Cleveland Cavaliers: Lack Of Depth Causing Wear On Starters

Nov 19, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after committing a turnover in the final seconds against the San Antonio Spurs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after committing a turnover in the final seconds against the San Antonio Spurs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Antonio Spurs, currently working towards defending last season’s championship, have a magical method they use to help put themselves in a position to win by the time the postseason rolls around. That method is called rest, preserving the likes of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and others for the playoffs.

The method has shown success in recent years, as the Spurs have participated in the last two Finals, winning the most recent.

Resting players isn’t the only thing that has gotten San Antonio so deep in the playoffs, but it certainly was a major factor. Winning a championship, or a playoff series for that matter, becomes much more difficult if your entire starting lineup is gassed from the 82-game marathon of a season.

You have to look at the schedule as just that: a marathon. If you go at it like a sprint, winning just gets that much harder towards the end of the year.

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In the 2014-15 season thus far, the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t approached their games the right way.

With tons of new talent in Cleveland, playing together a lot is necessary to mold and build chemistry early on so that winning comes easy, earlier.

After a slow start, things have picked up for the Cavs, but running the starters–specifically the ‘Big 3’ of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving–for nearly 40 minutes a game will fire back rather quickly.

Checking the box scores, it was an increasing concern of the starters’ minutes each and every night, and James finally spoke about it recently.

"“I wouldn’t mind it (less playing time),” James told ESPN. “I think we have to give our guys on the bench more of an opportunity. I looked at a stat and myself, Kyrie (Irving) and Kevin (Love) are three of the top five guys in the league in minutes per game and that has to come down.”"

While James is being very generous in wanting his teammates on the bench to get more of an opportunity, there aren’t too many bench players to get minutes. With Matthew Dellavedova out for a month or more, Cleveland’s guard situation behind Irving is rather weak.

Rookie Joe Harris has gotten the backup point guard minutes in Dellavedova’s absence and has done a nice job to say the least. He has shown a shooting stroke, but has held it back for the most part. In five games with 19 or more minutes, Harris has only scored in double-figures once.

The other point guard is Will Cherry, who has only had garbage minutes thus far.

In other positions, head coach David Blatt has mixed in Dion Waiters, Mike Miller and Tristan Thompson with other starters. So right now, Blatt is basically running a 9-man rotation.

While the starters need more rest, there isn’t much Blatt can do. His team isn’t deep enough for him to give someone else significant minutes off the bench. Unless Blatt wants to play James Jones, Lou Amundson, or Brendan Haywood, he doesn’t have much to work with.

Things are coming along rather quickly for the Cavs, but too much mileage will start effecting the starters–especially veterans like James and Anderson Varejao–soon enough, and when that time comes, the Cavs will be forced to rest high-minute players.

If Blatt is smart, he’ll rest players on his own terms. However, he needs to figure out what to do with his rotation.

If this is a continuing problem, this would maybe be a good opportunity to make some sort of trade. The rumors are already swirling about Corey Brewer, who the Cavs have reportedly been in talks with Minnesota about.

Brewer, or any other wing Cleveland may be targeting, would help tremendously reduce James’s playing time, while also giving the Cavs good numbers off the bench.

James knows best that rest during the regular season can make or break your Finals appearance, as he carried his Heat, watching the Spurs cruise on fresh legs. James, I’m sure, would rather be at his best in June in hopes to bring that elusive title to Cleveland than limping through a seven-game series.

San Antonio has already beaten the Cavs in Cleveland with a few major bench players (and Tiago Splitter in the starting unit) out with injuries. Cleveland’s biggest takeaway from the loss should be to keep that resting thing in mind, as it clearly is a good tactic for teams looking to make a deep run in the spring/summer, like Cleveland is.

It is still early in the season, and things can change fast in the NBA. The Cavaliers’ starters better hope Blatt has a trick up his sleeve, otherwise things might start going downhill in Cleveland.

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