If you think the Cleveland Cavaliers look like a different team from earlier in the season, it’s because they are.
The Cavaliers have had some huge changes in their lineup in the first half of this season, and all of those changes are partially to blame for the team’s poor record of 16 and 34. The changes have also made the current lineup much more talented than the lineup that fans saw on the floor in Cleveland in November and December.
First of all, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving missed 11 of the team’s 50 games due to injuries. When Irving was out, the Cavaliers naturally struggled. When other players such as Anderson Varejao, Daniel “Boobie” Gibson and Dion Waiters were out at the same time as Irving, it made things even tougher on the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers have had a lot of injuries so far this season, and only Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee have played in every game. The team is relatively healthy now, except of course for Varejao, and having key players like Irving back on the floor has helped the team improve a great deal.
Also, a few players that the Cavaliers were playing big minutes early in the year are not playing now, and some are not even on the team anymore.
Forward Omri Casspi has only played in 29 of the team’s 50 games and is now often buried deep on the bench. Guards Jeremy Pargo and Donald Sloan both played significant minutes early in the season when the Cavaliers were struggling, and they have both been waived.
Big men Samardo Samuels and Jon Leuer played sporadically early in the year, and they are both gone now, too.
Guards Shaun Livingston and Wayne Ellington and forward/center Marreese Speights, meawhile, have all been added to the roster in the last few weeks and they all play key roles.
So earlier this year, Cavaliers fans likely saw games where Varejao, Samuels, Casspi and either Pargo or Sloan all played significant minutes. While all of these players had good moments, none of them were consistent enough and they just did not do enough to help the team win.
Management should be applauded for the changes they made to improve the lineup on the fly this season. It would be great to have Varejao healthy and back on the floor, but other than that, all of the changes have been upgrades.
The Cavaliers are a very different team than they were earlier in the season, and they are also much better. It will be interesting to see if the roster changes any more before the trade deadline passes, and it will be even more important to watch to see if the Cavaliers can keep on improving.