Isaiah Thomas has yet to suit up for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season and Derrick Rose has only played seven games. The Cavaliers have played 25 games this year. That’s a lot of games to have played with Jose Calderon as your only true point guard.
Luckily, Cleveland has LeBron James, who can more than fill in at point, as well as Dwyane Wade and Kevin Love, who can both fill in as the hub of the offense for stretches of the game are doing just fine. But when the Cavs finally get their point guards back, there will be some growing pains, especially with Thomas.
It’s not easy to redistribute 15-plus shots a game mid-season, especially when there is no trade made to lose the shots whoever was traded was taking. And simply giving Thomas less shots than that doesn’t make sense, because if he isn’t supplying offense what is he doing in the floor? Thomas is one of the worst defenders in the NBA and it will be interesting to see how he defends outside of Brad Stevens’ system, where he didn’t even really have a man to guard, he just basically played a one man zone, guarding whoever was standing in the corner.
Whether head coach, Ty Lue tries to mimic this or just have him guard his guy will be an underrated part of getting Thomas back. The Cavs will likely start running more pick and rolls when he gets back, as him getting that half step of space is all he needs to burst to the rim and make a play. Whether that is a shot or a pass to a player who’s defender came to help.
Another play that would theoretically work very well when Thomas returns is a slightly altered version of what Eric Spoelstra had James run when he was in Miami. Spoelstra often had LeBron be the ball handler and had Mario Chalmers set the pick. This leaves the defense with a couple choices, none of which are very good.
One, switch it and the other team’s point guard is now guarding LeBron (not good). Two, fight through the screen and give LeBron a half a step advantage toward the basket, or a wide open look (also not good). Three, trap LeBron, so he passes to Chalmers (or Isaiah Thomas now) and then Chalmers (Thomas) goes four on three to the basket with shooters all around him (Again, not good). Seeing how Lue integrates Thomas into the offense without disrupting the flow they have after winning 13 straight will be the most important part of the Cavs season.
The Cavs should also be getting Derrick Rose back soon, as he has officially asked be reinstated back with the team after his leave of absence. While he’s no Isaiah Thomas, or the D-Rose of old, he’s still a useful player in the right spots. At this point in his career, he’s very much a Jamaal Crawford type player who will come off the bench and get you points…but that’s about it. He isn’t a great distributor or defender and needs to be able to dominate the ball. Playing him alongside Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Channing Frye and either LeBron or Kevin Love is an optimal lineup for him. He needs to be surrounded by shooters and another playmaker.
The return of Cleveland’s point guards will be positive no matter what growing pains it entails. It will help deepen the team and spread the minutes around which will hopefully lighten LeBron’s workload in the process. The more Thomas and Rose can do, the more the others on this aging roster can save for the playoffs. Which is when they really need to flip their switch if they hope to get to the finals and compete with the Warriors if they get there.