So maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t miss Kyrie Irving after all.
Sure, losing him is big in the grand scheme of things—especially if they were hoping to use him as a safety net in the event LeBron James leaves next July. The Cavaliers also cannot tout too many of their blessings following that trade. They need to see how Isaiah Thomas turns out once he returns from his hip injury.
Overall, though, they look deeper. Jae Crowder is among the most versatile defenders in the NBA, Dwyane Wade has some stuff left in the tank, and Derrick Rose and Jeff Green are recognizable names coming off the bench. Hell, with both J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson now in the second unit, the Cavaliers have two of last year’s starters directing the backups. Other teams would kill for this depth, and head coach Tyronn Lue knows it, per Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon:
“I think we’ll be a lot better off. I think we got a lot of different pieces,” Lue said. “We’re deeper. A lot of versatile players. A lot of different lineups we can play. So, it will be different but I think we have a better chance, yes.”
Playing even close to average basketball when James takes a breather would be a coup for the Cavaliers. Their net rating plummeted by 16.2 points per 100 possessions when he stepped off the court last season, according to NBA.com. Not one of the other top-five finishers on the MVP ballot had a greater impact on their team.
Is the Cavaliers roster no built to reverse such a troubling trend? We can’t be too sure. But they look like a team that can stretch 10 or 11 deep every night without breaking a sweat—and that’s seldom a bad thing.