The Cleveland Cavaliers Have Too Many Scorers

The Cavs are gearing up for the 2017-18 season by toying with a lot of weird lineups: Wade at point guard, Tristan on the bench, Love at center, and maybe Richard Jefferson in another city. How close are they to having too much?

Basketball's most famous expression - one that people thought would apply to the Heat (they won two titles) and the Warriors (they won two titles) - is that "there's only one ball." The Cavs lived through this for the past three seasons, with constant media attention about whether or not Kevin Love was getting the ball enough or if Kyrie Irving was happy being 2nd fiddle to LeBron James.

The reality is that the Cavs had two ball hogs (a term of endearment, in this case) who finished possessions very effectively. They also had Love, who was in the conversation, but never to the extent of James and Irving. This season, Irving is obviously gone, but several more ball-dominant players moved to northeast Ohio. How messy is this logjam?

The Criteria

Pulling from Synergy Sports, once you weed out guys who only played a small number of games, about 160 NBA players ended 10 possessions per game with the ball in their hands. Those 10 possessions per game ended with either a shot, a turnover, or a foul. The goal here was simply to find out who is taking shots and who is ending possessions. In short: who's a ball hog?

The Results

Everyone who wants to get playing time for the Cavaliers is a ball hog.

Last year's Cavs were led by LeBron James, who averaged 25.2 possessions finished per game. Kyrie Irving wasn't too far behind, averaging 23.8 possessions per game. Kevin Love was 3rd on the team, averaging just over 18 possessions per game. They were 10th, 17th, and 57th in total possessions ended in last year's NBA (not per game).

This year's Cavs are without notable ball hog Kyrie Irving (again, a term of endearment), but they added the following basketball black holes. 

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas was 7th overall in total possessions last year. He averaged 25.7 per game (that's more than LeBron). Of course, he's injured right now, so that means there are a lot of possessions available for other players to pick up his lost production, right?

Dwyane Wade

Despite being about a hundred years old (according to his wife) and seeing his minutes per game dip under 30, Wade still finished over 20 possessions per game last year. He tried to score more often than Kevin Love. The bad news here is that he was less efficient with those possessions than offensive luminaries like Jordan Clarkson and Victor Oladipo.

Derrick Rose

Throw in another 19+ possession per game under Derrick Rose's name, as that's what his season entailed. That's now about 67 shots/fouls-drawn/turnovers per game to replace the 24 lost in Kyrie's departure. Again, Thomas isn't healthy, so maybe it's more like 40, but this also isn't the last addition to the rotation.

Jae Crowder

Crowder doesn't seem to be the type who will get mad if his touches go down, but boy will his touches go down. Crowder was finishing about 12.3 possessions per game while wearing Celtic green last year. He could get that kind of number again this year, but it's just as likely that he gets seven open threes per game and nothing else.

Jeff Green

I did not expect that Jeff Green was going to end up on this list, but apparently, he fit the criteria, averaging just over 10 possessions per game. This means that the Cavs brought in five guys from that list of about 160, despite having only three from their roster on the list last year. Green's efficiency was almost dead even with Wade's, which is not a great sign. 

The short recap of this is that Thomas and Crowder were hyper-efficient while being relatively high volume guys. Thomas, of course, was extremely high volume whereas Crowder was in the top 30% of NBA players.

Wade, Rose, and Green, however, were not. On that 160 player list, Rose was 114th best in scoring efficiency while Wade and Green were down in the mid 130s.

The Synopsis

There's only one basketball. The Warriors have been able to put egos aside and play the most team-friendly basketball outside of San Antonio that the NBA has seen in decades. It helps that they have several outstanding players. The Cavs are not quite at that level, and even if they were, they don't have an offensive system to takes advantage of it (I wrote about that here during the Finals - the Cavs were incredibly iso-heavy).

Ty Lue will have his hands full, figuring out ways to make these guys share the ball. If they don't, this could be another season full of "why aren't they beating this bad team by 30?" and "these guys are so bored." Fingers crossed.

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