Archive for July, 2009

Wednesday night notes and errata

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Just general notes and errata for today:

Again, it is with heavy hearts that I go on with this blog. I shall recover, but the waiving of Tarence Kinsey has hit Cavs: The Blog hard.

Schedule came out today: Celtics for the season opener, and Lakers on Christmas Day. It’s a coincidence, like how Santa gives rich kids more presents.

Shaq has challenged David Beckham, presumably at something other than which one is more overpaid. Can we please keep Beckham from ever being relevant in America ever again? I don’t like when soccer tries to sneak into my country by using pop stars and heart-warming independent films with Keira Knightley in them. And, in all honesty, it’s not really a contest of who’s more overpaid between Beckham and Shaq. Bernie Madoff deserves his money more than Beckham deserves what the Galaxy paid him. For any NBA star thinking of going to Greece when the 2011 labor dispute hits, look at Beckham and feel the fear of God.

Two ultra-ultra quick thoughts on the trades:

I can’t believe Nellie let go of Marco Belinelli. He can really, really really shoot the ball. It sounds massively hyperbolic, but he’s one of the better “pure” shooters in the game today: whichever way he’s moving when he goes to shoot, he squares his shoulders and tucks his elbow like you’re supposed to.  .502 eFG% on jumpers with only 63% of them being assisted is impressive. He’ll replace a lot of what they lost when we got AP.

When they were drafted, wasn’t Emeka supposed to be a dominant defender and Ty Chandler supposed to mature into an unstoppable offensive force? Now they’re being traded as very good role players, with Emeka a stronger offensive player while Chandler is mainly a defensive guy. Law of unintended consequences.

Profiles In Profiling, Part 3: Darnell Jackson

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

I’ll keep my thoughts on D-Block fairly short, partly because he’s a fairly straightforward guy and partly because the last time I did a player profile, I got excited, wrote a gushing manifesto, and Tarence Kinsey promptly buried most of Las Vegas under a giant pile of Fail. (You can go with the 0 assists in 100 minutes, <40% FG shooting, or the unsolicited call from a friend of mine who bought the summer league package just to tell me how much Tarence Kinsey sucks, but it’s fairly safe to say Tarence did not set Las Vegas on fire.)

UPDATE: Kinsey was, in fact, waived this morning. Wow. Most team bloggers can make it at least to August before they make themselves look like an idiot, but alas.

I will maintain to my dying day that he was a special role player for a few games when he was out there surrounded by talent and able to concentrate on doing the little things. For  the off-ball cuts, the running of the floor, the rebounds, and giving us hope that there was an option other than watching Boobie Gibson clank threes all game on our bench, we shall remember ye, Tarence. And by “we,” I mean me.

But now, with heavy hearts, we move on. For Darnell Jackson, the thing is this: Role Players are great. They rebound, they play defense, they don’t need shots, they perform when asked to, they know where to be. Watching a great role player, like a Shane Battier, Lineas Kleiza, or Antonio McDyess, do his thing can be almost as fun as watching a superstar. Also, guys with a lot of potential are fun to watch. They make mistakes, they settle for too many bad shots, their footwork is sloppy, and they miss rotations, but they do things that make you believe you’re watching a special player in the developmental stages.

Darnell Jackson, however, is a guy with the potential to become a very good role player. That’s not too much fun.

One thing I never get around draft time is how accepted it is to call under-athletic players with solid games and good college production “safe” picks, while athletic guys who haven’t figured their game out are “risky.” If a guy with great athleticism can’t do the things he was able to do in college in the NBA, he can always find a way to adapt his athleticism and find a way to make himself effective-Josh Smith would be an example of this. But if the main thing a guy has going for him is that he’s overcome his lack of athleticism by calibrating his game perfectly to impose what skills he does have on the game, isn’t he pretty much S.O.L if those same strategies and tricks don’t work at the NBA level? Just one of those things. If Tyler Hansborough isn’t able to get to the line in the NBA, good luck fitting him into your rotation. But I digress.

On paper, Darnell Jackson should make an excellent role player, and at the end of the year did string some nice performances together and made his way onto the very end of the rotation. Darnell fits the Milsapian prototype of guys who turn into NBA rebounding machines-slightly undersized, low center of gravity, wide shoulders, zero flash, and an excellent college rebounding pedigree. But last season, his rebounding rate was an extremely pedestrian 12.0, and his 5.4 RPG in summer league isn’t thrilling either.

Defensively, Jackson is nearly immovable, has long arms, reasonably quick(although by no means fleet) feet, grit, and an NCAA championship pedigree. But in the NBA, he often looks simply lost on his rotations, and regularly gets beat one-on-one. Garbage minutes tweak +/- numbers quite a bit, but the Cavs were 14.4 points worse defensively per 100 possessions when Jackson was on the floor. That’s horrifyingly bad.

Darnell is tough inside, gets to the line a lot, and does throw down a full 10% of his shot attempts, but when he can’t get the dunk he struggles to finish inside, only converting 48% of his “close” shots while getting a full quarter of them blocked.

Jackson also has good form and great confidence in his 18-foot jumper, which would make him invaluable on the Cavs, as it would allow him to be paired with the shooting-adverse Shaq and Anderson Varejao. The only thing about Darnell’s jumper is that he rarely makes it: he’s a 34% shooter on jump shots, which would be the 3rd-worst mark on 2-point jumpers in the league if he qualified. In fact, Varejao, at 34.3%, performed exactly as well on jumpers as Jackson did.

So there you go. Jackson was never supposed to be a star or even a starter, and if he can find a way to be the type of player he was in college he’ll fill a lot of holes. With Joe Smith gone, apparently for good this time, and very little depth at the floor, it’s fairly clear that the Cavs would love to see Jackson blossom as a rotation player, especially since he’s a Mike Brown type of player. But as it stands now, coming off a dismal performance in his limited minutes last year and a summer league where he couldn’t crack 40%, Darnell Jackson still has a long way to go to fill the potential he showed as a “safe” pick.

Shaqenfreude, Pt. 1: Shaq Hosts Monday Night RAW

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Welcome to Shaqenfreude, where we attempt to deal with our new superstar’s penchant for extracurricular activities. (The term has been coined before-I’m sure lots of people could lay claim to it, but McHale’s place was the first place I saw it, so I’m giving him the HT. Also, he makes up a lot of words. )

We begin with Shaq’s special guest hosting appearance on Monday Night RAW, which may actually have broken my brain. To be clear, I was watching because of the potential team-related business, not at all because I loved wrestling when I was 10 and still watch sometimes. Generally speaking, what I do with these sort of happenings is try to distill some sort of larger meaning that relates to the player, the team, or anything. That was not the case tonight. Tonight was all about sitting back and letting the crazy wash over you, like you’re dealing with a pack of separatist wolverines with a firehose. Here’s what transpired:

-Before the show,  Dan Steinberg Tweets “Shaq just saw John Cena and did the hand waggle. Also, he said he didn’t know the Wizards and Cavs are rivals.” The most bizarre part of that to me is that Steinberg and Mike Wise somehow got WWE credentials from the Washington Post. This is why Politico is kicking your asses, guys. That said, SummerSlam is at Staples in 4 weeks and I want creds. Badly.

-By the way, is this an opportunity for me to put my much-studied “History of The Hand Wave and Its Meanings” on Cavs: The Blog? I think it is!

In what I believe to be chronological order:

Tim Thomas: “I can make a long shot in a variety of adverse conditions: it does not matter to me whether or not there’s a hand in my face. Actually, shockingly few things matter to me when it comes to basketball.”

John Cena: “I have theoretically put you in a state of temporary incapacitation so severe you actually cannot see me right now. If you think about it, the very nature of my taunt means that you cannot see me doing it. Now I shall pretend to punch you in the face.”

Tony Yayo:  “I am currently unable to feel my face, quite possibly due to the fact I am high on cocaine. Normally, this news would be disconcerting or cause for outright panic, but in my current state I find it something that should be shared with all as cause for fascination and outright celebration. As was previously mentioned, I am currently high on cocaine.”

DeShawn Stevenson: “I have just made a long-distance basket. At this moment, I feel as though my proficiency at making long-distance baskets has taken over my nervous system and put me into a ‘zone’ of temporary semi-consciousness. I find this feeling analogous to that of being high on cocaine. Also, please look at me.”

Damon Jones in the 2008 playoffs: “I will do anything to remain relevant. I will sit on the bench in a chicken suit. Please, please remember me.”

-Shaq comes out to start the show and stands in the center of the ring, talking about the matches for that night. The plan is for 5 different wrestlers to have a match with different opponents, and the one who wins in the fastest time will get a title shot. In other words, this is the most boring RAW ever devised. At this point, I was just hoping that Shaq wouldn’t end up getting the title shot.

-Wait, this RAW is in the Verizon Center in DC? A prominent Cav? Whose idea was this? This is uncomfortable and weird.

-Shaq comes out and says “My new teammate LeBron James says hi.” Hearty boos. So the elephant in the room has been discussed, I suppose.

-Chris Jericho, who at this point of his career has a “I am way, way too smart to still be a professional wrestler, but I’m just going to roll with it,” thing going, comes out in a blazer and starts telling Shaq that Shaq should respect him. Shaq responds by calling Jericho “Christina.” Max money, the Cavs are paying.

-Chris Jericho has “The Big Show,” who’s Shaq’s height but somehow has like 150 pounds on him, come out and get into a stare-down with Shaq. I must say, at this point I was happy about how in-shape Shaq looks.

-Shaq challenges Big Show to a fight. Big Show backs out, saying that he’d hurt Shaq but doesn’t want to have to deal with the wraith of David Stern and his lawyers. The crowd boos like they’re supposed to, but I’m actually surprised that didn’t go over better in an arena full of Wizards fans. (I kid, I kid.)

-To my surprise, Shaq actually won’t be wrestling tonight. Instead, Jericho and Big Show are going to fight “Crime Time,” who seem to be a WWE version of street thugs, which is exactly as embarassing as you’d think it would be.

-Shaq’s 2nd promo of the night: None of the following is exaggerated. Shaq is in a room with a mini-hoop, then starts joking with a mute midget dressed like a Leprechaun named Hornswoggle, saying they “went to high school together.” He offers Hornswoggle something called “Enlyte Energy Strips,” gives him a mini-ball and tells him to dunk on the mini-hoop, saying “‘come on, Nate Robinson.” Hornswoggle declines the energy strips, runs around the room, and gets rim-stuffed by the Nerf hoop. Shaq puts the energy strips on Hornswoggle’s chest. Someone says “That was Shaqalicious.” All of that actually happened.

-After the commerical, Hornswoggle wins a match against Eddie Guerrero’s son, who is wearing a blindfold.

-In the 3rd Shaq promo, he does this exact commercial with an Italian stereotype character, then begins to rap with Crime Time and the Italian stereotype.

-In the co-main event, “The Miz,” who used to be on the real world but is now a professional wrestler, is set to face John Cena, whom I’ve met. Miz is apparently from Cleveland, and gives the Washington crowd crap about loving the Cavaliers, to hearty booing. Miz then does nothing for 4 minutes before getting tapped out by Cena, who maybe performed like 3 moves in the match.

-As for Shaq’s actual match, he stayed outside the ring and did nothing, and the match went exactly the same as every tag match in the history of wrestling. Jericho and Big Show got disqualified, then after the match Shaq and big show put each other in fake one-handed choke holds. After about 10 seconds, Crime Time helped Shaq kick the Big Show out of the ring. That was the end of the show.

Like I said, I have no possible clue how to make sense of any of this. Once we get onto the second extended bit involving a midget, I’m generally out of reliable analysis. This is one of our stars, and he’s going to play a big part in the championship run. This is part of the deal. Just try and embrace the crazy.

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Why Shaq Shouldn’t Start

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

(HT on Pic: AV Club)

Since the Shaq trade occurred, I’ve alluded to the fact I don’t think he should start a few times. Due to breaking moves around the league and my responsibilties as a citizen to the American Justice system, I haven’t had the time to fully spell out all the reasons why I believe Shaq would serve the team better off the bench.

Well, now I do. So here, in no particular order, are my reasons why Shaq should come off the bench for this team after coming off the bench 9 times in the first 1,117 games of his career.

To Be Clear:

This has nothing to do with how good I think Shaq is. If he has the year he had last year this year, it would be the best statistical season of anyone alongside LeBron James. In a vacuum, Shaq represents a massive upgrade over anyone on our frontline. This isn’t a question of whether we should get Shaq, or whether he should get big minutes. We have him, and he’s going to get big minutes, as well he should. This is all about how those minutes should be allocated.

Anderson Varejao Should Definitely Start For This Team, and Shaq Can’t Play With Varejao.

For almost his entire career, Anderson Varejao has been characterized as an “energy guy.” Since energy guys generally come off the bench, the Cavs fell into the trap of thinking that Andy was better suited as a 6th man, even though he was playing in crunch time and was clearly the best 4 on the team for several years.

Fortunately, the Cavs had enough depth at the four in previous years to get away with bringing a starter off the bench. The eminently serviceable Drew Gooden was the “show” starter for a few years, and last year the Cavs had the good fortune of a revival year from Ben Wallace, who actually played fantastically in the starting lineup doing many of the same things as Anderson. (He actually was having a quietly great year until a broken tibia stopped him.)

But once Anderson got into the starting lineup, it was clear that he belongs there long-term, and he was rewarded with starter money this off-season. Andy’s different from most “energy” players because of how well he understands his limitations and plays with intelligence as well as energy. It’s his rotations and hard shows that form the backbone of Mike Brown’s defense, which is absolutely something that has to be established by the starters. He’s also great offensively in the starting lineup; when he’s out there with 4 players as skilled as LeBron, Mo, Delonte, and Z, all of whom are good passers and shooters, he’s free to do what he does extremely well offensively; move without the ball to get layup opportunities and convert inside.

Off the bench, Anderson’s defensive prowess would be wasted on weaker offensive units, and he’s only as good offensively as the players around him.

And if Anderson and Shaq are out there at the same time, the fact that neither of them can stretch the floor at all is a recipe for disaster offensively. Andy’s a 35% jump shooter, and with his slow, awkward release he doesn’t project to get much better as a shooter. And Shaq is Shaq. Andy will hit that jumper every now and again, and some ball movement could make things passable, but smart defenses are going to be able to dare the Cavs to beat them with an Andy jumper. Over time, that’s a losing proposition.

If Anderson doesn’t start, there isn’t another starting-quality power forward currently on the roster.

JJ Hickson has tons of potential, but is still unproven and coming off a major injury. Ben Wallace is gone. Joe Smith is gone. Darnell Jackson and Jawad Williams don’t have what it takes. The backup 4 situation looks like it’s going to get solved with a lot of small-ball, but…

You can’t start with small-ball.

Small-ball during games, with LeBron and/or Jemario Moon guarding a 4 they feel comfortable marking? Great. When you dictate the move, it works beautifully. But when you let opposing coaches game-plan to beat up Moon (who hasn’t played significant time at the 4 before) or James (who can’t pick up fouls) by ISOing big 4s against them to start off, you can have serious problems.

Z is perfectly suited to start alongside Bron and Andy.

(By the way: Z hasn’t come off the bench since the 01-02 season)

Just as Andy is one of the few power forwards who is quick enough to defend on the perimeter and rotate back defensively while being an excellent finisher inside offensively, Z is unique in that his skills are guarding the rim defensively and stretching the floor offensively. Z has soft hands and can catch and finish inside, and is a surprisingly good playmaker working out of the high post, but his real offensive strength is that he can stretch the floor at the center position and doesn’t do dumb things with the ball, which is extremely rare from a player who defends the rim.

Z is also a guy who benefits tremendously from playing with LeBron; Z has no post game whatsoever, and once he catches the ball he’s not much of an improvisor-he’s gotta play with people that know how to find him when he’s open, and people that can get him open. Like Andy, Z is a guy with a impressive but limited skill-set that’s best utilized in the current Cavalier starting lineup.

Start With Defense, Finish With Offense.

At the beginning of a game, teams are looking to establish their offensive balance-lots of movement, everyone getting involved, looking to implement their will, tempo and tone to start the game off. It’s important to start off with a solid defensive unit that goes 5 deep and doesn’t give up easy looks or mismatches. As Anderson is the Cavs’ most consistent team defender, the starting lineup is suited for him.

In crunch-time, it’s going to be the other team’s money player going pick-and-roll or ISO. You can afford a mismatch, because no coach is going to risk taking a key possession out of his best player’s hands. In crunch-time, Cleveland can go with Shaq, LeBron, and 3 shooters to stretch the floor, because Jemario isn’t going to get posted up by Michael Beasley-the ball’s going to be in Wade’s hands anyways.

Shaq will do absolute wonders for the 2nd Unit offensively.

Basic rule: you always want to have a player who commands the attention of multiple defenders on the floor. If you don’t have that, it’s hard to get anything sort of run going offensively. Common sense.

Mo Williams, for all his gifts, is not a guy who can consistently get into the paint and collapse defenses, and neither is Delonte West. They’re guys who do much better work out of catch-and-shoot situations or penetrating against a defense already in react mode-when asked to create a play themselves, most of the time you get a pull-up midrange jumper. Last year, the 2nd unit was ugly, and let defenses play everyone straight-up without ever having to go into react mode-if the jumpers weren’t falling, there was going to be an offensive lull.

Shaq can put defenses into react mode. If you try to single-cover Shaq in the post, you’re going to get beat. You’ve got to bring a second defender, and that’s when the floor can get unbalanced and Mo, Delonte, and everyone else can really go to work. He’s someone you can reliably go to to end an offensive drought, which is absolutely massive for the second unit. The gap from 0 playmakers to 1 playmaker is a lot bigger than the gap from 1 playmaker to 2.

You want as much consistency as possible in the starting lineup.

I think 65-70 games is a realistic expectation for Shaq this year, especially since the regular season will be de-emphasized somewhat. Changing the starting dynamic every couple of games can get guys out of their routines and rhythms, which can lead to flat-footed starts. Injuries will happen, but you want to keep the starting lineup a constant as much as possible.

Forget the status quo.

Admit it. A lot of the reason this sounds crazy is because you can’t imagine Shaq passing up the big intro every night. The lights off, the mic down, the PA announcer growling “Annnnd at Center…From L.S.U….Number Thirty-Three…Cleveland, WEL-COME…” The roof falls off the place. The first 5 minutes feels like a Roman Exhibition.

But who really cares? First of all, the Second Coming wouldn’t get the ovations that “From St. Vincent-St. Marys…In Akron, Ohio…” gets on a nightly basis. Second, who on this team, or any team, deserves the big ovation more than Z? Third, wouldn’t the love Shaq gets when he enters off the bench get everyone pretty pumped up?

But most importantly, isn’t this the way for Shaq to quiet the backlash that’s come his way? After years of winning the Kobe-Shaq divorce, all of a sudden Kobe’s got a parade and looks like he just might be a team player after all. Meanwhile, Shaq’s gotten bounced in the 1st round, missed the playoffs, and looked increasingly like the real egomaniac of the pair. Shaq wants to prove that he’s team-first once and for all and not The Brand of Shaq first? What better way to do it than this?

I’ve even got a nickname picked out- The Macrowave.  So that’s why I think Shaq shouldn’t start. Lemme know what you guys think.

Trials, Dunks, And The Devil’s Weed

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Best LeBron Harmless

(Picture originated by me, developed with input from Kevin Arnovitz and .jpg work by Kyle Weidie of sincere thanks to them both, obviously.)

So, first off, the trial is over and a verdict has been delivered, so I should start to put together some decent posts fairly soon.

With that said, let’s get some stuff out of the way:

The Dunk Video has been unveiled. One of my great failings, and I say this honestly, as a Cavs blogger is that I just find it pretty hard to take this kind of stuff seriously. I’m sorry, I just find the whole thing kinda funny. But inasmuch as it’s possible to draw conclusions from something like this, here’s what I have:

-This thing, like a lot of things with Kobe and LeBron, is a Rorschach blot. If you hate LeBron, then he’s showing his true prideful nature by whining and having the tape pulled because his ego can’t handle it. If you’re a LeBron guy, this is a nothing incident that’s been blown way out of proportion by people that hate LeBron, and the dunk wasn’t even all that bad to begin with. Hell, one could say that LeBron being so crazy about this shows that LeBron has the kind of intense, borderline sociopathic competitive streak that Jordan was so renowned for. They still tell stories about how Jordan played in every fantasy camp.

Also, it’s obvious and it has been said before, but the coverup here is far worse than the crime. If nobody had said anything, there is no way that video ever becomes news. It’s not all that impressive, and you wouldn’t know it’s LeBron unless someone told you. Unless Jordan Crawford is on the cutting edge of viral marketing strategies, this thing would have gone away instantly if nobody had made a stink. Just another lesson in how turning the other cheek is pretty much always the way to go.

Then, of course, there’s this. I mean, come on now. The president has admitted to past cocaine use to zero fanfare, and we’re going to make a big deal out of an admission that he smoked pot years ago when he was in high school? Please. I love how the meat of the article deals with how LeBron felt like the media and the fame was tough to deal with and he felt like he had a target on his back, then the AP headline is LEBRON TOTES HIT THE WEED! Clearly, he didn’t screw his life or health up all that badly. But to be clear, kids reading: LeBron’s not good at basketball because he smoked weed. This is ridiculous, and this blog is going to treat it as such.

UPDATE: Poster “MYoung23″ at points out that LeBron actually admitted to marijuana use before he was drafted in a NEXT Interview with ESPN the Magazine in December 2002:

“People ask me if it’s a hard decision going to the NBA, but I’ve made harder decisions,” he says. “Decisions about smoking or going to school, or stealing from a store or not stealing. Those are harder decisions. Yeah, I smoked weed. When it’s around family, around friends, of course you want to try it. I tried it a couple of times. But when you get on the court and your wind ain’t there, that’s when you’ve got to just stop doing it. So the NBA decision ain’t a hard decision compared to that.”

MVP Motifake

And maybe this, too:

Chalk 1

One Small Step Towards A Championship

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Alright, this one I was not really expecting. The Cavs have signed Jamario Moon to an offer sheet, and if the Heat don’t match he’ll be a Cavalier. According to Stein, the deal appears to be for two years, although that won’t be official until tomorrow when the details are announced. The Heat, due to their pursuits of Carlos Boozer and Lamar Odom, as well as their desire for cap flexibility in the Summer Of Doom, do not appear likely to match. This one kinda came out of nowhere, so let’s see what we think.

Point #1: This was Another Low-Risk Danny Ferry Special.

1. This is the kind of move that’s become Danny Ferry’s MO since he took the team over. Not to get too cute, but remember how Moneyball made a big point about how Billy Beane’s experiences as a player informed his process as a GM? Basically, Beane was a hyper-athletic prospect with some of the best pure “tools” any scout had ever seen, but flopped horribly in the pros. So as a GM, Beane looks to sign and draft players based on their prior performance, pedigree, and approach, and has zero faith in “tools” when he looks at players-he doesn’t want to end up drafting Billy Beane. Basically, the knowledge Beane gained from his own rough experiences now constitutes a large part of what makes him successful.

Since Danny Ferry took over, he’s built around LeBron by emphasizing the following:

-short-term deals that don’t jeapordize financial flexibility

-only making trades when he isn’t forced to include any valuable assets

-trusting veterans over young players

-being tight-fisted in every negotiation and making sure he doesn’t cave to player demands unless that player has shown that he’s a core piece

In other words, Ferry’s moves seem to be based on a philosiphy that actively strives for the opposite of giving a rookie a 10-year guaranteed contract. The lessons Ferry learned being a grinder in the league instead of a superstar were tough, but might be the ones that ultimately guide him to building a championship team.

Meanwhile, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird, and Kevin McHale have all failed with teams that prominently featured Stephon Marbury (a high-usage, low-efficiency, dual-threat PG), Peja Stojakovic/Mike Dunleavy Jr. (a player who was once the NBA’s best pure shooter/a superemely versatile point forward), and Al Jefferson (the most skilled young post player in the league).

Alright, ankle-deep pop psych rant over. The point here is that most GMs look to make big moves by waiting for the big salary dump, going for the mid-level names everyone wants, or making a risky trade for the purpose of a better fit. Ferry doesn’t operate that way. Ferry has a knack for making moves with the lowest possible risk by patiently waiting to find himself in a position where he has the necessary leverage to get an asset without having to give up anything he really wants. In this case, Ferry found an under-the radar free agent and worked out the timing so that he could use Moon’s restricted status to get him for cheap with all the other potential suitors handcuffed.  Before getting into any of the brass-tacks behind this signing, the bottom line is that for Ferry the chief impetus for the deal was that it was just too good to pass up.

Point #2: Just Who is Jamario Moon, Really?

Well, from my vantage point I’d describe our moves over the past month or so thusly-“Well, we couldn’t get Ariza, so we’re holding auditions.” However, Moon does do a couple of things that set him apart from the collection of swingmen the Cavs seem to be gathering.

First off, Moon is, without any semblance of a question, the most athletic perimeter player the Cavs have gotten in the LeBron era. Moon’s an athlete and a leaper first and foremost, and there’s some potential for some truly freaky things to happen if Moon and LeBron are able to get out into the open floor. Also, LeBron finally has a solid alley-oop target, so we’ll see if that materializes into anything.

However, the best thing about Moon isn’t his athleticism, but rather how he uses it around the basket. Regular readers know that one of my favorite statistical measures is how well a player finishes around the basket-in both Toronto and Miami, Moon’s eFG% on “inside” shots, 76% in Toronto and 75% in Miami, would have been the best in the entire league by a considerable margin had he played enough games with either squad to qualify. In fact, the Cavs now have the ability to put 3 of the league’s 5 best finishers on the court at the same time (LeBron, Shaq, Moon), and 4 of the league’s top 11 finishers if you include Varejao.

Basically, when Jamario gets around the basket, he tries to dunk EVERYTHING. In both Toronto and Miami, he had a higher ratio of dunk attempts than layup attempts, which is almost unheard of-I haven’t checked everyone, but nobody else is remotely close to doing that in the random sample of notable dunkers I picked out.

Moon’s also a pretty serviceable spot-up shooter, with an eFG% of around 46% on jumpers last season. and a respectable enough 35% career mark from beyond the arc.

The big issue with Moon is that his ball-handling is a major weakness, and he struggles mightily when asked to create his own shot-his usage rates is one of the lowest in the league at small forward, and around 80% of his shot attempts were assisted. He actually has an average assist ration, but because of his low usage rate he averages around 1.7 assists per 48 minutes. Basically, Moon works if he cracks the front of the rotation and gets to have some combination of Mo, Delonte, Bron, and Shaq opening up the floor for him, but if he gets relegated to the back of the rotation and is expected to try and prove himself in limited minutes or garbage time, he’s not going to bring much to the table.

Defensively, Moon’s athleticism and wingspan suggest that he has worlds of potential on that end, and he has averaged a block and a steal per game over his short career. He’s capable of making the spectacular defensive play and can stay with his man, but hasn’t gotten an elite defensive reputation yet, either because he hasn’t made the commitment or just hasn’t gotten the attention.

+/- says that Moon was a defensive ace in Toronto (playing ahead of Jason Kapono and Andrea Bargnani), but a borderline liability in Miami, so there’s a bit of a question regarding just how good he’ll be defensively. However, with Mike Brown’s track record and the defensive culture of the Cavaliers, it’s a fairly safe bet that Moon will perform extremely well on the defensive end.

What Is Jamario Moon Going To Be On This Team?

For me, the first big question surrounding Moon is whether or not he can defend power forwards. At 6′ 7.75′ with shoes on, Moon is the same height as Shawn Marion, the prototype “long, lanky defensive 4,” right down to the quarter-inch. Moon’s 6′ 11′ wingspan is about 2-3 inches shorter than Marion, and at 200 pounds he’s light for the position, but the bottom line is that power forwards in the NBA are getting smaller and faster with the passing of each year. If Moon can bulk up a little bit and adjust to the defensive responsibilities of the position, Moon could be hugely valuable as the “stretch” 4 the Cavaliers have been looking for to compliment Shaq.

But is Moon ready to switch to the four? How comfortable are the Cavs going small-ball? Is Moon good enough to be the 4 that accompanies Shaq? What does this mean for Hickson, Parker, and Danny Green? The rotation is only more muddled, although there seems to be enough talent to go around-the only thing left to do is try to make it all fit.

Alright, that’s enough Jamario Moon for now-I’ll leave it to you guys from here. What we do know for sure is that there are going to be some EPIC dunk contests at practices this year.

Summer Hoopin and Jury Dutin': EXTRA SPECIAL THURSDAY EDITION!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

-Tywon Lawson is honestly out to break my heart. Maybe the biggest point in his favor was his otherworldly scoring efficiency at NC; he’s gone ahead and started his NBA career 1-15 from the field. That’s 7% shooting. That will improve, but yeesh.

-Meanwhile, Andray Blatche continues to make his case for the inaugural class of the Summer League Hall of Fame with Nate Robinson, Anthony Randolph, and Sergio Rodriguez. There is nothing he can’t do on a basketball court at 6’11, and no mistake he won’t make.

-Demar is  starting to come around and settle into his role as a scoring option.

-Brandon Jennings is making the case that he’s every bit as talented as people thought when he was killin’ it for Oak Hill.

-It looks increasingly likely that Lamar Odom will not be a Laker next season; if Bynum is finally healthy and ready to go this season, that crunch-time five could feature 3 different players from the championship crunch-time 5.

-Two things on this: Kobe and Pau are so good that they’ll almost definitely be contenders anyways.

-Also, if other elite teams can shake up their lineups that much, then we shouldn’t shudder at the idea of bringing in a Kleiza and inserting him directly in the starting lineup along with Shaq, assuming we still have a move for a “stretch” 4 like Kleiza in our holster. Preserving the status quo is comfortable, but you can never rest on your laurels in this league. It’d be true even if the Cavs won the championship, and it’s certainly true now.

(And yes, I realize I still haven’t written my post that outlines why Shaq would, in a perfect world, come off the bench for this team. Argue about this while I’m in court listening to the professionals argue.)

Summer Hoopin’ and Jury Dutin': SPECIAL TUESDAY EDITION!

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

-Some good news coming out of Cavs Summer League today, as both Eyenga and Tarence Kinsey were able to put up 17 and 22 points on >50% shooting, although they combined for exactly 0 assists on the day. Good to see Kinsey playing well and recovering from the John Krolik Recommendation of Death.

-Speaking of, remember how Danny Green was showing amazing promise as an efficient shooter and defender off the bench? 0-5 from the field today.

-Oh, and Tywon Lawson, my absolute favorite player in this draft? 0-7 from the field in his Summer League debut.

-Although perhaps all of those things were made up for by the complete and utter beasting of Anthony Randolph, who is probably my absolute favorite non-Cav in the league, and certainly the league’s leading provider of awesomeness in its least refined form. I’m sorry, but if some part of you doesn’t love Anthony Randolph, then you go to pet euthanizations on your lunch hour.

-Speaking of, Steph Curry had a nice day passing the ball, but he continued to struggle with his shot. I know patience is the play here, and have little doubt he’ll figure it out in a season, maximum. But darn it all, he’s the guy that was the dealbreaker for a potential Amare/Anthony Randolph frontcourt. I want amazing, and I want it immediately.

-Julian Wright has been suspisciously quiet in Summer League over his first two games. I would’ve expected the arena to be the Julian Wright Center by the time he was done with his summer league.

-For me, the best Cavs news of the day might just be that the terms of the deal Lamar Odom turned down from the Lakers were reportedly $30 million/3 years or $36 million/4 years, and that’s with the “home-town” discount” Odom claims he’s giving the Lakers. Basically, the chances of us getting Odom, who’d be a great fit on paper in a lot of ways, with the money the FO ended up giving Varejao were probably extremely slim. Whether Odom or Varejao would ultimately be the better choice is a debate in and of itself, but I’ll sleep a little easier now that I know the “what if?” wasn’t all that realistic.

A few important things before I resume Jury duty

Monday, July 13th, 2009

-More quick hits; sorry, but Jury Duty’s put me on normal human hours, and which means I have to adjust from vampire college student basketball blogger hours. We should be adjusted fairly soon.

-Just to clarify: my position on Eyenga’s chances to crack the rotation is simply based on his utter lack of  a resume. I’m sure he looked great in workouts, I’m sure he has some NBA-level skills, and I’ve seen tape where he looks absolutely fantastic, but he wasn’t in the rotation for a JV squad in Europe. He was actively failing to produce at a level several notches below the NBA. It’s not like a high school kid who was dominating at a ridiculously low level-at least he was doing well against the competition he was given. Can anyone name a NBA rotation player who was a complete non-entity on his college team? I’m a believer in potential, and the differences between the NBA game and the college/euro game, and all that, but there has to be some on-court basis to project on. We’re hoping this kid will fail upward, and I just don’t think that’s something that can be assumed. But I’ve been wrong before, and the kid certainly has talent. The odds are against him, is all.

-The big Summer League news of the day, in my mind, is that Jonny Flynn and Brandon Jennings both recorded 14-assist games. In summer league, a lot of times the important thing to look at isn’t how well the guys they play, but the way they choose to play when they’re essentially given carte blanche in terms of playing time.

At some level, either you’re born a point guard or you’re not. It’s a lot easier to get a fluke 30-point game than a fluke 14-assist game-just to provide a basis for comparison, Daniel Gibson’s career-high for assists is 8, Delonte’s is 12, and LeBron and Mo have both had one 15-assist game in their career. This season, LeBron was the only Cavalier to have a 14-assist game, and he only did it once. Obviously, the level of competition is a significant consideration, but the point is that 14-assist games aren’t all that easy to come by.

By all accounts, Flynn came out of the womb calling out 1-4 high sets, but the question with Jennings has always been whether or not he really wants to pass the ball and set up angles for others. Jennings might not be the best rookie this season, but he’s my early favorite for the Anthony Randolph memorial “we’re not sure how this guy is going to turn out, but we’re sure as hell not going to trade him,” award.

Meanwhile, Demar continues to put up red flags. He set his summer-league high for assists today with 1, and he needed 17 attempts to get his 15 points.

Roddy Beaubois is continuing to knock down threes in summer league, and today he was able to keep his fouls and turnovers down. He’s looking like a massive steal right now. This may be pure osmosis for being part of a draft-day trade with B.J. Mullens, who may be the first player ever declared a bust before playing in the NBA. And the Thunder traded him, too. The Thunder passed on Rubio, Steph Curry, and Beaubois, any of whom would have made them pretty much the coolest team ever. I’m legitimately mad about this.

-Blake Griffin hit a three!

-Meanwhile, the Iverson-to-LAC rumors continue to heat up. He’d be a great fit with Baron and Dunleavy. Good to see the Clippers continuing to pass on forming an actual core. Clipperdom needed Blake Griffin today.

-Tyreke Evans might not be Ricky Rubio, but you’ve gotta like a top-5 pick who’s enough of a bulldog to get himself to the line 19 times in a summer league game and pull down 9 boards.

-Alright, I’ve gotta get rest so that I can serve justice in the morning. Until tomorrow, all.

Summer League And Other Stuff

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Okay, the first thing before I go about doing some extremely quick box-score notes on Summer League: anyone can score in Summer League. You get shots, the defense is lackluster, the offense goes into isolation, and leashes are long enough so that any player can get his shots. Remember, every player on a summer league roster has probably spent at least a decade of their life as the featured scorer in every game they played in. What you’re looking for are the guys who are getting their points with efficiency, keeping fouls and turnovers down, and passing the basketball.

(Sidebar: I haven’t been able to watch any of the games yet, so these are just box score notes, and should be taken with a shaker of salt.)

With that being said, here are some hits from the Cavs’ squad and around the league:

-I think that the odds are overwhelmingly strong against Christian Eyenga ever becoming a rotation player for the Cavs, just based on his utter lack of production before getting drafted. He’s coming off the bench in Vegas, and doesn’t seem to be imposing his will, but it’s nice to see that he went 4-6 from the field today. If he wants to play for this team, he’s going to have to learn that 4-6 from the field is about the best line he can hope to acheive in a given game with the established players already on the Cavs.

-Tarence Kinsey has been making me look pretty bad so far. He’s not finding the mark from the field at all, and hasn’t been moving the ball. In his defense, he’s a guy who gets better the further away he gets from being the best player on the floor because of the way he plays. But if you want minutes in the big-boy rotation, you should find a way to thrive against summer-league competition.

-Danny Green had an absolutely PERFECT 1st Summer League game: 16 points on 5-7 shooting (4-6 from 3 and 2-2 from the line, for a TS% of 1.000%), with one assist against one turnover. That’s exactly what we want from him, so it’s great to see him at least do it at the Summer League level.

-Darnell Jackson: Ick. He’s another guy that actually plays better when he can do the little things instead of trying to create, but he’s shooting 29% from the field right now.

-A guy to temper your enthusiasm for: He’s a Trojan and I love him for it, but Demar DeRozan has 30 points on 32 shots and, after 65 minutes of play, has as many assists as I do. Those aren’t the habits to be building, especially for a guy whose best chance to contribute right away is to use his athleticism to defend and fill in the gaps offensively.

-That’s all for baskeball for the moment: again, I haven’t gotten a chance to watch anything past highlights as of yet and want to try to do my job without polluting the interwebs with 1,000 words of meagerly informed observations.

-Instead, I’ll note this: does anyone else find themselves feeling decently satisfied when Entourage ends, and then actually getting angry throughout the night when you go back over the show and realize how terrible it really was? I cannot imagine a worse season opener for a show that’s already pretty much pissed away whatever good will that existed towards it. The only two characters who actually work, Ari and Lloyd, seem to have been relegated to some sort of ridiculous season-long riff on old people doing frat-like hazing rituals. Also, less Hollywood and more about the love lives of boring hangers-on. Awesome stuff.

I still watch The Real World, and that is terrible, but somehow I find the familiar awfulness of dish fights, drunken shennanigans, and bisexuals comforting, while Entourage’s awfulness actively disturbs me. I do not know why this is, nor do I particularly care to find out. Until next time.