After the Cleveland Cavaliers signed future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade to a one-year deal last week, it became apparent that the team had a problem on their hands: it has too much depth, specifically in the backcourt.
While that’s a “good” problem to have, it is something that head coach Tyronn Lue will have to figure out as the regular season approaches.
Derrick Rose, Wade, JR Smith, Kyle Korver, Jose Calderon, Iman Shumpert and Isaiah Thomas (when he returns from injury) are all options in the backcourt. LeBron James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Jae Crowder, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye are some of the options in the frontcourt.
Given the amount of backcourt talent and the direction that the NBA is moving, Lue has reportedly been considering starting Love at center, which would send Thompson to the bench and allow for a quicker, offense-centric lineup to take the floor.
As the Golden State Warriors have proved over the last few seasons, a small-ball lineup can work very effectively.
"Tristan is a very dynamic roller, guy that plays a lot as a dunker," Love told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin after revealing that he played “quite a bit” of the center position in training camp. "Myself, I have to play inside-out, mix that up and really take what the defense gives you. But it gives us a different look. I mentioned different dynamics out there on the floor with different lineups, and we're so deep now that [Dwyane Wade] and a lot of guys similar in size at that 4-5 spot, we're going to see guys playing interchangeable. It's not just going to be on the defensive end in that regard.”
"Spacing opportunities, spacing the floor," Lue told McMenamin when asked what he likes about Love playing center. "Being able to play through the elbows with multiple guys.”
Regardless of if Love plays the four or the five, it’s obvious that Lue believes he's in store for a huge season, especially now that Kyrie Irving is gone.
"Kevin is going to have the best year that he's had here," Lue told ESPN's Zach Lowe in early September. "I thought he was great anyway. You keep bringing up [Chris] Bosh. What did Bosh average in Miami? Kevin averaged almost 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] with two other All-Stars. If you are on a championship-caliber team, you have to sacrifice. But this year is going to be a big opportunity for him. We're going to play through him more. He's going to get those elbow touches again.”
Once Thomas gets healthy, a starting five of him, Rose, Wade, James and Love would not only be one of the most unthinkable groups to ever take the court together at one time, but would most likely pose a direct threat to the Warriors, which is the ultimate goal. Based on his versatility, Crowder could also play the four, sending Rose to the bench. Either would be a clear offensive upgrade compared to any lineup including Thompson.
Bringing Thompson off the bench would allow Lue to utilize him in certain matchups (defensively against low-post scorers) and also against second units where he would likely thrive, specifically on the glass. Given that Cleveland’s second unit is so talented, it would probably make the demotion hurt a little less for the big man.
Although the Cavs lost Irving, they appear to be even stronger than they were entering last season. That should not only make the rest of the Eastern Conference worry, but it should also catch the attention of Golden State.