Dribbles: As losses pile up, Cavs must keep eyes on future

Collin Sexton and the Cavaliers battled, but clearly lacked the firepower to finish vs. the Thunder.

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles on the Cavaliers’ 95-86 home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.

1. This was game No. 11. The Cavs have won one. It feels like it should have been game No. 47. There is still a long way to go — as in, 71 more these things.

2. Not sure why I mentioned that. Just thinking out loud, I guess. But hey, look at this way: Until someone unseats them, the Cavs are still the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions. They won a championship two years ago. Even Golden State is going to be bad someday. (We think.)

3. Anyway, things aren’t getting much easier for the Cavs in terms of actually winning games. George Hill sat out with a shoulder injury. Cedi Osman left very early with back spasms. Kevin Love (toe) and Sam Dekker (ankle) were already out. And Osman was supposed to start at power forward for Dekker, who was starting at power forward for Love.

4. The Cavs keep getting smaller at power forward. Pretty soon, maybe they’ll bring back 5-foot-9 Kay Felder to man the position.

5. It’s at about this point that most writers start wondering how the headline of the article will read. I’m open to suggestions in the comments section below.

6. I will say this — I still think Larry Drew is a pretty decent coach. At least the Cavs are playing hard. They have even been doing a so-so job defensively, and “so-so” is a heck of a lot better than what we were seeing under former coach Tyronn Lue.

7. Now, though, the Cavs have no one who can score. Or at least no one reliable. They tied the game in the fourth quarter and then turned to … well, who? Jordan Clarkson? Collin Sexton? J.R. Smith? And don’t even mention Rodney Hood.

8. Dennis Schroder, Paul George and the Thunder finished things from there. Yes, Schroder scored 28 points while starting in place of the injured Russell Westbrook. So the Cavs lost to the Thunder at home and the Thunder were without their best player. Welcome to the 2018-19 season.

9. Right now, the Cavs are playing for little more than to develop Sexton, Osman and (finally) center Ante Zizic. They are also playing for a lottery pick — and perhaps dreaming of a lineup that might include of Love, Sexton and Duke sensation R.J. Barrett.

10. Both Barrett and Blue Devils teammate Zion Williamson are expected to make immediate impacts in the NBA. The Cavs have to find a way to get one of them in the draft. They can do that by losing, a lot. It does not appear as if that will be a problem.

11. Drew had no choice but to start and play Sexton, and that’s something that needs to continue when Hill returns. Sexton scored 15 points in 42 minutes, but compiled one measly assist. That’s OK. Keep him out there, keep seeing what you have and keep letting him learn on the fly. The young man says he knows he has to become a better distributor. But he can’t work on it if he’s watching Hill for all but 20 minutes a night.

12. Smith (13 points) and Clarkson (11) each finished 5-of-17 shooting from the floor. Kyle Korver went 2-of-8. These are the men you’re counting on to make baskets from the perimeter. The Cavs really need Smith and Korver to start doing it so they can trade at least one of them.

13. I honestly don’t know how the Cavs are going to hit 100 again. They entered the season thinking Hood would emerge as the second scoring option behind Love. Hood is in a contract year and that usually means extra production. Instead, he seems to have taken a step back from last season. He just doesn’t fit here, or at least not as well as the Cavs had hoped.

14. I’ve been impressed with Tristan Thompson (10 points, 15 rebounds) after bashing him most of last season. He is giving great effort and being open and honest in the locker room. He could really help a contender and it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if some started calling before the trade deadline in early February.

15. By the way, Zizic went for 10 points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes. At this point, he needs to play — a lot. May as well find out what you have.

16. I’m not totally against playing the veterans, providing they are giving real effort. Thompson and even Smith have been doing that when on the floor. But with lots of losing ahead, the priority needs to be finding out about Sexton, Zizic, Osman and even David Nwaba. Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. should also be out there plenty.

17. It won’t be long before even the die-hards stop paying attention, but that’s OK. Drew just needs to keep the team playing hard and the franchise needs to keep both eyes on the future, clearing some cap space with trades and monitoring the top prospects along the way. It was a great run, but we all knew it had to end at some point. How the Cavs handle things from here will be worth watching.

2 Comments on "Dribbles: As losses pile up, Cavs must keep eyes on future"

  1. be honest, this is Sacramento east. not a clue to what they’re doing. for perspective, if James had not come back,the count would be 8 years without playoffs

  2. This will be a very painful season to watch. I’m already checking mock drafts. Prayerfully we will end up with one of the top two picks.
    Sam…what grade would you give Altman 1 year in based on his signings, trades, drafting Sexton and extending K Love and utility man Nance Jr?
    I give him a D. Sexton pulled his grade up from F.

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