The Cleveland Cavaliers are making history just by being average. Their performance against the NBA odds is the worst in recent memory – but when will the insanity stop?
Welcome to NBA Dystopia! This league is going to hell in a peach basket, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are steering the boat. LeBron James is yelling at everyone: opponents, teammates, coaches, officials, you name it. Their head coach is on the hot seat. And the Cavs are 4-11 SU and 1-14 ATS since mid-December.
We’ve seen this movie before, of course. Cleveland has been an easy “fade” choice for our NBA picks ever since King James came back home. Midseason swoons have become the norm, and with them comes the pressure, the self-loathing, the blow-ups in the dressing room. Tyronn Lue is just the latest Cavaliers coach to inherit this mess; it was David Blatt before him, and Mike Brown during LeBron’s first tour of duty. The difference this year is the level of intensity. On the season, the Cavs (27-19 SU, 12-33-1 ATS) have the league’s worst ATS record since 1990, which is as far back as most NBA odds databases go. Their loss is our gain.
Time for a Change
Except for one thing: The Cavaliers also have a history of changing gears when they have to. Last year, they went 3-12 ATS in January, then covered eight of their next nine games. Two years ago, they went 4-8-1 ATS in February, then covered five of their next six games. And in LeBron’s first year back in town, Cleveland went on a 4-16 ATS bender through to mid-January before covering nine of their next 10 games. They can get away with it; the regular season is like the preseason to them.
Are the Cavs about to go on another run? Monday’s dressing-room shouting match appears to have cleared the air somewhat; Lue says he’s going to shuffle the starting lineup, and players like J.R. Smith (minus-2.1 BPM) have indicated they’re willing to take bench roles where they weren’t so willing before. There’s also the NBA trade deadline, which is coming up early this year on Feb. 8. Point guard George Hill (minus-0.7 BPM) is rumored to be on his way from Sacramento in exchange for Channing Frye (minus-1.6 BPM), Iman Shumpert (minus-4.1 BPM) and any other ballast the Kings are willing to accept. Shape up, or get shipped out.
Which brings us to this weekend’s games. Cleveland hosts the Indiana Pacers (25-22 SU, 26-21 ATS) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, then the Detroit Pistons (22-23 SU, 24-19-2 ATS) on Sunday at 6 p.m. As expected, the Pacers have done well for themselves since unloading Paul George (plus-2.4 BPM) on Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo (plus-4.4 BPM) and Domantas Sabonis (0.0 BPM). And as expected, the Pistons have cooled off after their hot start, going 6-10 ATS since mid-December. Let’s see what Lue has in store on Friday. If his changes look good, consider “buying low” on the Cavaliers when Detroit comes to town.