Every two weeks I’ll give a little recap of what our youngsters are up to, how they looked, and what to expect.
Much has changed since I last wrote about our young heroes. Since Monday the 9th the Cavs have gone 2-5, including two abysmally bad loses, and the team as a whole has looked very, very off. We’ve seen some half decent efforts (Thompson’s last game, against Atlanta) and some terrible ones (TT’s game the day before, against the Bulls)
The point is, it’s been a rough two weeks. Much of that is related to the shooting woes of Sessions and Gibson, and the on and off play of Jamison, but I think our two rookies had quite a bit to do with it – lets take a deeper look:
My honeymoon period with Thompson is over; I can tell you that with certainty. I still like his game and think he can be good in the future, but I’m no longer the naive, starry-eyed boy I once was with him. Thompson’s power and athletiscism is great – it’s fun and exciting to watch and yields one or two WOW! plays a game. But beyond the entertainment factor, there’s not a whole lot to love. He constantly looks confused on defense, and relies purely on his athleticism to stop his man, which pretty much killed him against the Bulls, who have big guys who know how to move in the post. While his D rebounding has gone up to around 3 a game (which is about a half a rebound better) I really don’t think they’re pure skill rebounds – he’s not great at boxing out and it almost looks like he has to struggle to get himself into D rebounding position at times. His defensive rebound rate is 19.6 which isn’t wretched, but isn’t high enough for a guy who doesn’t do much more than that (and block shots) on D – it puts him at about 80th in the league. Obviously, as our mantra goes, he’s young and he’ll learn, but 15 games in, we’ve seen little growth on the defensive side. On a bright note, though, he’s still a blocking machine, and it couldn’t be more fun to watch him leap up and swat a ball.
What really concerns me, though, is his offense. While he’s still great at doing what he’s always done (facing the basket and throwing it down with authority) he hasn’t really shown much improvement in the post, which is critically important, particularly for a guy his size who won’t be able to use pure power against the Dwight Howards and Andrew Bynums of the NBA. At the rim, TT is shooting a good 57% (especially for a guy who spends most of his time in the paint), but at just 3-9 feet away, his numbers drop to 38.2%, meaning our guy has a lot of learning to do even just a few feet away from the hoop.
I do think Thompson has a ton of upside (I’m still excited!!!) but the few game grace period is over – it’s time to start nitpicking and looking for improvement.
Now here’s where I’m really concerned. Kyrie’s D has looked pretty stinking bad recently. He got torched regularly by Watson in the Bulls game, and was equally inept against the likes of Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin. It’s not that he’s playing the worst D in the league or anything, but considering the high expectations we had for him, and even giving him a little leeway because he’s a rookie, to say his defense has been a disappointment up to this point is an understatement. Consider this: according to Basketball Reference, Kyrie’s offensive rating, the amount of points his team would score with him on the floor given 100 possessions, vs his defensive rating, the number of points the other team would score with him on the floor given 100 possessions, is 106 to 107, meaning his team is being outscore while he plays. And considering the amount of offense Kyrie has been producing, that’s pretty startling. There are times where he flashes some great speed chasing someone down the court, or making a nice cut off move to the basket, but he’s regularly struggled off the pick and roll, and his lateral movement doesn’t seem to be where it should considering his scouting report. Hopefully this is rookie malaise, but it’s definitely something to keep a close eye on as the season progresses.
On offense, Kyrie is still his stellar shooting self. I won’t harp on the numbers too much, but he’s averaging a nice 17.4% shooting at 50% in under 30 minutes. That’s amazing efficient scoring (his true shooting % is about 6 points above league average too, which is nice.) That being said, it’s not all fantastic on offense. Quite frankly, Kyrie has had some serious issues passing the ball. His turnover numbers are terrible – almost four a game at under 30 minutes – and his turnover % is 19.4 which puts him farther down the list than I was hoping, considering how highly regarded his passing skills and decision making were. I’m not sure if it’s the pace of the game that’s causing him to make mistakes (the Cavs play the 6th fastest in the NBA, with 93.5 possessions per game) or if he’s just trying to do too much. Whatever the case, lets hope he can cutdown the turnovers and raise his assists average.
I’ve been harsh, I know, but it’s really not all bad. We have two young players, one who has definite star potential and another whose natural born athletic abilities could make even the most pessimistic smile, and our future looks bright. As long as they improve, I see very good things coming!
Hopefully in two weeks I’ll get to talk about Mychal Thompson.
Until then, enjoy the Cavs!