After the Cleveland Cavaliers lost on Monday, 124-122, to the New Orleans Pelicans without All-Star big man Anthony Davis, LeBron James blasted the team for failing to improve the roster that won an NBA championship last season.
Last summer, while the Golden State Warriors signed former MVP Kevin Durant and deepened their frontcourt with David West, Zaza Pachulia, and JaVale McGee, the Cavaliers allowed Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov to walk in free agency. Cleveland’s only additions were rookie guard Kay Felder and Mike Dunleavy, who was later dealt for Kyle Korver.
"We're not better than last year. From a personnel standpoint,” James said, according to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin.
James, Irving, and Love account for 70.5 of Cleveland’s 109.6 points per game. The four-time MVP leads the NBA in minutes per game (37.5) and averages just 6.4 assists when the Cavaliers lose against 9.0 when they win.
Cleveland’s problem compounded in mid-December when J.R. Smith broke his right thumb. He has missed 17 games since then, 22 in total, and is expected to miss at least another two months recovering. Cleveland is 14-8 without Smith in the lineup this season and 16-5 with him.
In his absence, the Cavaliers have played fourth-year wing Deandre Liggins, who is averaging just three points in 16.3 minutes per game.
"We need a f---ing playmaker," James said. "I'm not saying you can just go find one, like you can go outside and see trees. I didn't say that.
"I'm not singling out anybody. I'm not. Yeah, we won [the championship], but f---, you know what, let's see if we can do something."
The Cavaliers have won just two of their last seven games, a stretch that features losses to New Orleans, Golden State, Utah, Portland, and San Antonio without both Pau Gasol and Tony Parker.
James listed minimum-salary players Cleveland could have signed this summer, according to ESPN.com. That list includes Raymond Felton (who signed with the Clippers) and Michael Beasley (who signed with the Bucks).
"I don't know what we got to offer," James said. "I just know me, personally? I don't got no time to waste. I'll be 33 in the winter, and I ain't got time to waste. That's what I'm talking about.
"We got to figure it out," he said. "It's been a s---ty 2017 so far."
On Tuesday, James tweeted he isn’t upset with Cavs management, he just feels the team needs to improve to compete for a championship.
I not mad or upset at management cause Griff and staff have done a great job, I just feel we still need to improve in order to repeat...— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 24, 2017
if that's what we wanna do.— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 24, 2017
How can Cleveland appease The King?
James took his frustrations to Cavs general manager David Griffin, per McMenamin.
He said he has already voiced his thoughts about the roster to general manager David Griffin face-to-face, and realizing how it could look to call for a point guard with Felder and DeAndre Liggins on the roster, James said it would not be fair to expect either of those young players to fill such a significant role on a title-contending team.
Teams have sopped up most free agents by this point in the season, but there are a few options Cleveland can take a look at to add some depth to its backcourt.
Veteran guard Nate Robinson has been vocal about making an NBA comeback and specifically mentioned the Cavaliers as a team he felt he can help. Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are also free agent point guards who won championships playing alongside James in Miami. Alonzo Gee is a veteran wing yet to latch onto a team.
The deadline for a team to sign a player in free agency who is still eligible for post-season play is March 1.