Report: Cavs pessimistic about current roster's title chances
In past years, the Cleveland Cavaliers projected an unconcerned air amid regular-season struggles. Yes, there was the odd scathing postgame quote or cryptic tweet from LeBron James, but he and the Cavs always had their eyes fixed firmly on the postseason, knowing they'd be ready to crank up the compete meter when the games started to really matter.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue suggested something similar this season, saying his team is still the best in the East - despite its 29th-ranked defense and barely positive point differential - because "we've got the best player in the world." But amid a four-game losing streak that's featured beatdowns of 28 and 34 games, a blown 22-point lead, and, most recently, a 10-point loss to their (former?) rivals the Golden State Warriors, Cavs players are increasingly skeptical that the team, as currently constructed, can realistically compete for a championship.
Multiple "prominent" players anonymously told reporters there's "growing discontent" and "a strong sense of concern" about the team and its ability to correct its issues, ESPN's Dave McMenamin reports.
Those issues include: the roster is too old, too defensively deficient, and too redundant at the margins.
It says something that the Cavs are expressing this level of doubt, given how unpredictive their regular-season swoons have proven in the past. The Cavs looked disconcertingly apathetic last season, too - when they went 11-15 over their final six weeks and finished with a bottom-10 defense - but that didn't stop them going 12-1 through the Eastern Conference playoffs and at least hanging with the Warriors in the Finals. But their deficiencies have never looked quite this deep-rooted and irreversible.
All this seems to be pointing to a roster upgrade at some point before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, something that will reportedly "definitely" happen. Such a move is unlikely, however, to include the unprotected Brooklyn Nets first-round pick that is Cleveland's most valuable asset, as the Cavs want to keep it as insurance in case James opts to leave in free agency this summer, sources told McMenamin.
For now, Lue is focused on trying to win with the players he has.
"I'm not anticipating anything," he said when asked about potentially accommodating new players, according to McMenamin.
He appears to be one of the few.