While the Warriors were healthier than any club who made the postseason last year, the Cavs were without Kevin Love after the opening round, and lost Kyrie Irving after the first game of the Finals. It truly does make you wonder what the series would’ve looked like if LeBron James didn’t have to throw a wounded team on his back and carry it as far as possible.
Well, it seems Irving is wondering this, too.
In fact, when asked about recruiting Love back to the Cavs while on “The Big Podcast” with Shaquille O’Neal, Irving appeared to make no bones about the fact he thinks things would’ve gone differently had the team been at full strength.
“Obviously, we had a great thing in Cleveland. We dealt with everything together. I felt like we would have definitely won an NBA championship if everyone was healthy. But almost doesn’t count.”
In the time since this interview, many in the media are shining a spotlight on Irving’s comments. Was it a shot at Golden State? Was this a guarantee the Cavs will win the title if they’re healthy next year? Is Irving right or wrong?
What it all really is, though, is no big deal whatsoever. I’m not quite sure why so many are taking what Irving said so seriously. Regardless, this is nothing more than one man’s opinion on what hypothetically could’ve happened if Cleveland didn’t suffer such crucial injuries.
Clearly, this was no knock on Golden State. The Warriors were the NBA’s most dominant team this year – by a wide margin – and the Cavs having a full roster to work with wouldn’t have changed this. If anything, this is just as much a non-story as Draymond Green drunkenly talking trash about Cleveland during the Golden State victory parade (well, Irving was sober, so I guess it’s a little different).
Additionally, what was Irving supposed to say? Granted, he wasn’t asked straight up whether or not injuries robbed the Cavs of a title. Still, is he and the rest of the team supposed to walk around with the mentality of “well, we would’ve lost either way”? Is he not supposed to be confident in himself and Cleveland as a whole?
The most important takeaway out of everyone digging into Irving’s comments is the fact that it’s all still speculation, so nobody will ever know what would happen regardless of who thinks what.
Would the Cavs have been more offensively potent? Probably. Would they have avoided the fatigue which ultimately did them in? There’s a good chance, sure.
At the same time, would the Cavs have ever ramped up their defensive effort if Love and Irving were still on the court? Neither are known for their elite defense, so the team as a whole might not have been as stifling as they looked at times.
As you can see, there’s really no point in making much of Irving’s comments. There was no ill-will towards the Warriors, nor will anyone ever really know what the series would’ve looked like with a full-strength Cleveland roster.
There’s always going to be a “what if” factor for this past iteration of the Cavs. Trust me, Cleveland fans have been saying the same thing Irving did as soon as the team started falling apart in the Finals.
At the same time, there’s really no reason to get worked up about Irving’s comments, as they’re nothing more than conjecture.