Cavs Struggling Without Irving

Any time you end up with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, it happened for a reason. Either you made a brilliant trade with a foolish team, got incredibly lucky, or in the case of the Cleveland Cavaliers, you just flat out stunk the year before.

It has now been two years since the Cavs grabbed Kyrie Irving out of Duke. He has only played in 100 of the possible 133 games that Cleveland has played since the youngster has come to town, and he is going to be on the shelf for at least the next two weeks as well with a shoulder injury. What we’re finding out once again in this stretch is that Cleveland, when playing without Irving, once again still simply stinks.

The team without Irving on the court does look a heck of a lot better than the team that broke the NBA record for the longest losing streak in a season, but the squad is nowhere near being truly competitive. Cleveland has lost three of its four games without Irving in the fold during this shoulder injury, including getting dumped by 21 points at home on Monday night by the division-leading Indiana Pacers.

It’s easy to see why the Cavaliers are brutally missing their point guard, though. Not only is Irving the man that is routinely handling the basketball, but he is also the man that is doing the most scoring on the team and taking the most shots. Irving is averaging 23.0 points and 5.7 assists per game, and prior to his injury shoulder problem ,he had three straight games with at least 20 points under his belt.

Interestingly enough though, Cleveland is a better team on the NBA odds without Irving than it is with him. The squad is 9-7 ATS in the 16 games that the Duke product has missed this year, while it is 25-25-1 ATS when he is in the fold.

Rough Rookie Season For Kidd-Gilchrist

Charlotte has been the worst team in the NBA over the course of the last two seasons, and it really hasn’t been all that close. The club was in line for the top pick in last year’s NBA Draft, but instead of winning the NBA Draft Lottery, which would have given the team Anthony Davis as its new franchise player, Charlotte was stuck with another Kentucky Wildcat, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the man they call MKG has really been nothing particularly special this season.

Part of the reason that Charlotte has really struggled this year for those making NBA picks is because it just doesn’t have a great offensive post weapon. Kidd-Gilchrist was a fantastic player in and near the paint in college, and that figured to translate over to the pros. Unfortunately, the former Wildcat has only knocked down 44.9 percent of his shots this year, and he just isn’t showing the ability to get on the boards as well as he did in Lexington either.

Kidd-Gilchrist is averaging 8.9 points per game this season, but his numbers are starting to fall off. He scored just six points in 25 minutes against the Boston Celtics on Saturday, and that marked the fifth straight game in which he was held to single digits in the scoring column.

The tide really turned for MKG right at the end of the calendar year. In November and December, Kidd-Gilchrist had three games with at least 20 points scored, and he averaged 10.9 points per game. The rookie also scored in double figures in 17 of his 30 games. Since that point, he is averaging just 7.0 points per game, and he has reached at least 10 points in 10 of 33 games.

Pacers Will Have To Lean On George

The present and future of the Indiana Pacers seems to hinge largely on the play of Paul George, the third-year pro who was selected to his first All-Star Game this season.

The former Fresno State star has helped push the Pacers to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference this season with a record of 40-24. George leads the team in scoring with 17.6 points a game, while also chipping in a healthy 7.8 rebounds a game from the small forward position. His youth and all-around production has moved him past Danny Granger as the Pacer’s most indispensable asset moving forward.

As you consider your NBA picks, consider the Pacers have been an excellent 36-28 against the spread this season. However, that strike rate has cooled a bit as they are just 2-3 against the number in their last five games.

The Pacers will need play big down the stretch if they hope to hold on to the second-spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are both within 2 1/2-games of the Pacers. That means George will have to keep playing at his current All-Star level, especially after it was revealed Thursday that Granger will be out for at least another three games. The former All-Star has played just five games this season because of a devilish left knee injury.

The three games Granger is scheduled to miss will be Friday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers, who in all likelihood will be without Kobe Bryant; Saturday on the road versus the Philadelphia 76ers and Monday on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers figure to be favored in all three of those games, even without Granger.

The concern with the Pacers is George has been playing heavy minutes of late and eventually he could begin to get worn down given all that he contributes on the floor. Still, he’s a 22-year-old star in the making that will be asked to do most of the heavy lifting for Indiana down the stretch.