Lue has not hesitated in changing the style of the Cavs, but it is going to take some time.
When Tyronn Lue took over as the Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach, there was a lot of speculation throughout the NBA, some bad, and a lot of confusion as to who was behind this move. The change came at a surprising time and it seemed as if the wheels were coming off of the championship hopes for this season. Eleven games into the Lue era and it’s hard to predict where the future holds following the All-Star break, but, generally, so far so good. The Cavaliers have gone 8-3 over their last 11 games and have increased their lead in both the Eastern Conference and Central Division standings.
The expectation is championship or bust in Lue’s first stint as a head coach even if that may not seem fair in a year when the Golden State Warriors are setting record after record. Though the coaching change garnered high expectations, it seemed as if the season was taking a slow turn for the worse in Lue’s first game, fittingly in primetime, against the Chicago Bulls. The Cavaliers lost rather handily and never really looked like the team that had been to the Finals the year prior.
Fast forward two weeks and the the Cavs are 1st in the Eastern Conference with a record of 38-14. The ship has righted itself as the Cavaliers have gone 8-2 since the Chicago game and seem finally be in a groove. In order to attempt to understand how this head coaching change has gone thus far, one must look at the new look Cavs in comparison to the first half of the season Cavaliers.
At first glance, the Cavaliers have gone from a defensive oriented team, to a more faster paced team with higher scoring and a higher offensive rating, with a much worse defensive rating. Contrary to what many may think, the Cavaliers pace has stayed the same under both coaches, as the Cavaliers had a 95.03 pace with David Blatt and now run at a 95.5 pace with Lue.
Pace aside, the offense has excelled under Lue against some rather good opponents. The teams the Cavaliers have faced over Lue’s tenure average a defensive rating of 105.5 on the season, which would rank 16th in the NBA. Though that number doesn’t jump off the page, the offense has looked incredibly fluid in various instances, especially in their 117 point performance against the Spurs, who are consistently one of the top defenses in the league. The Cavaliers were running and gunning all game, spreading the floor and letting the best player in the world flourish.
The win was impressive and drew some speculation that Lue was on his way to fixing the Cavaliers. However, since his first game, Lue made it very apparent that he was not happy with the team’s physical state and that it would take time to increase the pace of the offense and get the team to where he wanted.
Though the numbers claim the pace hasn’t increased much, the Cavaliers offense has made immense improvements, but only to be held back by some defensive struggles.
A slow, defensive force was the image of the Cavaliers during the Finals, with James, Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert locking down opposing teams and running at the 26th ranked pace in the league last year. However, thus far with Lue, the Cavaliers have allowed 100 points in eight of their last 11 games, which was unprecedented during Blatt’s tenure.
Over the last 11 games, Cavaliers’ opponents are averaging 105.15 offensive rating on the season, which would rank 19th in the NBA. The Cavaliers’ struggles against rather pedestrian offenses is definitely a cause for concern, especially for a team that was one of the most physical defensive teams in the league last year. However, it’s hard to determine if this is just a matter of figuring out a new style and getting in shape, or a compromise for a higher paced offense.
Along with team offense and defense, one dramatic change has been the play of Kyrie Irving. Though some might say it was just a matter of time recovering from injury, Irving’s numbers have progressed substantially since Lue took over the role as head coach.
Per Game Statistics
Along with these improvements, Kyrie’s steals per game have gone up from .8 to 1.2 and his turnover rate has stayed exactly the same. Kyrie’s role in the offense has increased significantly as he is taking around 4-5 more shots per game, while also distributing and scoring at much higher rates, indicating an increased efficiency.
With 30 games to go in the season, there is no crystal ball to predict where the Lue era is headed. There have been many promising signs only 11 games into his tenure, but also some red flags that need attention. As we’ve seen before, it doesn’t take much for LeBron to lead his teams to the Finals, but it may take a new man in charge to get over the hump and win one for the Land.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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