Today marks the unofficial halfway point of the NBA season. Granted, each team has played over 60 percent of their games at this point, but teams generally use today as a key marker for where their team is positioned. All-Star Weekend gives NBA coaches and front offices a chance to have a few days to intensively evaluate their team away from practices and games. It also gives them a chance to meet with executives from other teams and discuss possible moves together, face-to-face, as the trade deadline is a mere six days away.
But for fans? We get take a break from the regular season, and spend a few days honoring and enjoying the best players that the NBA has to offer…and Joe Johnson…somehow. But that isn’t it. Fans today, due to the data that is available, act much in the same way as NBA front offices. We can spend hours on forums discussing possible trades, analyzing players, and dissecting rosters as we move forward. It isn’t just a time to celebrate the stars, it’s a time to think about who might be leaving and coming from our teams in the next week.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are in one of the trickier positions in the league. They come into All-Star Weekend with the longest active winning streak in the Eastern Conference, and a mere three games out of playoff position. If one ignores the high expectations that were had for the Cavs at the start of the season, that statement doesn’t sound too bad. Taking in the greater picture though, it screams disappointment. This was supposed to be the year the Cavaliers displayed growth, and held firmly onto a playoff position. Instead, they are fighting to find a cohesive identity that will allow their players to work together and thrive.
The good news is that since the firing of Chris Grant, the Cavaliers have appeared to be a (mostly) different team. Often, upon the firing of an unpopular coach, a team goes a boost and goes on a winning streak of some kind. But has this ever happened with the firing of a General Manager? Or could this all be a coincidence of timing?
Shockingly, with the amount of offensively focused players on the roster, it is the defensive effort that has turned the tides…which is exactly the reason why Mike Brown was hired last summer. Over the past four games their defensive rating of 99.6 (small sample size alert!) would put them in elite category on the season, as only four teams in the NBA (Indiana, Chicago, OKC, and Golden State) have a better defensive rating to date.
This sudden success, and potential pressure from within the organization, could put acting general manager David Griffin into a difficult spot as the trade deadline approaches. Do the Cavs see this exceptionally small sample size as a confirmation of the hope they once had, or merely as a mirage? These questions will determine whether Cleveland see themselves as buyers or sellers in the days to come.