May 10, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) scores over Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) and guard Jimmy Butler (21) in the second half of game four of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at the United Center. Cleveland won 86-84. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
When did the Cavaliers turn into the early-2000s Allen Iverson 76ers team? Like Iverson, James brings the ball up. He has teammates there, but they are only summoned when LeBron is in trouble. The offense is LeBron trying to get a good shot using a pick-and-roll to try to get to the rim. Once the defense collapses around James, finally the flurry of offensive shooters is beckoned. Down low, the offense for Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov are to collect LeBron’s misses or take an open 3-foot layup after James entices the opposing Bulls center to help.
Nine players got minutes for the Cavaliers on Sunday. After James and an injured Irving, the list of players that are contributing for a Cavaliers team that still has 1-1 odds to go to the Finals is astonishing. Let’s look at the resume each of the players.
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Matthew Dellavedova—Undrafted second-year player.
James Jones—34-year old professional basketball player. Secretary-treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association—James Jones has had such a forgettable 12-year career that is actually the two sentences in his Wikipedia introduction paragraph. You think I’m lying. Really, Jones has done so little in 12 years that being the secretary-treasurer of the NBPA is his most definable characteristic? Can you imagine James Jones going home after games and counting and filing everyone’s checks? Does he have to call players when they don’t pay? “Hey DeMarcus, I know you just got ejected for the twelfth time this season and want to get out of Sacramento, but I really need your players association dues. It has been three months know. I think the least a guy who makes over $13 million a year is get his checks in on time.”
Timofey Mozgov—Also undrafted. Before this season, best known for getting dunked on by Blake Griffin four years ago.
Kendrick Perkins—Released by the Jazz during the season.
Iman Shumpert—The Knicks traded Shumpert along with the next guy to the Cavs during the season and got in return…. Three players they waived immediately and a second-round pick in 2019.
J.R. Smith—Such a cancer in New York they had to throw in Iman Shumpert in the trade just to get rid off him and get basically nothing in return.
Tristan Thompson—Thompson is actually a pretty decent role player. But then again, he is a bench-role player who is going to get paid more this summer than the $13 million a season he was already offered. Note: Taj Gibson is making around $8 million a year.
LeBron and that supporting cast is 2-2 in a series against the most talented Bulls squad since the title-winning team in 1998. If you bet on Cleveland to win the East over the other three remaining teams, you get even money back. Those are the same odds you would get if you bet the historically great 67-win Warriors team to win the West. I know the West is much better, but the Cavaliers are have an amazing drop off after James and Irving.
And the Cavaliers shouldn’t be in the position they are in. They aren’t winning the series; the Bulls are failing to take advantage of a massive opportunity. Chicago’s two main competitors for the East (Wizards and Cavs) have both lost a star player for the remainder of the playoffs.
The Bulls only loss is Pau Gasol for a couple of games, and him being out makes Joakim Noah play much better and gives Taj Gibson more minutes. You could argue losing Gasol hasn’t hurt the Bulls much at all. They are having troubles on offense, but their defense is much better without Gasol. The Bulls have never had a better opportunity to seize the East than these last four games. Being even at 2-2 right now really feels like the Cavs are up 3-1.