After a long two-week vacation for the holiday and the end of the year, we're back with weekly takeaways from Cleveland Cavaliers basketball! Unfortunately, this week was a hard one to come back to. Not only to Cleveland go 1-3 in the last week, dropping to fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but they lost star sixth man Ricky Rubio for the season due to a torn ACL. In the wake of Rubio's injury, according to sources, the Cavaliers traded Denzel Valentine to the Los Angeles Lakers for Hall of Fame point guard Rajon Rondo.
Sure, the acquisition of Rondo softens the blow of losing Rubio for the Cavaliers. But, losing their Spanish star certainly takes the wind out of Cleveland's sails and puts the remainder of their season in doubt. Today, we'll be breaking that down, along with some more trade options and New Year's resolutions for the Cavaliers.
In short, no, not really. Despite losing Rubio for the season and the fact that the Cavaliers are on a three-game slide, they're still on pace to win 54 games this season according to Cleaning the Glass. A lot of that can be credited to the fact that despite Rubio being an incredibly important piece for this team, he also isn't the entirety of this team either.
Cleveland plays a team-oriented style of basketball, with the central focus on their main star trio of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. But, at the same time, Rubio also plays a factor in that team-first mentality the team runs with. Whenever Garland sits, Rubio got the Cavaliers bench mob going - especially Kevin Love and Cedi Osman, who have become staple pieces in Cleveland's rotation. There could be some fear with those two, who both struggled mightily last season, but there is some reason to be encouraged as well, at least in Love's case.
While Osman remains out due to league health and safety protocols, Love has put together two of his best games this season this week, all without Rubio on the floor to guide him. In Thursday's loss to the Wizards, Love put up 24 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. In Friday's loss to the Hawks, meanwhile, Love scored 35 points, grabbed 11 boards and dished out 4 assists.
Granted, Love could still be hot or cold going forward without Rubio on the floor it is encouraging to see him performing well without a point guard on the floor. It's also worth noting this is without Garland as well, who, like Osman, is also in league health and safety protocols. Love not having a true playmaker in general, being asked to instead asked to create his own shot and being successful in return is encouraging for the Cavaliers long-term as well.
Thankfully, that's where the Rondo acquisition comes into play for Cleveland. Where it unfortunately, probably, won't be a factor is in terms of scoring the basketball as well. Sure, the Cavaliers are loaded with talent all throughout their roster. But, Rubio, more often than not was the common thread who could create opportunities for others all while creating looks for himself as well. Rondo just isn't wired the same way as Rubio, plain and simple. That's why the Rondo acquisition feels more like the first in possibly several moves for the Cavaliers. This is also a really good segue into our next segment.
Before we get started, did you know segue is sometimes confused with Segway? Segue is a verb that means "to move without stopping from one topic, song, etc., to another." Segway, on the other hand, is a trademarked name for an electric transportation device. Did you also know Jimi Heselden, the owner of the Segway company, died while driving a Segway off of a cliff? It was all because of an act of courtesy, where Heselden was trying to move out of the way on the path from a dog walker.
Speaking of acts of courtesy, according to sources, there are several teams out there who could willing to help Cleveland on the trade market. Like we said in the last segment, the playmaking aspect lost from Rubio's injury is more or less covered by the Rondo acquisition. But, there's still the issue of where the Cavaliers will get instant offense from.
Sure, there's already the loss of Rubio for the year but, the Cavaliers are also without Collin Sexton, the team's best young scoring threat. With those two out for the year, it creates a void on offense for Cleveland. That's where Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman and his staff will have to get creative when it comes to making another trade in order to remedy this ailment for his team.
One option that's always been available for Cleveland is Indiana Pacers forward Caris LeVert. According to league sources, the Cavaliers have always been a fan of LeVert and his game and would like to add him to their rotation. LeVert, who is averaging 17.8 points on 43.1% shooting along with 3.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists, would answer a lot of the issues currently faced by the Cavaliers. LeVert It also helps that, according to sources, the Pacers are looking to undergo a full-scale rebuild and are more than open to moving LeVert.
With that in mind, it might not cost the Cavaliers as much to acquire LeVert either. Sure, it's cold to include Rubio in the deal but the Spanish sensation's $17.8 million contract is exactly enough financially for Cleveland to match LeVert's salary. If the Cavaliers were able to include a protected first-round pick from this year's draft, and maybe a second-rounder as well, and then Cleveland could have a possible deal on their hands. If that were to happen, the Cavaliers would be back in the cat bird's seat towards the playoffs. It also would be cool to see LeVert and Allen, who both played together in Brooklyn and are close friends be on the court together again as well.
If a deal between Cleveland and Indiana doesn't materialize, whether it's due to the Pacers asking for too much or whatever else could go sideways, there are other options out there that make sense as well. According to sources, Boston's Dennis Schroder, Houston's Eric Gordon, Sacramento's Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes, Orlando's Terrence Ross, Detroit's Josh Jackson and San Antonio's Lonnie Walker IV are all available and could be had by the Cavaliers.
Granted, those would all require different salaries in order to make a deal happen but they would all have similar frameworks to the LeVert deal mentioned above. There are options out there for Cleveland. For now, it just remains to be seen whether or not they make a move in order to capitalize on an already promising season.
With the new year finally upon us, I'm sure plenty of you are making resolutions and trying your best to stick to them. For me, I'm trying to be more present for those who matter, eat healthier, exercise more and finally learn how to make pasta by hand. For the Cavaliers, there are plenty of resolutions they should make and stick to - including making a move to get a player like LeVert or Gordon to bolster their rotation. But, there are a few others that Cleveland should add to their list:
Get Jarrett Allen to represent the Cavaliers in the All-Star game in Cleveland this February.
Help Lauri Markkanen find his three-point shot at a reliable clip again.
Keep Kevin Love happy and healthy coming off the bench this season.
Help Darius Garland win Most Improved Player.
Help Evan Mobley win Rookie of the Year.
Help J.B. Bickerstaff win Coach of the Year.
Make the playoffs.