The backup point guard competition got a little lighter on Saturday.
Prior to the Cavaliers’ 108-105 pre-season victory over the 76ers on October 8, Tyronn Lue put an abrupt end – or at least a suspension – on the Jordan McRae experiment at point guard.
Mostly used as a shooting guard in his pro career, the Tennessee product again led all scorers against the 76ers with 20 to go with five rebounds and four assists. He led all scorers in his first pre-season game against Orlando with 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting, adding seven rebounds and five assists.
“We’re going to slow it down a little bit,” Lue said with a laugh. “I mean, it’s not fair to him. It’s something he hasn’t done his whole career. You can put guys in a position that they’ve got to just come out and score the basketball, but to tell them to get into their sets and little guards picking him up full court, just having to think so much when you are a natural scorer, it is kind of tough.”
Lue cited the additions of Kentucky product DeAndre Liggins and veteran Toney Douglas as extra reasoning for the move, joini0ng Kyrie Irving and Kay Felder, the top two on the depth chart.
It likely won’t matter with Irving and James’ abilities to split the brunt of ball-handling duties in the playoffs. McRae, and the departed duo of Mo Williams and Matthew Dellavedova only appeared for 78 minutes in the NBA Finals.
But what happens when the team is cut down to 15? There will more than likely be room for McRae on the roster, but will there be minutes for him in the rotation?
“We’re still trying to figure that out,” Lue said. “I like what he give us, as far as offensively. Like we talked about before, being able get downhill in pick-and-rolls, great mid-range game, get to the free-throw line. Offensively, he’s definitely ready to step up and play, we’ve just got to bring him along defensively.”
The task for McRae will be simple when on the floor, who would play center if Lue asked, regardless of where he plays defensively. The 25-year old has always had a penchant for getting to the basket and scoring, but he will need to stretch his game to accomplish what the team needs.
“When I had a chance to see him at UCLA late in the summer, his shot really improved,” Lue said. “Really easy and comfortable shooting the basketball, so playing on the floor with Kevin, LeBron and Kyrie, he’s going to have to make open jump shots. The help is going to have to come from somewhere, so he’s going to have to be ready to step up and knock them down.”
Lue said following the game against the 76ers that the majority of the Cavaliers rotation players will not play on the road Monday in Atlanta.
The head coach listed players who would not be in action, mentioning James, Kevin Love, Irving, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, and Mike Dunleavy.