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ESPN.com Daily Dime – What’s Wrong With The Cavaliers?

November 7, 2009

3524scr_f44a8a26021dafc_25By Jalen Rose/ESPN
November 5, 2009 – When I look at the Cavaliers, the biggest problem I see is a lack of versatility among their guys who play power forward and center.

The best teams in the NBA have guys playing the 4 or 5 who not only can play the power game but also can face up to the basket and get up and down the floor. The Magic can pound it inside with Dwight Howard or they can kick it outside to Ryan Anderson or Rashard Lewis (when he returns). The Celtics can go inside with Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett or they can let Rasheed Wallace stretch the defense with his jumper.

The Cavs are formidable with Shaquille O’Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao, who can all score in the paint, but they don’t provide that option of being able to shoot from the outside.

On the defensive end, Cleveland’s bigs need to get more athletic so they are capable of defending pick-and-rolls and blocking shots in transition.

I think the Cavs are still an elite team, and when the playoffs begin, anything can happen. It’s early in the season, but after losing to the Bulls 86-85 on Thursday, they are just 3-3 and have as many home losses as they had all of last season.

It all starts with the interior, and unless they make a deal, they aren’t going to be any better than third in the East. Anytime LeBron James has to play the 4 as much as he did against the Bulls, it is going to make Cleveland’s backcourt vulnerable. Chicago’s size and the athleticism of its guards gave Cleveland problems.

Last season, Mo Williams was an All-Star, but with the addition of Shaq, his production is going to suffer. He is not being put in a position to perform at the same level. He doesn’t get the same amount of touches or opportunities, and one of the reasons is Cleveland’s spacing isn’t correct. He is a rhythm player, someone who gets it going the more the ball is in his hands. The Cavs are turning him into a catch-and-shoot player, and he is capable of so much more.

Cleveland isn’t going to win as many games as it did last season. The Cavs have too many specialists. For example, only LeBron, Williams and Delonte West can handle the ball. Then you look at a team like Orlando that can go 10 or 11 deep. The Magic are the deepest team in the league. The Lakers and Blazers are the deepest teams in the West, but even they can’t mix and match the way Orlando can. And as Boston has shown so far, the Celtics are the top team in the East. That means Cleveland is playing for third in the East.

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.