Archive for the ‘Player Grades’ Category

What To Expect From Jarrett Jack

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Golden State Warriors Jarrett Jack gestures during their NBA Western Division quarter-final playoff game against the Denver Nuggets in Oakland

 

As Cavs: The Blog’s chief Bay Area Stuff correspondent, I have a decent amount of experience watching Jarrett Jack: New Cavalier. The zippy bic-domed point guard was somewhat talismanic of the Golden State Warrior’s dream 2013 playoffs. Whereas Stephen Curry was incinerating defenses and inventing new colors, Jack was firmly earthbound, yet still effective. His drives and passes tended to stretch the limits of sanity, but he was solid as a third guard, especially in a small lineup with Curry and Klay Thompson. He is nominally the only other point guard on the roster besides Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova, so he is firmly entrenched there, but with such a liquid roster, the question of fit is a fairly open one.

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Scouting the Playoffs: Round 1 — The East

Monday, May 6th, 2013

An entertaining first round of the NBA playoffs concluded this last weekend.  How does this concern the Cavs?  Uh…

…Oh.  Right.  There’s quite a few players in the playoffs right now who will be free agents in the offseason.  In addition there’s several players who played who’ll be tempting trade targets.  Let’s look at some.

Miami Vs. Milwaukee: Miami won this one handily.  Miami’s free agents are Ray Allen, Chris Anderson, Mario Chalmers, Juwan Howard, James Jones, and Rashard Lewis.  None of those guys are probably on the radar for the Cavs.  Mario Chalmers and James Jones might be interesting pickups, but James Jones played only 5 minutes.  Hailing from my home town of Anchorage, Alaska, Mario Chalmers would allow the Cavs to have employed every single Alaskan to play in the NBA, joining prestigious Cavs alums Trajan Langdon and Carlos Boozer.  However, he had a particularly meh first round averaging 6.5 points off of .517 true shooting and 4.5 assists per game.  Tough to grade anyone on Miami.  This series was like a butterfly hitting a Buick.  I admit, I didn’t watch a game.

In looking to fill the Anthony Parker/Luke Walton role of seasoned veteran who plays too many minutes, the Cavs could do a lot worse than Mike Dunleavy, who at least offensively acquitted himself well, scoring 19.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per 36 minutes, with shooting splits of .567/.438/.889.  Just don’t ask him to guard LeBron though.  And if you come to Cleveland, Mike, please rock the ‘stache.

Honorable mention: Samuel Dalembert who might be a decent 4th big, only got to play 9 minutes, continuing his career trend of massively underplaying his contract.  Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings got torched by Miami’s guards, but aren’t realistic options anyway.

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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.

Bubble Watch: Cavs Roster Decisions Loom

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

This post is not about the starters.

With one preseason game to go, the current Cavs roster stands at 17 players.  With an NBA roster limit of 15 players, 2 players are not going to make the team.  To complicate matters, teams often don’t like to keep more than 13 or 14 players for flexibility, payroll reasons, and because only 12 players can dress for a game.  While it is true that the Cavs can assign 2 players to the D-League, they must currently be on the inactive list.  So at least 2 players on the Cavs roster will not make the team.

So who’s on the bubble?  We’ll break the Cavs roster down into four groups, and look at each player’s chances of making the team.

Group 1: The Green Zone.

These guys are safe, and barring an earth shattering trade, they will be on the roster opening day.  They’d pretty much have to be caught running naked through the streets of Cleveland, ala Frank the Tank, to not make it (warning PG13 rated link).  Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varajao, CJ Miles, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, and Tyler Zeller represent the “core” of the Cavs right now – the guys we’re building around.  None of them are going to be waived or bought out unless they decide to “streak the quad,” and maybe not even then.  Odds of making the Cavs: 100%.

Group1a: Omri Casspi

I was going to put Casper into group 2, but he’s played so well in preseason that to say he’s only on the team or not because of his contract is doing him a disservice.  But I don’t think that the Cavs brain trust considers him part of the “core” just yet.  In the last year of his rookie contract paying him $3.8 Million this year, Omri has everything to gain by playing well this season.  Odds of making the Cavs: 99.99%

Group 2:  The Contract Men

Two Lukes and a Boobie: guys whose chances of making the team hinge around their contract.

Luke Walton: In the final year of a 6 year, $30 million dollar contract, costing the Cavs $6.1 Million this year, it seems highly unlikely that the Cavs will buy out or waive the elder Luke.  Why?  Because they don’t want to play a guy that much money to do nothing, and because he’s bad enough that once he’s off the Cavs, he’s probably out of the league.  Which means he probably won’t take a buyout.  While his preseason play hasn’t set the world on fire, it hasn’t been too bad.  With a decent game against Orlando, he showed that he can at least play NBA basketball in a meaningless game for 11 minutes.  The expiring contract could be a big chip at the trade deadline too. Look for him to stick at least till February, and fill the Anthony Parker memorial “stately veteran” role for the Cavs (but thankfully not actually play very much).  Chances of making the Cavs: 90%.

#1 in your programs, #1 in your hearts: Daniel "Boobie" Gibson

Daniel “Boobie” Gibson: Also in the final year of a 5 year, 21 million dollar contract (can you believe this is going to be his 7th year with the team?  He still seems 12 to me).  He’s on the hook for just under $4.8 Million.  The catch?  Only $2.5 million of that is guaranteed.  What I don’t know, and what I’m hoping someone can tell me, is does that mean whenever he’s released, the prorated portion of his contract is due, or once he’s earned $2.5 million he can be released without owing him any money?  He could be a release candidate because he’d save the Cavs 2.3 million.  More likely: his contract is another trade deadline asset.  Because he’s one of the Cavs stately vets, a relentlessly milquetoast twitterer, and a class act since he’s been with the team, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t in the Q opening night.  March is another story.  Odds of making the Cavs: 87%.

Luke Harangody: Unofficial mascot of CavstheBlog, Harangody is something of an enigma.  A shorter, less athletic version of Brian Scalabrine, most of us here at CtB don’t quite understand why he’s on the team, or why he was given a restricted free agent guaranteed contract for seven figures.  I like to think of him as the goofy yet loveable landscaper who’s going out with your hot grad schooled cousin.  You don’t know why he gets to try to score, and conventional logic would dictate that he should have been released for a better prospect years ago.  In both cases, he’s literally out of his league, but you enjoy watching him try to fumble his way through your grandparents’ anniversary party (the “preseason” of family functions) and trying to keep 6’10” pogo sticks off the board.  Still, you wouldn’t mind doing Jello shots with him at the family golf outing.  But there are a lot of players on the roster, and if they want your cousin to go out with Kevin Jones, Grandpa Gilbert may just have to slip ‘Gody $1.1 Million to go away.  Odds of making the Cavs: 70%.

Group 3: Definitely Maybe

These guys are probably on the roster, unless they try to get a Ricky Davis triple double against Indiana tonight.

Jon Leuer: A low risk waiver pickup from this offseason.  He came to Cleveland when Houston traded Milwaukee for him and then waived him when they tried to either get Howard or get awful.  Leuer’s had flashes, but is shooting 33% and 25% from the field and 3 this preseason, and is struggling to score and rebound against stronger, more athletic players in the last couple games.  Still the praise was effusive early on, J-Leu has a high basketball IQ, and had a good rookie year.  He seems like a solid prospect.  Odds of making the Cavs: 85%

Samardo Samuels: The big bodied Jamaican purportedly got in shape this offseason, and dropped his body fat to 8%.  He definitely looks more cut, and his preseason play, when he gets minutes, has been decent, scoring 23 points on 60% shooting and grabbing 11 boards points in 59 minutes.  His preseason minutes beg the question though: is Scott not playing him because he knows what he has, or because Samardo has used up all his chances?  I would not mind seeing him go, because I believe the Samardo we’re seeing now represents his ceiling.  He’s still not a great rebounder, still takes dumb shots, but at least he’s hit some this preseason.  On a minimum contract he costs the Cavs only a roster spot, but the news that he trained this offseason with Antawn in an attempt to emulate ‘Twan’s pick and pop game scares me a little lot.  Odds of making the Cavs: 65%

Group Three: There can be only two (or maybe one).

These guys are all playing for one or two spots (or maybe three) and the privilege of playing in garbage time and in the D-League.  The question about these guys, is do the Cavs want to carry three point guards?  (Or two or four if you consider Boobie and Dion point guards or not).   A Highlander-esque beheading contest will probably not solve the debate.  (If you’re under twenty-something, just ignore this reference).

I might never have another chance to post this picture.

Donald Sloan and Jeremy Pargo: Sloan has shot decently this preseason.  (44% FG and 60% 3), but his 1.2 assist to turnover ratio isn’t exactly scintillating.  Pargo has been the better distributor at almost 5 dimes a game, with 3 turnovers, but his 19% FG and 25% 3 shooting has been awful.  Sloan definitely has better steal numbers, and played in Byron Scott’s system last year.  But we have not watched practice either…  Odds of making the Cavs: 0% (for both to stick).  Individually: Sloan: 50%;  Pargo: 25%.

Kevin Jones: An intriguing prospect who led the big east in scoring and rebounding.  He had 5 rebounds in 13 minutes against Orlando, and attempted no shots in two games, which tells us nothing.  He has long arms, but was a doughy 11% body fat at the combine.  From his college scouting report, I like him better than anyone else in group three.  With comparisons to Chuck Hayes and Udonis Haslem, and a rank in the top 5% in postup scoring in college, I’d much rather see him stick and get some run in Canton than anyone else in this group.  He most likely hurt his draft stock by hiring his brother as his agent, but has early second round talent and an intriguing skill set.  Odds of making the Cavs: 35%

Michael Eric:  To call him a long shot would be insulting Raja Bell, Rudy Ruettiger, and Vince Papale.  He does not have any stat lines in the NBA.com database, nor a profile on DraftExpress.com.  He’s been compared to Serge Ibaka because they’re both tall and from Africa and can block shots.  The difference ends if you watch Eric play, which I did for all of 3.5 minutes in Canton.   He was ambulatory.  Odds of Making the Cavs: 10%

Conclusions:

What probably happens is that Eric and Pargo are cut, and that ‘Gody and Jones end up in the D-League.  After cuts, Eric and Pargo probably do too.  Life at the end of the roster won’t be fun for them.  Sometimes it is hard to remember that this is a job and a dream for these guys, and being flippant about their prospects for playing even 5 minutes a game seems funny in the moment.  It’s probably not that funny when the choice is between garbage time, per diem, private jets, and luxury hotels; or flying coach out of Akron, playing for $35,000 a year, and checking each hotel on the bedbug registry.  Such is life on the bubble.

Giving out grades: Antawn Jamison

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

So the time has come for this.

I think Antawn Jamison is a very nice man, and a very skilled basketball player. He’s always gracious to the media and fans, and has clearly worked very hard on his offensive game to have been an effective scorer well into his thirties.

That said, I loathe Antawn Jamison very, very much. People often say they have an “irrational hatred” for a player. I believe that I have a very rational hatred towards Antawn Jamison. To borrow a line from Broadcast News, Antawn Jamison, while being a very nice man, is the devil.

Offensively, Jamison’s only notable skill is the ability to create shots. That means that he is able to heave the ball in the direction of the basket at a greater rate than most players who play is position. He is a decent finisher at the immediate rim. That much he has going for him. Everything else is overrated.

Jamison favors an array of unorthodox flip shots and floaters from the paint instead of simply trying to power his way to the basket and draw the foul or finish hard. When they go in, it’s very pretty, and the broadcasters will inevitably comment on how unusual and impressive that part of Jamison’s game is.

However, there is a reason why nobody’s mid-post game looks like Jamison’s — those shots don’t go in very often, and he’s prone to forcing them at inopportune times. Jamison made 46.2% of his shots from the 3-9 foot area, and his free-throw rate was miserably low.

As an outside shooter, Jamison is overrated as well. Jamison made 30% of his shots from 10-15 feet, 37% of his long twos, and 34.6% of his threes. He finally started shooting a lot more threes than long twos this season, which is good, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s a ball-stopper with those outside shots and not nearly as effective of a shooter as he thinks he is. Oh, and he finished 59th among power forwards in assist rate.

Then there’s the defense. Oh lord, the defense. The Cavs were terrible at both offense and defense last season. The offense is understandable — the player the offense was built around left, and the Cavs didn’t have the talent to put up points on a regular basis. The defense, on the other hand, was embarrassing and inexcusable. It was disappointing to watch the Cavs’ offensive futility. It was infuriating to watch the Cavs give up wide-open layups and threes to any team that wanted them on a nightly basis.

When the Cavs had a truly horrible defensive breakdown, which was often, I’d rewind the DVR to see what happened. A shockingly high percentage of the time, Antawn Jamison was at the root of the problem. When he’s involved in a play defensively, the Cavs played 4-on-5 in 2010-11. He’s not a post defender, he can’t stop guys off the dribble, and he’s horrifyingly bad in the pick-and-roll.

The last point was particularly glaring — he’d glide over the screen like he was thinking about showing, allow the ball-handler to go past him without offering resistance, and jog back to his man, creating a four-on-five situation. It happened over and over and over again, and it was excruciating to watch. Words cannot describe just how bad Jamison’s defense was. At mid-season, I wrote that I’m not sure if Jamison could successfully defend a woman’s right to vote. It was easier to get penetration against Antawn Jamison than it was against Jenna Jameson. I joke, but it was truly awful and team-crippling, especially when the guy is supposed to be a locker-room leader. How is a team supposed to play defense when their supposed best player clearly couldn’t care less about it?

I believe successful teams are built around defense and efficiency, especially when they don’t have a superstar. Jamison was not efficient, and his defense was an insult to all that man has achieved since the discovery of fire. And all of this happened after Jamison got abused by Kevin Garnett so badly in the 2010 playoffs that he legally must name his next child Big Ticket Jamison.

That said, Jamison did make nearly three-quarters of his free throws this season after shooting a Shaq-like percentage during his first season with the team. CATCH THE FEVER!

The good news is that Jamison has a big expiring contract. Maybe some team will be foolish enough to take it on. Lord knows it’s happened before. For now, we can only hope.

2010-11 Grade: D Minus

Outlook for the 2011-12 Season: Please, please trade him. I can’t watch him play basketball any more.

Giving out grades: Daniel Gibson

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

The biggest win in the history of the LeBron era will forever be known as “The Daniel Gibson game.” It’s easy to forget just how desperately the Cavs needed shooters once upon a time, and just how much of a blessing Boobie’s three-point stroke was when he worked his way into the rotation late in the Conference Championship season.

For the first few years of his career, that’s what Boobie was — a good, mobile shooter who was deadly accurate from three-point range, was quick enough to get into his spots when LeBron was improvising in the lane, and was never afraid of the big moment. Every off-season, people expected Boobie to develop his passing skills or his game inside of the three-point arc, but it never really happened — in fact, when Boobie did try and incorporate a floater into his game to become more of a complete scorer, it was an unmitigated disaster.

Of course, while the team fell completely to pieces last year, Boobie quietly had a breakout couple of months to begin the season. After an off year in 2009-10, Boobie looked great at the beginning of the season. Not only was he making his threes, but the lightbulb actually seemed to come on for him as a playmaker and he wasn’t horrible when he put the ball on the floor — unsurprisingly, Boobie crushed his career-highs in both FTAs and assists per game last season. On top of that, Gibson has always been a much better defensive player than Mo Williams, and the gap between him, Williams, and Sessions defensively was fairly easy to notice. Boobie, who was once a pure three-point specialist, was all of a sudden looking like a very poor man’s Chauncey Billups.

Then Boobie got hurt (and, like Anthony Parker, wasn’t rescued by a contender at the trade deadline), and his numbers fell off a cliff. Such is life in the NBA.

Boobie, like Ramon Sessions, puts the Cavs in something of a bind. If he can re-gain his early-season form, he’d be the perfect point guard or backup point for a team that doesn’t really revolve around its point guard. The Cavs’ two best players are point guards, Boobie’s contract is too big to get a good asset in return for him, and Boobie is too good to simply dump for the sake of dumping. It doesn’t look like Boobie will still be with the team when his contract runs out, but I have no real idea how the Cavs are going to manage to move him. If nothing else, Boobie, thanks for the memories. Oh, and feel free to discuss whether or not Boobie should have gotten a lot of Mo Williams’ minutes in the 2008-09 or 2009-10 playoffs.

2010-11 Grade: C Plus

Outlook for next season: Try to trade him, but to who?

Giving out grades: Anthony Parker

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Once upon a time, Anthony Parker was, as I understand, perhaps the best player in the history of Israeli basketball. He was like Kobe Bryant — he could shoot from anywhere, make plays when he needed to, and fill up the scoreboard while demoralizing his opponents.

When Parker returned to North America with the Raptors, he was a prototypical “3-and-D” player — he played great man-to-man defense and knocked down open threes on offense, particularly from the corners, which Toronto fans began referring to as “Parkerville.”

In 2009-10, AP was brought in to be a role player next to LeBron, and he did a decent enough job, although he could never defend or put pressure on defenses the way a 100% Delonte did in 2008-09.

In 2009-10, AP was in a situation he wasn’t supposed to be in, and he knew it. Parker’s defense is still decent, but it’s anything but game-changing, and he wasn’t able to save the Cavs’ abysmal defense. The Cavs didn’t have enough quality playmakers to open him up for threes, which meant he had to try and find his “Michael Jordan of Isreal” form, and the results weren’t pretty. You could see flashes of the player he used to be — the smooth jumpers off of pin-downs, the surprisingly good playmaking, the smooth footwork on offense. However, at 36, AP showed that he isn’t a starting-quality two-guard anymore, and would be a fringe rotation player at best on a contender. By the way, Anthony Parker played the 3rd-most minutes of any Cavalier last season.

Early in the season, Parker made his threes, but was way outmatched whenever he stepped inside the arc. Parker’s best moments of the season came in February, which could be described as a “please, for the love of all that is holy, trade me to a decent team for one more shot at a ring” stretch of basketball. In February, Parker averaged a season-high 11.7 points per game on 50% shooting from the field and 47.4% from beyond the arc, and the Bulls were starting Keith Bogans at shooting guard. Ultimately, though, nobody had any real interest in AP, and that seemed to take a lot of the wind out of his sails.

In March, Parker averaged 7.5 points on 39% shooting overall and 35% from beyond the arc, with the only real bright spot being a 20 point-performance against the Heat that AP recorded while only taking nine shots. I think motivation was an issue for Parker last season.

Parker won’t be back for the 2011-12 season — the Cavs have Casspi wearing chai next season, and the backcourt that finishes games will be Irving/Baron anyways. Hopefully Parker finds a contender that can find a use for him as a 7th-9th option next season, because he can still contribute with his shot and his smarts and he deserves some more NBA success before he calls it a career.

2010-11 Grade: C minus

Outlook for 2011-12: He’s gone.

Giving out grades: Ramon Sessions

Monday, July 11th, 2011

It was an up-and-down year for Razor Ramon and me. I was extremely excited about the Sessions trade when it happened, mostly because I believed that Sessions, once freed from the triangle, would go back to being the pure point he was in Milwaukee and be the best Cavalier pure point since Andre Miller.

Things didn’t turn out that way. As Mo Williams had his ups and downs trying to become a playmaker, Razor Ramon was apparently told or believed that his role was to provide instant scoring off the bench. Since Ramon can’t really shoot from the outside, that led to a lot of reckless drives to the rim that ended in hopeless floaters or turnovers.

Still, every now and again, Ramon would have it click, and the Cavs offense never looked better in the first half of the season than it did when Ramon was running the show. He’d penetrate relentlessly, he’d open up passing lanes for his teammates, and he’d actually get a drive-and-kick offense going. Still, those games were few and far between, and when the Cavs were having their historically terrible stretch, Ramon seemed to be content to be the lord of garbage time.

However, when Mo got injured and Ramon took over the starting spot, it REALLY started to click for him. He actually started making his jumper often enough to keep the defense honest, his drives to the rim had purpose, and he even looked like a true point guard and made good decisions when the defense collapsed on him. In February, Ramon averaged 20 points and 8.8 assists per game on 56.3% shooting from the field. That’s one heck of a month from a point guard.

When Baron took the starting spot, Ramon had some growing pains, but he seemed to figure it out near the end of the year, and he averaged 17.6 points on 53.3% shooting over the last month of the season.

The good news is that if Ramon can play like he did in February and April next season, he’s the perfect guy to lead a second unit. Then there’s the bad news, and there’s a lot of it.

First of all, there’s the matter of Ramon’s defense. One of my theories is that a point guard can’t hurt a team that badly defensively in today’s NBA, because nobody can stop point guards off the dribble anyways with the new rules, but Ramon made me question that belief. According to every advanced metric, Ramon was absolutely atrocious on defense. That’s something you can survive from a backup point guard, especially if Byron Scott can get through to him and teach him to guide his man towards the help, but it’s certainly not a good thing.

Also, there’s the matter of Baron Davis and Kyrie Irving. Sessions has a player option for the 2012/13 season, as does Baron. Baron is a better point guard than Sessions — even if Baron doesn’t continue to make threes like he did as a Cav, he’s a noticeably better pure point than Ramon, and everything simply flowed better when Baron was on the floor. And Kyrie isn’t going anywhere for a long, long time.

So here’s the paradox: Ramon is too good to trade him for the sake of trading him, the Cavs have no real need for him, and he’s not good enough to get any significant assets back in a trade. I’d like to see the Cavs play things conservative with Ramon on the block — Baron can’t be trusted to stay healthy for 82 games, and Kyrie is just a rookie. At $4 million a season, Ramon is a bit expensive for a default option, but it’s not like he’s killing the cap or anything.

Sessions is still only 25, and I’d like to see him be the team’s backup for Kyrie in the long-term after Baron’s contract runs out. Still, two years is a long time to keep a player on ice, and I’m realistic — there’s not much chance Ramon stays a Cav for the rest of his contract. For what it’s worth, Razor Ramon, we certainly had some good times together.

2010-11 Grade: B minus

Dump Him/Trade Him/Would Like To Keep/Would Love to Keep/Untouchable: Would like to keep

Player Grades/Report: J.J. Hickson

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

(Note on Player Grades: They are going to be low across the board. This is not because I am a mean person. This is because the team won 19 games, with most of those wins coming at the beginning and end of the season. The team appeared to have something of a mini-renaissance at the end of the year, but this is only because they literally managed to set expectations to zero during the middle of the season. This was an awful season, and it was an awful season because the players did not play well. There are very few ways around this. The grades will be done on a curve according to each player’s role on the team, but no grading curve is steep enough to reward the kinds of efforts we saw this season.)

Our first report of the season is for J.J. Hickson, who led the team in minutes this season. After the whole thing with LeBron happened, the New Cavaliers were supposed to be built around two things: youth and athleticism. Hickson, who barely played in the 2010 Conference Semifinals, has both in spades, and immediately became one of the team’s building blocks. With Zydrunas Ilgauskas gone, a new coach preaching uptempo offense, and a brand-new jumper, Hickson seemed poised for a breakout season. When Hickson scored 21 points in the season opener and 31 points in the third game of the season, things looked pretty darn good.

Unfortunately, Hickson didn’t have another 20-point game in 2010. Hickson’s jump shot vanished just as quickly as it appeared, and without it, Hickson was forced to force things on offense. Things went poorly. In the month the Cavs forgot to win a game, Hickson barely shot over 40% from the floor, and the last three months of the season were the only ones that Hickson shot better than 45% in.

Late in the season, Hickson started to click with Ramon Sessions and Baron Davis, and the results came. Hickson looked much more confident offensively, and ended the season on a tear, averaging 19.5 points per game on 52% shooting in the month of April.

While Hickson showed some serious flashes over the course of the season, he still wasn’t a consistent offensive option, and his defense was just as much of a liability as it ever was. This wasn’t a new version of Hickson — it was the same guy with an infinitely longer leash.

2010-11 Grade: C+

What Hickson Does Well:

Hickson excels in two areas. The first is scoring at the rim, especially off of assists. He can jump, he can get off the floor quickly, he has decent touch around the basket area, and he covers ground extremely quickly. He’s slowly getting more comfortable with his left hand around the rim and incorporating some counter-moves, but most of his success comes from finding seams, attacking them, getting off the ground, and putting the ball in the basket. He’s at his best when he can move without the ball, catch, and dunk, but he’s also pretty good at getting the ball in the 12-15 foot area, taking one or two big dribbles, and attacking a late-rotating defense.

Hickson led the team with 3.3 made baskets at the rim per game, and 64% of those baskets were assisted. With Baron Davis replacing Mo Williams full-time next season, Hickson should get more assisted opportunities than he did last year, and that’s a big deal. Hickson will likely continue to try and incorporate more of a post-up and perimeter game next season, but he’s always going to be at his best when he can just catch and dunk, and that requires a good passer.

Hickson also had a really good rebounding year. While I wouldn’t call him a dominant force on the glass, he did average over 10 rebounds per game throughout 2011 (calendar year), and he finished 9th among power forwards in rebounding rate. While some of those numbers are probably inflated because of the rebounders around Hickson (they sucked), Hickson’s rebounding was very solid for a good part of the year.

What Hickson Does Poorly:

Literally everything not mentioned above. Hickson’s defense was an issue when he was starting next to Anderson Varejao. When he was forced to start next to Antawn Jamison and had to try and make up for Jamison’s mistakes, he had no chance. He doesn’t rotate quickly enough, he doesn’t really block shots or take charges, he doesn’t defend the post very well, and he never quite looks engaged defensively. So there are some problems there.

Hickson’s offensive game has some problems as well — it lacks refinement in a major way. Just over half of Hickson’s shots came from inside the restricted area last season, and he made 59% of those shots. When Hickson ventured away from the immediate basket area, things didn’t go so well for him — he shot 36% from the non-restricted areas of the paint, 30% from midrange, and didn’t make a three. Those are not favorable numbers. Hickson’s jump shot was just good enough for him to shoot it when he should not have, and his post game is still far too dependent on low-percentage fadeaway shots instead of good positioning and footwork. Even though Hickson put up some nice numbers near the end of the year and had games where he looked unstoppable, he’s still a work in progress on offense.

Outlook: If the Cavs were capable of going into win-n0w mode next season, they’d have to make some decisions about Hickson’s spot in the starting lineup. Fortunately for Hickson, they have no choice but to try and build around their youngsters. Hickson is far too talented to give up on, but he’s also far to raw to have complete faith in, especially on defense.

There’s a chance that Hickson will hit his ceiling and become one of the best power forwards in the league. As of now, however, he’s an undersized center offensively, a lackluster power forward defensively, and probably best suited for a bench role on a good team. I don’t know if Hickson will make the big leap next season, but I do know he’ll be given more than enough chances to make it.