The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t really need a backup point guard. The Los Angeles Lakers showed them that.
Did Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach Luke Walton give an assist to his buddy, and head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Tyronn Lue on Saturday?
The Los Angeles Lakers played a whole game against the defending champions and kept it close without a starting a point guard.
While missing young star D’Angelo Russell, the Lakers also had 30 assists on 41 field goals as a team. Meanwhile, with the trio of Nick Young, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram alternating ball-handling duties in the starting lineup, the Lakers jumped out to an early start against the Cavs. When they sat, shooting guards Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson were the ‘de facto’ floor generals for the Los Angeles Lakers’ second unit.
That’s not the start to a game recap. That’s anecdotal evidence that Tyronn Lue doesn’t need a true point guard to man his second unit, though Lue believes otherwise.
Nonetheless, under the Lakers’ blueprint, here are two questions that matter for the second unit:
- Is there is a player that can defend the opposing point guards?
- Are there two or more players that can share ball-handling duties in the second unit?
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, the answer to the first question is a resounding yes. Between Iman Shumpert and DeAndre Liggins, the Cleveland Cavaliers have to players that can be lockdown defenders on the perimeter. With their length, lateral quickness and defensive intensity both of these tough, Chicago-born players excel when guarding point guards.
The answer to the second question is also yes, as Shumpert and to a greater extent, Liggins, are able to handle point guard duties for the Cavs in spots. However, where both of these players struggle is when bringing up the ball against the type of on-ball pressure use to force opposing point guards into mistakes. While scheming will allow the two to consistently bring the ball past halfcourt despite suffocating defense, getting the team into sets is a lot more difficult. Besides neither players’ ball-handling abilities reaching the level of the average starting point guard in the NBA, neither player has had much experience being the floor general for an NBA offense either.
Perhaps, that’s why Walton had a trio of ball-handlers?
As far as who was most effective as a point guard, Randle looked natural at point-forward. He instantly creates mismatches, as most forwards don’t possess the lateral quickness to stick with shifty ball-handlers.
Again, as Young and Ingram are guards, like Liggins and Shumpert, perhaps a point-forward is what the Cleveland Cavaliers are missing.
Do the Cleveland Cavaliers have a point-forward prospect? Richard Jefferson, James Jones and Mike Dunleavy Jr. are shooting specialists and not point-forwards. Which could ultimately mean that Liggins is the player who will thrive best at point-forward.
Yet, if he plays point-forward there needs to be another guard capable of handling the ball and facilitating. Kay Felder is productive offensively when he plays. However, his lack of size hurts the team defensively.
Is there any harm in playing Jordan McRae?
He’s also inexperienced as a floor general and has a tendency to get tunnel vision. However, there’s hope that with more playing time he’ll learn how to adapt next to Liggins and Shumpert on the perimeter.
His drives in isolation could turn into the catalyst for solid ball movement off of drive and kicks in the second unit. McRae, who is a volume shooter, could be exactly what a bench full of catch-and-shoot specialists needs as far as isolation scoring. Lastly, his length will allow him to be the final defensive piece of a lanky perimeter in the Cleveland Cavaliers second unit.
Using the Los Angeles Lakers blueprint, a blueprint that helped a young NBA team missing who may be their best player keep pace with the defending champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers may find a recipe for success with the perimeter unit of McRae, Shumpert, Liggins. These three’s ability to drive in space will be aided by Jefferson and Channing Frye‘s abilities as spot-up shooters. Jefferson will also be able to attack the rim in straight-line drives to help the trio score efficiently.
The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t need a true point guard to be Kyrie Irving‘s backup. Luke Walton and the Los Angeles Lakers proved as much on Saturday.
Do the Cleveland Cavaliers need a true point guard to be Kyrie Irving’s backup? Let us know in the comments section or Twitter @KJG_NBA.