Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, January 25, 2016 at 7:00 AM
I’ve always promised to keep our coursework fresh and relevant here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. That’s why I want to talk today about the Cleveland Cavaliers firing head coach David Blatt. That decision was a shocker that’s far from a sure thing to be an immediate positive for the Cavs.
Too many people assumed that the players would respond favorably to Tyronn Lue after he was promoted to head man. They were in for a shock when Cleveland played horribly Saturday night in a nationally televised home loss to Chicago. That game missed the spread by a mile. Oddsmakers may have trouble pegging the Cavs over the next few weeks. Smart handicappers know they have to exploit the market when it’s vulnerable.
I just wrote last week about UNLV firing Dave Rice. That move had to be made…and nothing has happened since to change my mind on that. It’s a tougher call with Blatt. The team was still playing well…and was still a heavy favorite to win the weaker East. But, it was also clear that Cleveland would be a sizable underdog to either Golden State or San Antonio in the NBA Finals. They just don’t measure up. And, rumors of a behind the scenes “malaise” were very likely true. Cleveland was winning robotically rather than playing with passion.
Then, they lost robotically in their first game with Lue. So much for responding with enthusiasm!
Here are my concerns with the move…
*Much of the malaise for the Cavs involves Kevin Love. He’s not a natural fit for that team or culture. An offensive force like that shouldn’t just stand around the 3-point line like he’s Kyle Korver or somebody. On the other side of the floor, Love’s soft defense has him on the outs with teammates who expect nothing but hustle. Firing Blatt doesn’t fix the issues revolving around Love.
*Love and Kyrie Irving are such defensive holes that no head coach is going to get playoff-caliber defense out of the starting unit.
*LeBron James is getting old in basketball terms. He has to carry this team on his shoulders in the playoffs. He can’t be asked to do that in the middle of the season. And, that makes the defense even SOFTER if James is pacing himself. Roster construction is a big issue here, rather than coaching because too much money has been spent on guys who can’t or won’t defend hard.
*It’s not uncommon for quality teams to go into cruise control in January and February. You win championships in this league in June, not January! What ownership may have read as “tuning out the coach,” may have been more along the lines of a team mentally pacing itself in the middle of a long grind.
*There’s just no way anybody in the East is going to compete with Golden State or San Antonio in the Finals barring injuries anyway. You can’t get there from here! Firing a coach doesn’t make you 4-5 points better in Power Ratings when you’re already very good.
So…it made ownership feel better. It gave Lue a chance to show he can be the long term answer at coach. But, firing Blatt may not have solved any relevant problems. Unless Lue can figure out how to get Love more involved on offense…and how to get more defensive intensity from a group of players that know the most important basketball is still several weeks away.
Cleveland obviously flunked its first test post-firing. Here’s what’s ahead for Cleveland between now and the All-Star Break…
Monday: vs. Minnesota (shouldn’t be hard)
Wednesday vs. Phoenix (same story here)
Friday: at Detroit (nice test)
Saturday: vs. San Antonio on ABC (everyone will be watching!)
February 1: at Indiana (fifth game from Monday-to-Monday!)
February 3: at Charlotte (another nice test)
February 5: vs. Boston (no rest for the weary)
February 6: vs. New Orleans (and now a back-to-back)
February 8: vs. Sacramento
February 10: vs. the Lakers
I’m exhausted just writing that up! Imagine playing every other day for a couple of weeks against teams smelling blood. You know Detroit, Indiana, Charlotte, and Boston in particular have it out for a conference rival. Just as Chicago did this past Saturday.
Things could get really ugly for Cleveland once the most tiring part of that schedule kicks in. Maybe they bounce back against the T-wolves and Suns (or maybe they don’t!). Will their legs be gone by the Charlotte and Boston games?
Oddsmakers have a lot of trouble dealing with dynamics like this. And, those kid quants have no chance because all they know is numbers. See if YOU can stay ahead of the curve as this story develops.
I’m trying to stay ahead of the curve on about two-dozen different developments across the pro and college basketball landscapes. If you’d like some help making your final decisions each day, KELSO STURGEON’S best bets can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters’ office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.
See you again midweek. That coursework will probably be about college hoops since I snuck a “breaking story” NBA report in the mix today. I’ll save any Super Bowl discussion until next week. The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work!
Be sure to follow:
Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters