4 Offensive Plays That Will Help the Cleveland Cavaliers Win an NBA Championship
The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the NBA playoffs again, boasting an offense that, when it wants to, can be virtually unstoppable. Per ESPN, the Cavs ranked fourth in offensive efficiency during the 2015–2016 regular season, trailing only the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Cavs are at their best when the ball is whipping around the perimeter like a comet, leaving defenders scrambling and forced to decide within milliseconds whether to crash the paint to prevent a streaking LeBron James from snatching their souls or stick with one of the Cavs many 3-point shooting threats.
Unfortunately, the Cavs aren’t always in the mood to distribute. Far too many times this season the team’s potentially devastating offense is halted in its tracks, be it because Kyrie Irving wants to attempt a Guiness World Record for most dribbles in a single possession, LeBron James reignites his on-again, off-again relationship with iso ball or Timofey Mozgov does, well, anything at all.
As the Cavs gear up to face the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, a rematch with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in their peripheral vision, let us not forget how beautiful a beast the Cavs can be on offense. Here are four of the offensive plays the Cavs ran to perfection in the regular season, plays that will help the team by Lake Erie finally bring that long-overdue ring to The Land.
The LeBron James Perimeter Slash
This is actually a play leftover from the Mike Brown era, which comes as a surprise when you remember that Brown’s idea of offense was just blankly staring at LeBron until he did something.
Above, we see it in it’s modern form, as a ballhandler beats his man off the dribble and runs toward the baseline, while LeBron patiently waits by the perimeter before streaking to the hole. With multiple defenders concerned about the penetration of the ballhandler, in this case J.R. Smith, they forget about LeBron, as Jimmy Butler does here. LeBron is then able to get a running start toward the basket, receives a pass in stride, and you know what happens next.
Here’s that same concept from 2009, with a slight wrinkle thrown in. As Mo Williams drives baseline, Zydrunas Ilgauskas sets a pic on LeBron’s man up top, completely freeing up LeBron to run to the basket and throw down a thunderous dunk.
Here it is again from a game last season again the New York Knicks, using Mo Williams’s driving ability to once again provide LeBron with a wide open dunk. Carmelo Anthony is paying so much attention to Williams’s drive that he completely forgets about LeBron, and by the time he turns his head it’s much too late.
The Delly to Tristan Alley-Oop Special
How this play continues to work, with defenders simply forgetting about Tristan Thompson after he sets a pick for Matthew Dellavedova, is beyond me, but it has become a huge part of the Cavs offensive attack when the second unit is in the game.
Delly’s floater, which has greatly improved during his second year with the Cavs, has forced defenders (I can’t believe I’m writing this) to respect that shot, which gives Thompson an open lane to go up and get the lob. But the amount of times defenders don’t even bother to stay with a rolling Thompson actually blows my mind.
LeBron James Cross Screen to Lay-Up
This is one of the best plays the Cavs run to get LeBron some super easy offense. With the ballhandler on the opposite side of the court as LeBron, another player sets a screen for LeBron while a big man sets a screen simultaneously for the ballhandler. LeBron is then freed up to rush under the hoop and receive and immediate pass for them ballhandler, which he can then go right up with and finish with an easy lay-up, though he misses here.
“Horns” is one of the most common play calls in the NBA, but with so many offensive weapons, it is especially useful for the Cavs. “Horns” calls for two screeners on opposite sides of the top of the key, allowing the ballhandler to pick which screen he wants to use while the defense tries to figure out what the hell is going on.
In the play above, LeBron selects Kyrie Irving’s screen to his left (he could have also used Tristan Thompson’s to his right), then starts rolling downhill to the basket. Matthew Dellavedova’s man starts creeping toward the paint before James even uses the screen, leaving Delly wide open in the right corner to knock down a 3-pointer.