Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

FIEGE: East Opens Up for Cavaliers

When the Cleveland Cavaliers arranged for their blockbuster signings this past offseason, they had their doubters.

Trading their No. 1 overall draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, for All-Star forward Kevin Love opened the door for comparisons to the Charlotte Hornets trading Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac in 1996. Successfully courting LeBron James in free agency resulted in worries over chemistry between him, alpha-dog point guard Kyrie Irving and rookie NBA coach David Blatt.

With an opening-night loss to the New York Knicks, the Cavaliers looked destined to suffer from the same growing pains that the Miami Heat encountered in 2011, when James first decided to form a “big three.”

However, five months after their 95-90 loss to the Knicks, the Cavaliers are seeing the Eastern Conference open up in front of them as they hit their stride while teams slowly drop off from their early glory.

The Toronto Raptors burst out of the gate and into the No. 1 spot of the Eastern Conference’s power rankings by the end of November 2014. Unfortunately, things were never the same after DeMar DeRozan tore a groin muscle in the Raptors’ game against the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 30.

In the ensuing 21 games without DeRozan, the Raptors went a decent 12-9, but never returned to the level of success they saw in their hot start. February had been an especially taxing month for the organization, when it dropped seven of its 11 games, leading All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry to comment on how they were “playing like trash.”

The Raptors still hold the No. 2 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, but at the rate they are playing at right now, it seems highly unlikely that they will end the regular season in the same spot.

The decline of the Raptors appears tame in comparison to the tumbling of the Washington Wizards. Though they were poised to be serious title contenders with a 19-7 record by the end of December, the Wizards have since seen their spells wear off, posting a mediocre 9-8 record in January and a terrible 3-9 record in February.

Unlike the Raptors, the Wizards have not been harried by any specific injury that they can point to in explaining their slide. Since December, their offensive efficiency has inexplicably dropped by nearly 10 points per 100 possessions, leaving them ahead of only the Sacramento Kings, the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers in that category.

The Wizards’ All-Star point guard John Wall has been doing his best to right the ship, but his teammates simply are not champion-caliber players. Bradley Beal has been battling nagging injuries all season, leaving him averaging the same 13.9 points per game that he was putting up as a rookie. Paul Pierce is past his prime, averaging a career-low 12.6 points per game and constantly being harried by wear and tear on his body. Nene, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries have not shown the consistency necessary to keep the offense from sputtering out on a nightly basis.

The biggest domino to fall for Cleveland, however, will be the Chicago Bulls. Currently hanging on by a thread to the No. 3 seed in the East, the Bulls are likely to be eclipsed by the Cavaliers in the near future, as their roster has been decimated by injuries. Derrick Rose and his torn meniscus are out until at least the beginning of the playoffs. Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson will be sidelined for the majority of March with a hyperextended elbow and a sprained ankle, respectively.

The Bulls’ now-defunct backcourt had been averaging an explosive 38 points and eight assists per game, providing an added dimension to a team that has been characterized primarily by its defensive efficiency in recent seasons under the leadership of head coach Tom Thibodeau. It is hard to envision the Bulls keeping up their winning ways with the burden being placed on rookie Nikola Mirotic and All-Star Pau Gasol, who struggled in Los Angeles when the ability of the teammates around him declined.

Now that the Cavaliers have James, Irving and Love all healthy and playing well with each other, they appear to be on their way to locking down the No. 2 seed in the East. Sporting a pristine 10-0 record in their last 10 games at home, as well as a league-leading 112.7 offensive efficiency in their last 19, the Cavaliers are slated to shake off the weight of their slow start and to give the Atlanta Hawks a run for their money in the Eastern Conference finals.




Max Fiege is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. OUT OF OUR LEAGUE appears every Tuesday.

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