After being beaten by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals 4-1, the Cleveland Cavaliers are searching for answers to their Golden problem but won’t find any as long as the Warriors’ core stays intact.
LeBron James put on as an incredible performance in this year’s Finals as anyone has ever seen. But even posting a triple-double average of 33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the Finals wasn’t enough to beat the ‘juggernaut’ Warriors. That begs the question of where James and the Cavs go next.
Some say blow it all up; trade away pieces and try to rebuild around Kyrie Irving and LeBron. Others think Cleveland was a lot closer matched to Golden State than the 4-1 series suggests. After all, in the last three games of the series the Cavaliers played a lot better than they did in opening two games where we saw Irving and J.R. Smith step up big time. Still, without other key players like Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, Deron Williams and Kyle Korver making an impact, Cleveland had no chance in these finals.
Since the Cavaliers’ loss, rumors have surfaced about a potential trade involving Love for Paul George. Although it seems like a no-brainer move on the surface, the reality is it won’t make a difference against this Warriors team. Yes, George could handle more defensive responsibility than Love, and his offensive game is well rounded and better than Love’s overall. His length and athleticism would even make for better matchups with Golden State, but what makes the Warriors truly dominant is not just the firepower and flexibility of their starting five—it’s the firepower and the flexibility of their bench.
The biggest difference in Golden State and Cleveland is the production of their second units. While the Warriors’ bench players were an essential part of their playoff run and Finals victory, the Cavaliers’ bench was pretty much nonexistent outside of game 4. Trading Love for George is a definite improvement on offense and especially on defense, but that jump alone won’t be enough to take the Warriors down.
Whether or not they move Love won’t matter. What’s more important for the Cavs is that they reconstruct their bench and add new role players. They have the highest payroll in the NBA so they have no room to sign a top-tier player. Their biggest challenge will be finding a trade package that keeps some sort of a big three intact while adding better role players. With LeBron James in tow, anything is possible, but Cleveland certainly has a busy offseason ahead of them.