can't 'til Iman Shumpert comes back, I think he will bring the perimeter defense. I think you'll see what kind of team the Cavs really are in the 2nd half of the season. If they finish the last 14 games strong going heading into the All-Star Break, they will have a strong 2nd half.

    • Josh Ruga profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Ruga 

      3 years ago from New Jersey

      Love may not be quite the player that Cavaliers management thought he was when they traded for him. However, the addition of J.R. Smith's upside could help them to overcome that lapse in judgment.

    • QC_1983 profile image

      Quentin Congress 

      3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      As a die-hard Cavaliers fan, I'm starting to see some improvement since these trades happen. I think LeBron sitting out these last couple of weeks helped because he looks more like the player we're used to seeing on the floor. Now, the Cavs just have to wait and see how Shumpert does when he returns to the floor, I think he will be solid because he can defend the perimeter. I like Mosgov, although he may not be a huge name, but he brings that inside presence that we sorely was lacking. He can block shots, alter shots and he's willing to fight under the basket. Also, the team going bowling out West has definitely strengthened the bond between themselves and the coach. In the last two games in L.A. against the Lakers and Clippers, there was a camaraderie that I haven't seen most of this season. Still have to find a way for Kevin Love to shine with the team and the defense still has to improve. But, at least I've been seeing a little bit more effort on the defensive end. I think the Cavs will make a huge run in the 2nd half of the season for one of the top 5 seeds in the East.

    • Josh Ruga profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Ruga 

      3 years ago from New Jersey

      With him not playing much basketball lately, I think he still has something left. He should fill in nicely during the absence of Jabari Parker, and the Bucks have an underrated squad. I really like what John Henson brings to that team as far as skill set.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      What do you think about the Bucks signing Kenyon Martin to a 10 day contract? How much gas is left in his tank?

    • Josh Ruga profile imageAUTHOR

      Joshua Ruga 

      3 years ago from New Jersey

      Very good points you make there. Some of that was apparent for the Heat in 2010 as well. I think the Cavaliers are doing the right thing by letting their spent superstar rest enough so that he can give them close to 100% effort when he returns.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      This is a very interesting hub about the Cavaliers. At the start of the season, Cleveland was chosen by many sports writers to finish on top of the East. It isn't that easy if a team has bad chemistry and LeBron has been hurting all year. The big problem is that the Cavs have three stars and it is necessary for them to sacrifice and play well together for the benefit of the whole team and not just their personal stats. I remember about 10 years ago when the Lakers put together a dream team and never won a championship. If the Cavaliers had the team chemistry of the San Antonio Spurs, they would be a lock to win the East. Right now they are only a half game ahead of the Bucks who only won 15 games all of last year.

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