If you had to pick a team that would perform well in this year's NBA regular season, you might have picked the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors or Boston Celtics. Those would have all been smart selections. But, outside of the Warriors, most good money was going toward the Cleveland Cavaliers being near the top of that group and with a player like LeBron James on the team, how could you not? He's a game changer and his team seems to be there every year.
Yet, the defending Eastern Conference champions have dropped 12 of their last 18 games and are 6-9 dating back to the start of the new year. While they aren't out of playoff contention and still hold a 30-21 record, something is not right in Cleveland and there are a lot of questions surrounding the coaching and the roster.
There are a few things we know. LeBron James is thinking about leaving and it's a story Cavs fans are all too familiar with. He's in the final year of his contract with the team and there are plenty of suitors willing to find a way to give James a max contract to bring his talents to whatever team can afford him. The latest rumors are that the Warriors might be interested.
You can't be in Cleveland and not have the drama that is James' future put some weight on the team.
But, does that really explain how Cleveland owns the NBA's 23rd-ranked offensive rating (103.9) and 27th-ranked defensive rating (111.1) over the past five weeks? If we ignore the concern that comes with playing LeBron too much in an attempt to make up for the struggles of the team, it's pretty clear to see there are some fundamental problems.
First is the fact that the Cavs have too many players who want the ball. With over a dozen players looking for minutes, Derrick Rose and Isaiah Thomas want to play but neither are playing all that well. On the bench, Channing Frye was shooting well and Cedi Osman gave them some young aggression. Jose Calderon was reliable and now all of those players are taking a back seat to the "bigger names". All of this has led to questions surrounding the coach.
Whenever a coach is on the hot seat it has an adverse affect on the team. Whether Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue has lost the room, can't figure out who to play and when or the team is simply in an unexplainable rut, reports are surfacing that Lue may be in trouble. So much so, ownership had to come in and publicly state Lue is not in danger of losing his job.
"We are not firing our head coach," a Cavaliers official told ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski following the Cavaliers' 120-88 loss to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
But is this really the coach's fault? Not long ago, the players were calling each other out. Dwyane Wade said some of his teammates should not take coaching decisions so personally. Thomas said the team doesn't work as hard as his former Celtics' team did. A recent behind-closed-door team meeting was rumored to end with a number of players holding Kevin Love responsible. Perhaps, instead of blaming each other, the team should take some accountability.
Sometimes things are as simple as a team of which much was expected feeling their oats and underperforming. If that's the case, the Cavs need to shake that air of entitlement, get their issues out in the open, start putting in some effort and get back to playing basketball.
The team is still not out of it, they have arguably the best player in the NBA and there's still a lot of time left in the season. Stop letting teams blow you out of the water and get back to fundamentals. Work together instead of working individually and things may not be as bad as they appear right now.
If that doesn't work, make a trade and shake things up.