The Cavaliers five-game losing streak over the past 10 days has been a struggle to watch. The last week, in particular, featured two 20-point blowout losses to the Pacers and Rockets, and that excruciating loss to the Heat last Wednesday. The offense has stalled badly over the stretch, as the Cavs have shot just 39.7 percent in these last three games. This has coincided with Dion Waiters going down with an injury in the Indiana game with a cartilage injury in his knee – an injury that will likely keep him sidelined for the rest of the season. Waiters’ presence was certainly missed in these three games, as he has averaged 15/2/3 over the course of the season (18/3/4 per 36 minutes) and was the driving force of the Kyrie Irving-less offense, leading the team in scoring in three of the four games after Kyrie injured his shoulder.
Since Waiters went down, the team has been forced to rely on a heavy diet of C.J. Miles, Wayne Ellington and everyone’s favorite ill-advised jump shot-taker, Boobie Gibson, at the wing. The results have not really been pretty. Miles was a stud in the Indiana game, finishing with 21 points, but was just 3-of-10 from the field and was one of the main players to melt down in the 27-point comeback by the Heat, as he was held scoreless in the second half. He followed that up with a 3-of-8, 9-point effort against Houston on Friday. Ellington was one of the main culprits of the Indiana loss, shooting just 1-of-9 from the field, but rebounded for a nice 20-point effort against Miami, before having a very average 13-point effort against Houston. This is about what we’ve expected from these two this season, but against three elite opponents this past week, with increased playing time, you would have liked to have seen a little more from them.
Gibson, meanwhile, has been atrocious. He’s shot 3-of-22 from the field over the past three games, including a 1-of-9 performance against Indiana, and an 0-of-9 train wreck against Houston where he finished scoreless and with an offensive rating of 7. Yes, that means given 100 possessions, at the rate he was going, Boobie would have scored 7 points. He also has been playing defense at an alarmingly bad rate, with a 126 defensive rating against Houston. We’ve known Gibson has been bad for a couple of seasons now. He’s slowly melted down since the 09-10 season, going from a 47 percent field goal percentage then to 34 percent now, and his TS% is only 48 percent, so it’s not like the amount of threes and free throws he’s taking are offsetting it. Losing Waiters is bad enough, but replacing his minutes with increased Boobie Gibson playing time has actually been worse.
Granted, the Cavaliers don’t have much they can do about the shooting guard play right now. They already have the answer for the future in Waiters, and we can’t really get THAT angry that Ellington, Miles and Gibson didn’t play well against three playoff teams, two featuring two of the top three shooting guards in the league in Dwyane Wade and James Harden. However, for them to each have at least one extremely bad game each this week, with only maybe Ellington’s 20-point performance against Miami as a redeeming game (And it could easily be argued that Ellington’s effort was partially a product of excellent early post play from the Cavs, as Tristan Thompson’s first-quarter explosion helped collapse the Heat defense into the lane and opened things up for Ellington and Shaun Livingston to work from outside), it’s definitely not a far stretch to imagine that this will factor into the Cavs decisions on retaining these three past this season. Gibson is a UFA, and I think it’s basically a lock that he’s gone. Miles has a team option, and Ellington is an RFA, so the decisions will have to be made there if these sometimes helpful, but other times disastrous, wings will return to the Cavs. I like Ellington and am neutral on Miles, but with a large amount of cap space this summer with a high amount of available wing rotation players available, as well as two draft picks in a decent draft for wings (a young gun like Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum could find his way to the Cavs with the Lakers pick), I would not mind seeing the Cavaliers head into next season with Waiters and 2-3 fresh faces behind him.