Death Lineup Countdown: No. 29 Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers, Kevin Love, NBA
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Is it not crazy that the departure of one player can take a team from the NBA Finals to out of the playoffs? Crazy or not, that is the reality staring the Cleveland Cavaliers in the face next season. There are probably only two players that are safe to remain on this roster past this season: Colin Sexton and Cedi Osman. George Hill will probably be the first to go (see here), and Kevin Love will most likely be gone by the deadline regardless of his new deal.

The hope in Cleveland is that Kevin Love will return to his Minnesota Timberwolves form. The problem with that is for years now he’s just floated around the three-point line waiting on LeBron to maybe share the ball with him. He hasn’t been on the block dominating anyone in a long time now. He was a 30-15 machine back in the day.

As of this moment, the Cavaliers and Rodney Hood are not seeing eye to eye on contract negotiations. While the Cavs will most likely match any other offer, if he gets one, we will operate as if Hood is not returning this season. If Hood were to return, this lineup would bump a few spots in the rankings.

Projected Starting Lineup

PG: George Hill
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: J.R. Smith
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Kevin Love

It may not take long for Sexton to either win out the starting job over Hill or Hill be moved, but to start the season, Hill’s veteran leadership and experience will give him the nod. Coach Lue could opt to bring Clarkson off the bench, move Smith to the two and start Korver or Osman as the other wing as well. Honestly, who knows what the Cavs are going to do this year without Coach James running the sidelines.

On paper, this team should win a lot of games in the weak Eastern Conference. On paper. This team is without a proven leader. Ty Lue hasn’t coached without LeBron, and that’s a big deal. What are these players capable of as a unit without the best player in the league to fall back on?

Projected “Death Lineup”

PG: George Hill
SG: Jordan Clarkson
SF: J.R. Smith
PF: Cedi Osman
C: Kevin Love

So the only difference from the projected starting lineup and this is replacing Nance Jr. with Osman. Osman allows for the ultimate spreading of the floor and could guard ball handlers with greater ease. What makes this lineup so bad is the total lack of defense.

Jordan Clarkson and Osman will always play hard on that side, but playing hard doesn’t always mean good. Hill is the only above average on-ball defender in this lineup. Love is out there to rebound and jack threes while Smith is still trying to figure out how much time is left on the clock.

This group will for sure be able to shoot the ball but will have little to no chance to defend anyone. The only reason they are not last in the countdown is due to the amount of experience on the roster. It is going to be a long season in The Land.