Author Archive

Reminder: LeBron still does impossible stuff

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Hi, it’s me. Thick in the middle of law school finals (had one today, have another tomorrow, and the last one on Friday), so time hasn’t been my friend of late. I still wanted to get in on this little bit of absurdity. The fun starts at the 2:22 mark of the video above (props, as always, to @DawkinsMTA)

Off a Kemba Walker fast-break layup, LeBron grabs the inbounds pass, gets into a full quarterback stance, and heaves the ball from just inside the Cavs’ free-throw line to Kyrie, who made a ridiculous layup in traffic. (I’m fairly sure Kyrie makes more layups off damn near the top of the backboard than anyone else in the league.) Oh, and LeBron threw that with his left hand.

It’s pretty well-known at this point that LeBron does everything but shoot a basketball left-handed, and his ability to drive and finish with his left hand has always been a vital and underrated part of what makes him great, but that’s freaking ludicrous.

As has been mentioned, LeBron’s pretty clearly past his physical prime — he’s not the holy-christ jumper he used to be, and, more importantly, he doesn’t have enough in his legs to compete on both ends for the full game the way he used to. This began in earnest last season (I said as much on this CBS.com podcast! Don’t listen to the part where I say Golden State was dramatically overvaluing Klay Thompson. Just focus on where I say LeBron is past his physical prime. I am so often wrong.), especially the defense part, but nobody really noticed it because people are slow to change their opinions on how good perimeter defenders are  (even GMs — seriously, guys?), and the Heat’s offense got LeBron the ball in positions where he had a deep post-up or an outright layup or dunk, minimizing the need for him to slice all the way through defenses like he did in his first stint with the Cavs.

The point here is that even though LeBron’s crazy dunks are probably gone, he’s still a player capable of doing insane, insane things, and we should appreciate them.

(I’d say I’d like to see more of the kind of action we get at the 2:10 mark of the above video, where LeBron gets an easy layup after catching Lance Stephenson cheating a screen, but that play was entirely thanks to Al Jefferson. His man is setting a screen, LeBron is basically scratching his back, and he’s just standing still and staring straight ahead, thinking about muffins. Never change, Big Al.)

An offensive set to be thankful for

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, campers. This Thursday, since it’s a holiday, I’ll spare you my weekly 2,000 word screed on what I’d like to see the Cavs doing and just show you a perfect example of the Cavs doing exactly what I’ve been begging them to do all season long.

Hopefully, the above video above (which comes from @DawkinsMTA, who runs the best NBA YouTube channel out there) is set to the appropriate time, but since I have no idea how to do that, skip to the 3:55 mark if it starts from the beginning. This is how a 2014-15 Cavalier offensive set should look.

STEP 1: The play here is a simple 3-1 pick and roll, which was a staple of the Heat offense when LeBron played there and has been an attempted staple of the Cavalier offense this season. It’s a very effective set, since not many teams can have a 250-pound man as the ball-handler on the pick-and-roll. The problem with it so far for the Cavaliers has been that Kyrie has been setting nonchalant screens, so instead of a 3-1 pick-and-roll it’s “Kyrie and LeBron waste 8 seconds of the shot clock while standing near each other.”

On this play, however, Kyrie sets a screen like a guy who was born in Australia, not like a guy who went to Duke. LeBron’s man can’t fight over the screen fast enough, and LeBron has a lane to the basket. Now the Wizards are on the back foot, and good things can happen organically. That’s what a successful offensive set does.

STEP 2: Marcin Gortat makes a nice rotation to keep LeBron from getting an easy finish on the drive, and Kris Humphries rotates down to keep LeBron from having a pass to Thompson for an easy dunk. This leaves Joe Harris open for an above-the-break 3, and LeBron fires the pass to him.

STEP 3: Since Harris is a 3-point threat who has to be respected, Kyrie’s man leaves him to contest what would be a wide-open 3. Harris, without so much as putting the ball on the floor, swings the ball to Kyrie, who’s open at the top of the 3-point arc. This forces Dion Waiters’ man to leave Waiters alone in the corner and close out on Kyrie at full speed.

STEP 4: Kyrie now has two options: Hit Waiters with a pass that would set him up with an open 3, or decimate the ankles of a defender who has to run at him full-speed, and thus has no real chance of staying in front of one of the best ballhandlers in basketball. Kyrie goes with option B, and goes from left to right with a behind-the-back dribble on his man.

STEP 5: Kyrie is now between the top of the key and the free throw line, with options. He can pull up on his man for a mid-range jumper, which isn’t a terrible shot, but isn’t a great one. There’s still enough room between Waiters and his man for a three if Kyrie fires a pass to his right side. But the best option is the one Kyrie goes with — since Kyrie’s crossover forced Humphries to step into the middle of the lane to prevent Kyrie from getting a layup on a potential blow-by, LeBron is now open just under the basket, on the left side. In a flash, Kyrie picks up his dribble and hits LeBron with a bullet pass in one fluid motion. Now LeBron’s got a layup, and he even gets an and-1 out of the deal.

That’s what we’re talking about here — spacing, guys working together, multiple good options created by actions, and LeBron and Kyrie using their respective talents to make life easier on each other. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Recap: Cavs 90, Spurs 92 (Or, of fractals and fumbles)

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

 

Overview: After four hard-fought quarters, the Cavaliers fell short against the defending champion Spurs when LeBron James turned the ball over at half-court with Cleveland down by two and just seconds on the clock. Anderson Varejao led all scorers with 23 points on 16 shots, while James and Kevin Love combined for just 25 points on a combined 10-29 shooting night.

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Kyrie and The Crucible

Friday, November 7th, 2014

LeBron James has never played with a high-level true point guard before. Dwyane Wade was the closest thing he had to a guy who could function as a high-level creator next to him, but since Wade is secretly a 6’4 power forward without the rebounding, Miami got away with an inverted situation, having LeBron function as the primary creator, Wade slashing to the basket off the ball, and Bosh providing the floor spacing despite being the tallest of the three.

That’s not going to work in Cleveland. This is evidenced by the fact that it is currently not working in Cleveland. It’s early, but the Cavs currently rank 19th in offensive efficiency, 22nd in True Shooting, and dead-last in assist ratio. The defense is a larger issue, as only the Lakers (bless these horrible Lakers) and the Jazz have a lower defensive efficiency than the Cavs. For those of you keeping score at home, the second-worst defense in the NBA held the Cavaliers to four assists last night.

The Cavaliers need to run an honest-to-god offense, and they need to start running it soon. For that, two things have to happen: Kyrie needs to have a come-to-Jesus moment and LeBron needs to find an effective middle gear.

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LeBron James Through The Years

Friday, October 24th, 2014

 

Hi. I’m John. I started this website in 2008, and was its Editor-In-Chief until after the 2010-11 season. I spend lots of time doing law school-y things now, such as going to law school. This season, I’m going to be doing a weekly column, as well as some other things as time allows. Over the past 11 seasons, I have watched LeBron James play basketball an unhealthy amount, and I’ve learned a few things about his game over that time. (These columns will be more varied as the season goes on, but don’t be surprised if the first few are LeBron-centric: I’m still getting to know this brand-new Cavs team, while I have 11 years of intense LeBron-watching under my belt.)

Since LeBron James now plays for the Cavaliers again, I thought it would be useful to go back through the last decade-plus of LeBron, and see how he got from the 18-year old kid out of St. Vincent/St. Marys to the four-time MVP and two-time champion who will be suiting up for the Cavs this season. One of the (many) things I always say is truly incredible as LeBron is that he not only came into the league as the most talented prospect of the modern era and lived up to the hype right out of the gate, but he’s improved and changed his game more from when he was first successful to when he hit his prime as much as any player in NBA history.

Follow me past the jump for more (a lot more):

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Recap: Rockets 118, Cavs 111 (Or, the Quick and the Red)

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

 

Overview: In a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate, the Houston Rockets blitzed the Cavaliers behind James Harden’s performance. Harden had 37 points and 11 assists in just 29 minutes of playing time, and shot 9-15 from the field and 14-14 from the free throw line. Dion Waiters led the Cavs with 26 points on 11-20 shooting, Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 23 points, and Matthew Dellavedova had his second consecutive 10-assist game.

The Rundown:

The bottom line on this one was that the Rockets absolutely played the game they wanted to play, and the Cavaliers got caught up in it. I thought the switch from Byron Scott to Mike Brown would bring in some change defensively, but that simply hasn’t been the case this season. The Cavs are tied for 18th in defensive efficiency this season, and they haven’t really been able to make their opponents feel their presence on defense at any point. The Rockets were running, gunning, and getting to the line, and the Cavs couldn’t do much to stop it.

The Rockets pushed at every opportunity, launched a 3 whenever they got a chance, and wore the Cavs down with a parade to the free throw line. The Rockets put up 118 points, and only 10 of them came on mid-range jumpers — the rest came in the paint, on 3s, or at the line. James Harden, of course, was the biggest issue for the Cavs. He really is something to watch when he has it going. He was pulling up for 3, he was slicing into the lane with that slinky dribble at will, he set up his teammates, and he found contact and didn’t miss when he went to the line. Of his 37 points, only 2 came on a mid-range jumper. He set the tone early, and the Cavs never really got back into the game after the Rockets opened things up with a 17-4 run.

The Cavs had a lot of players end up with nice box score lines because of the speed of the game and the fact that, for the second straight game, they were able to turn garbage time into really-dirty-thing time with a late run when the game was all but completely out of hand, but they really did get beat up by the Rockets. Still, the furious pace of the game did allow us to see some good stuff from a few Cavs.

As I mentioned, Tyler Zeller had a career-high 23, and I like how he’s been playing lately. He’s not settling, he’s looking surprisingly authoritative around the basket, and he’s showing that energy we’ve been waiting for. Hopefully he can build on this, and maybe develop that jumper a bit more, because I don’t think Hawes is much of a long-term answer at the pivot spot.

Waiters is proving that he is most certainly an above-average NBA rotation player — when he wants to get 20 or more, he gets it. It might take him a few more shots than would be ideal to get there, but there aren’t a ton of guards in the league who can do that, especially ones that usually come off of the bench. I feel like I’ve more or less said my piece on Waiters — I’d like to see him improve on a few things, namely his ability to finish at the basket, but the main problem is that he doesn’t have enough guys setting him up for open 3s, spacing the floor for him to go to the basket, or protecting him on defense. If the Cavs can get those things in place, he’ll be truly dangerous instead of a guy who can do a passable impression of a #1 option on offense — call it the Monta Ellis theory.

Seth Curry is here! Only 9 minutes, and his only contribution was hitting a 3, which is something we all knew that he can do. It’ll be interesting to see if he shows anything during his 10 days.

Dellavedova’s 3-point shooting and passing continue to look good, although his defense didn’t have much of an impact on Saturday.

That’s about all I have for this one. The Cavs got run out of their building, and the playoffs are all but a mathematical impossibility at this point; before this game, Hollinger’s Playoff Odds gave them a 0.6% chance of making it in, which is basically the odds of any team still left in the NCAA Tournament winning the whole thing. Not great. Until next time.

Recap: Thunder 102 , Cavs 95 (Or, Okay, Fear the Reaper)

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

 

Overview: 

After a hard-fought first quarter, the Cavs ultimately folded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who outscored the Cavs over the final three quarters of the game. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists on 12-21 shooting from the field, and Dion Waiters led the Cavaliers with 30 points on 11-25 shooting from the field.

The Rundown:

The first quarter went about as well as one could possibly hope for the Cavaliers. It was no secret coming into this game that the Cavs weren’t going to be able to beat the Thunder based on talent, but they started off the game doing exactly what they needed to do — frustrating the Thunder offensively and outworking them on the glass. Hawes is a legitimate liability as a rim protector, but his ability to step out and stretch the defense gives the Cavaliers a dimension they desperately needed offensively, even if he couldn’t get his three-point shots to fall early in Thursday’s game.

Kevin Durant got Gee into early foul trouble, which was a blessing in disguise, because Lord Dellavedova was in full effect in the first quarter. He managed to frustrate Kevin Durant — Kevin Durant — when KD tried to isolate him 18 feet away from the basket, forcing Durant to settle for some tough jumpers that he couldn’t get to fall. Offensively, Dellavedova took advantage of the open 3 opportunities that come from offensive rebounds, showing a clean stroke and a lightning-quick trigger, and made the Thunder pay for sagging off of him. Thanks to hustle on the glass, Dellavedova, and some nice plays from Waiters, the Cavs actually held a 25-21 lead after the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Kevin Durant got the Thunder into the flow of the game, and they started playing some of the most beautiful basketball I’ve seen from any team this season. Durant, who’s going to go down as one of the five best jump-shooters of all time when he retires, made all of one jumper before the first-half buzzer sounded, and he was punishing the Cavs offensively anyways.

I don’t get to watch Durant as much as I should as a basketball fan, but he seems to get so much better every time I see him play. He was getting himself into the game in so many more ways than he used to be able to — he was getting put-backs off of offensive rebounds, making gorgeous back-cuts for dunks, throwing down alley-oops, and immediately firing off a pass to an open teammate when he didn’t have the angle, even if that pass led to a hockey assist instead of a wide-open shot. Apparently this wasn’t typical, even for the Thunder — I always watch the opposing team’s broadcast feed to get as many points of view as I can, and they were raving about how the ball was moving better for the Thunder in the second quarter than it has all season. Oh, and then Durant finished the quarter with a filthy, filthy crossover to pull-up jumper to beat the buzzer. This dude is on another level right now.

Meanwhile, the Thunder were bearing down on the glass, the Cavs were getting stagnant offensively, and their energy advantage had evaporated. When the Thunder are playing like a well-oiled machine of death, having your energy advantage evaporate is not a good thing, and the Cavs went into the break down by 10.

At the start of the 3rd quarter, Durant decided to announce that he had found his jumper by calmly draining a 31-foot pull-up jumper. Until there were 6 minutes left to play in the 4th quarter, it was pretty much all downhill from there for the Cavs. They couldn’t get an offensive rebound to save their lives, Durant was either hitting jumpers or setting Ibaka up with easy 18-footers when the Cavs came to trap him, and Derek Fisher, who is 63 years old, was draining every three he looked at. Dion was making some nice plays to keep the Cavaliers in the game, but things were clearly getting out of hand, and the Cavs were down by 24 with 6 minutes to play.

That’s when a ray of hope came, in the form of (who else?) Matthew Dellavedova. He started initiating the offense, and brought the Cavs to within striking distance by dishing out four consecutive assists and draining a jumper. After a Waiters layup and free throws, as well as a free throw from TT, the Cavs somehow found themselves within five with 1:12 to play.

However, tonight’s miracles were reserved for the college set, and the Thunder got their bearings after a timeout, got a key offensive rebound, and rode a parade of Durant free throws to a relatively easy finish. Good fight, but the Cavaliers were hopelessly outmatched, especially without Deng and Irving.

Notes:

I counted four 3-second violations for Serge Ibaka on Thursday — two on the offensive end, and two on D. That’s a personal high for one player in a game I’ve watched.

Waiters had to work for his 30, but 30 points in the NBA is 30 points in the NBA, and he again showed strong flashes — he can score from anywhere on the court, and something good always happens when he uses that devastating first step going left. I think he can be a foundational piece for an NBA team. I just hope the right pieces come into place around him so it’s this NBA team.

Speaking of, who’s on everybody’s draft wish list, now that we’re in tournament time? Maybe this is a “Once bitten, twice shy” thing with Karasev (is he alive?), but even though McDermott is a tweener in the worst way, I can’t see a scenario in which I’d rather have Dario Saric or pay Deng 5x as much on knees with 200,000 more miles on them.

(Caveat: I am fairly terrible at draft predictions, to the point where this was the first article I ever wrote that got major attention. I probably wouldn’t have ended up getting this blog without it. The moral, as always: Fail Upwards.)

Jack’s been playing well lately, but boy was he awful on Thursday. So, so, many short-armed pull-ups in transition.

Yes, I’m in love with Matthew Dellavedova. Double-Double! Give him a Danny Ferry contract. 10 years guaranteed. Needless to say, the Tarence Kinsey Award Race is over for this season.

Forgettable game for Tristan Thompson, who did not seem to remember that Serge Ibaka is quite good at blocking shots.

 

Recap: Cavs 93, Pistons 89 (Or, WINNING STREAK.)

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

 

Overview: Led by 25 points on 12-16 shooting and 15 rebounds from Tristan Thompson, the Cavs were able to come back from an early deficit and outscore the Pistons 34-23 in the fourth quarter of a 93-89 win. This is the Cavaliers’ first four-game winning streak since March of 2010.

Well, that’s the way to go into the All-Star Break Bullets:

Definitely a game to write home about from Tristan Thompson. The Pistons’ pick-and-roll defense is some of the worst in the league, and Kyrie and Thompson used everything in their bag of tricks to exploit it. Thompson was absolutely wonderful out there–he was finding space, always moving, and finishing with both hands with confidence. He even sprinkled in a jumper from the baseline, but this was mostly about Thompson stepping up in Varejao’s absence — in fact, he looked more like LeBron-era Varejao cutting to the basket and finishing tonight than Current Anderson Varejao has in the last year or two.

Not Kyrie’s best game, but he didn’t do much crazy, and rarely strangled the offense. He really let the game come to him, and while he struggled with his shot, he was able to make some beautiful passes, got himself into the paint and to the line, and did put the Cavs up four with a pull-up 26-footer with 27 seconds to go, which was nice.

Very quiet game from Dion — not a lot of penetration from him, and just 9 points, as he made everything from inside the arc and none of his threes.

I liked that Deng was aggressive taking the ball to the basket. So did Detroit’s gigantic frontline. The results were ugly: four points in 36 minutes on 0-9 shooting from the field. Yikes.

No real time for the Dellavedova love corner tonight — Will Bynum was just too fast for him, and his abuse of Dellavedova early in the fourth quarter almost put the Cavs in a hole they couldn’t get out of.

Anthony Bennett’s breakout game didn’t have much of a follow-up, with him getting just two points in 15 minutes on 1-4 shooting. I think it’s safe to say that with Bennett’s sleep apnea and asthma, and his overall physical condition, that back-to-backs are not going to be Bennett’s strength this year. I’m willing to ride high on Tuesday’s performance going into the All-Star break.

I’m saying a lot of negative things, so just take this away: This was an ugly game, the defense was solid, and Thompson was really, really good. JONAS THAT.

Bullets of Randomness:

This is a Pistons team with some serious issues. As much as I’ve complained about Kyrie this season, Brandon Jennings is just kinda wandering. 3-14 from the floor, and 11 of his shots were threes. At least three of his shots were LAUGHABLY bad ideas. There’s no sense that he’s setting up any kind of an offense. Andre Drummond is a load and Monroe has skill, but there’s no spacing when they share the floor, and the pick-and-roll defense is horrendous. I was going to rip Josh Smith for his effort, but he played a team-high 40 minutes tonight, so is it surprising that he ran out of gas defensively in the fourth quarter? And he took some bad shots, but HE’S JOSH SMITH AND YOU KNEW THAT WHEN YOU SIGNED HIM AS A SMALL FORWARD.

WINNING STREAK! See you guys after the All-Star Break.

Recap: Cavs 91, Grizzlies 83 (Or, Take Your Winning Streaks as You Get Them.)

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

 

Overview:

The Cavaliers escaped with a win over the Memphis Grizzlies over 53 minutes of ugly, ugly basketball, with both teams shooting under 40% from the floor and generally not moving the ball at all. Kyrie Irving finished with a game-high 28 points, including a game-tying layup with 19 seconds left in regulation, and Dion Waiters punctuated the game with a vicious crossover and one-handed dunk to put the Cavaliers up six points with 41 seconds left in overtime.

Cavs-Related Bullets:

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Initial Thoughts on the Deng Trade

Monday, January 6th, 2014

 

deng

 

Well, that was unexpected. After an extended dance with the Lakers about a possible Bynum-Gasol swap, the Cavs have decided to trade Andrew Bynum’s immediately erasable contract and 3 draft picks to the Bulls for Luol Deng and his $14.275 million expiring contract. I’m going to come right out and say it: This trade carries some long-term risks, but in the short-term, it’s an absolute coup for Chris Grant, and just might save his job. Here are the things I like about the trade:

1) Defense, Defense, Defense

As long-time readers of this blog know, I have always been a Mike Brown apologist, and feel he never gets the credit he deserves for turning the Cavaliers into an elite defensive squad during his first stint with the team. As short-term watchers of Cavalier basketball know, Mike Brown has been an absolute disaster on both ends of the floor this season, and the team has only been league-average defensively while being an absolute nightmare on offense. This trade gives Brown another really, really good defensive piece to play with, which he desperately needed. Deng is still an elite defender — the Bulls are 2nd in the league in defensive efficiency and they’re 4.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Deng is on the court. Having a stopper on the wing, as well as a high-profile player who buys in on defense, should help the Cavs tremendously on that end of the floor.

2) He comes from the right culture.

I alluded to this above, but I’ll give it it’s own paragraph here. Deng comes from the kind of team that the Cavaliers should aspire to be. They (were) built around a scoring point guard, they played brilliant, intricate, suffocating defense, and they out-worked their opponent almost every night. That’s how they won the most games in the East during Rose’s MVP year, and that’s how they stayed competitive when Rose got injured. If Deng can get Cavalier players to buy into that mentality, it’ll be a huge deal. (Short version: Luol Deng is the opposite of Rudy Gay.)

3) A target for Kyrie — on the wing!

Deng isn’t the prototypical #2 guy for Kyrie on the perimeter. He’s not a great shooter, he works in isolation a lot, and he generally likes the ball in his hands. Still, Deng is an above-average passer for a small forward, which is great considering he’ll be playing alongside of Irving and Waiters in crunch time, he’s a fantastic finisher at the rim, which is something the Cavaliers desperately need, and his combination of basketball IQ and toughness should be an absolute godsend after the parade of wings the Cavaliers have trotted out in the post-LeBron era. Deng’s relatively weak outside shooting keeps him from being a traditional sidekick, but he’s always found ways to score at a decent (if not thrilling) rate of efficiency, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue in Cleveland.

4) The only player the Cavs traded is one who they had banned from the team for the rest of time.

That sort of explains itself. So long, Bynum experiment.

5) According to the numbers, Deng is somehow not breaking down physically.

Deng has been playing “If he dies, he dies” minutes for the last few seasons, and missed time last season because of a BOTCHED SPINAL TAP. 28-year old male humans should not be needing spinal taps. That’s a bad thing. And Deng, when not playing 37.4 minutes per game this season because I CAN FEEL A PULSE NOW GET BACK OUT THERE AND SHOW HARD ON THAT DAMN PICK AND ROLL, has missed some games with injuries. However, when he’s played, he’s somehow been having one of his best seasons in years. His PER is as high as it’s been since the 06-07 season, and his TS% has only been higher in 06-07 and the year Rose was healthy and the league MVP. So, fingers crossed, we’re not getting a Luol Deng running on fumes here, which was a pretty major cause with Pau Gasol.

6) Expiring contract!

If Deng does break down, or doesn’t mesh with the team, or whatever, guess what? His contract is coming off the books after this season! It’s all the same! There’s no long-term risk financially here? (Again, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that Deng is not Rudy Gay.) The only thing that’s happening here is that Dan Gilbert will have to spend more money. And we here at Cavs: The Blog are always willing to spend Dan Gilbert’s money in order to help the Cavaliers. It’s just the kind of giving souls we are. And this means the Cavs will still have the flexibility to sign LeBron! (Note: the Cavs are not going to sign LeBron.)

7) No major assets were given up.

When I first saw that the Cavs had given up two second round picks, a first, and a right to swap for Deng, I thought Grant had gone into a Paxson panic and made a Jiri Welsch-esque “I’m fired if this doesn’t work, so who cares about the future?” trade. However, the “1st-round pick” is almost certainly not going to be in the first round, since it comes from Sacramento and is top-12 protected. (One more time: THANK GOD FOR RUDY GAY.) In fact, the pick is top-10 protected through 2017, which means that the pick won’t come back to bite the Cavs until Sacramento gets out of the cellar, which could take a while, or if Chicago hits the jackpot and finds a franchise-changing player outside of the top 10. As for the second-rounders, it’s hard to feel too bad about them when the Cavs have one lottery pick who can’t crack the rotation and another who shouldn’t be in the rotation. TYLER ZELLER IS A RELATIVE SUCCESS AMONG RECENT CAVS LOTTERY PICKS. As for the pick-swap, that’s pretty well protected too.

DOWNSIDES:

1) Spacing.

As mentioned above, Deng is a pretty poor shooter for a high-profile NBA wing. He’s shooting 27.4% from deep, and he’s not much better on long twos. Considering that the Cavs already have some pretty serious issues with spacing, that’s a legitimate concern, especially since you’d love to see someone able to give Waiters and Irving more space to work in in the paint.

2) Deng is an old 28.

I mentioned this above, but it’s concerning that Deng has been playing 38 minutes a night for the last few years, had a spinal tap procedure that almost killed him during last year’s playoffs, has missed games this year, and was given up for a player who will not be playing basketball anytime soon willingly. I can’t shake the feeling Deng is going to age like an NFL running back — one day, he’s just going to be DONE, and some team will be stuck with a substantial bill. I just hope it’s not the Cavs. That takes us to…

3) I am terrified of signing Deng to an extension.

As of now, I love this deal. The Cavs can get some pride back, some wins under their belt, make an actual run at a playoff seed, and feel like a real basketball team again. Despite the current theory that tanking is a panacea, that strategy generally works just as well for getting teams out of the gutter than bottoming out does. However, I will want to eat a compact fluorescent lightbulb if the team signs Deng at $15-17 million through his age 32 year, because he’s not going to take the team any further than the first round and at some point his next contract will become an albatross. (Joe Johnson is currently 32. That should terrify you.) If the Cavs extend Deng immediately, I will go insane. If they extend him on the strength of a first-round playoff appearance and exit, I will also go insane.

Fortunately, they probably won’t extend Deng right away, because they want to keep their slim hopes of getting LeBron alive (and honestly, LeBron is worth it, despite the odds), and won’t extend him on the strength of a first-round playoff birth, because I still don’t think the Cavs are making the playoffs. This trade will help, but the Hollinger odds have the Cavs with a 10.4% chance to make it in as of today. Only the Bucks have lower odds of making the playoffs in the East, and I don’t think Deng is enough of a game-changer to completely turn it around.

The bottom line, though, is that this move represents a step in the right direction for the Cavaliers, and I look forward to them getting much more watchable in the near future. Things will get squicky for me when the time comes to decide on re-signing Deng, but until them I’m happy about this one. Until next time, campers.