Archive for the ‘5 on 5’ Category

Five-on-Six: Summer Break Edition

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

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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.

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5 on 5: Summer Pickup

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

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.

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6 Deep: Coming into Focus

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

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1.) Your favorite NBA finals moment was?

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.

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5 on 5: the NBA Finals and the Off-Season Conundrums

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

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.

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5 on 5: The “Season of Huh?”

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

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?

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1 through 5: Chris Grant’s Legacy

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Five Cavs questions for the writers – all in one place.

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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.

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3 on 3: Cavs:The Blog Pickup

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

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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.

A Pu Pu Platter of Lack: A C:TB Roundtable

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

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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…)

5 on 5: Cavs’ Draft

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

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.

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1 through 5: Coaching Critique

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Five Cavs questions for the writers – all in one place.


Question 1: How would you grade Byron Scott and the coaching staff on in-game execution?

Colin: No snark: are they trying to lose games? I want to know. Surely, the roster was constructed to fail. When Varejao was healthy, the Cavs actually had a nice starting lineup, but then the bench would come in and relinquish whatever advantage the starters had accrued. I think this was by design: let the front end of the roster jell; let the back end of the roster kill the team’s chance to win. But even after the bench-solving Grizz trade (which, we’ll find out this offseason based on who the Cavs keep, may have been almost completely about a mid-first round draft pick), Scott has been, if not trying to lose, vomiting all over himself with wacky substitution patterns that undermine the team’s momentum or by keeping good players off the floor for curiously long stretches. As a tank job, it’s been masterful, but if Byron Scott actually thinks his substitutions are helping the team win, he’s dead wrong and should be fired. I have a feeling I’m going to be doing a lot of hemming and hawing over the course of these questions because I think evaluating coaching is almost impossible–even when you’re right about a coach being good/bad, you can still be totally wrong about what makes them good/bad–but I know one thing just from watching this team from an outsider’s perspective: the way it rotates its players in and out of games is stupid. Anyway, I give the coaching staff 8.2 basketballs out of 17.

Mallory: C-.  Byron’s rotations have been pretty decent since the trade, so there’s a nice plus there.   He did a nice job of creating a second unit that plays well together, and generally knows when to sub guys in and out.  Although it should be noted that he often leaves stars sitting too long and is known to put a weird lineup out there once and a while. I give Byron a deservedly hard time for his end of game coaching.  He’s easily one of the worst end-of-game coaches in the NBA. Out of timeouts the players never have a set play, and often fall apart or turn the ball over.  That’s just not acceptable.  Timeouts are generally used, at the end of a game, specifically for making sure everyone knows their role for the next possession.  Instead, what unfolds is usually a mess.  In addition, the Cavs are horrible at going for two-for-ones, another fault that should be largely placed on the shoulders of their leader, Byron.  Finally, when all falls apart, BS is usually seen detached instead of engaging his players – maybe he’s more engaged after games, but when a problem presents itself repeatedly, it’s the coach’s job  to make sure his players IMMEDIATELY know what they did wrong, particularly when it’s clear the status quo isn’t working. For a perfect example, see the end of Wed’s Pistons game.

Nate: The letter grade would be D+.  That’s a barely passing grade, and only in a non-major subject.  As has been noted, the defense is awful at playing the pick and roll.  Offensively, they’ve done a good job of incorporating different sets and getting into them, but despite all that, until late in the game, the Cavs play below average.  According to teamrankings.com, they are 18th in 1st quarter point differential, 16th in 2nd, 27th in 3rd, and dead last in the 4th quarter, at -1.7 points per game.  This is all despite (or perhaps because of) having one of the best 4th quarter scorers in the league, Kyrie Irving. Kyrie has 141 points in 33 games this year in the last 5 minutes with the score +/- 5, according to stats.nba.com.  But overall, the Cavs are -13 in those situations.  Winning close games comes down to execution.  The Cavs have one late game offensive play: guard isolation.  That play happens whether it’s Dion, Kyrie, Miles, Livingston, or Ellington handling the ball.  It looks slightly different depending on who’s running it: Miles and Ellington pull up, Kyrie and Dion can get to the rack and draw fouls or pull up, and Livingston turns it into a backdown.  They routinely lose to good teams because those teams know it’s coming and trap it.  None of those players are great at passing quickly out of high double teams, with a possible exception of Livingston who’s big enough to see over them.  The Cavs are -30 in the last two minutes of close games, and -40 in the last five minutes.  They are also terrible in late game defensive situations.  The person guarding the in-bounds pass in last second situations is routinely worthless.

Kevin: I grade him as: questionable.  This topic is fairly well exhausted; rotations, use of timeouts, lack of an apparent offensive or defensive system…these are complaints filed throughout the season.  Approaching the completion of a third season, the Cavs are 64 and 162.  I understand reasons for this: youth, injuries, low payroll / lack of talent.  But at what point is it unacceptable for the coach to turn lemons into lemon wedges?  In December, I wrote about Reasons and Excuses, and the slippery slope between them; as it relates to Byron Scott, Cavs fans are definitely teetering at the precipice between the two.

Tom: The Cavaliers execution is poor at the defensive end, and rudimentary at the offensive end.  They don’t seem to make in-game adjustments when they start getting worked. All season long they have had trouble with in-bounds plays, situational awareness, and finishing quarters/games.  The offensive schemes seems to be individual creativity from the starters, and 2-man games when Walton and Livingston check in.  I’m not a paid scout, but I’d award the coaches a D here.

Question 2: How would you grade them on preparedness/scouting?

Colin: I’m probably going off-message here: how does this team still neglect wide open perimeter shooters? I guess you can file this under the heading of “preparedness,” but it’s mostly just a thing that drives my Thunderbird habit. I get that creating turnovers is a primary goal of Byron Scott’s defensive approach, but you can’t double-team and trap other NBA teams like you’re the UNC Tar Heels facing the Virgin Islands A&M Sun Dollops. If you run two great athletes at college kids, most of them will do something dumb; if you run two great athletes at NBA players, most of them will hit the open man and call you dumb beneath their breath. Yet, for whatever reason, Scott insists that this team collapse on driving guards and frantically overhelp on big men underneath, which results in a bunch of open jumpers for the other team’s shooters while Irving or Gee defeatedly close out on them a second-and-a-half too late. Don’t get me wrong: this team is terrible at stopping opponents because it’s composed chiefly of young guys (Irving, Waiters) and bad defenders (Miles, Walton), but the scheme doesn’t help. What were we evaluating? Mark it down: forty-five seconds of your life you’d like to get back out of a life composed chiefly of seconds you’d like to get back.

Mallory: C+.  Generally speaking, the Cavs rarely come out completely flat and rarely fall crazy behind early in games (the Brooklyn game withstanding).  That being said, the lack of any real defense certainly falls on the coach and his inability to create a defensive scheme that works for given situations.

Nate: D-.  The guards routinely don’t know which players to go over the pick on and which players to go under.  They also don’t seem to know who to cover and who to leave out at the line.  The Cavs are very bad at dealing with stretch 4s like Ryan Anderson, as the Cavs bigs are reluctant to step out.  Cavs guards also routinely close out on the wrong side, and don’t know who to send to the right side and who to send to the left, which is directly out of the scouting report.  Offensively, they’re better, and tend to know who they can exploit in isolation or in the post, but Kyrie seems routinely blindsided when teams trap him late (which good teams do), a measure of preparedness.

Kevin: How about a grade of: fair.  The team starts well often enough; early in the season, the starters looked great, now the team thrives at building big leads.  In-game adjustments, exhibited through the frequent third quarter malaise and the blown leads seem to be the bigger issue.

Tom: If I noticed patterns I’d offer a better critique. I’m not sure if lack of variety counts as lack of preparation but the Cavs don’t seem to mix it up too much at the defensive end. Bang-a-Drummond and the zone defense which were both implemented in the last week are the first signs I’ve seen of changing it up based on the scouting report. C-

Question 3: How would you grade them on player development?

Colin: “Player development” entails a lot, and it’s hard to say where Thompson and Waiters will end up–the job is far from complete, is what I mean–but they’ve both shown remarkable progress over their brief Cavalier tenures. TT’s got a nascent offensive game and is developing into a nice post defender, and Dion takes a lot fewer 18-foot stepbacks than he did a few months ago, and now finishes around the rim with a craftiness beyond his years. The only mark against the staff is that Irving is a marginally better defender than when he came in the league, which is to say he’s cheese clothish. Tyler Zeller sort of is what he is. I don’t know what they can do with him other than work on his 15-footer and encourage him to eat a protein-rich diet. 27 adorable baby elephants for Byron and his associates.

Mallory: B+.  As Tom and I discussed on yesterday’s podcast the impact the head coach has on player development is questionable.  Is Byron working on Tristan’s FT shooting with him every day?  Is he the one who taught Dion how to attack the rim?  What about Kyrie’s D?  Is he the one teaching him how to be a lock-down defender?  (That last one was a joke)  I’d wager that the assistant coaches and nature ultimately have more to do with development than Byron.  But there’s no denying there’s been development.  How much is nature, how much is Byron, and how much is the rest of the staff, though, is the big question – one that is ultimately unanswerable for anyone not in the locker room.

Nate: B-.  The Cavs have done a good job of bringing players along.  TT, Zeller, Miles, Gee, and Walton are all much better than they were, at least offensively, at season’s beginning.  TT, especially, keeps growing on offense.  Kyrie Irving has developed some bad habits, though.  He routinely just doesn’t even try on defense, and though his points and steals are up, his assists, and rebounds are down, though so are his turnovers.  But they haven’t turned individual improvement into wins.

Kevin: Regarding the would-be stars: solid.  Regarding would-be role players: poor.  Thompson took huge steps this year; over a 33-game stretch, Waiters average 20 ppg36 with league-average true shooting; Zeller has at a minimum greatly improved his scoring efficiency.  Regarding the bench auditioners though, did you know that Jon Leuer’s PER is up to 18 in Memphis?  The other youngsters with a chance to potentially grow over the last three years are either posting career-low PER’s, never improved from their rookie season, or are out of the league (Gee, Casspi, Samuels, Eyenga, etc).  Certainly, it is more important that the franchise “get it right” with the high draft picks, so no need to complain too much.

Tom: Irving was not deemed a sure-thing out of college and Thompson and Waiters were both considered reaches at #4. There was a point early this season when many analysts wondered aloud whether the Cavs had missed on Thompson and Waiters. People don’t wonder that anymore. I’m not going to withhold credit from Byron Scott and the coaching staff for noticeable improvements those two guys have made. I also think C.J. Miles and Alonzo Gee have been put in situations to succeed and have made the most of their talent under Byron Scott. The big misses are Hickson and Casspi, but you can’t win em all. A-.

Question 4: Go back in time to July 2012 – keep everything identical except coaching: who would you choose and how many more wins would the Cavs have with your dream coaching scenario?

Colin: That we’re using our time machine to go back to July of 2012 so we can restaff the head coaching position of a team that’s probably still going to be pretty bad anyway and not, like, finessing Hitler’s art school application or telling Martin Luther King to maybe avoid balconies for a while seems irresponsible.  Journalist-God Brian Windhorst mentioned this a couple weeks ago, but it’s worth pointing out: there aren’t a lot of coaching free agents more impressive than Scott. I have an affinity for Nate McMillan, but that’s really just because I like defense-first coaches and still have a lingering crush on those healthy Brandon Roy era Blazers teams. It’s not like Nate McMillan has ever been a miracle worker. We’d all like to play with the fabric of reality and have Gregg Popovich coaching our favorite team, but the reality is you’re always either a.) picking someone off the scrap heap, or b.) hoping an assistant coach who’s never been fully in charge a team before can prove himself. Not that those sorts of things never work out. Rick Carlisle has been on the scrap heap multiple times during his career, and the Bulls are flying relatively high without Derrick Rose because Tom Thibodeau, it turns out, is more than a terrific assistant. But I can’t argue that if the Cavs rolled with my boy McMillan they’d be three games out of eighth place in the East. Can I still keep giving out stupid scores? 89 flapjacks out of 89 flapjacks. Flawless flapjack achievement unlocked.

Mallory: This is a hard question because it really takes too many issues into consideration.  Does another coach install a defense, or, as Tom mentioned on yesterday’s podcast, is D a more natural talent than we’re all willing to admit?  Would another coach have realized the freakishly awesome passing skills of Luke Walton pair brilliantly with Livingston?  Would another coach get through Kyrie’s thick skull that you ALWAYS go 2-for-1 when you have the chance?  Would another coach call a timeout at the right moment to prevent hemorrhaging leads?  Would a head coach bring me ice cream after Cavs losses? Byron isn’t a very good NBA coach, at least not in ways that we as viewers can pinpoint.  He’s quiet, pensive, and rarely gets in his player’s faces.  The defense is horrible and the offense often looks disjointed, particularly when it matters most.  He’s bad at calling timeouts and bad at making in game adjustments. I do think another coach might tread those waters more carefully, but who knows.  I wouldn’t want a big name coach, at this point.  The obviously choice would be Brian Shaw, who I think would be a good guy to give his first shot as a head coach.  Maybe he’d manage things correctly, and if so, maybe a few of those coin-flip games fall heads up instead of tails.  I’d predict an extra 5-7 wins.  Not much, but certainly an improvement, and maybe enough to create some moral victories in an otherwise dour season.

Nate: I probably wouldn’t change it.  I mean as much as I love Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, they would have gotten the Cavs to pointless mediocrity.  Would I like to have had someone who could have taught the team to play defense and to bring the effort every night?  Yes.  Taught the team what to do in close game situations?  Yes.  They might’ve edged out Milwaukee for the last playoff spot and taught some intensity, but that’s if they pushed every button perfectly.  Perhaps the point of Byron Scott is to show Kyrie Irving how the other half lives.  Maybe Kyrie needs to learn to appreciate a coach who makes good offense/defense substitutions or won’t play Luke Walton against Al Horford, or won’t pettily bury a 6’9″ small forward who was leading the NBA in three point percentage.  Byron ran his course.  It’s time to bring someone else in.  I don’t think the timing would have been right in July 2012.  Byron brought a modicum of dignity and calmness, though some might call it ambivalence, to the post LeBrocalypse.  Now the Cavs need someone between stoic Byron and losing-his-voice insane Stan Van Gundy to helm the ship for the next few years.  Scratch that.  Thibs would’ve made Kyrie play defense.  I wish we could have had him.

Kevin: My first preference is Kevin Hetrick; it is a definite pay raise for me.  Unfortunately, Cleveland goes 14 – 68 in that scenario.  Second…Phil Jackson.  The Zen Master melds a second-string front court of Samardo Samuels and Luke Harangody into a 39 win team.  Finally, Luke Walton…player-coach.  In this scenario, the Cavs finish 73 and 9.

Tom: Gregg Popovich is my head coach and teaches offense. Mike Brown is my assistant and he focuses on defense. Mark Price is my shooting coach. Stan Van Gundy is in charge of working with my big men and giving half-time interviews so Pop won’t be bothered. Doc Rivers and Phil Jackson are brought in as consultants when there’s in-fighting or someone needs motivated. And with this team? Add 12 wins. (9th best in the East)  The roster has been in disarray since Byron got here.  As much as I love Gregg Popovich, he’s had a healthy Tim Duncan for 16 of his 17 seasons as HC.  Who has Byron had since he showed up in Cleveland?  Also, the off-season additions of John Kuester and Mo Williams transformed the Cavs from the 20th best offense in the league to the 4th best.  That’s a huge improvement from what seemed like minor changes.  Perhaps the addition of a rim-protector + a healthy Varejao will allow Byron Scott to graft his DNA (whatever it is) onto this team.

Question 5: What expectations or ultimatums do you have for the Cavs coaching staff next season?

Colin: I expect the coaching staff to look different, if not at the absolute top, then in terms of the other dudes in suits sitting next to Byron Scott. They have to get a defensive coordinator of some sort. If Scott’s back with the same staff, we might be in for a long season. It’s tough to lay out other expectations when I’m unsure what the team is going to look like, so I’ll make a meek, blandly general statement: the team needs to stay motivated, and that burden falls on the coaches. I’m sure the inertia of failure and the ever-mounting injuries this year made that task near-impossible, but if we’re to surmise the Cavs will actually make an earnest run at the playoffs next season, the coaches are going to have to keep everyone’s heads on straight, so as to avoid eight-game losing streaks and more than a couple bafflingly uninterested games against bad teams. If the staff can act as a sort of consistency-maintaining mechanism, I’ll rate them three dilapidated burlesque theaters out of five dilapidated burlesque theaters.

Mallory: Next year is it.  40-42 wins is the minimum, meaning a 15 game swing is a MUST.  That’ll be tough, especially if Noel ends up being the guy selected and the front office doesn’t make any major roster improvements.  If Scott is still around, he absolutely must install a defense.  A 20th or better defense is essential to improving the record.  In addition, better in game coaching would be nice – certainly cooling down the opposing team when they get hot with a well-timed TO, as well as better end of game clock management. Ultimately, though, the key is just utilizing what’s on the roster to its absolute peak.  That’s what the best coaches in the NBA do on a nightly basis, and it’s something that Byron has been very mixed at.  If he’s around, he’s got to get better.

Nate: Develop toughness.  Teach the team how to play in late game situations and close out quarters.  Rise to above 20th in opponent FG% (as opposed to the current dead last). Teach a sane and consistent defensive philosophy.  Give opponents some wrinkles.  Teach Dion to play off the ball.  Develop a leadership hierarchy among the players on this team (don’t just hand it to Kyrie).  Most importantly?  Develop a culture of respect, winning, and accountability that will make free agents want to play in Cleveland.  Oh, and have a fun haircut.

Kevin: If Scott is back, it would be with a short leash.  Earlier this season, I took a look at Scott’s career.  The two peaks were guided by hall-of-fame point guards and both situations rapidly unraveled as his teams epically quit on him.  If the team starts 3 and 6 – move on and try some young, fresh, up-and-coming basketball mind.  Brian Shaw from the Pacers, perhaps?  He’s widely regarded as a key-schemer in Indy’s top-notch D.

Tom: No ultimatums from me, although I suspect Dan Gilbert wants some significant improvements at the defensive end. My expectations are that the team learns a few different ways to defend pick and rolls. I’d like to see the bigs hedge and retreat, the guards to anticipate the screener, and the help defenders to know where to rotate. On offense I expect more decisiveness and synergy from the core players, and the ball to swing from side to side. I want the team to start looking more than the sum of their parts. That’s on the coaches.

Commentariat, how would you answer these?