Although the focus has shifted to the Los Angeles Lakers after LeBron James signed a four-year deal there in free agency this summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers will also be in an interesting spot in 2018-2019.
Although losing James will clearly hurt them, it’s worth noting that they’ve been to four-straight NBA Finals and still have a talented roster filled with experienced and versatile pieces. They also play in the much-weaker Eastern Conference.
Could Cleveland make some noise without LeBron?
That is the question.
It appears as though the organization believes they can. After all, they signed Kevin Love to a four-year, $120 million extension after LeBron left and haven’t offloaded any of their seemingly-movable players.
Veteran big man Channing Frye recently signed with the team in free agency. He was a member of the Cavs last season before being included in the deadline-day trade with the Los Angeles Lakers that sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland last season.
In a recent interview, he predicted the style of play that the team will adopt without LeBron.
Life without LeBron
“You know, you look at a team like Houston and a lot of the advanced analytics, they’re trying to get up 50 3s a game. So if you’re trying to get 50 3s, how many layups are trying to get? 60? So you’re trying to get up 110 shots a game, that means you’re playing at a pretty high pace. But there’s a team like Utah that shoots a lot of 3s but they play a lot less possessions. I think we’ll probably be in the middle there. If you look at the players that we have and the playmakers we have, I don’t think shooting is going to be a problem. I think it’s just a matter of us getting used to the new guys and the new style of what T-Lue wants and something that we can practice, rely on and we’re confident and comfortable,” he told Erik Garcia Gundersen of USATODAY.com’s LeBronWire.
Overall, there will have to be physical and psychological adjustments.
“Because when you play with LeBron, he does so much. Whether he likes it or not, it’s just him. Everyone else fits into a role. You’re a scorer, you’re a passer, you’re a defender you’re shooter, you’re a rebounder,” Frye explained.
He continued, “But now that he’s gone, all of us are going to be required to do everything. We all have to be solid passers, solid shooters, you have to watch more film, We have to be comfortable with T-Lue’s new system. I think all of that is exciting and push Kevin, Tristan and JR, guys that have shown they can do great things and they’re getting the opportunity. But they’re also the same as me and they’re like ‘what does the team need from me to win?’"
Frye added, "Some nights you’re only going to get 4 shots, some nights you get 10-11, but the defense will dictate who is going to get the ball and we just have to get it to them.”
With a mix of veterans (Love, George Hill, Kyle Korver, JR Smith, Tristan Thompson, Jordan Clarkson and presumably restricted free agent Rodney Hood) and youngsters (Sam Dekker, Nance, Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic and Collin Sexton), it will be very interesting to see where Cleveland ends up in the standings at the end of the year.