The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t rung in the new year in the way that they expected. Following Monday’s 124-122 loss to an Anthony Davis-less Pelicans squad, the defending champs are now a pedestrian 5-6 in 2017. The Cavs looked apathetic for a majority of the game, allowing a mediocre Pelicans offense to shoot close to 50% ass Jrue Holliday and Terrance Jones both eclipsed 30 points. Kyrie Irving poured in 49 points and LeBron tallied a triple-double, but it wasn’t enough to erase an early deficit.
Now, the top team in the East finds itself looking for answers. In the process of a tumultuous January, the Cavs are in need of a roster acquisition to keep pace with the juggernaut in Oakland – and Cleveland’s star player isn’t afraid to let management know. After the abysmal showing in New Orleans, James said “We need a f—ing playmaker… I’ll be 33 in the winter, and I ain’t got time to waste.”
Naysayers will be quick to berate James, pointing out that having two star level talents isn’t enough to secure another title. But to an extent, the King is right. James, Irving and Love are undoubtedly one of the top trios in the league, but you need more than three guys to produce over the grueling schedule of an NBA season. There’s just no reason James should be playing 44 minutes in a game in January against a sub-.500 Pelicans team purely to keep his team in the game. Kyrie should never be scoring 49 in a losing effort. Other guys need to step up.
Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson have been solid off the bench for the Cavs. The team should get a big boost J.R. Smith’s return and once Kyle Korver becomes more acclimated to the offense, but they need another guy who can take some playmaking responsibilities off the shoulders of James and Irving.
Looking around the league for an established player that fits the mold, names like Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo first come to mind. Both players are on losing teams, and the latter has completely played his way out of the rotation in Chicago. The question would be if either player is even willing to accept a bench role and how it would affect their production.
Williams seems to have a bit more left in the tank, and is clearly the better scoring option, but there are questions about how he plays when surrounded by other great players. Rondo is a shell of his former self and rarely shows any interest in playing defense, but his playmaking ability would fit well with the Cavs’ surplus of outside shooting.
Delving deeper, they could look at a couple of bench guys around the Association. The Lakers have two pass-first guards in Jose Calderon and Marcelo Huertas that are intriguing options who are more than accustomed to a reserve role. Jameer Nelson has seen a dip in his shooting stroke over the last few months, but could easily be pried from the Denver Nuggets. Tim Frazier of the Pelicans and Terry Rozier of the Celtics have shown promise, but the Cavs might not have the pieces necessary to pry the young guards from their respective teams, and they don’t exactly fit the description of a “win now” type of player.
With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Cavs will leave no stone unturned in their pursuit for another title.
Sources: ESPN, Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports