First things first: They get no credit for making the Finals. LeBron James could win three playoff series in the East with any four Supreme Court justices as his running mates. Account for that, and what have these bozos contributed to the effort?
Hey, maybe the Cavs are better off without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, went the murmured refrain during last year’s Finals, when the hobbled Cavaliers defended and rebounded and LeBronned their way to a 2-1 lead and it seemed, for a minute there, like defending and rebounding and LeBron might actually Do It. It’s not quite true—especially not along the length of a regular season, when some nights even LeBron James needs some other dudes who can eat possessions without barfing them down the front of their jerseys—but the more accurate telling is no less depressing: Against these Warriors, in a playoff series, it makes no difference. Irving and Love; Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov; Mo Williams and Sasha Kaun; James Jones and a crayon drawing of Shaquille O’Neal in a Superman costume—take your pick. The Cavs will lose. By a lot!
Go ahead and try to isolate the tactical/strategic reasons why the Cavs can’t even give their vile techno-libertarian opponents a decent game. Eventually you start to notice patterns emerging, as the reasons pile up. They can’t hide Kyrie on defense and Kyrie chokes the life out of the Cavs every time the ball is in his hands and actually it’s not good offense when Kyrie jerks off his handles for 14 seconds just to get himself a contested 17-footer can be lumped together as Kyrie just kinda sucks bird, doesn’t he? Love can’t switch onto anybody in pick-and-rolls, so the Cavs have to trap and give up those downhill 4-on-3 death-by-ball-movement buckets the Warriors love so much; Love also can’t hang back and defend the rim because he’s short and stumpy-armed and soft and has a vertical leap that just barely gets him over the lines painted onto the floor; Love might actually be a big gaping wound on the floor for the team that traded Andrew Wiggins to get him; Love’s out with a concussion anyway, so who cares. Reckless klutz Dellavedova can’t help. Iman Shumpert can’t help. Mozgov can’t help. Richard Jefferson, bless his eager 74-year-old heart, can’t help. Even when they try to get out of LeBron’s way, they don’t make his job easier: their defenders don’t come with them. They’re bad. The pattern is: The Cavs are bad.