These dudes are old!
The Cavs are still the best team in the Eastern Conference, but as the 2017-18 season approaches, and you look at the Cavs roster, the first thing that strikes you is that Kyrie Irving is missing.
That means more ball movement and less ego, so that’s good.
But the second thing that strikes you is that these dudes are old.
Jeff Green is 31, J.R. Smith is 32. LeBron James will turn 33 in December. Channing Frye is 34. Dwyane Wade is 35. Jose Calderon is 36. Kyle Korver is 36.
Then there’s Derrick Rose, who is biologically, if not chronologically old. Rose is 29, but he’s had the injuries of a 34-year-old. History tells us that his is not a physically durable body.
Birth certificates tell us that these other Cavs are chronologically old, and playing a young man’s game in a still younger man’s league. Seven of the first 11 players selected in this year’s NBA Draft are teenagers. The other four are 20.
Steph Curry is still only 28, same as Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are both 26, which is seven years younger than LeBron, nine years younger than Wade and 10 years younger than Korver, who is only a year younger than Luke Walton, the coach of the Lakers.
Age isn’t everything in the NBA. But it is a thing. And it’s a thing that bears watching on the Cavs, for one very good reason: injuries.
Older players tend to get injured more than younger players, and injuries can be the great equalizer in sports. Fortunately for the Cavs, LeBron, despite his age, has been a very durable player through the years, although he is now hampered by a sprained ankle that may limit him in the early part of this season.
Rose’s injury history is as long as your arm, while Smith has already had a couple injuries with the Cavs that have cost him significant time. Frye doesn’t figure to play big minutes this year, but an injury to him could affect the team’s depth.
Calderon is a 36-year-old point guard, which is nearly an extinct species in today’s NBA.
Green, 31, missed an entire season five years ago due to a heart condition, and the Cavs are his fifth team in the last three years.
The other thing about age is that it not only frequently results in more injuries, but it absolutely contributes to diminished skills. Wade, for example, is a shadow of his former self as a player. But his former self played at such an elite level that even a shadow of that should be able to help the Cavs — as long as he stays healthy.
Korver has aged well, because he’s kept himself in shape, and he really only has one responsibility: shoot the basketball.
Smith is a more athletic, but also a slightly more injury prone version of Korver. But 36 is still 36 in Korver’s case, just as 32 is 32 for Smith.
On the back nine of his career, Frye has devolved into a stand-still shooter, albeit an elongated one.
LeBron, of course, is the outlier in virtually every aspect of his existence, including as a player. He’s playing as well now as he ever has, which will be needed, again by the thirty-something Cavs, if they want to get to where they want to go. Soon to be 33, his skill level remains unmatched.
During the preseason, Rose has looked terrific, moving well, and doing all the things he did seven years ago, when he won the MVP Award, as opposed to five years ago, when he sat out the entire season with a knee injury.
With the exception of LeBron’s sprained ankle, all the old guys seem healthy as the start of the season nears. And it’s not like the Cavs have ONLY old guys. Tristan Thompson is 26, Iman Shumpert, who holds the unofficial NBA record for most times injuring himself trying to dunk, is 27, as is Jae Crowder. Isaiah Thomas is 28 and Kevin Love is 29.
So the Cavs’ roster is roughly 50-50 between old guys and guys who aren’t old, but aren’t very young, either. There is nobody on the team under 26.
It’s the guys over 30, plus Rose, who are the injury risks. History tells us that older players get hurt more than younger players, and because the Cavs have several older players, history cannot be dismissed.
On the other hand, the Cavs still have LeBron.
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