Archive for the ‘Silly Posts To Help Us Cope’ Category

Thoughts on James Harden Part III: It’s Never Too Soon to be Thinking About June.

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Ah... Summer.

In my last installment of this series, I wrote about what the plan needs to be from here on out for the Cavs.

The Cavs have to start trying to contend in 2013-2014.
In 2013, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson will be on the 3rd year of their rookie scale contracts, leaving two seasons for them to play before they’re eligible for extensions.  Additionally, the best dollar for dollar player in the NBA, Anderson Varejao will be on his ridiculously underpaying contract at less than $10 million a year for 2013-2015.  Further, the only salaries the Cavs have to pay next year are Andy, Dion, Irving, TT, Gee, and Zeller: the core.  This comes in at $27.6 million.  Given the cap holds for another top 5 pick, and a 15-30 pick , we can estimate a cap hold of around $5-6 million.  So, the Cavs will have a total salary of roughly $34 million.  Given a cap of $58 million, this gives the Cavs $24 million to play with.

Now that we’re in the dog days of December, and the worst part of the Cavs’ schedule, it’s nice to look ahead to a happier time when visions of all stars will be dancing in our heads.  The end of June will mark the start of NBA free agency, that lovely time when career scrubs who’ve had one good year get massively over-payed, and old vets get minimums to be player/coaches.

When I wrote the above, I did not count for the cap holds for the qualifying offers and non-guaranteed contracts of the other members of the team.  As can be seen on the link, the numbers for Casspi, Miles, Pargo, Samuels, Sloan, and Leuer add up to just over $10 million in cap room, all or any of which can be renounced.  Miles, most interestingly has a completely non-guaranteed 2013 salary which can be a nice trade chip for next year in a trade-and waive scenario.  This gives the Cavs anywhere from $14-24 million to play with depending on who they want to keep.  Remember, they MUST spend 90% of the cap, which means around $54 million total.  This means that the Cavs will need to spend a minimum of $10 million on free agents in 2013  just to get to the salary floor, and that’s if they keep all their draft picks and restricted free agents at around their qualifying offers.

I’ve written many times that the new CBA is going to change everything.  Teams over the luxury tax threshold are going to have to make hard choices about who they want to keep.  Only the mega-rich are going to be able to go well over the tax threshold for extended periods: New York, Brooklyn, L.A., and maybe Miami.  With that said, the Cavs plan should be to pluck free agents and restricted free agents from teams that are in danger of going over the luxury tax.  With that in mind, let’s start looking at the 2013 NBA free agent class.

The Max Guys:

In a word, these guys are “the balls”: the Ron Burgundys of their fields: the all stars.  They are getting max salary or close to it.  Most of these guys are going to be re-signed by their current teams, and if they’re not, the odds of them coming to Cleveland are about as high as the odds of the Browns running the table and winning the Super Bowl this year.  Players include Chris Paul, Monta Ellis, Manu Ginobili, Paul Pierce, and Dwight Howard.

There’s one player in this group who might be the longest of shots to sign with the Cavs:

Andre Iguodala: Long coveted by the Cavs, Iguodala has an early termination option that he will exercise unless he gets hurt.  He currently makes $16 million, and would be a fantastic player for the Cavs with his defense, finishing, leadership, and ability to play without the ball and run the floor.  Unfortunately it’s going to take $17 million plus per year to sign him and make Denver think twice.  Also, he’s currently sporting a 14.2 PPG/ 3.8 APG /5.2 RPG/ 1.2 Stl /13.64 PER line (the per game averages will follow this format throughout this post) which is below average efficiency.  He’s also 28 and has a game founded on athleticism and hustle.  He would be a big risk on the back end of a 4 or 5 year deal, but he would give the Cavs instant credibility, as he’s respected around the league.

The Just Below Max Guys:

Most of these could get a close to max contract if the situation worked out right for them.  These are the guys that are going to be using teams like the Cavs for leverage, and we can probably only afford one of them.

O.J. Mayo: Breakout year for him with a 20.9/3.5/3.9 19.25 PER.  The Mavericks fleeced the rest of the league signing him for a paltry $8 million over 2 years last summer.  Unfortunately for them, he will, barring injury, decline his player option for next year and hit free agency looking for a substantial increase on his $4 million dollar per year salary.  Given the future (hopefully) strength of the Cavs back-court, he would be a tough guy to commit $12 million+ per year to.  The Mavs have $44.4 in other salary commitments and they need to pay Darren Collison, so they may or not elect to keep Mayo.  Knowing Cuban, they will probably elect to re-sign mayo, but  if they bow out, there will be plenty of other suitors.

Josh Smith: A VERY intriguing player who would probably be in the max group if he was having a better year.  At 17/3.6/8.4/2 blocks 17.4 PER, he’s been coming on of late, but is shooting only 45% from the field, but a mind boggling 38% from three.  He’s a player who’s always thought he was a stretch 4, who couldn’t shoot like it, yet this year he just might be the player he’s always wanted to.  Also, 82games has him at a net of +9.3 points per 100 possesions.   Smith is 27, and probably has 1 good contract left in him, especially since he’s a player that relies on athleticism and will probably have 23,000+ minutes in his career by year’s end.  Unfortunately, he’s a bit of a head case and the longshot of longshots.  It would take the max and a major dissatisfaction with Atlanta for him to leave.  Additionally, since Atlanta has only $18 million in Salary commitments next year they’ll be able to match any offer.  They’ll be competing with the Cavs for free agents.  Danny Ferry has done an awesome job flipping the Joe Johnson albatross for flexibility.


That's right, I may make more $$ than any other player this offseason.


Al Jefferson: One of the last true centers left in the NBA, big Al has one of the most polished post games in the league.  At 17.4/2/10.7/1.2 BLK &  21 PER, he is having a very good year.  But big Al seems to have good years when his contract is up, and the worry at 27 is that this is his sign and retire deal, especially given his large size and somewhat sketchy injury history.  Given that he brings a very rare combination commodities in the NBA: size, rebounding, and a post game and already makes $15 million, he could command a very large salary of around $19 million per (the NBA max).  The Jazz have 26 Million in commitments, and a lot of holes to fill.  The choice for the Jazz will probably come down to him and…

This one's for Dani.

Paul Millsap: The #1 mentioned 2013 free agent at CtB.  At 14.6/2.6/8.2/1 BLK 18.9 per game, he has had to play a lot at the 3, given the Jazz’s crowded front court, and has stretched his game out past the 3 point line shooting 50% this year, on only 1 SPG, but 46% in general from the floor.  He’s 27 and has a game predicated on athleticism and strong shooting play and around the basket .  With decent durability, he can probably be a good get on a 4 year deal.  He would immediately move TT to the bench, and be a decent 2nd or 3rd option in the Cavs offense.  My guess is it will take about $13+ million a year to pry him away.  He or Jefferson may have to come by sign and trade.

Kevin Martin: The sharpshooter OKC acquired from Houston is currently making $12.5 million, and scoring 15.4/1.7/2.4/1.2 Stl 18PER, shooting .465/.478/.931.  He’s a lights out guy, and would not be a bad player on the Cavs, but at 29, and with the need to overpay him ($13-$14 million to get him), he’s probably not what we’re looking for, even though his offensive skills probably won’t decline too much with age.   He can play either wing position, but isn’t much of a distributor.

David West: A very solid player who at 32 (note the age, Andy trade proponents) sports a line of 17.3/2.7/8.6/1.1 BLK 20.5 PER for the Pacers.  He might be worth overpaying for 2 years to bring some professionalism to the team and work with Tristan Thompson for 2 years, especially given their similar body types.  West currently makes $10 million, and keeping this rate of pay up or even a modest raise for a couple years wouldn’t hurt the Cavs much.  I like him very much as a fall back plan for the above bigs, or even in addition through sign and trade.

Reuinted, would it feel so good?

Andrew Bynum: Who would’ve been solidly in the top tier just 5 months ago, is currently hemorrhaging future money with his knee issues and meh attitude towards basketball.  He’s currently paid $16.7 million and will probably have to sign a make good contract this off season.  If anyone gives him long term big money, he’ll sign it.  This is Gilbert Arenas in 2008 all over again.  The Cavs should RUN from giving a long term deal to a guy with Bynum’s attitude and and knee issues.  If they could take a flyer on him on a 1 year deal with a team option, he might not be a bad gamble.  It will be interesting to see how dumb teams are when it comes to Bynum.

Does it ever get old?

The Intriguing RFAs:

The restricted free agents’ current teams all have the ability to match any offer that the Cavs would give, as long as they extend the player a qualifying offer.  Large RFA offers usually really irritate the teams that own the players rights.

This is my "happy to be in Sacramento" face.

Tyreke Evans: 15.5/3.7/4.9/1.3 STL 17.85 PER is the line this year for the mercurial player from Sacramento.  2010’s rookie of the year has been trapped on the league’s most dysfunctional franchise for the last four years, and had his role shifted in the offense multiple times.  The results have been sketchy to say the least, and he’s currently battling a mysterious knee ailment.  However, he can attack the basket, play three positions, and seems desperately in need of a leader to follow.  He has a $6.9 million dollar qualifying offer that the Kings will probably extend.  Given his remarkable similarity to Iggy’s numbers, but his increased efficiency, wouldn’t he be the perfect high risk/high reward player to bring in on a front loaded contract that the Kings might think twice about matching?  Say $13 million for 2 years, dropping down to $10 million in the 3rd and a 4th year team option?  This also keeps with my plan of pissing off all the other teams by tying up their cap money in restricted free agents.

Brandon Jennings, Darren Collison, & Jeff Teague: Good players, but we don’t need another alpha point guard.  However, the fact that they’ll be taking up other teams’ time and money will be good for us.

Gerald Henderson: 13.3/1/2.7/1.3 Stl / 19.31 PER, Henderson has a $4.3 million dollar qualifying offer, and is currently a very efficient scorer, though not much else, and a lot of that is coming off an otherworldly 63.6% from 3.  He will undoubtedly regress to the mean.  But could be a high value wing.  It will probably take a $10.5  million+/per year offer for his Airness not to match, which is probably a little rich for Gerald Henderson.  Alonzo Gee is a homeless man’s Gerald Henderson at a third of that price.

Tell me he and Andy wouldn't scare you a little.

Tiago Splitter: 6’11” 240 pound 27 year old super sub for the Spurs.  9.2/1.2/4.7 21.5 PER.  A teammate of Varejao’s on the Brazilian national team.  I’m sure Andy would love to play with him, and he’s probably due for a big pay raise.  With a $5.9 million QO, he will probably get most of the money captain Jack is making this year, stretching his salary to $9 million+.  We could probably overpay to get him at $11 million, which would make for a strange dynamic with Andy, and I’m wondering how much of his numbers are the magic of Popovic.  Still, he might be the most intriguing of the restricted free agents.

Conclusions:

Ideally, we could get one of these guys, and then one of the guys who’ll be featured at the top of Thursday’s article, ToJH (might be time to drop that since none of it is even about James Harden) Part IV: the Mid Tier Free Agents.  As for the guys on this list, my vote is to make a run at Tyreke Evans and/or Tiago Splitter.  Evans is the only quality affordable wing on this list, and a Splitter/Andy lineup would be a thing of beauty.  Tie up those teams cap money if they match, and then if that doesn’t work out, go after David West.  I like Josh Smith and I like Al Jefferson, but I think they’re simply going to cost too much money, and the odds of us getting them are too low.  Being smarter with Dan Gilbert’s money will help the Cavs trade for guys like that or pick them at pirates’ terms when they need to be traded.  As for Paul Millsap?  I think he’s fine, but the guy at the top of  Thursday’s installment in this series is an even better value.

Trends, Ranks, and Outliers

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

“It’s early.”  Repeat that 3x.  Of course with time: trends, ranks, and outliers become less noisy and more meaningful.  Trends level off, ranks become more stable between games, and outliers become more impressive.  Here’s a few that I researched after a little quiet reflection.

Trending: UPWARD.

Omri Casspi and positive adverbs can stand to be in the same room with each other lately.  Now, I can only count on one hand the number of times I have been forced to pay attention to Omri Casspi on a basketball court since Kyrie Irving had his suit drycleaned.  However, almost every one of those times I saw something positive.  He looks like a walk-on playing defense – earning every minute he gets. (It’s quaint)   He seems to be a three point threat, even though a few of the shots have the body language of “this could be my last chance – better make it count”.  You could make the case that Casspi’s NBA career has been in decline since he arrived on the scene.  But this year might be different.  Casspi’s production in general seems to be trending back up.  Specifically his 3PFG% the last 11 games looks like this.

a healthy 18/36 on the year

If he can keep his 3PFG% above even 40% that would be an asset for this shooting-deficient team (assuming he gets more playing time – something that many on this blog have advocated).  The Cavaliers have no shortage of 3 point gunners, but are lacking in marksmen (at least so far this year).  We’ll check back with Casspi at a later date.  There are some harbingers that he’s on the up and up.

"I don't always google my name, but when I do, I make sure safesearch is on." - CJ MILES the most interesting man on the Cavs bench

Ranks: Dead last, 6th Worst

Is there anything more irritating than a guy shooting contested jump shots off the dribble and missing?  Repeatedly.  With no course correction.  This irritant alienated one fan so much that he blessed the world with this url: http://heylarryhughespleasestoptakingsomanybadshots.com/.

I think we need to find that guy and ask him to author:

http://heycjmilespleasetrysomethingdifferentperhapsspottingupforthreeortryingtodrawfouls.com/.

I had high hopes for CJ Miles.  At least until my buddy Wes (@WesEarick) prophesied to me that CJ Miles would be the Cavs 2nd leading scorer.  Given my history debating Wes on NBA topics I had this premonition that CJ Miles was headed for a Lamar Odom-like deterioration.  (He once said Wilson Chandler was a future MVP)  I was looking over Miles’ season stats and one thing that I found particularly jaw-dropping was his 4 FTA to 89 FGA.  Wasn’t this guy supposed to be a pseudo-slasher?  I swear I’ve seen a youtube video of him dunking OVER people.  At the very least, he seems to have some competency putting his head down and driving.  So what the heck?  As it turns out, Miles career FTA to FGA is around .2, meaning, he shoots 1 free throw for every 5 shots.  For comparison’s sake – Alonzo Gee’s career FTA:FGA ratio is .37, almost twice as high.  So clearly, getting to the rack and drawing a whistle isn’t his strong suit.  For the irrationally-optimistic Cavs fans out there I guess we could argue that “CJ Miles just hates flopping” or something.  But 4 for 89?  That’s GOT to be the worst mark in the league right?  Actually no, that record belongs to San Antonio’s Matt Bonner who has yet to attempt a freebie despite 47 FGA.  Once I saw this I was challenged, as Matt Bonner can be pretty valuable.  But my preconception was/is that having a respectable FTA:FGA ratio is a sign of a good player, especially for a wing.  It’s a little more complicated than that, but so far this year, if an NBA player had a higher than league average FTA:FGA ratio his Win Share/48 minutes would also be higher than average.  Obviously the corollary is that owning a less than league average FTA:FGA ratio would have a lower than league average WS/48.  There’s no succinct (sorry RickOH) way to describe the relationship between FTA:FGA and WS/48.  But I think the visualization is kinda neat.  So I put one together here:

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0Bxo35h7IHewyNGhXY1poeVhYMUk ]

Click on the 100% thing to blow it up and then use the arrow keys to scroll along.  The dotted red line is the league average WS/48, and the vertical red arrow is the range.  The dotted blue line is the league average for FTA:FGA and the vertical blue line is the range (which is quite more dynamic).  [A quick note on everything to do with league related statistics: I filter out all players with less than 150 minutes at this juncture.]   Draw your own conclusions from the data, but, on average, it doesn’t pay to have a very low FTA:FGA ratio unless you are an elite spot up shooter or have some other ways to contribute.  So CJ Miles is the worst in the league in WS/48 and 6th worst in FTA:FGA. I think he needs to drastically change both of those ranks immediately.  Actually I think he needs to draw some fouls and hit a few quiet set shots from the stripe to calm the heck down.  Getting to the rim should could open things up for him a bit more –  making him harder to defend.  He needs to change SOMETHING especially if Wes’s “2nd leading scorer” prediction has any hope of materializing. (Although that would be all the proof you need that the Mayans were, in fact, right).

From Oct 30th chat

Outliers: Tristan Thompson’s Block Party

Yes, this title in intended to inflame the masses.  Honestly, it’s the Cavs entire team that is partying, it just seems wrong to have it anywhere other that TT’s house.  I’ve never seen anything quite like this.  I knew the Cavs were getting stuffed at the rim a lot.  But I had no idea how prolific they are at it.  I was also aware that TT’s blocks (the ones where he blocks the OTHER guy) were down from last year.  Digging a little deeper, I learned that the Cavs are worst in the NBA in getting blocked (not completely surprised) but also worst in the league at wagging the finger (a little surprised).  The Cavs block differential?  That is our outlier of the day – and it. is. BREATHTAKING.   For the full effect, click on the image, and then click on it again to get the full screen.

The Cavs block differential (-99) is more than DOUBLE the next worst team – Golden State(-48), who has played without Andrew Bogut for all but 73 minutes this season.  Let that sink in.  I think we can safely tar and feather the next person that utters something along the lines of “Tristan Thompson can be our Serge Ibaka”.

What is the value of spite? A short musing on LeBron James, Cleveland, and this Girl I Used To Love Irrationally, by Ryan Braun:

Monday, February 13th, 2012

In “honor” of LeBron’s coming to town this week:

Now here we have an interesting dilemma, and I’d urge you to think it through before arriving at any, let’s say, decisions…

You know what? Let’s not even start with LeBron. Let’s start with a conveniently analogous anecdote.

****

When I was 22 (a year older than CTB’s own C.S. McGowan), the first girl I’d ever dated broke up with me. I’d made mistakes along the way — mixtapes are cute, but you better be a real lumberjack if you want to bookend one with Aladdin — still, the dumping seemed irrational. I was caring, attentive and I put out reasonably well for a nebbish, sexually-terrified faux-adult whose romantic repertoire prior to that relationship consisted of saying “I’m going to kiss you in 10 seconds,” and then counting down the remaining :09.

In spite of all that, she left me for a disinterested 28-year-old physical therapist.

It was brutal.

It was why, for months afterward, I refused to rehab anything professionally.

And it’s kind of related to the debate at hand.

*****

Two weeks ago, I stumbled on Sam Amico’s now semi-dated article re: the prospects of LeBron returning to Cleveland, and it was that which got me thinking about this again (both the LeBron situation and my beautiful ex — the latter pictured below in a visual approximation).

I’m sure you’ve all read the story.

There is talk, Amico writes, that LeBron is discontent in Miami — “less-than-thrilled with certain aspects of the Heat organization.” It’s not Wade and Bosh, SA continues, it’s “the heavy-handed and disciplined style of Pat Riley.”

None of this is particularly substantive or surprising. That Brian Windhorst corroborated kept me from writing off the return possibility without first giving it some thought…but I did give it some thought and came to the conclusion that we’ll see Obama as governor of Mississippi before we see LeBron, as Windhorst speculates, back in Cleveland and honored with a statue.

To even get us to the precipice of a return would require not only Dan Gilbert’s acceptance of a LeBron reconciliation, but an apology from LeBron himself, plus a general admission of wrongdoing. In other words, LeBron would have to publicly take some responsibility for the split with Cleveland and at least in some capacity, publicly admit he may have done a thing or two to draw Gilbert’s ire.

None of the above is going to happen, and perhaps because of that, the likelihood of the above happening is not really what I’m interested in.

I’m interested in us.

I’m interested in what we might do if the situation presented itself.

*****

When that girl broke up with me, I sulked pretty bad.

I didn’t leave the house for a week. My mom gave me a bell I could ring for ice cream and I just stayed in bed for the whole seven days. It wasn’t a good look for a 22-year-old, and about the only thing I gained from the wallowing was an abject certainty that Night Court was underrated.

I also made possible the taking of this picture:

Dark, dark days.

But then, as if forced to by my mother, the next Monday I got up and moved on with my life. I got a job as the production office intern for a movie filming locally and made such an impression delivering lunches that I was offered a job in Los Angeles, also delivering lunches.

My mom spent a week in bed with the ice cream bell, and then I left.

I won’t say my motivation was to become a famous actor solely to spite the girl who’d left me… but I will write it.

My motivation for moving was to become a famous actor solely to spite this girl who’d dumped me.

I’d never acted.

I’d never been to Los Angeles.

It was a healthy and financially pragmatic move.

But it did do one thing; it allowed me the time and the space to recover. It allowed me to move on with my life. It allowed me to start anew (and/or metaphorically draft Kyrie Irving depending on where you are in the analogy.).

Within three years, I was shopping at Whole Foods and driving a Prius. I was still delivering lunches, but now they were fancy.

I didn’t see that girl again for three years, and I really wasn’t planning on initiating anything ever again until she emailed me one day totally out of the blue…to see how I was doing, to see “how life was treating me,” and to see if I’d be attending the wedding of one of our college friends in a couple of months.

And so we started talking, and reminiscing, and telling each other that there were no hard feelings.

I said I’d be going to the wedding and staying in the recommended hotel.

She asked me what floor I was staying on.

*****

My biggest issue with the sports fan of the 21st century is the following: With very few exceptions, the 21st century sports fan is f’ing fickle! I haven’t been alive long enough to definitively state that things haven’t always been this way…but I’m pretty sure that things haven’t always been this way.

Sports have become a mixed bag of opportunism and sentimentality, admittedly for me as much as anyone. I mourned the departure of Big Z, but in no way did I take issue with his trade. I’ve despised the high-profile player movement of the past few years, but I’m the same guy who was pitching Dwight Howard to Cleveland last week.

And now, in analyzing the tenets of immediate gratification (something that, again, I seek as much as anyone)…I’m starting to wonder at what point will opportunism snuff out the sentimentality that gives sports its heart in the first place? And if that’s a possibility, how far gone are we already?

From the booing of home teams in even the most hallowed of locales (its happening from Cleveland to Green Bay), to the relatively crass pursuit of big-time free-agents in every major sport (again, Dwight Howard), I feel like the opportunism is taking over. This is probably a positive in the NFL-ian way that it keeps everything interesting for everyone always…but it’s not so good in the crafting of true loyalty, of true fans, and ultimately, of the lovable “throwback” players we keep pining for.

There’s a romantic (if idealistic) group of sports fans craving a better kind of athlete.

I think in order to facilitate that, we may need a better kind of fan.

Someone for whom opportunism is not the priority.

*****

That said, I totally get why it is.

We’re back at the reception now and I’ve had four glasses of wine plus I really can’t hold my liquor (At all. That “I’m drunk” picture came after a lone White Russian.) and the/that/my girl is looking more pretty than is probably appropriate at a wedding with a bride.

I asked her how her grad school was going and she told me about her residency.

She asked me how my acting was going and I told her about my appearance in a Swedish life insurance commercial.

And then we just stared at each other for a moment…after which time she asked me if I wanted to see some of the things she’d learned in medical school.

I’ve never been hit on in my life…except for potentially that.

“What floor are you on?”

My floor.

Jim Gray walks in and he sets up the camera.

I am not a role model.

*****

What would you say to LeBron James if he asked to come back (and/or asked you up to room 304)?

First remove the backdrop of improbability, and then, with as much hypothetical honesty as you can muster, ask yourself what would you do if the only thing standing between a 29-year-old LeBron returning to Cleveland, returning to a team featuring an abundance of young talent, a blooming superstar in Kyrie Irving, and potentially another in Harrison Kidd-Davis, was you…

What would you do if the only thing standing between a Cleveland team and a 3-4 year championship run was the return of LeBron James?

In that very specific case (coincidentally, an amplified version of so many other cases)… what is the value of spite, and in how much of that spite lies your credibility as a sports fan (or in my case, as a man in general)? In how much of it lies your ability/right to enjoy a championship?

When LeBron James left for Miami, he was most roundly criticized for copping out.

We’d hoped he’d be the greatest player of the past twenty years, and instead he ended up choosing to play with his only real rival in the league while complaining about “the pressure of going out, scoring 30 every night.”

“Championships are championships,” LeBron ultimately said. The ends justify the means, because presumably, no one remembers the means.

If history proves him right (and while I sincerely hope that won’t be the case, I do realize it might be), would you be willing to sacrifice championship ends for a means that ultimately may not be remembered?

I think the obvious answer is, “Yes, of course. Pride over title any day of the week.”

And I think that’s what I’d want to say… I just hope I’d say it.

I spent my fourth year in Los Angeles listening to way too much Aladdin.

AWARDS WATCH (39.4% of the way through the season):

NBA MVP – LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat (27.9 ppg, 8.2 reb, 6.9 ast). The real purpose of this article was to compare LeBron James to a girl (WIN)…unfortunately, that girl is playing about three levels higher than anyone else is this season. I don’t know if he’s recovered enough good will to actually win MVP, but he clearly should if Miami ends up anywhere near the top of the league. Along those lines, the Heat are a game back of the Bulls and Thunder right now and while he’s tailed off a bit lately, LeBron has been dominant in keeping the Heat afloat despite inconsitent assistance from Dwyane Wade.

CAVALIER MVP – Andy Varejao, PF/C (10.8 ppg, 11.5 reb, 1.7 ast). I’m in the camp that wants a better draft pick and I still thought the Varejao injury was devastating. Andy’s been playing at an All-Star level all year, and to see that momentum interrupted by such a fluky play is immensely frustrating. Silver lining: There’ll be a lot less pressure on him when we land Anthony Davis.

NBA COY– Doug Collins, Philadelphia 76ers. I don’t think the Sixers are a threat in the East, but boy are they are fun to watch. They’re young, they’re well-rounded and they share the ball. I fear they’ll end up a well-constructed team held back by lack of star power…  but in the meantime, much of the credit for their resurgence should go to Collins.

CAVALIER COY – Byron Scott. I’ve made jokes every week about Byron’s lack of competition for this spot, but in truth I’m really impressed with the job he’s done this year. The games we’ve not competed have been few and far between, and the development of our youth (by far the season’s most important facet) seems to be going remarkably well. Tristan Thompson may have plateaued, but Kyrie Irving and Alonzo Gee get better with each passing week.

CO-NBA ROY – Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves (10.9 ppg, 4.5 reb, 8.7 ast) & Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers (18.0 ppg, 3.5 reb, 5.1 ast). I still think Kyrie’s the better player, but with KI missing a few games courtesy of Dwyane Wade’s knee I think it’s fair that Rubio be acknowledged as well. Ricky’s shooting is a substantial limitation, but it’s one some other stars share. It’s striking how much of his game resembles Rondo’s. Rubio is such a good set-up man and he’s far more active defensively than I initially gave him credit for. Ultimately, I don’t know if I see the athleticism to make up for his inability to shoot comfortably from the perimeter…but if he carves out a niche as a poor man’s Jason Kidd/Rondo, I think Minnesota will deal.

CAVALIER ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG. Since I last did this, Kyrie’s started winning games down the stretch single-handedly. It’s been kind of astonishing to watch. I don’t know if he can make the type of jump LeBron did from Year One to Year Two, but he also might not have as much distance to travel. If he can condition himself to the point where he can run (really run) 36 minutes a game… we’ll all have to reassess what his ceiling might be.

…………………..

Ryan Braun writes at CFAAP.com, and posts a picture with an article once every two Sundays (which he often does barely and by PST technicality). He appreciates your reading, and also you in general.

Destination: 2013, Scenario 2

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

In this second installment of potential paths to turn the Cavs into a rising, 50 win team by 2013, the focus will be on several trades for this year.

First though, I want to discuss my expertise with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, or more precisely, my lack of expertise.  Case in point is that in the first Destination: 2013 Scenario, the issue of “front-loading” contracts drew some skepticism.  I should have referred to “signing bonuses”, which may be allowable (see here and here).  Ultimately it’s not important whether the “front-loading” was legal or not; if the contracts were constructed normally, the Cavs’ salaries go up by $2.2 million in 2013 – 2014 and instead of Omri Casspi as backup SF, the scenario is forced to go with “2013 Miami 1st rounder”.  Essentially, there’s minimal difference.  And that’s the important point; any CBA misapplications in these posts should be minor enough to not affect the big picture.  If this proves untrue, I am prepared for a public scolding. 

In this scenario, three trades will continue stocking the Cavs’ cupboard with young prospects.  These trades are:

Antawn Jamison to Charlotte for Desagana Diop, Matt Carroll, Derrick Brown, and Portland’s 2013 1st round pick (owned by Charlotte) – This is a salary dump for Charlotte.  They’re able to take the $11 million they owe Diop and Carroll off the books for 2012 – 2013.  They get hometown guy Antawn Jamison earlier than planned (Jamison has discussed a desire to finish his career with Charlotte).  They would have nearly $25 million in cap space available in the summer of 2012 for Michael Jordan to pursue a big free agent in addition to re-signing Jamison and D.J. Augustin.  For this flexibility, Charlotte’s price isn’t too high; they give up a kind-of-young, kind-of-decent small forward and a future, late first round pick.  The Cavs get those assets in exchange for the right to overpay two players for a year.  Mychel Thompson and Luke Harangody would be waived.

Ramon Sessions and Cavs 2012 2nd round pick to Oklahoma City for Cole Aldrich and Reggie Jackson – The Thunder are a team trying to win a championship this season, and a season-ending injury to Eric Maynor has left them with a roster hole.  Enter Cleveland to the rescue!  Sessions is an experienced option to spell Russell Westbrook for 15 minutes during the regular season and 8 minutes every playoff game.  OKC parts with two young pieces they don’t need.  Cole Aldrich was a lottery pick just 18 months ago, and despite struggles in limited NBA time, he was very effective in a D-League stint last year; finishing third in blocks per game and defensive rating and fifth in defensive rebounding percentage.  In two D-League playoff wins, he averaged 12.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks.  He’s big, young, & cheap and a more appealing back-up center option than what the Cavs currently have.  Reggie Jackson was the 24th pick in last year’s draft, and the Cavs could take a look at him as a long-term backup to Irving. 

Cavs 2012 1st round draft pick plus Hornets 2012 2nd round draft pick (Cavs owned) and Portland 2013 1st round draft pick (Cavs owned, see above) to team with #3 draft pick in 2012 draft –For now, I’m staying the course of previous posts and assuming that the Cavs win 25 games and end up with the #8 pick in the draft (this thought is fading quickly.  I may have to recalibrate after the back-to-back with Boston).  The Hornets pick will be around #35 and the Portland pick should be in the 20 – 25 range.  A third team would be brought in offering a late 1st round pick (let’s say 24th) for the 33rd and 35th picks this year.  So the Cavs’ primary partner in this trade ends up with #8 and #24 in 2012 and #23 in 2013 for the #3 and #33 in 2012.

This seems reasonable to me, considering how redundant the 2012 draft will be for big men.  ESPN projects 7 of the top 13 picks as power forwards, with 11 of the top 15 as centers or power forwards.  The #3 pick this year will likely not be viewed as a “mega-star waiting to happen”.  There is a relatively good chance that the team at #3 can say, “there will be someone we like at #8, plus we get two other decent picks…let’s take the trade.”

This scenario is counting on it and with the third pick in the 2012 draft, the Cavs select  Harrison Barnes.    The Cavs fill the roster with one-year contracts to Derrick Brown and others (Ray Allen for 1 year, $8 million anyone?), and have an up-and-down 2012 – 2013.

Heading into the summer of 2013 (approximate $62 million cap), Cleveland’s existing obligations (and salaries) would be Anderson Varejao ($9.1 million), Kyrie Irving ($5.9 million), Harrison Barnes ($4.6 million), Tristan Thompson ($4.3 million), Cole Aldrich ($3.2 million), and Reggie Jackson ($1.3 million).  After almost knocking off the Heat in the first round of the 2013 playoffs (ultimately wearing them down, leading to a third straight Finals defeat), the Cavs use the 15th pick in the draft to choose Brazilian seven-footer, Fab Melo out of Syracuse.   Melo and the other 1st round pick total $3 million.  Omri Casspi’s option would not be picked up, and Alonzo Gee was re-signed after 2011 – 2012, starting at $1.5 million per year.  Finally, Daniel Gibson would be kept at $3 million per year.  The team’s commitment to those 10 players in 2013 is $36 million; the other $26 million would be offered to:

Paul Millsap –It’s not sexy, but the acquisition adds an offensive force to the front line.  A four year, $46 million contract (starting at $11 million) will take Millsap through his age 28 – 31 seasons.  Last year, he averaged 17 & 8 on 58% true shooting.  He has one of the better power forward jump shots and is a fierce rebounder.  Utah is unable to justify spending this amount on Millsap, as they consider the upcoming contract extensions for recent top 5 picks Derrick Favors & Enes Kanter.

Kevin Martin – To reach an even higher level, Cleveland pursues a fourth source of offense along Irving, Millsap, and Barnes.  Martin has been one of the NBA’s best scoring two-guards for over a half-decade.  A high-salary, short-term offer is made for 2 years and $20 million, similar to, but more pricy than recent contracts for Jamal Crawford and Richard Hamilton.  Houston decides it’s not justified to tie up this money on a thirty year old, as they go all-in pursuing James Harden, Steph Curry, Tyreke Evans or Demar Derozan.

Tiago Splitter – With Varejao, Millsap, Tristan T, and Fab Melo in fold; this is a luxury buy.  Nearly 7 feet tall, Splitter rebounds well and scores efficiently, providing a 4th big man to keep the rookie from being overly relied on.  Also it’s a gimmick; once you start amassing tall Brazilians, it’s hard to stop.  Andy, Tiago, and Fab can do whatever it is that giant Brazilians do in Cleveland.  In order to steal him from the Spurs, the Cavs offer 4 years, $20 million (starting at $4.8).  The Spurs start a rebuilding process that summer and can’t justify paying Splitter through his age 32 season.

The 2013 – 2014 roster is (ages in parantheses):

PG – Kyrie Irving (21), Reggie Jackson (23), 2013 2nd round pick, – With Irving in his 3rd year in the league, he’s makes his first Eastern Conference All Star team.

Wings – Kevin Martin (30), Harrison Barnes (21), Daniel Gibson (27), Alonzo Gee (26), Miami’s 2013 1st  round draft pick – Martin and Barnes represent a huge offensive upgrade from the current roster.  Gibson, Gee, and the first round pick are relied upon for defense.  Barnes would be the team’s 6th man, with a defensive minded player starting over him.

Front Court – Paul Millsap (28), Anderson Varejao (31), Tristan Thompson (22), Tiago Splitter (29), Cole Aldrich (25), Fab Melo (22) – Millsap and Varejao operate as one of the league’s better starting tandems.  In his age 22 season, TT has developed into a great first big man off the bench.

The team probably isn’t a future champion, but an all-star point guard, three additional quality scorers, and a deep front line – that’s a 50+ win team and the average age is only 25.

The most crucial step towards building a champion relies on trading “assets” for the “final pieces”.  There are 5 players under age 25 not named Kyrie, Harrison or Tristan.  There are also seven draft picks total in 2014 & 2015.  Ideally some of this can be packaged with an expiring contract to acquire the right veterans to push the team over the top, similar to the Pistons acquiring Rasheed Wallace in 2004. 

And there it is, through a hazy future I can see it…the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers!

Dear Dwight Howard – a response to Marc Stein’s Weekend Dime from Ryan Braun:

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Hi Dwight:

Let me begin with a preface — if you choose to stay in Orlando, I get it. In fact, as a basketball fan with what I’d like to consider at least a semi-operative conscience, I would have to consider that preferable. I mean, how could anyone in Cleveland ever root for a superstar to leave a small market, right?

Dear Shaquille O'Neal's lawyers: please direct all complaints/legal inquiries to CFAAP.com

Okay, now that that’s out of the way…let’s go ahead and acknowledge your leaving as an inevitability. For the sake of both this article and the potentially delusional presumptions therein. Also, because you kind of reaffirmed the anti-Orlando sentiment with your “nothing has changed” quote relayed via the Sentinel last Sunday.

You still want to be traded, you say, and Dallas, LA, and the Nets are still your preferred destinations.

That’s fine. No judgment here. You’re a 26-year-old man/the heart wants what the heart wants.

But please, allow me the opportunity to pass on a message that my mom gave to me (in writing) when I suggested to her I might major in acting:

“Are you sure you’ve thought this through?”

Now, if you’re reading this (and I soooo hope it gets to you…), you’re probably reading it on a Cavs blog and thus have subsequently assumed where it’s headed.

Don’t stop reading.

I know you’ve already said (with just about zero ambiguity) that you’d rather not be traded to Cleveland.

That’s perfect! I don’t want you traded to Cleveland either.

I want you to sign there.

Trust me, I have definitely thought this through.

Reason # 1 — The Trade Thing is so 2008…

Allow me to open, Dwight, by directing your attention to exhibit A (and/or “Reason #1”)…the trade thing.

It’s en vogue right now, I know, and I’m even a little hypocritical for shunning it as definitively as I’m about to since a year and a half ago I was staying up nights at a time monitoring the Cavs’ progress in luring Amar’e Stoudemire away from Phoenix.

As I often am, I was misguided. (The acting major’s yet to pan out.)

I was misguided, as are many still, because lost in the league-encompassing excitement of a landscape shifting trade is a patently obvious nugget Knick of information regarding these cataclysms…

Take a look at all of the teams for which these deals have gone down in recent seasons.

None of them are winning.

None of them.

In fact, they’re not even close.

New York, New Jersey, the Clippers… not exactly the elite of the league, right? Perhaps even more damning is this… Are these teams even in a position to improve?

The Boston Celtics (the reason this whole “movement” started) are the only team of the modern era that was built via trade, and the only reason it worked (temporarily) was that each (aging) star was sold for pennies on the dollar, thereby allowing the Celtics to retain two players — Rondo and Perkins — who turned out to be better than anyone they’d shipped out. It was enormously lucky in the first place, and any chance of that particular history repeating with these “forced” trades is effectively wiped because A) the motivation behind the F-trades is often a player seeking a specific market/not a team sniffing out a palatable return, and B) everyone involved is a lot less willing to work out an amenable deal when they feel like they’re being jerked around.

So, let the record show us having the following two epiphanies:

1. In today’s NBA, you can still get yourself traded…but you can’t get yourself traded without gutting the team that you’re headed to, thereby nullifying the chance you’re headed to a better situation basketball-wise.

2. Because of this (epiphany 1), if you’re going to go…free agency is the way to go.

I don’t like that last epiphany as a Cavs fan (I wish the new CBA had come equipped with a franchise tag…), but it’s true.  If you’re signing a 5-year extension with a team that’s just traded its best young prospect + multiple first-rounders, rarely will that team still have the means to surround you with talent.

Of the “cataclysm teams,” the Heat are the only group I’d list with even a chance to win a title within the next few years, and it’s because they came together through free agency.

I'm the hater lion.

However awful that was.

Regardless, the point of exhibit A (and/or “Reason # 1”), Dwight?

If you don’t want to get stuck on a bare cupboard of a team subsequently plastered with unreasonable post-trade expectations…you might want to reconsider your route.

Sign with somebody in the offseason.

If only someone had concocted an elaborate yet grounded presentation to give your options via that route some clarity…

Reason # 2 — The Cavs from a Basketball Perspective:

This was the most enjoyable segment for me to write, and I’m 99% sure the reason for that is a legitimate belief in the following… (I’m so good an actor now, I can never be 100% sure I’m not fooling myself…)

The Cavs are on the verge of being really, really good.

Not this year, mind you…but soon. (And very soon if you heed my letter, DH.)

If Oklahoma City is the model for small-market rebuilding (Durant, Westbrook, Harden — add water), we’re one elite draft pick away from following suit. Through a stroke of remarkable good fortune (and by “good fortune,” I mean $30 million from Dan Gilbert), the Cavs were able to restock this year with both Tristan Thompson (who I pray to the basketball gods will be a smart Josh Smith) and Kyrie Irving (who I pray to the basketball gods will be a healthy Chris Paul). They’re 20 and 19, respectively. Provided they don’t propel us too far forward before their bodies fill out (and it might be close), we’ll probably end up landing one additional high lottery pick this year. Which again, provided these guys pan out, is the Thunder model. A potentially elite foundation.

And the rest of the roster?

That’s where things get really interesting.

In fact, to show just how interesting… I’d like to welcome the Dallas Mavericks to the article. Being the only team on your trade list with considerable cap space forthcoming, they seem to have become the assumed favorites to land your services via the free market.

Found this picture on Mark Cuban's nightstand...

Let’s say Dallas hits the jackpot this summer (that would be you and Deron Williams), thereby amassing what would probably be considered the second true “super-team” in the league. My grandma would be happy (she went to high school with Jason Kidd), but that’s not what this article’s about.

What is best for you, Dwight?

The following is the absolute best case scenario 2012-13 Dallas lineup, in which I assume the Mavs’ ability to dump Shawn Marion by the trade deadline (which is the only way they’d have  enough cap space to sign both you and Deron):

PG – Deron Williams (28), Jason Kidd (39!), Roddy Beaubois (24)

SG – Vince Carter (35), Jason Terry (35), Delonte West (29), Dominque Jones (24)

SF – Shawn Marion (34) ( presumptive salary dump)

PF – Dirk Nowitzki (34), Lamar Odom (32), Brian Cardinal (35), Yi Jianlian (25), Sean Williams (26), Brandan Wright (25)

C – Dwight Howard (26), Brendan Haywood (32), Ian Mahinmi (25)

Dallas has $41.4 million on the books for 2012-13, again, predicated solely on their ability to let everyone crossed out leave and/or pass away from age-related illness. With the salary cap projected at around $60-61 million next year, it’ll take a suitor for Shawn Marion’s $8.6 million guaranteed, plus ALL of their resulting free-agent money to sign you and Deron Williams.

Thus, this would be your team for the foreseeable future — exactly as listed above, minus Shawn Marion/plus league minimum filler. (And Dirk is 34, Deron Williams can’t stay healthy, yada, yada, yada…)

Now, contrast that with Cleveland’s potential 2012-13 lineup:

PG – Kyrie Irving (20), Ramon Sessions (26)

SG – Anthony Parker (306), Boobie Gibson (26), Mychel Thompson (24)

SF – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (19), Alonzo Gee (25), Omri Casspi (24), Christian Eyenga (23)

PF – Tristan Thompson (21), Antawn Jamison (35), Samardo Samuels (23), Luke Harangody (24)

C – Dwight Howard (26), Anderson Varejao (30), Semih Erden (26), Ryan Hollins (28)

There’s just under $41 million on the books here (only $9 million in 2013-14!) with all the notable pillars locked up. That means Kyrie, Tristan and Andy (seriously, you’ll love this guy…), plus “unnamed 2012 lottery pick,” plus Dan Gilbert’s willingness to lock-up our keepers for the long-term (Sessions and Boobie, perhaps?) or swing them as the rarest of expiring contracts (those belonging to good players) for dollars on the dollar.

The point of all this being, in Cleveland, you’re looking at a team with potentially four All-NBA caliber players, a team with insane roster flexibility, and a team with an owner more willing to dole out cash than Pacman Jones at 2am.

Also, a team that has no true center.

From a basketball perspective, only Chicago makes more sense (why they’re not on your trade list, I have no idea…), and even then, only in the immediate.

From a basketball perspective, it’s the perfect situation.

And, while I realize much of the preceding’s accuracy depends on your evaluations of the players involved — i.e. How good are the young Cavs, really? — I’d like you to know this: Because of my briefly aforementioned conscience/an overwhelming fear of failure stemming perhaps from graduating college with an acting degree, publishing on an ESPN subsidiary at least forces me to temper my enthusiasm for all things Cleveland somewhat in the hope that I can write reasonably informative articles/maintain my current state of employment. For periods of time, I can be a semi-responsible faux-journalist.

Along those lines…

Kyrie Irving, while just 19, might be the best pick-and-roll prospect to enter the league since you, Dwight Howard (pandering just a touch there…). I don’t believe I’m overstating that. KI comes off the screen at such a funky pace that he can almost walk a guy right to the rim, and he’s already exceedingly comfortable with his midrange jumper. This was a major strength at Duke, and he’s been re-getting the hang of it pretty early at the NBA level. And Dwight, what Kyrie’s doing now, he’s doing while working with Andy Varejao (who, again, you’re going to love and is actually a remarkably effective P&R partner…but also operates about 3-4 feet lower than you do). Remember when everyone thought it would be awesome to team you up with Chris Paul? Well, I’m thinking of something similar but with healthier knees. Kyrie is good, and by this time next year, Kyrie’s going to be better.

And Kidd-Gilchrist (listed above on my projected roster) is a conservative addition. He could be Brad Beal, he could be Harrison Barnes. I like MKG because he was Kyrie’s teammate in high school and is tenacious enough to have a relatively high floor…but he’s also probably the 7th pick in the upcoming draft. Imagine if that’s Anthony Davis. Imagine if it’s Drummond.

Regardless Dwight, you’re getting the Cavs’ foundation as is, plus either a top-tier wing prospect or the best big in the draft. And the oodles of cap space.

Imagine you’d had an opportunity to head to OKC right after they landed James Harden.

Would you have done it?

Really, the only possible reason this isn’t a no-brainer is that you’d have to live in Cleveland, which, don’t worry…I’ve figured out too.

Reason # 2B — Cleveland is a burgeoning entertainment mecca/end of hardcore analysis:

I know you have media ambitions, Dwight.

You know who else had media ambitions?

Steven Spielberg. (Ever heard of him?)

#movielinefirstdrafts

Yes D-12, Steven Spielberg was born in Ohio, and you won’t find someone who’s made good on “media ambitions” more successfully than him.

Need more?

Paul Newman’s from the area as well, Ohio is the country’s leading producer of greenhouse and nursery plants, and if you’re concerned about unwanted pregnancy — we’re the rubber capital of the world.

(Ed. Note: This is harder than the basketball section. I’ve been digging around for like an hour and that was the best I could do.)

Let’s close the “Cleveland as entertainment mecca” section with the following…

Consider A: Cleveland was a bustling metropolis in the 50s and 60s (even the Rockefellers lived there!).

And…

Consider B: There are two schools of thought re: the nature of the world’s social history. Ancient cultures believed in cyclical nature (that Dark and Golden Ages would forever alternate), while more recent sentiment assumes the world is on a linear path.

So, if we deduce the actuality as a perfectly reasonable combination of theories — after all, history is linear in that technology is advancing more rapidly than human nature, but cyclical in that I’m wearing my grandfather’s polyester pants right now and feeling particularly stylish — the conclusion would have to be that by the end of your 5-year max contract, Cleveland will again be an Eden on Earth…only with robots.

Okay, done.

Ps- You can’t spell “The Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg” without OHIO.

Now done.

Reason 3a — The Cavalier bump:

The theory goes that being in Cleveland helps promote athlete likeability (ATTN: Adidas: AL is very important for market share capitalization), and I constructed the following chart to demonstrate it visually.

I'm not very good at charts.

So. Definitively established. Cleveland = likeability.

ATTN: Adidas.

Reason 3b — How better to one-up LeBron?

Okay, it’s 1AM now and I want to close with some semblance of legitimacy.

Here goes…

You don’t have to admit to this, Dwight…but I know.  Truth be told, I think a lot of people do…

We here in Cleveland have always felt the lack of a Dwight puppet egregious.

The LeBron James show, which debuted a year before you entered the league and has subsequently amassed the gravitational pull of an imploding galaxy, has kind of relegated you to the backburner in terms of the national consciousness.

I’m writing to you on behalf of Cleveland (as a city, I think we can sympathize).

I began by laying out all the basketball reasons that the Cavaliers make sense…and now here is the vindictive one.

You want to pull ahead of LeBron James, and we want that for you…but to do it, you have to start heading in the opposite direction.

If you go to Dallas, to LA, and maybe even in Chicago (although again, if you want to be traded, reconsider the Bulls…), you will forever be lumped in with LeBron. And as much as it probably sucks to hear, and as much as you may consider it unjustified…you’ll never be at the forefront of things when you’re standing right next to him. You’ll always be a supporting character in the LeBron James drama.

So take an alternate path.

Be the small-market superstar.

Make a small-market super-team.

I realize it’s self-serving (hugely) that I want the small-market super-team in Cleveland…but honestly, I’d support the idea anywhere.

You’re not going to outscore LeBron James.

So outsmart him. Call Adidas and tell them we have a banner open.

Also, I’ll draw you pictures.

Again, letters to CFAAP.

The World is Yours.

TWIsM,

Ryan Braun (CFAAP, Cavs: the Blog, Studio Yogurt)

Ps- Dwight, the Browns are going to be awesome next year.

…………………………….

AWARD WATCH (16.5% of the way through the season):

NBA MVP – Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder (25.8 ppg, 6.8 reb, 3.4 ast). Kobe is scoring like he hasn’t in 6 years, but I can’t say it’s helping the Lakers. LeBron is playing better than anyone in the league, but the Heat have lost 3 in a row. Meanwhile, the Thunder are 11-2 and Durant is just plugging along, shooting less and scoring more efficiently than he ever has.

CAVALIER MVP – Andy Varejao, PF/C (9.5 ppg, 11.2 reb, 1.5 ast). Kyrie’s not far off from having a chance at this spot, but to date, still, there’s not a player on the Cavs more important than Anderson Varejao. He’s consistent, the perfect role-model for a lot of the younger guys on the team, and almost as much of a pillar offensively as he is on the other side of the ball. I’d put Andy’s pick & roll competency up there with many of the elite bigs in the league.

NBA COY– Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose’s team is 12-2 (tied for the best record in the league), and Thibodeau has, in my estimation, done very well to proactively extend support to a struggling Noah and Boozer (and/or protect their trade value). I thought they overachieved last year, but the Bulls seem to be locking themselves in as a perennial top seed.

CAVALIER COY – Byron Scott. Really, a competitor’s yet to emerge.

NBA ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers (17.0 ppg, 3.1 reb, 5 ast). Ricky’s coming on strong too (and each side seems to have its fervent advocates), but after watching Kyrie improve the past couple of weeks…I’m f’ing giddy. The kid can get to the rim at will, IS getting progressively more comfortable with NBA length, and looks more and more confident in his ability to dictate the flow of a game every time out. Rubio is at 10.4, 4.1, and 8.0 while playing a completely different floor game for a completely different team…which is what I’ve used to decide this argument for the week. The team. At current, I think Rubio struggles more on the Cavs than Kyrie does in Minnesota.

CAVALIER ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG. But let’s talk about the other guy… As a 21-year-old sophomore NBAer (essentially Tristan Thompson’s age, but with a year more experience), Josh Smith averaged 11.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in about 32 minutes a game. Tristan can’t handle the ball like Josh (not a good thing), nor can he shoot like him (maybe a good thing?), but the point I’m trying to make is that he’s not far off and I have to believe he’s being steeped in the type of discipline that Josh Smith never was. In four years, TT’s an energy guy or an All-Star, and his development might well determine the ceiling of this team.

Disappointed by Casspi trade?

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Omri Casspi’s start to the season surely has some questioning the trade that brought him here. I came across a handy website that could make you feel better (in addition to a future first round pick and J.J. Hickson only shooting 39.7% from the field this year).

According to one statistical method (regularized adjusted +/-), Hickson was:

The NBA\’s worst player in 2011

4th worst in 2010

3rd worst in 2009

And just for fun; of 11,504 two-man combinations that were employed by NBA teams from 2008 – 2011, the worst defensive pairing was (drumroll, please)…..Mo Williams and J.J. Hickson

Destination: 2013, Scenario 1

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Obviously no one is talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers as contenders this year. Just as obvious though, Cavs fans want this to end soon. Once a month in this “Destination: 2013” series, a strategy to turn the Cavs into a young, 50 win team by 2013 – 2014 will be explored. These posts will be an optimistic diversion over the course of another rebuilding season.

In this first installment, an idea for building with existing draft picks and cap space will be addressed. Since the season has just started, this scenario assumes that the Cavs aren’t horrible this year; the draft picks should be viewed as 8th in 2012 and 10th in 2013. (Editor’s note: I wrote this before last night’s game. Losing to Toronto at home doesn’t make it look like an 8th pick is coming. If the season goes south fast; in scenario 2, the Cavs will win the draft lottery again. Also, trades will surely be a part of future columns.)

In this first scenario, items of note regarding existing Cavs include:

• Irving, Thompson, Varejao, Gibson and Casspi are the only current players on the 2013 – 2014 team.

• Antawn Jamison – his contract is allowed to expire. The Cavs choose not to take on another team’s “bad” contract to obtain draft picks. There are two high-lottery rookies on the roster and seven first-round picks in the next four years; there are enough draft picks.

2012 – 2013 Cavs
Estimated salary cap for this season is $60 million. The Cavs have eight players under contract for $30.8 million. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky is selected with the Cavs’ first round pick (previously covered here) and William Buford of Ohio State in the second round. Two free agent acquisitions are made:

• Omer Asik – 4 years, $24 million. Did you know the Bulls were 9.9 points per 100 possessions better defensively when Asik played? Asik will be 26 years old and is a legitimate 7 footer who is a quality team defender and a good shot blocker / rebounder. Of 57 centers that played 40 games last year, he ranked 12th in rebounding rate and 12th in defensive plays per minute (blocks + steals + charges drawn). Offensive contributions will be sparse, but the Cavs need another big body in the frontcourt and I’m willing to splurge on a quality defensive center. Asik is a restricted free agent, but the Bulls probably won’t match. The contract would be frontloaded; $9 million in 2012 – 2013 with $5 million for the other three seasons. Generally speaking, Cleveland will be overpaying in these posts.

• Ryan Anderson – 4 years, $29 million. The team needs a big man with some shooting range; Anderson is a career 38% three point shooter and puts the ball in the basket at a decent rate (18 points per 36 minutes). Also a restricted free agent, he’ll be only 24 years old and while just an average defender, he is big (6’10”, 240 lbs) and rebounds well. During his two years in Orlando, advanced evaluation stats like him; he’s a winning player according to PER, Win Shares, Adjusted +/-, and Wins Produced. He will also be signed to a front loaded contract; $11 million in year one with $6 million per year after that.

Regardless of the players that are pursued, this seems like a decent re-building concept: draft well in the lottery, sign two good role players to front loaded contracts in 2012, then sign a max player in 2013. If the Cavs are a high lottery team and draft Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond, the free agent targets would be adjusted. The 2012 – 2013 roster outlined above is filled out with one year contracts and the total payroll is $59 – 60 million.

2013 – 2014 Cavs
With the Cavs’ first round pick, P.J. Hairston of North Carolina is selected and with their second rounder, Aaron Craft of Ohio State. With the Heat and Magic picks, the Cavs choose another wing and a 5th big man. Casspi is re-signed for 4 years, $16 million and Daniel Gibson is re-signed for 3 years, $7.5 million.

The big, final free agent piece is James Harden. Harden is a restricted free agent and the Cavs can offer him a max contract of 4 years and approximately $66 million. As some background, OKC’s payroll for 6 players in 2013 – 2014 is $38.3 million. This doesn’t sound bad, except none of those players is Russell Westbrook, James Harden, or Serge Ibaka. Given that the Cavs have offered Harden $15+ million per year and Westbrook and Ibaka could cost $30 million a year; that leaves OKC looking at $84 million for 9 players. The luxury tax limit will be approximately $74 million. Are they willing to go $15 – $20 million into the luxury tax given the new CBA’s strict provisions? OKC can do a lot to juggle their roster between now and then; but for the purposes of this extremely hypothetical scenario, an assumption will be made that they won’t spend 70% of the luxury tax threshold on three backcourt players. So the Cavs convince Harden that a max contract and his ability to be a focal point of the offense make Cleveland his best destination.

The final 2013 – 2014 roster (with November 2013 ages in parentheses) is:

• PG – Kyrie Irving (21), Daniel Gibson (27), Aaron Craft (22). Irving is a big part of the future of the franchise and will need to be a key member of any near-future 50 win team. This will be his third season and the hope is that he is establishing himself as a top flight point guard.

• SG / SF – James Harden (24), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (20), Omri Casspi (25), P. J Hairston (20), William Buford (23), 2013 Miami 1st rounder. This is a young group, but it has a lot of good pieces. Other than Harden; this group isn’t “ready” in 2013 – 2014. But within a couple of seasons, this group will be experienced and well rounded. Harden, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Hairston should be capable scorers. All players give good effort and Kidd-Gilchrist is a beast of a defender. Harden and Casspi provide quality shooting and Hairston (or whoever is the 2013 first round pick) is drafted based on his long-range marksmanship.

• PF / C – Anderson Varejao (31), Tristan Thompson (22), Ryan Anderson (25), Omer Asik (27), 2013 Orlando 2nd round pick. That’s a very good defensive front line and Ryan Anderson adds some offensive firepower.

The combined 2013 – 2014 salary of these 14 players is $60 – 61 million, which should be under the salary cap. Nine of these players are signed through 2015 – 2016: Irving, Harden, Kidd-Gilchrist, Hairston, Casspi, Thompson, Asik, Ryan Anderson, and the Miami first rounder. The Cavs have 2 first round picks each in 2014 & 2015 (assuming Kings pick); so there will be opportunities to add “cheap” talent to supplement the bench. Varejao and Gibson can be re-signed to short-term contracts, and voila! The fifteen players on the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers! The team would be similar to the 2004 Pistons championship team; no star, lots of quality players and great defense. Can this team score 100 points per game, while allowing 90? Because if so; that’s a championship level team. I’m going to answer yes; the defense will be great and 20 points per game can come from Harden, 18 from Irving, 15 from Kidd-Gilchrist, 12 from Anderson, 8 from Hairston, 6 from Casspi, 18 from the rest of the front-court (Varejao, Thompson, Asik) and 3 from Gibson. Who knew that building a champion was so easy?

Imaginary Game Recap: Cavs 112, Existential Dread :(

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Ed note: A world without NBA basketball is a world in which Colin does not want to exist. Fortunately, he has at his disposal a strong ability to self-delude and a word processing program. Until the NBA lockout concludes and professional basketball starts happening in the corporeal realm, he will be recapping the Cavaliers games that happen in his head.

It’s difficult to determine whether the Cavs won or lost out there tonight. You would think a team of world-class athletes playing against an abstract concept would be a bloodbath, but then you would be forgetting that Existential Dread renders all outcomes—of basketball games, of wars, of love affairs, of relationships with your father that just seem unfixable at this point in your life—meaningless. Let’s break it down.

The Cavaliers started strong, burying uncontested layup after uncontested layup with gleeful ease. Anderson Varejao racked up 14 points in the early going; his cuts to the bucket went largely unchecked for much of the first quarter. Baron Davis’s outside shot was also working the in the opening period. He went 4-5 from beyond the arc. “It’s like there wasn’t anyone on the court with us early in the game,” Davis said of his first quarter sharpshooting.

“And then suddenly,” he added, his smile dissolving into a nervous wince. “There was.”

After a stellar opening run of play, the wheels came off for the Cavaliers. As Kyrie Irving dribbled the ball some 30 feet away from the basket and began to call out a play with 8:25 remaining in the second quarter, he curiously picked up his dribble, shuddered the shudder of a man who has seen his entire family perish in a terrible naval accident, set the ball down, and hollered out “Am I alive?!” before splaying out on the floor of the Q and sobbing for what seemed like hours.

“Classic rookie mistake,” said 13-year NBA veteran Antawn Jamison of the incident. “Soon enough, he’ll learn not to make simple mental errors like that. It’s all part of learning to be a professional.”

Irving wasn’t the only one who made mistakes tonight. In the second half, Existential Dread effectively took over. The Cavaliers began to unravel, performing alley-oops on their own basket and loudly reciting excerpts from Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness.” Christian Eyenga, who started dribbling with his elbows late in the third quarter, couldn’t provide a coherent reason for his bizarre behavior. “I just thought,” the lanky Congolese forward stammered “that it would just, y’know, change things.” When asked to clarify his statement, he began speaking in tongues.

In an attempt to calm his panicked squad early in the fourth quarter, Byron Scott called timeouts on five consecutive possessions, forgetting, as he gestured toward the referee for the fifth time in two minutes, that he was out of TOs. This violation, as per NBA regulations, resulted in a technical foul against the Cavaliers. The referees conferenced at the scorer’s table for a moment before head official Joey Crawford walked toward Existential Dread’s end of the floor placed the ball adjacent the empty free throw line. The crowd and players stood frozen. Their breath puddled at their feet and they felt its cold oil between their toes. They saw a flash, then a billowing miasma of olive-green gas. The Q stunk of sulfur and sounded of nothing. From somewhere within this timeless ether, a buzzer sounded. Fans and players streamed out of the arena onto the streets, some high-fiving each other and murmuring about the Cavs ostensible victory, others walking more stoically, murmuring beneath their breath about the end of days.

“That was an incredible ‘basketball game,'” said starting guard Boobie Gibson, using scare quotes in a way best characterized as “disturbing.” “We really got a ‘great’ ‘win’ and everyone ‘contributed’ out there tonight.” Asked if he was happy about the “win,” Gibson took a drag from a cigarette and replied “I feel like a Drake song right now. One of the particularly melancholy ones.”

Reached for comment after the “game” by C:TB, Byron Scott, who remains committed to speaking only in dadaist riddles, proclaimed, “You can’t just put a lightbulb in the cat food, and call it a champion!”

I don’t know who or where the Cavs will be playing next week. I haven’t made that part up yet.

Imaginary Game Recap: Cavs 83, Magic 98

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Ed note: A world without NBA basketball is a world in which Colin does not want to exist. Fortunately, he has at his disposal a strong ability to self-delude and a word processing program. Until the NBA lockout concludes and professional basketball starts happening in the corporeal realm, he will be recapping the Cavaliers games that happen in his head.

Woof. That home win against the Bucks was apparently a misnomer. But to be fair, it’s very easy to defeat a team that consists of only one player. For those of you who haven’t been following the story, the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks have given up on playing with Corey Maggette, who got into a physical altercation with Brandon Jennings during a training camp scrimmage because Jennings, quote: “Shot the ball. You don’t trade for Corey Maggette for Corey Maggette to not take all of the shots.” The Milwaukee Maggettes were subsequently crushed by the new-look Cavs on Tuesday night 211-12. After the game, Coach Scott Skiles was quoted as saying, “Why am I still coaching the team? Well, Corey’s just a horrible, selfish player, and the only way I know how to express myself is through really dickish rage. I’m never happier than when I’m chewing out a player for putting himself above the team, not hustling, etc. This is gonna be the most gratifying season of my career.” This explains why Maggette–despite being the only player on the active roster–spent a majority of the third quarter on the bench next to a livid Skiles while the Cavaliers sat Indian-style in a circle around midcourt and, passing The Speaking Koosh between them, discussed how each player’s personal brand was doing.

Thursday night was an entirely different story, as the Cavs lost to the Magic by 15. The story of this game was the Cavaliers’ inability to guard the perimeter, as Ryan Anderson went off for 35 points on 10-12 shooting from beyond the arc. Most of this was due to Antawn Jamsion’s patently lethargic closeouts. At one point during the third quarter, after Anderson received a skip pass from Gilbert Arenas and rapped the first eight bars of Rick Ross’s verse on “2Pac Back” before converting his eighth three-pointer of the night, Austin Carr took a moment to break down Jamison’s defense: “Look how he doesn’t really even jog toward Anderson as he catches the ball; he just sort of shuffles in Anderson’s general direction, as if he’s been drunk for three days because a vindictive spouse or girlfriend assassinated his sexual identity, and then he half-heartedly raises his right hand in a manner that makes you think ‘I bet after he retires, he’s going to attend the opening of a lot of public parks in innercity neighborhoods and deliver speeches about how kids need a safe place to play, and some local journalist will write sort of condescendingly about how ‘articulate’ and ‘gracious’ he and ‘his beautiful wife Rucker’ were at the dedication ceremony.’ Antawn Jamison is both a class act and a terrible defender.”

But news of the Cavs’ struggles defending the perimeter are nothing new. I think Byron Scott summed up this blowout rather eloquently in his post-game press conference when, in response to a reporter’s inquiry about how the Cavs could have better defended the three-point line, he replied “Turnips are a fruit!” Scott is, of course, incorrect, as turnips are a root and therefore a vegetable, but starting Center Anderson Varejao explained to the media that this is all part of the three-time NBA Champion’s plan to motivate the team by speaking only in dadaist riddles throughout the season. “He’s taking a wait-and-see approach with this experimental coaching technique,” claims Varejao “We’re all pretty excited about it.” When reached for comment by Cavs: The Blog regarding his new, unconventional approach, Scott explained, “There are clams in the orange juice, but you can’t take the jungle out of a Harvard man.” Profound.

I don’t know who or where the Cavs will be playing next week. I haven’t made that part up yet.

Diamond in the Rough? – a series by Kevin Hetrick

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Diamond may not be the appropriate words for these players, but I offer the following…

Last year, the Cavs had five rookies that were selected after the 52nd pick in the draft or were undrafted. Samardo Samuels, Luke Harangody, Semih Erden, Manny Harris, and Alonzo Gee (I’m counting Gee because he was undrafted and only played 180 minutes in 2009 – 2010) were draft day afterthoughts that played at least 600 NBA minutes last year. In this short series, these players will be compared to similar players from the 2002 – 2003 to 2009 – 2010 seasons to determine what precedent there is for each to become a productive NBA player.

The comparisons will be statistical and based on eight numbers: true shooting percentage (ts), assist rate (ast), turnover rate (to), usage rate (usg), offensive rebounding rate (orr), defensive rebounding rate (drr), player efficiency rating (PER) and age. Both the statistics and the timeframe were selected because they are easily sort able on ESPN.com’s “Hollinger’s Player Statistics” page.

Over the 8 seasons, the following table reflects the power forwards that were statistically most similar to Samardo Samuels last year. Samuels scored with below average efficiency, rarely passed, and rebounded offensively nearly as well as he did defensively. In some cases, the definition of “similar” gets slightly stretched.

What conclusions can be drawn from this data? First, no player “similar” to Samuels has become more than a borderline NBA starter. Kris Humphries is the most intriguing, but he’s not a great comparison; Humphries was younger, more athletic, and slightly better across the board. Glen Davis is a relatively inefficient player whose reputation has benefitted due to playing on a champion.

The most similar seasons to Samuels were 2007 – 2008 Jason Smith, 2007 – 2008 Glen Davis, 2002 – 2003 Slava Medvedenko, and 2002 – 2003 Lonny Baxter. The most similar player is Davis, due to his physique and also shot distribution; Samuels attempted 79% of his field goals from inside 10 ft compared to Davis’ 77% attempted from short range in 2007 – 2008. Each of the aforementioned four players was a rookie except for Medvedenko, who did not attend college and was in his third season. The most encouraging take away is that the two more recent players are still playing and played at least 1100 minutes for a playoff team last year. During the comparable seasons, one of the four players played 900 minutes on an NBA champion (Davis) and another played 700 minutes for an NBA champion the year prior (Medvedenko). In conclusion, although there is not a precedent for Samuels to become much more than he is now, there are precedents for sustainable contributing to a successful NBA team. Hopefully like Glen Davis, someday Cavs fans are able to discuss Samuels as an inefficient back-up that benefitted from being on a champion.

(Also if anyone cares, I will be making several posts at eightpointsnineseconds.com, the True Hoop Network blog for the Indiana Pacers. The first one should be up tomorrow.)