One more day! The NBA tipped off last night, and the Cavs tip off tomorrow. Our summer of waiting is almost over. In that spirit, we asked five Cavs the Bloggers to answer five questions about what this team will look like to start the season.
Tipoff is Thursday! What are you most excited about as the Cavs open the regular season?
Cory Hughey: I look forward to the inverse of LeBron’s first return to Cleveland with Miami. The emotion will gather like condensation on the outside of a cold beer mug. For those fortunate enough to be there, they will share a two-hour moment that transcends normal consciousness with 20,000 strangers. Instead of venom, there will be love. Instead of Samardo Samuels there will be Kevin Love.
September is here. Everyone has felt the buckle tighten back on school or a more rigid work week. We at Cavs: the Blog are no exception. But, even as we sit and watch the clock tick down the precious minutes until the NBA returns (Cavs Media Day is a week from tomorrow!!!) we are not without our actual full (?) and rewarding (??) lives. So, for unbalanced edition of Five-on-Six we’ve got a little bit of basketball and a little bit of that small sliver of our lives that is… well, un-basketball. Enjoy!
1.) Did you go on a vacation this summer? If so, where? And, if so, was there a Cavs-related story that broke / distracted you from fully enjoying yourself.
Tom: Yes, to Cape Hatteras North Carolina on the Outer Banks. No, no #wojBombs that I can recall. I was there during games 1-3 of the Finals. I was terrified that the Heat were going to ruin my vacation, especially after the Bosh primal scream in game 2. I didn’t watch the start of game 3 until I got a text that the Spurs had started 19 of 21. One of the best vacations I’ve ever had.
We’re getting into the dog days of summer here. You know, when you’re dripping sweat and gasping for breath during that pickup game at the park with nine other crazy souls. With David Griffin and Co. in an apparent holding pattern until August 23rd, you and your fellow Cavs fans will have just a few subjects to discuss between games. So here’s five questions for you, answered by five CtB bloggers. Enjoy the run.
1.) A Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins+Anthony Bennett trade adds (subtracts?) how many wins to next season’s team? How about the playoff picture?
Tom: Love’s SWAgR was about 12, meaning he produced about 12 wins himself. Anthony Bennett’s SWAgR was negative. I’ll assume that Bennett would produce about a win this season and Wiggins about two (grabbing Kawhi Lenoard’s rookie season as my comp). The Cavs go +9 regular season wins with this trade. Putting them from mid 50s to mid 60s. Usually I would never assume that things would work out seamlessly for the Cavs, but Love and LeBron are outlandishly better passers than the Cavs have had during the rebuild trade-asset-accumulation-process (or TAAP). The playoffs are murkier because, as we’ve seen in the past, PEDs match-ups can be game-changers. But the talent alone will take them to the Conference Finals. And if they’re healthy and firing on all cylinders, the Finals. I wouldn’t predict that without Love.
Tom: Ginobili’s dunk on Bosh. Had I been in San Antonio I would have rushed the court. Before security could get to me I’d have run up to Bosh to say “good job, good effort!” I’d do LeBron’s push-up dance as I was being hauled off. Maybe sneak an elbow to the nuts on Ray Ray in revenge for Varejao. #neverforget
Ben: Manu’s leap-back 3 (steps don’t cover 8 feet) with the crowd already delirious from his Throwback-Throwdown. As I was still bouncing around from the dunk, I just started giggling when I saw him gather his footwork. There are some shots that you just know are going in.
Cleveland enters it’s most important off-season since 2009. The team has a litany of questions, story-lines, and unknowns… AND the NBA Finals are in the offing. With so much to talk about, we took it to our panel of bloggers to answer some important questions.
1.Who’s your pick for the finals? How many games? What’s going to be the biggest factor?
Ben Werth: Spurs in seven. We could rightfully go into great depth about the Spurs increased athleticism and lineup flexibility. We would be wise to consider Boris Diaw’s uncanny ability to check LeBron. We certainly should marvel at Kawhi Leonard’s destructive on-ball defense and growing offensive aggression. But I must pick the Spurs because they swing the rock. There are games where we have seen them look old and baffled by suffocating length and blitzing defense. Those games are usually followed by basketball poetry. Even when Parker is dribbling for much of the clock, the other players are constantly moving to the appropriate new spot in their system. It is floor balance at its finest. The Spurs had the better team last year and lost to a great set of individual performances by Heat players. This year, the Spurs are fresher, even smarter, and playing a Heat team that has a false sense of Eastern Conference security. The shock the Heat will have after playing the ball-sticking Pacers will be severe. I must note that I have yet to predict the Heat to win the Finals. I’m look forward to evening my record to 2-2.
This week, we’re looking back on this bizarre Cavs season, and looking forward to the future. Five of our writers sat down for some serious pondering on five critical questions.
1. In a word, what’s your attitude regarding the Cavs now that this season’s over?
David Wood: Ambiguous. Some nights the ball is flying around, Dion and Kyrie are trying to include each other, and players are running around without the ball. Other nights, there are four guys watching Kyrie or Dion, and Matty D runs more than the whole team combined in just a few plays. Who are the Cavs?
Five Cavs questions for the writers – all in one place.
1.) How would you describe Chris Grant’s approach to team (re)building?
Tom: Chris Grant seemed determined to avoid the challenging circumstances that the Danny Ferry-era front office encountered. Ferry ran out of draft picks and cap space and was stuck trying to shuffle overpaid role players in and out according to the Cavs matchup needs. (Take a moment to remember that the 2010 Cavs failed because LeBron choked, not because of any team building failure.) Chris Grant, conversely, stockpiled draft picks, refused to commit long-term resources to role players, and hoped his core, if given ample opportunity, would blossom into a big-3 at just the right time to make a splashy acquisition. Filling in the role-player blanks seems like it was a “cross that bridge when we get there” afterthought.
1. What is your biggest Cavs related takeaway from the first quarter of the season?
Kevin: I’ll answer on a positive note, and mention the impact of Mike Brown on the team’s defense. As of right now, the Cavs rank in the top half of the league for defensive rating (15th). That is almost unimaginable when comparing to the last few seasons. If they maintain that level, this season should still be a success, as the offense will continue to improve. One reason for that is that Kyrie has to improve from his first 20 games, right? At least Tuesday was a great start towards that. Take a look at Jarrett Jack’s seasonal splits sometime, too…he has routinely been a poor November / December player, so hopefully he continues looking better as the season goes on. Tristan and Dion should continue to look better, too.
Nate: The biggest takeaway? It’s hard to take away much from a team that is clearly drinking from the firehose when it comes to ingesting Mike Brown’s offense, defense, and style. But the biggest thing that is apparent is that Anthony Bennett is struggling, and it’s looking a lot like the Cavs made the mistake drafting him. The biggest mistake the Cavs made was not drafting an injured tweener who let himself get woefully out of shape. It was underestimating the pressure of being a number one pick, and drafting a player clearly not ready to handle that pressure.
Tom: My biggest takeaway is that Cavs are attempting to transition from a collection of discrete talents to a basketball team. It hasn’t been a smooth process, with a new coaching staff and lots of roster turnover, but it seems, at least on the defensive end, that they are beginning to learn how to play together.
2. Can Kyrie salvage the second quarter of the season and salvage another All-Star game appearance?
Kevin: The bright side for Kyrie is that there isn’t a lot of competition in the Eastern Conference. Looking at PER, the top six point guards in the League are in the Western Conference. In the East, Kyrie is 4th right now behind John Wall, Michael Carter-Williams and Jeff Teague. For the 2014 Eastern Conference All-Star point guards, the smart money appears to be on Wall and Irving.
Nate: Well, judging by yesterday’s all-star voting count, Kyrie’s going to be starting in his second all-star game in February. The East is pretty devoid of all-star guards with Rose’s and D-Will’s injuries. Dwayne Wade, Kyrie Irving, and John Wall are probably going to be the all-stars ahead of the deserving DeMarr DeRozen and Aaron Afflalo. As for salvaging the second quarter of the season, Irving will be fine as long as he keeps the ball moving, engages defensively, and stops over-dribbling. His decreasing turnover numbers have coincided with the Cavs recent success.
Tom: I dunno is Uncle Drew famous in China? Personally, I’d like Kyrie to miss the all-star game and feel “slighted”. Anyone notice as soon as he “arrived” last season he started playing like crap?
3. Care to offer an updated wins prediction for the season? Why?
Kevin: I will slightly downgrade my preseason prediction, and say 41 wins. So 33 wins and 28 losses for the remainder of the year. As noted in a prior answer, the offense should improve, and the defense looks fortified. The one caveat is that the team had very good health to date. Hopefully that stays reasonably true.
Nate: Nope. I picked 39 wins, and that seems about right to me, given the improvement we’ve seen of late. I’d hope the could kick it up, and maybe make the 4th or 5th seed in the East, but that won’t happen unless they trade for a quality starting small forward.
Tom: I predicted Mike Brown would continue his streak of making the playoffs, and I stand by that, despite the disastrous start to the season. I’ll put the Cavs at 38 wins, and this is under the assumption that a significant injury befalls them.
4. Are the Cavs establishing an identity? Do you notice characteristic differences between the Cavs under Brown and under Byron Scott?
Kevin: The offense still tends towards supreme dysfunction, with limited off-ball movement. The play sets rarely create easy looks. Watching other teams generate easy buckets continually makes me ask, “Why don’t the Cavs have plays that work”? There are so many variations of the pick & roll that teams run, certainly Cleveland has the personnel to accomplish one or two of those. Relatively complex plays involving more than two players have not been successfully implemented by Coach Scott or Brown teams. Little individual things, like diving to the corner when a guard drives, maybe off a back-screen, or noticing the moment that their defender loses focus and cutting hard to the basket…whether it’s the teachers or the students, the team still needs work in those regards. Heading into the season, I anticipated Dion making strides cutting when he doesn’t have the ball, but not much success there yet. Anyways, the short answer to the question is “Defense and Rebounding”.
Nate: The Cavs are establishing an identity. Early on, the book on the Cavs was: be physical early and they’ll fold. Now, they’re starting to be the physical ones. The Cavs’ identity centers around their ability to out-rebound anyone on the offensive and defensive glass. If they can be patient on offense, and keep from turning the ball over, they can compete most nights.
Tom: Absolutely. The Cavs have been a fierce defensive team at home this season. They are also starting to run an offense through Andrew Bynum and more recently, trying to establish early offense in the 1st quarter. Byron Scott wasn’t able to imprint his identity (whatever it is) on the team, as they showed minimal growth as a unit during his tenure and always seemed to be less than the sum of their parts. Mike Brown may be facing the same issues on offense, but at least defensively, the team is competing. Also, Kyrie Irving, C.J. Miles, and Jarrett Jack have all seemed, at least at times, to be capable defenders. This would have been unthinkable last season.
5. Latest thoughts on #1 pick Anthony Bennett? Is it too early to count him out of rookie of the year discussions? The second part of this question is a joke.
Kevin: I hope that the Cavs are not so thoroughly mismanaging the first few months of Anthony Bennett’s career that they have forever lowered his ceiling. He is not this bad. I don’t know if the D-League is being considered as an option, but it should be. Send him to Canton and assign a positional coach fully to him for a month. Get him in shape, get his shot right, and rebuild some confidence. The small forward thing is not going to work right now; Jamal Crawford preyed off Bennett in the Clippers game. At this point in time, I don’t know how anyone thought that was going to work. Someone, please, save Anthony Bennett!!
Nate: See answer 1. Recently in the comments section, we decided it’s much more fun to think of Bennett as a giant Care Bear playing basketball. It makes watching him so much more fun. The question becomes, if he’s a care bear, what Care Bear would he be? I chose “Oopsy Bear,” but commenter, Ross came up with a better answer: Gum Drop Bear. The Cavs should make the gum-drop shaped Bennett a special Care Bear-style jersey with three gumdrops in the center, in place of the usual team name and number.
Tom: The Cavs shouldn’t feel obligated to play Bennett at all if he’s not contributing to winning. He could get 40 minutes a night for the Canton Charge if they feel like he needs more burn. If they are going to insist on playing him, he needs to change his approach. He’s supposed to by a pole vaulting big man that gets out in transition. That’s what he did in college! He has re-invented himself as a useless pick and pop big that can’t shoot a lick. Here’s what really stuns me – he can’t dribble – at all. Every single time he tries to put the ball on the floor he looks like me when I don’t play pickup for 18 months and then throw on the rec specs and try to go out and bang with the YMCA wonders. He has no control over his dribble. You know what I do when I’m playing pickup and have no confidence in my dribbling? Yep, I stand in the corner space the floor. Bennett needs to learn how to dribble again and stop shooting perimeter jumpers. It’s embarrassing watching him force garbage time buckets like he’s going to shoot himself out of whatever hypnosis he’s in. Watch the DraftExpress video below, they point out his strengths as being one of the most offensively versatile players in college. Right now he looks like Robert Tractor Traylor (RIP) minus the defense, rebounding, and pick-setting. The Cavs should be working to extract as much defensive value they can out him and his 7’1″ wingspan. I do take solace in the fact that anyone can find himself mired in a nasty slump, especially coming off an injury. Example: C.J. Miles looks like a completely different player this year than he did to start last season.
Question 1: What’s the most surprising thing about the Cavaliers’ season thus far?
Tom: Everything about the Andrew Bynum experience has surprised me. I’m surprised he’s already playing, surprised at how depressed he seems despite playing (and being on track for all his contract incentives), surprised at how serious he seems (I thought he was going to be goofy in a Manny Ramirez kinda way), and I’m surprised how little his presence is moving the needle for the Cavs. (more…)
There are just less than three weeks remaining till the 2013 draft. Are we really going to have enough time to talk about all these picks? That’s only 14 more posts! We’re running out of time to plot wins shares per high top fade hairstyles versus low fades with respect to #1 overall draft picks, adjusting for position and age! What about projected NBA PER for players whose surnames start with J who were born in monsoon season during the year of the rat? These are questions that need answering!
Screw it. Let’s just pick now. Here are the CtB staffers with their votes for the #1, #19, #31, and #33 picks, and a draft day trade they’d like to see.
Nate Smith is an Associate Editor. He grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and moved to NE Ohio in 2000. He adopted the Cavs in 2003 and graduated from Kent State in 2009 with a BA in English. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or @oldseaminer on Twitter.
Tom Pestak is an Associate Editor. He's from the west side of Cleveland and lives and (mostly) dies by the success and (mostly) failures of his beloved teams. You can watch his fanaticism during Cavs games @tompestak.
Robert Attenweiler is a Staff Writer. Originally from OH, he's long made his home in NYC where he writes plays and screenplays (www.disgracedproductions.com) some of which end up being about Ohio, basketball or both. He has also written for The Classical and the blog Raising the Cadavalier. You can contact him at email@example.com or @cadavalier.
Benjamin Werth is a Staff Writer. He was born in Cleveland and raised in Mentor, OH. He now lives in Germany where he is an opera singer and actor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Wood is our Links Editor. He is a 2012 Graduate of Syracuse University with an English degree who loves bikes, beer, basketball, writing, and Rimbaud. He can be reached on Twitter: @nothingwood.
Mallory Factor is the voice of Cavs: The Podcast. By day Mallory works in fundraising and by night he runs a music business company. To see his music endeavors check out www.fivetracks.com. Hit him up at Malloryfactorii@gmail.com or @Malfii.
John Krolik is the Editor Emeritus of Cavs: The Blog. At present, he is pursuing a law degree at Tulane University. You can contact him at email@example.com or @johnkrolik.
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