Archive for the ‘10 Things to Like’ Category

Ten Things to Like About…Kyrie Irving

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Allright, it is time to quit taking Kyrie for granted. With incoming Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, CJ Miles and Jon Leuer; intrigue about Tristan spending all summer in the gym plus packing on fifteen pounds of muscle, and even skinny Samardo; not much of the pre-season banter hinged on the reigning-ROY. In this final series installment, it is time to bask in the glory of the man that should be the talk of Cleveland now, and for the next fifteen years. Due to space constraints, the reasons remain as ten:

Starting at Point Guard....KYRIE IRRRRRVIIIIING!

  1. When Lebron left, hazed visibility obscured miles of perceived darkness. Years of basketball-wasteland seemed probable. Then one year later, Cleveland drafted another player poised to ascend to elite NBA player status; maybe the best point guard in the game within five years. Twenty-six-game-losing-streaks replaced by back-to-back-to-back rookie-of-the-month awards suddenly returned hope to a depressed franchise. Do I need to pinch myself? Of 63 NBA point guards that played more than thirty games last year…
  2. He ranked fifth in PER.
  3. Ninth in true shooting, while using the fourth-highest share of his team’s possessions.  In related news; sixth for three point percentage, with the eighth smallest ratio that were assisted.
  4. 15th per minute, for assists resulting in a bucket at the rim.
  5. Tenth in rebounding rate. Oh yeah, and he did not play a game after his 20th birthday. What is the definition of prodigy?
  6. Kyrie’s rookie year PER of 21.4 exceeded all other recent one-and-done players, like Kevin Durant (15.8), Derrick Rose (16.0), Kevin Love (18.3), Tyreke Evans (18.2), John Wall (15.8) and Eric Gordon (14.9).
  7. Technically Irving’s first season bested the PER of each of that list’s second NBA campaign. Chris Paul’s rookie season narrowly featured a higher rating (22.1), although his performance came at age 20. With only marginal improvement, Kyrie’s age twenty season will surpass CP3′s early career arc.
  8. Oh yeah, the 56 points scored for every 48 minutes of crunch time warrant mention. Best in the NBA last year. Did I mention he was 19?
  9. Obviously, he is a highlight machine. This video features his his top ten, but you could spend an hour watching Kyrie’s best.
  10. Finally, the Uncle Drew thing. That is really funny.
Basically, the ceiling is off.  For his age, the “Pro Basketball Prospectus 2012 – 2013″ lists most similar players of Stephon Marbury, Gilbert Arenas, Russell Westbrook, and Kobe Bryant. Low side of that spectrum includes two all-NBA teams; high end is a top-ten all-time player.  It will be a joy to see how Mr. Irving’s career progresses (but please work on your defense, Kyrie).
(Note: As this series concludes, I again wish to extend appreciation to the following websites for maintaining amazing free data resources: 82games.com, basketball-reference.com, basketballvalue.com, draftexpress.com, espn.com, hoopdata.com, nba.com, and statsheet.com.)

Ten Things to Like About…Dion Waiters

Monday, October 15th, 2012

As Dion Waiters rapidly approaches “most-overanalyzed” status in Cleveland, this article will stay brief.  Obviously, appreciation runs deep at Cavs: the Blog, where Dion fervor already reached religious proportions. For a sampling of why:

Daaaaaang! (The future Mrs. Waiters must have just walked by)

  1. Ranking tenth in usage and offensive rating, he arguably performed as the Big East’s most efficient offensive player in 2011 – 2012.  Of the nine players above him in O-rating, Kevin Jones used the next highest number of possessions, but behind a reasonable gap (25.6 per 100 team possessions for Waiters vs 23.1 for Jones).  Of the group using more possessions, only Maalik Wayns approached D-Wait for offensive rating, although at 116 versus 110, it was not that close.  So, I could straight-faced-debate his status as the best offensive player in the nation’s best conference.
  2. On defense, the difference between Waiters compared to his fellow Syracuse guards can “be regarded as immense”. A primary strength included finishing thirteenth in the entire NCAA for steal percentage.  Once he learns man-to-man, his strength & aggressiveness portend solid NBA performance, too.
  3. Of eighteen drafted NCAA guards last year, he ranked 3rd in PER.   He was one year and eighteen months younger than the higher-rated players, and also battled a more onerous schedule.
  4. Who thinks Dion Waiters rates as a better bucket-getter than Brad Beal, Austin Rivers, Thomas Robinson and Cody Zeller?  Apparently Ohio State’s coaching staff, who described him thus: “by far the best scorer we’ve faced this year”.
  5. With everything outlined above; no wonder why John Hollinger placed Waiters at fourth overall in his 2012 Draft Rater and projected him as the “best small wing since Dwyane Wade”.
  6. Ok, enough.  Everyone gets it.  Advanced stats love Dion Waiters.  That horse has been pummeled.  How about sick dunks?  Maybe between-the-legs or a windmill-off-the-bounce?.  If you reacted, “he bulked up too much since his high school days”; what about a video of the same dunk during warm-ups at the Sweet Sixteen this March?
  7. Unfortunately in games, the dunks include no tricks, but do sometimes involve pairs of posterized big men.
  8. He brings swagger and is discussing ROY and the playoffs. Despite long odds; I appreciate the confidence.
  9. And it is not like tough situations restrained Waiters before.  As described by Dime Magazine: Waiters’ rep grew as a Philly street-ball legend, whose mom is “(his) backbone throughout (his) entire life”, and with a “strict disciplinarian” father; he defeated all obstacles and made it out of a tough neighborhood.
  10. I do not want to overvalue pre-season games, but in Cleveland’s two victories, Dion took the mantle of crunch-time-king.  Between 4:41 and 1:55 to go in the fourth quarter of his first game, he tallied seven points and one assist to stretch a four-point lead to nine.  In the final stanza of his third professional tilt, he scored ten points and threaded two assists while Cleveland stretched a two point lead to ten.  Certainly, the waning minutes of pre-season affairs lack top-line talent, but each of the guys on the court are battling for a roster or rotation spot, and D-Wait managed to separate himself from the pack.

In summary, I am on the Dion Waiters bandwagon.  As a Cavs fan, I do not know why I would not be. (Also, I will be at the Cavs – Magic game tonight.  Follow me on twitter @hetrick46 for in-game thoughts.)

Ten Things to Like About… Anderson Varejao

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Remember the game last year, when Varejao got the ball on a fast break, and he lasered a spinning, over-the-shoulder pass to a spotted-up shooter? I mean, he charged, but that was awesome.

Fan favorite Anderson Varejao hits the court today.  I stand entrenched in the “do not trade Andy” group.  Detractors point to his age and injury history, but neither should be a huge concern.  He turned thirty on September 28th (Happy Birthday!!); interestingly, within two weeks of Nene and Tyson Chandler, the two $60 million centers from last off-season. Those guys have played 50% and 100% more career minutes than Andy; Varejao still sports lots of tread on his tires.

Prior to injury last year, his performance reached career peak levels. Averaging eleven points and eleven rebounds; a halfway-legitimate all-star debate existed.  Remember this game?  A man possessed last year, these specific 20 points and 20 boards stand as one of the most single-mindedly determined efforts I recall seeing.

Regarding propensity for missed time, from 2006 – 2007 through 2010 – 2011, Andy averaged 63 games per season.  He never missed a playoff game (also interesting; Nene stands at 63 and Chandler at 64 games a year during this time).  Ignore last season for a few reasons.  First, it was accelerated and shortened.  The season stretched two months shorter and sixteen games less than normal.  Second, the Cavs arguably tanked.  When Drew Gooden karate-chopped Varejao on the wrist, the announced timeline for return was four-to-six weeks.  The team exhibited no urgency though, and stretched it to eleven weeks.  Under normal circumstances, would he return?  During a typical season, six weeks amounts to 20 games…which leaves him at approximately 63.

So including the playoffs, Andy suited up for 80% of games over the last five full seasons.  He was better than ever last year.  What’s not to like?  For eight years, Andy hustled his way into Cavs fans hearts.  Now it is time to climb the record books.  The seasons described above cover Andy’s ascent towards his prime.  The next three seasons constitute the slow start of the slide down the career parabola.  A reasonable assumption is similar production for the two timeframes.  From 2006 – 2007 through 2010 – 2011, those numbers include, per game: 2.45 offensive rebounds, 5.13 defensive boards, 0.90 steals, and 0.79 blocks.  If Andy played 63 games per season for the Cavs for three more seasons at those levels, he will:

  1. Have played the sixth most games ever for the Cavaliers; sitting only one game short of Austin Carr and 27 shy of Hot Rod Williams.
  2. Rise to third in Cavs history with 1539 offensive rebounds, sitting only 81 behind Hot Rod Williams for second.
  3. Move to fourth all time in defensive rebounds; less than one-hundred behind Lebron.
  4. He would rank fourth for total rebounds; only 45 short of Hot Rod.
  5. Climb to sixth on the franchise leaderboards for steals.
  6. Ascend to fifth all time in blocks, and positioned a handful of swats from moving past Lebron.
  7. Accumulate the seventh-highest total win shares over the Cavs’s forty years, including fourth in defensive win shares.  If Andy maintains his recent rate of 3.1 defensive WS for five more seasons, he overtakes LBJ at the zenith of that list.
  8. Did you know that Andy, Zydrunas and Lebron currently stand tied at 71 career playoff games wearing the Wine & Gold?  Next playoff game for Varejao places him alone on top.
  9. Currently, he ranks fourth in career playoff rebounds for Cleveland, resting four shy of Brad Daugherty and 193 from Lebron.  Can Varejao play twenty-five more playoff games for the Cavs?  If so, wrestling the top spot from the reigning-MVP appears likely.
  10. Objectively and subjectively, during the Cavs most-recent playoff season, Anderson Varejao surpassed Jim Chones to find his place as the fifth big man on the All-Time Cavs Team.   With three more seasons, I move him above Hot Rod Williams, and only behind Big Z, Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance.

Don’t you want to see your favorite floppy-haired Brazilian further stake his claim as a Cavalier All-Timer?  How about moving LBJ down a few team leader-boards?  Andy will only be 32 years old at the end of this contract.  He brings much needed maturity and hard-working attitude to a young and impressionable team; a squad appearing poised to make noise by 2014 – 2015.  With twelve more picks in the next three drafts and $25 million of cap space, plenty of opportunity exists to add a high-level small forward, a back-up point guard, and additional depth…without trading Andy.

So, in parting, the only reason to trade Andy remains through a James Harden sign-and-trade.  I could live with that.

Ten Things to Like About…Tyler Zeller

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

A first Cavs rookie receives the “10 things” treatment today.  Pre-draft, I liked Tyler Zeller a little more than most, rating him 8th of potential 2012 draftees.  So at least in this humble blogger’s book; Cleveland netted two top-ten players from a loaded class.  For an inclination of why…

  1. Zeller possesses great size.  Standing a legitimate seven feet, and weighing 247 pounds with 6% body fat; he is big.  At the draft combine, he performed sixteen bench press reps of 185 lbs.  Although lack of bulk sometimes resides on lists of his weaknesses; physicality appears more likely to hold him back.  After a year or two working with NBA staffs, there should be little doubt about “strength”.  T-Zell requires toughness; perpetually fighting for position and rebounding advantage.
  2. Athleticism serves as a strength, too.  Always lauded for his speed running the floor; of 44 centers tested pre-draft in 2012, he ranked third in the agility drill, eighth in sprinting and ninth in leaping.
  3. He is also skilled.  Leading up to June 28, Draftexpress.com explored the per-possession offensive production of 26 big men.  Despite the seventh highest usage, he posted the fourth best per possession scoring efficiency.  This included runner-up status in transition and fourth place as a jump shooter.
  4. An excellent free throw shooter, he converted 77% for his NCAA career and 80% last year.   Thanks to hustling up-court, grabbing offensive boards, and fighting for deep position; he lead the ACC in free throws made & attempted.  Floor Percentage measures the ratio of a player’s used possessions to those ending with at least one point scored.  Zeller ranked 20th in the NCAA for Floor Percentage, with no player above him posting a higher usage rate.  (Most of the better Floor Percentages were posted by role players.  The most interesting exception is Tyler’s brother, Cody, who as a freshman netted the NCAA’s fourth-best floor percentage, while using one-quarter of IU’s possessions.)
  5. Frequent praise befalls T-Zell for his work ethic.  The results shown, as his PER increased from a freshman year 15.8 to 23.4 to 26.5 to 29.8 during his senior season.  Offensive rating reflected a similar trend.  I foresee him eking out two more years of increased strength and skill, with pleasant results.
  6. A fairly skilled post player, he knocks down ambidextrous hook shots and flashes a nasty drop step.  With a few more pounds of muscle and a mean-streak, these skills should prove beneficial, especially when Kyrie heads to the bench.  Tyler’s velcro hands and a quick & accurate shot serve as valuable weapons when Kyrie plays.
  7. Like Tristan, no need to worry about motor.  Zeller races up & down the court and makes help efforts on team defense.
  8. In addition to winning ACC Player of the Year last season, T-Zell received NCAA Academic All-American of the Year honors.  A back-to-back NCAA All-Academic Team member, he replaces Shane Battier as the most recent ACC baller such honored.  That’s eleven years, so congratulations on a unique accomplishment, Mr. Zeller.
  9. Turning 23 this season, hopefully he bolsters the maturity of a very young roster.
  10. Using his size and constant effort, Zeller finished fourth in the ACC for offensive rebounding percentage in 2011 – 2012.  Combined with Tristan’s effectiveness in this area, second chances could be a team strength for many years.

Hopefully Zeller, Tristan, and Jon Leuer spent most of the summer being abused by the team’s strength and conditioning gurus.   I obviously do not know any of the three, but my inclination says they need to get meaner.  Leading into every game, convince themselves that every opponent wants to punch their dogs, raise their taxes, steal their groupies, or whatever it takes to get angry.  Ultimately, I like the combinations and contrasts of skill that these three guys bring to the team.  Watching the group succeed would be a joy.  Now they only need an additional  seven-foot, 270 pound agile behemoth that snatches defensive rebounds like King Kong grabs airplanes.  Like Aaron Gray, but different.

Ten Things to Like About…Byron Scott

Monday, October 1st, 2012

“Camp Scott” opens today, complete with the notorious trash cans for players to chunder into between laps if they show up out of shape. With an extension rumored to be in the works, it’s as good a time as any to look at why Scott appears to be the right guy to develop the Cavs now, and win with them in the future.

  1. You have to respect a coach who can whip out his phone and dial up a highlight like this. (You’d think a basketball player named Purvis Short would be destined to be posterized, right?)
  2. How’s this for association with greatness? Scott played with Kareem, McAdoo, Jamaal Wilkes, James Worthy, Magic, A.C. Green, Michael Copper, Vlade Divac, Reggie Miller, Rick Smits, Mark Jackson, Shaq, Kobe, Nick Van Exel, Robert Horry, and Derek Fisher. Oh and Big Country.
  3. He’s got a pretty good track record for developing talent: Richard Jefferson, J.R. Smith, David West, Chris Andersen, Tyson Chandler, and of course, Chris Paul all improved as players under B. Scott.
  4. Trivia alert: in 1997 Scott signed for the largest contract ever offered to a player in Europe, and along with Dino Radja, led Panathinaikos to their first Greek League championship in 13 years, scoring 21 in his final game. He was named Most Valuable Player and a European All-Star, or so this website tells me. This may not seem like a big deal, but the Greek league is CRAZY. There’s actually a video highlight of the 1997 championship compete with an Evanescence soundtrack showing fans dancing in jubilation around bonfires in the stands.
  5. Chris Paul loves Scott and Scott loves Chris Paul.
  6. He knows how to get to The Finals… having made it to the NBA finals seven six times as a player and winning three. Scott even coined the term three-peat. As a coach, he took the Nets to The Finals in 2002 and 2003 and lost to his old team, the Lakers both times in ’02 and then the Spurs in ’03. Of course the Eastern Conference stunk then. (Corrections: thanks to Paul in the comments section who pointed out the factual errors that are crossed out from the original post.  Don’t worry.  Colin’s got me running extra suicides after practice.)
  7. In addition to the sweet ‘stache, Scott is consistently the best dressed coach in the league. Scott was GQ’s 2002 “coach of the year,” has his own tailor, and as of 2009 owned 82 suits. 82? “Each suit gets worn only twice a season — once on the road, once at home. Then it’s put away.” Hey, OCD can be a good thing for a coach.
  8. Each team Scott coached improved in its second year.  New Orleans improved for four straight years, culminating in a team with the best point guard in the league, an all star stretch four, and a premier defensive center. Despite the similarities, the Cavs have more upside and a much better cap situation than New Orleans which had too many cap killing veterans (Peja Stojakovic, anyone?). And New Orleans absolutely fell apart after Scott was fired. It’s pretty obvious in hindsight that Scott wasn’t the problem. Let’s hope Chris Grant manages the Cavs better than Jeff Bower managed the Hornets. At least we know Dan Gilbert is no George Shinn — one of the worst owners in pro sports history.
  9. Coach Scott is a master of the boring quote. He can flash a smile while delivering a quote which will soothe even the most rabid reporter. Also, he makes sure to look a reporter in the eye, while keeping his vocal delivery smoooooth.
  10. Byron Scott is the perfect example for Dion Waiters to emulate as a player: Career PPG, 14.1 (18.1 Points Per 36 minutes), .482 FG%, .37 3PT%., 1.1 Steals, and could play both guard spots. Conversely, Scott believes in Saint Weirdo, ranking him the second best player in the draft. This is kismet.

B. Scott certainly has his detractors. His relationship with Jason Kidd completely fell apart, leading to Scott’s firing in New Jersey. In the mold of Scott Skiles and Doug Collins, he may just be a coach that is inflexible and demanding enough to eventually wear on his players. For now, he seems to be the perfect coach to mold this young group of acolytes, and transition them from developing to contending. I’ve no doubts that Samardo Samuels is in shape this year (or at least was in summer league) because of Byron Scott kicking his butt last year.

So good luck, Byron.  And to your charge of young Cavaliers, we wish you an October free of regurgitation.

Ten Things to Like About…CJ Miles

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

This week, newest Cavalier C.J. Miles steps to the line.  Regardless of what anyone thinks of the recent additions; Miles and Waiters trump Christian Eyenga, Mychel Thompson, or 36-year-old Anthony Parker every day.  For a quick debriefing on why:

For all the under-18 readers, seek parental permission before googling "C.J. Miles Images" (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

  1. Old Man Parker never dunked like this.
  2. Sorry about opening wounds from the 26 game losing streak two years ago, but the dunker is now our guy, while the posterized victim…JJ Hickson.
  3. In searching youtube, apparently a female internet sensation named CJ Miles exists.  I mean, that’s cool, right?
  4. Basketball player C.J. Miles signed a 2 year, $4.5 million deal.  Averaging ten points per game for the last four seasons, he fits the Chris Grant mold of “improvement now, cap flexibility later”.
  5. As part of a high-school-to-pro class, Miles brings 7-years of veteran experience along with his youthful 25 years.  Playing in 23 postseason games, he can help guide the youngsters while also growing with them.
  6. For the last two years, his efforts at small forward exceed his work at the two.  Given that the Cavs drafted Dion Waiters, and still suit-up stalwart Boobie Gibson; Miles stands to see time at the three. Last year, his PER at SF stood at 13.9 compared to 15.5 for his opponent.  In 2010 – 2011, 15.2 versus 14.3 far surpassed the 12.7 and 18, respectively, posted at shooting guard.
  7. Once upon a time, Sam Presti offered Miles a 4 year, $15 million offer, thanks to a third season featuring 39% drilled from deep, and a keen resemblance to a burgeoning young playmaker.  Sam Presti is a very smart guy, so this must be a positive.  I suppose the possibility also exists that he perfectly calculated the maximum amount his divisional rival would match on a restricted free agent, thereby tying up his opponent’s cap space on an overpaid player (darn you, Sam Presti, and your potential for clever trickery).
  8. Miles peaked around age 20 – 21, with 56% true shooting and a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio as a starter on a 48 win team.  Hopefully new scenery and reconnecting with an elite point guard helps kick-start his early career progression.
  9. Last season, he ranked 27th of 116 swingmen in steals per minute, following a 28th-place finish in 2010 – 2011.  Combined with Alonzo Gee (14th most steals last year of swingmen) and Dion Waiters (13th best steal percentage in NCAA last year), Cleveland employs a bevy of ball-hawking wings.  If the team wants to run, proper personnel is in place to initiate the break.
  10. He protects the ball well, too, ranking 19th and 20th for turnover rate of the same group of wings over the last two seasons.

Over the last five years, Miles performed the impressive feat of transitioning from a low-volume, high efficiency starter on a playoff team to a high-volume, low efficiency  back-up on lesser squads.  He does not rebound particularly adeptly.  Worst case scenario; at least the void left by Antawn Jamison will not go unfilled.

Undoubtedly though, Miles provides an upgrade over the Joey Graham and Mychel Thompson free agent bounties of recent off-seasons.  At a minimum, he offers someone to get up shots, from a bench unit occasionally struggling with that.  Best case, his new teammates put the wind back in his sails, and he frequently makes shots.  Like the hopefully blooming big man rotation, the possibility exists for a legitimate NBA wing rotation in Cleveland.  October 30th can’t get here soon enough.

(Note: I joined the twitter.  Find me twittering @hetrick46.)

Ten Things to Like About…Tristan Thompson

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Admittedly, this was not as easy as Jon Leuer and Alonzo Gee.  Expectations for a recent fourth draft pick obviously rise above waiver wire pickups and undrafted free agents.  Cleveland is building a great supply of depth, but two players need to ascend to “star” status along Kyrie.  As a high lottery selection, certainly hope resides that Tristan Thompson fits that bill.  Let us skip TT’s rookie shortcomings for the time-being and start with a focus on ten likable traits.

Tristan T pities the fool who questions his ability to take a leap forward this year.

  1. Much hand wringing ensued as Tristan plowed through the first third of last season making sub-40% on free throws.  His touch improved every month though, rising to 62% for March and 63% over April.
  2. Barely legal drinking age, he is young enough to improve significantly.
  3. He possesses the work ethic and attitude necessary to reach his full potential.
  4. Of all NBA players, he finished with the sixth best offensive rebounding rate last season.
  5. In his 2011 – 2012 rookie awards, David Thorpe declared Thompson the most likely to break out this year.  John Hollinger ranked TT third in his 2011 Draft Rater.  That must be a good thing.
  6. He’s not Marcus Morris or Jan Vesely, two players often ranked above him pre-draft.  In the two weeks before selection day, Morris decided he played small forward and proceeded to struggle mightily. I could not get excited about the idea of Vesely at #4.
  7. Tristan is Canadian, which reduces any worries about summer injuries while playing deep in the Olympics or World Championships.
  8. Of 143 forwards who played 30 or more games, he ranked 17th in blocked shots per minute.
  9. Explosive athleticism allows for sequences like this.
  10. His max vert reach is 12 feet.  That’s really fricking high.

Mr. Thompson provides youth, explosiveness, and a willingness to improve.  While some certainly carry higher hopes; I  consider him most likely to peak as a high quality role player.  Last season, for every strength his game harbored corresponding weakness.  Alongside the shot blocking, he ranked 70th of forwards for defensive rebounding, 104th for taking charges, and 124th collecting steals.  Three of those four outcomes always result in ending the opponent’s possession.  The one where Tristan currently proves most apt is not one of those three.  He finished 90th of the 143 forwards for per minute foul frequency, and Cleveland’s defense allowed 3.5 points more per 100 possessions when he played (certainly not helped as one of the only healthy players remaining in April).  He needs to learn balance on defense, between disrupting shots and grabbing boards.  Everything that can be learned from Anderson Varejao about pick-n-roll snuffing must be absorbed like a sponge.

For all the offensive rebounds, his effectiveness remained restrained in part due to poor finishing, as he ranked 116th of all forwards for field goal percentage at the rim.  This barrage of “out of 143 forwards” data may prove as overkill, but at other locations, his field goal percentage sat at:

  • 3 to 9 feet – 91st
  • 10 to 15 feet – 119th
  • 16 to 23 feet – 140th
  • Free throws – 134th
  • His assist rate nearly hit bottom at 140th, with assist-to-turnover ratio at 142nd.

Even his true shooting percentage over March and April (47.6%), when he peaked as a rookie, placed him 122nd.  I am not saying that Tristan can not reach whatever level he aspires to…but he has a ways to go.  On offense, he needs to keep the ball high when in the paint.  Obviously a fifteen-footer and consistent arc on his freebies would prove helpful.  An explosive face-up move from both elbows seems most readily available as an offensive skill, but some post / countermoves also could reside on his wish-list.

This season serves as an important glimpse of TT’s ability to either reach elite levels or towards settling into valuable-rotation-player status.  I will definitely be rooting for the former.

Ten Things to Like About…Alonzo Gee

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Alonzo Gee rose to prevalence last year thanks to highlight reel finishes and the frequent ability to resemble an NBA player.  Only 25, fierce-dunking Gee signed with Cleveland for 3 years earlier this month.  Here are ten reasons to appreciate the AG experience:

  1. Dunks like this.
  2. Or this obliteration of Kenneth Faried and Chris Anderson.
  3. But you know AG provides more than highlights.  Of 116 swingmen playing 30+ games last year, Gee ranked 22nd in rebounding rate, including tenth on the offensive boards.   He also snagged the 14th most steals per 40 minutes.
  4. Last year, he finished second on the team in minutes and split his time evenly between the wing positions.  Often matched against the opponent’s best offensive option, he held opposing shooting guards to a 15.7 PER and kept small forwards in check at 14.5.  Team defense was 3.7 points better per 100 possessions with him on-court; second best of all Cavaliers that averaged 10 minutes per game.  While not a lock-down defender, he typically gets the job done.
  5. He’s an underdog.  Undrafted out of Alabama, written off by know-nothing media as recently as one year ago, Gee netted himself a nearly eight-figure contract after his improved 2011 – 2012.
  6. Over the first forty games last season, prior to injuries to Varejao & Kyrie, and before Ramon Sessions packed up for LA; Cleveland struck a 34-win pace for a full season.  Gee was the 5th best player on a respectable NBA team.  The season completely unraveled over the final six weeks, but a top-5 player on a borderline-playoff squad can be a top-8 player on a future contender.
  7. Speaking of the end of last season, the Wine & Gold started April embarking on 9 games in 13 days.  Gee then sat three games due a sprained ankle, before returning for four more games in five days.  Carrying far too heavy of a load for a depleted team battling an onerous schedule, Gee struggled mightily, converting only 34% of his field goals and 27% of his threes.    Did you know that other than April 2012, in his other 175 career attempts, Gee has stroked 35.5% of his threes?  And over the last three NBA seasons, NBA average falls in the 35 – 36% range?  With a resume of: tolerable shooter, solid defender, top-drawer rebounder, and ESPN-top-ten-play-contender; he is worth…
  8. Three years and $10 million.  This is an extremely low risk contract.  The Cavs are way under the salary cap right now, and the third year of Gee’s deal is a team option.  Basically, even if his carriage turns back into a pumpkin, he serves as an expiring contract trade chip as early as 2013 – 2014.  And remember, in that season, the incremental luxury tax sets in.  Then in 2014 – 2015, the “repeat offender” tax provisions set in.  At the exact time that teams are beginning to experience the full wrath of the new CBA, Cleveland positions themselves with one more asset to potentially deal.
  9. Did I mention the dunks?  How about an exclamation point on a late season victory against an eventual Eastern Conference semi-finalist?!?
  10. And finally, remember when Cleveland beat Miami two seasons ago?  Baron-Davis-to-Alonzo-Gee-Smash!! Surely Kyrie and Alonzo connect on a few of these next year.

So there you have it.  For a future contending team, a capable back-up for both wing positions, signed for a reasonable price.  Making hustle plays, highlight reels, and open threes, he serves as another young & athletic component on an increasing young & athletic squad.

Ten Things to Like About…Jon Leuer

Friday, September 14th, 2012

I don't think this video game cover ever went into mass production.

In the first of a series heading towards the season, today I present ten things to like about Jon Leuer.  The second-year big man ranked as a sleeper favorite of mine in the 2011 draft, a player seemingly ripe to be a quality 3rd or 4th NBA front court player.  After four years at the University of Wisconsin and one year with the Milwaukee Bucks, good fortune smiled on the Cavs, and Mr. Leuer came their way via waivers.  Admittedly, I watched approximately three Bucks games last year and probably 11 minutes of Jon Leuer, but here are top reasons for optimism.

(As always, thanks to espn.com, draftexpress.com, hoopdata.com, 82games.com, basketballvalue.com, and basketball-reference.com for providing myriad stats for my consumption.)

  1. Of the 50 NCAA players drafted in 2011, he was 5th in pace adjusted scoring.  The Badgers glacial pace masked his offensive prowess.
  2. Did you know he measures 6′ – 11.5″ tall in shoes?
  3. Over his last two NCAA seasons, he drained 38% from deep.  Last year, he connected on 40% of his long twos.  Need a stretch-four?  I know a guy.
  4. He makes free throws, including 84% his senior year at UW and 75% in one NBA season.
  5. Last year at the combine, his max vert exceeded Tristan Thompson.  He also raced through the fastest agility drill of all drafted power forwards.  He probably does not play that athletically, but whatever…
  6. Of 86 qualified NBA power forwards last year, his turnover rate per used-possession ended 6th best.  For assist to turnover ratio, he ranked 46 of 143 forwards who played more than 30 games.   Knocks down jumpers…check.  Takes care of the ball…check.
  7. He’ll be 23 for the entirety of 2012 – 2013.  I better qualify that…unless Cleveland makes the Eastern Conference finals.
  8. In 2011 – 2012, of all rookies that played enough minutes to qualify for adjusted plus / minus; he finished as one of only three guys that was above average in PER, win shares per 48 minutes, and adjusted plus / minus.
  9. After reading everything above, and knowing that he spent much of the second half of last season on the bench, it is certainly reasonable to assume his defense looks nauseating.  Statistics did not pick up on this though. Of 143 forwards playing 30 or more games last year, he posted the 52nd most defensive plays per minute (defensive plays = blocks + steals + charges drawn).  He held opponents to average PER of 14.4.  The Bucks clamped down 2.83 points better per 100 possessions with him on court. (That stat is admittedly deceptive; the Bucks second string ruled at defense).  Of thirteen Milwaukee players who played 500 or more minutes, he netted the sixth best defensive rating.  Anyways, that ramble of numbers was probably nauseating, but the basic point is that a wide cross-section of data did not hate his defense.  His primary weakness presents itself in defensive rebounding, where he sits in the bottom fifth of all power forwards.  He was a twenty-two year old rookie though; if he improves to an average-ish defensive rebounder, that should suffice from a guy expected to play 15 – 20 minutes a game.
  10. His PER at his natural position of power forward was 17.9, while holding his opponent to a 10.3 PER.  When forced to play center, he struggled mightily to the tune of 12.9 versus 24.8.  Small sample size, but I find that encouraging.

In summary, I am intrigued by Jon Leuer.  Add another big, bad-ass seven-footer to the mix; and Zeller, TT and Leuer present an intriguing 23-and-younger front court rotation.  Is it October 30th yet?