Now that Cleveland is 4-0 in the playoffs without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, including 2-0 in the NBA Finals, it’s time for us to ask the question: Are the Cavs actually better without Love and Irving? Is that possible?
“It sounds crazy, but I think a case can be made for it because sometimes less is more,” Bleacher Report NBA senior writer and video analyst Ric Bucher said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Because what it is doing without question is it is putting the onus on LeBron James to be everything that he can be, and he is accepting and responding to that challenge. It’s a little bit like back in Miami when they finally broke through. Dwyane Wade said, ‘Hey, I need you to be more. I can’t do it physically anymore. I know I’m the leader of this team. I know you look up to me, but I need you to step up and be that guy.’ And LeBron responded and did just that. I don’t think it comes naturally to him. I think he naturally wants to make everybody else happy. Saying he defers sounds like a negative – and maybe it is for a guy who is as talented as he is – but I think he’s comfortable with that. And now he’s found that perfect balance. There’s only so much deference he can give to Matthew Dellavedova and J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. And so he is still doing some of that. Dellavedova is taking his shots, J.R. Smith is taking hit shots. He’s given them full support, but at the same time, he is doing what he needs to do.
“It’s simplified the game,” Bucher continued. “Defensively, you could make a case that they are better. As much as I kind of bag on what Dellavedova is or isn’t defensively, (you can) make a case that he at least tries – which is better than Kyrie often does. Tristan Thompson is going to get out there and he’s going to chase on the perimeter and he’s going to be back and he’s going to do all that – things that Kevin Love doesn’t always do. He’s going to give you more rim protection than Kevin Love would. So I think you could make the case that defensively they’re better and offensively things are more crystalized and puts more on LeBron James – and there’s nothing wrong with that. As crazy as it sounds, I think there’s a case to be made that this team may just be better.”
For anyone thinking Bucher needs to have his head examined, think back to the “Big Three” in Los Angeles when Steve Nash and Dwight Howard joined forces with Kobe Bryant. Injuries ravaged that trio, but is there any reason to believe – with the small sample size that we had – that those three would have been great if only health didn’t become an issue?
No, probably not.
“I don’t know that there’s any proof that Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James would have been a juggernaut if they were together right now,” Bucher said. “Maybe, but it’s not as if they were together and they ever did anything that makes you convinced that those pieces would have fit together. We’ve seen enough times where pure talent doesn’t always make the best team.”