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A Fan’s Perspective: Can the Cavs fulfill preseason expectations?

With LeBron James making his long-awaited return for the 2014-15 NBA season, the expectations for the Cleveland Cavaliers were set extremely high, especially with the fact that James’ new teammates include 2012 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving and former Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love – giving Cleveland the new premier “Big 3” in the league.

Multiple preseason NBA power rankings featured the Cavaliers atop the table, ahead of its division rival in Chicago and reigning champion San Antonio.

The Cavaliers played in Boston on Friday for the first time this season, defeating the Boston Celtics on the parquet floor by a score of 122-121. While the Celtics manufactured an impressive turnaround in the third quarter, Cleveland flexed its muscles in the final 12 minutes of play, outscoring the Celtics, 38-20, to come away with the win.

On Saturday, Cleveland beat the Atlanta Hawks for a second win, this time, winning authoritatively 127-94. But are they currently the team everyone thought they would be?

Well, the season is about 10 games old, and the Cavaliers are not number one.

In fact, the Memphis Grizzlies are the best team in the league at 10-1, while the Cavs — who are struggling with team chemistry and a functioning rotation, now sit at 5-4. The mighty Cavs have the talent, but talent doesn’t necessarily lead to chemistry.

So what is the problem then? Why is Cleveland faltering?

The problem is definitely not in the hand of LeBron James. He is currently averaging 27.8 points per game, a few decimal points above his average a year ago. James is also shooting 48.6 percent while collecting 6.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game.

His teammate, Irving, is 11th in the league in scoring with 22.1 points per game, 45.4 percent shooting and a .891 free-throw percentage. Love is struggling to find his form in the early goings this year, but he is still able to score 17.4 points per game, 39.5 percent shooting and 82 percent from the foul line. So with the “Big 3” looking sharp, where is the problem?

There simply isn’t enough scoring.

With only four players averaging more than 10 points per game, there are just not enough players contributing on the scoresheet for Cleveland. If you add up the averages for those four players, it is 77.4 points. A lot…yes, especially for just four players, but scoring depth is a necessity in this league.

Another possible issue is fatigue, as James, Love and Irving have played an average of 38 minutes per game, while the next player with the most minutes — center Anderson Varejao — only averages 25.8 minutes per game. With the best players out there, people are confused as to why the Cavs are still losing. Having the starters in all the time is good, right?

Wrong. Every player, yes, even LeBron, needs a rest every now and again.

When the Celtics were in their prime during the 2008 to 2011 years, the “Big 3” of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen typically rested for large stretches of the third quarter and came back in refreshed for the final 12 minutes of the game.

The Cavaliers are failing to keep the starting five rested, and as the games get later, this could potentially lead to problems down the stretch, such as injury and exhaustion.

With all these problems in mind, will the Cavaliers be able to meet preseason expectation? Uh…duh.
Mid-November is no time to predict the NBA Finals. Rather, it’s a time to spot issues that could cause problems in the later stages of the season. The Cavaliers are 5-4, and their four losses have been by a combined 35 points.

Is there a timetable on when the Cavs will start to click? In this league, adjustments can take lengthy periods of time. Even LeBron in his first year with the Miami Heat endured struggles, as the team posted a record of 9-8 through 17 games to begin the 2010-11 season, but finished the season 58-24, making it all the way to the NBA Finals.

Cleveland fans that are already panicking don’t really know the game of basketball. In the end, the Cavs will not only be fine, but will also likely make the playoffs as a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference. In time, the Cavs will click.

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