Archive for August, 2009

So very close…

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Leon Powe’s deal is now official, and all there is left to do is sit and wait for him to pass his physical. Of course, Powe’s physical is a bit more dicey than the average physical, so there’s still a little bit of breath to be held. I”m not really sure what they’re testing for-I guess if it looks like he’ll be able to jerk his knee in four months, we’re cool? Can anyone shed light on how a busted knee gets tested?

And by the way, I failed to touch on the “The Celtics failed to offer Powe a qualifying offer and now he seeks sweet revenge against them” angle in my initial write-up. Needless to say, I find that kind of awesome. I am extremely excited for Leon Powe. Alright, so everybody keep your fingers crossed at work today and wish Leon good luck with his physical, and I’ll check in with all of you with a SPECIAL NEW FEATURE tonight. (Or early tomorrow morning, for those of you who sleep.)

Here Comes Leon Powe

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Via Windhorst, it appears that the Cavaliers are about to sign a two-year deal with Leon Powe. I wrote something about the possibility of Powe when the rumors about him first started up, but I’ll try to expand upon those thoughts now. First off, read this excellent send-off to Powe by Zach Lowe over at Celtics Hub. After you’re done with that here, in no particular order, are my thoughts about Mr. Powe’s imminent acquisition:

1. This is a flyer, and a great one.

In my first “profiles in profiling” entry this year, I lamented how teams don’t take risks when it comes to their 12th men. Instead of taking a guy who you know is going to be passably insignificant, why not take a chance on a guy with a 10% chance of being a really good rotation player and a 90% chance of sucking in a spectacular and horrifying manner?

Yes, this is a guy whose best-case scenario is to join the team at the All-Star break, and who’s had such a bad history of knee problems there’s a legitimate chance he’ll never be an NBA-level player. On one level, it’s always scary to give any kind of a contract out when there’s that level of uncertainty involved. (Note: the deal is contingent on a physical exam, and there have been allusions to “protections” the Cavaliers may have in the deal, so the Cavs do have some safety nets in place.)

But on the other hand, this is Leon Powe for the veteran’s minimum. (According to Adrian Wojnarowski’s twitter feed.) That’s the same amount of money the Cavs paid Jawad Williams, Dwayne Jones, Lance Allred, you name it. It’s the minimum. You really can’t pay less than that. And when you start thinking about the deal that way, it looks like a steal from where I’m sitting.

Powe is a year and change removed from having a major impact in the NBA finals. Heck, it wasn’t all that long ago he was considered one of the 5 best players in his year-he was one of the other big names during one of LeBron’s turns at ABCD, if memory serves. When this guy is healthy, almost nobody doubts that he can flat-out play.

2. Leon Powe is really, really, really good at the things he’s good at.

Take this as you will: Leon Powe is about as good as an undersized, unathletic player with no range or ball skills to speak of can be. Yes, there’s a definite ceiling in terms of how many ways he can impact a game. But as a pure banger, Leon Powe is just about as good as they come. Powe had the best offensive rebound rate of any power forward for the second consecutive year last season, and 9th in rebound rate overall.

And offensively, Powe might not have any real jump shot whatsoever, but he knows his limitations and spends what time he has with the ball in the paint, shoving bodies around and trying to get the ball in the basket any way he can. 80% of Powe’s shots came in the immediate basket area last year, and despite his dip in proficiency on layup-type shots from 07-08 to 08-09, his love of the dunk gave him a very respectable 60% mark on “inside” shots.

Like Zach mentioned, Powe isn’t a “pure” post player, but he uses his strength, wide base, and touch to find some way to dump the ball in the basket when he catches the ball in the paint, albeit with little regard for aesthetics. He’s gotten a little better at passing when he’s down there, doubling his assist ratio from 07-08 last year, but he’s still not much of a playmaker down there. (He did improve, but remember that he had the worst assist ratio in basketball in 07-08.)

As many a disgruntled Laker fan will inform you, Powe’s best skill offensively is his ability to throw his body around in the paint and draw fouls-had he qualified, his 28% “draw foul” rate would have put him behind only Dwight Howard in the entire NBA. Leon Powe is one of the most efficient backup 4s in the league because he’s a guy that’s an artist in the scrum. He doesn’t see a need to try to do anything other than what he knows, make sense of the chaos that takes place when the ball is bouncing, the bodies are banging, and the elbows are flying under the basket.

3. Fit is a concern.

For all Powe’s strengths skill-wise, he still has major disadvantages athletically: he is much smaller than most centers and much slower than most power forwards. And he can’t stretch the floor. With Zydrunas, he’ll be relied on to show on pick-and-rolls and defend the perimeter, a dicey proposition. With Shaq, not only would he have to show on pick-and-rolls, but the floor spacing would get destroyed. With Anderson, the spacing is a concern, plus one of the two could have to guard a true 7-footer. Like a lot of Ferry’s acquisitions this off-season, the arrival of Powe seems to signal more small-ball lineups with LeBron, Moon or Parker playing the de facto 4 spot, and taking chances with Powe using his strength to guard the post.

Like a lot of blue-collar, undersized 4s who PER-type stats love (Powe, Chuck Hayes, Ike Diogu), Powe looks fantastic from an efficiency standpoint because he’s a role player who’s completely aware of his own limitations, is extremely good at a few things on the court, and doesn’t deviate from what he knows he’s good at. The flip side is that he can hurt the versatility of a 5-man unit by not being able to fill gaps and play a role within the greater system that asks him to do something outside of his very specific comfort zone.

So while I love Powe as a guy who can give impact minutes off the bench and even be the focus of a 3rd or 4th unit, I’m not sure if it’s realistic to see him as a guy playing long stretches of important minutes at any point down the line, even if he’s completely healthy. Boston was able to cover him pretty nicely, especially in 07-08, but remember that they have two legitimate defensive aces on their front-line in terms of KG and Kendrick Perkins, two guys who combine size, strength, and mobility in ways that can plug a lot of holes defensively. (And don’t forget the Thibodeau factor; he may be even more of a defensive savant than Mike Brown.)

4. Part of this feels like a JJ Hickson failsafe.

Hickson has a ton of potential, but I feel like he may have picked a really bad time to get a major injury. When he got hurt, he still had a lot of learning to do before he was ready to play serious minutes. Now he’s missed a lot of time at a pretty critical developmental stage, and I don’t think the front office is ready to bet the farm on Hickson being a rotation player this year. Hickson’s got the physical ability and package of skills to be a rotation big, while Powe has the instincts. I think the chances one of them cracks the rotation are better than the chances that both of them do. Part of this move may have been about taking a backup bet on another horse.

But overall, this is a great player and a great guy coming to the Cavaliers with very, very little financial risk involved, so my final position is that I congratulate the front office for getting yet another deal done, congratulate Mr. Powe for finding a team, and hope to see him on the floor reasonably soon.

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LeBron Shocks World, Betrays Cleveland With Predictable, Rational Decision

Monday, August 10th, 2009

First things first: According to my beloved and most likely inflated SiteMeter, the site has now welcomed 200,00 readers since its inception. To each and every one of you who has made Cavs: The Blog a part of your day or just stumbled here randomly when one of the stories got picked up by a different, better, site, thank you so, so much. Hopefully you’ll keep reading, and hopefully I’ll be able to provide content that makes your visits worth your while.

However, today’s job is to address the story/non-story that LeBron does not appear likely to accept the Cavs’ offer of an extension this off-season, and will instead indeed let his contract run out and test free agency in 2010.

As a fan, I am of course a little disappointed, although at no point did I realistically believe that the LeBron 2010 madness wasn’t going to happen. It’d be nice not to have to worry about it for the year, but on some level this ridiculous intrigue is part of what makes LeBron larger than life, and hence what makes LeBron LeBron. The Summer of Judgement is something that’s been written about endlessly, speculated about, and opined upon by just about everything with a pulse. By now, it’s as ingrained a part of the LeBron legend as any playoff run has been. Judgement Day was always going to come.

But, more pressingly, maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is this: what conceivable reason could LeBron possibly have for signing this extension this year?

I mean, let’s assume that if all factors are more or less equal, LeBron would prefer to stay in Cleveland, staying at home and finishing what he started. Let’s even go a step further assume that he fully plans to have his next contract be with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now, even assuming those things, there’s really not a compelling reason why LeBron would have signed this contract. First, let’s look at it from a personal level. You sign an extension before your contract is up because you want financial security, and don’t want to take a risk of not getting what you want on the open market. There is absolutely no suspense to what price LeBron will fetch in the open market. He will make the max. There is no question of this. He will be the most no-brainer max-money player since the salary cap was installed. He will make the max over many years. There is no possible way that LeBron James will not receive a maximum contract. It’s LeBron James. He could get microfracture on both knees, occasionally shoot at his own basket, change his logo to a John Wayne Gacy painting, and spend the off-season locked in a room, rarely eating or bathing, obsessed with the notion that the locations of his 40-point games correspond directly with the locations of roadside bombing instances in Iraq, and he would still get a max contract.

So, the chances of LeBron not getting a max contract are essentially 0, or lower than any player’s odds of not getting a max contract ever. Now, what are the chances that the Cavaliers have a horrifying meltdown and become the kind of team that LeBron would be stupid to tie himself to long-term sometime over the next year, and/or that an amazing young core emerges on another team with max-money space? Not great. Not good. Not likely. Not that close to likely. But better than 0. Now, I obviously think the Cavs will be very, very good next season. But it’s not a young team, injuries can happen, and there were a lot of role players playing the best basketball of their life last season. Stranger things have happened than a team of this caliber imploding on itself after a deep playoff run. Stranger things than LeBron not getting a max deal have not. And not to be cynical, but there’s a very real chance LeBron and his Nike counterparts think all this “where’s LeBron going” stuff that keeps him in the headlines on off-days is far from the worst thing in the world. So, on a personal level, there is no reason for LeBron to sign the extension now rather than wait.

But, of course, there’s the other factor in this “decision”: how will this “distraction” affect the team over the coming year? LeBron supposedly wants to win championships above all other goals, so why is he hanging the possibility of him leaving over a championship run? Let’s assume that LeBron’s ultimate goal, trumping his own benefit, is to win as many championships as soon as possible, preferably in the upcoming season.

So, what you now have is Scenario A:  LeBron’s possible departure is so distracting that his teammates, most to all of whom have been on multiple teams already in their careers and know that contract negotiations and the possibility of moving is a constant of NBA life, that their game cracks under the pressure of possibly not being on LeBron’s team anymore if they lose. Locker room tension abounds because their leader plans on taking a rational look at his options after the season’s end, even though the chances are just as good that they’ll be gone in 2010 for one reason or another, seeing as to how 6 players in the 08-09 rotation are no longer on the team.

Scenario B: The front office loses a sense of urgency now that they know they have LeBron locked up, and don’t pull the trigger on moves that will give them a financial hit or a possible detriment down the road, because they figure there will always be other championship shots so long as LeBron is around. Some of this complacency trickles down to the locker room.

How possible scenario B is is debateable, but really, isn’t scenario A kind of ridiculous? And that’s why LeBron would take an extension that makes no sense for him, personally? I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. And remember, a lot of the bloggers and writers who are writing about the “possible locker-room impact” of the extension non-signing are guys who go into the locker room for media availability times, or are yahoos like me who are at USC during the season and see the Cavs’ locker room twice a eyar. LeBron is one of the most vocal and hands-on team leaders in the last two decades. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to decisions that impact the locker-room vibe.

Really, we have to think about who this situation is affecting adversely. LeBron doesn’t care. There’s no uncertainty where he’s concerned; he knows what he’s going to do, or is honestly more comfortable waiting to weigh his options. The players don’t really care, because they know LeBron a lot better than anyone else involved does and recognize that this stuff is a part of their lives. The front office cares, but they understand what their jobs are and that the pressure’s on them to do it.

Honestly, the only people this really tears apart are the fans. It sucks. I know it does. It’s going to be very strange watching LeBron and having that little nagging sense at the back of your mind, however small, that this may be the season that decides whether or not he’ll be a Cavalier long-term. But, at the end of the day, we have to remember this: The team belongs to the fans. The players work for the team. But the team doesn’t own the players, and that means the fans don’t either. It’s hard not to think that LeBron James is a part of Cleveland, and that Cleveland and LeBron have an implied covenant of some sort, but the reality is that he’s just a man. A man who’s given more to the Cavalier franchise than any player ever has. And for that, the fans owe him the respect of regarding him as a man and letting him make the decision that serves him best. In this case, that means recognizing that it would be ridiculous for him to sign this extension this summer. And a year from now, all Cavalier fans can hope for is that LeBron feels that the best decision for him is to stay in Cleveland.

Of Performance-Enhancing Drugs and Performance-Explaining Statements

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

(Link to comic)

On Rashard Lewis, the “big” news of the day: This will be covered from a variety of angles, so I’ll just go through a few points:

-People need to open their minds up about what performance-enhancing drugs can do. Speed is a function of muscle. Recovery time. Endurance. Lateral movement. And raw strength is a lot more important in basketball than people realize-even among the little guards, finishing inside is so important, and a lot of that is a function of strength.

-Basically, stop perpetuating the myth that steroids wouldn’t help basketball players. Every sport has tried to maintain this illusion, and it’s just not true. Ted Williams said he didn’t add muscle because it would slow down his bat, and Bonds told a similar tale. Golfers didn’t need to be in great shape, until Tiger Woods came along and started dominating everyone because of his fitness level.

And if being ripped is so unimportant, why does every team still have a full gym with heavily utilized weight equipment? Didn’t MJ start seriously weight-training with Grover about a decade and a half ago? When the Cavs came to LA, I talked with Andrew Bynum’s position coach, who told me, completely amazed, that LeBron had done into the weight room and done a full-out, programmed weight workout on game-day. LeBron can do that because he’s the kind of freak who can do that and then play a basketball game, and it ultimately helps to give him his ridiculous physcial advantage.

Well, a lot of what steroids do is help you get through workouts like that, and would allow some guys who aren’t of a different species like LeBron still get a semblance of the physical edge he enjoys.

To finish this off with an MMA analogy, because this is unoficially MMA week around these parts, BJ Penn was talking before UFC 94 about how George St. Pierre’s huge physical advantage didn’t scare him, because fighting was about “skill.” He got physically dominated, and now he’s making (baseless) steroid accusations, which is a pretty rapid change in tune. In pretty much any sport, a physical advantage is always an advantage, and hence steroids will always help.

-That said, I really feel nothing resembling outrage about this finding, even though a “tainted” team knocked us out of the playoffs. I mean, technically, if he’d been found out when it happened, he would’ve been banned from playoff games and everything might have changed, but come on. Maybe I am a hypocrite, because I think I’d feel different if it was a power guy like Dwight Howard, who generally has higher testosterone levels in his shave clippings than Rashard Lewis has in his entire body. It’s just hard to feel like a finesse guy like Lewis cheated everybody; he still had to make those threes. And bitching about unfairness isn’t going to make the Cavs champions, it just makes them sore losers. (I again refer you to the Georges St. Pierre vs. B.J. Penn aftermath, only this time with the “greasing scandal.”)

-How big of a deal do you think this would be if the Cavs had won the series and it was LeBron with the failed test?

Okay, onto LeBron’s quotes from the National Association of Black Jounalists Sports Taskforce conference, via Ball Don’t Lie:

LeBron talked for a while, but the important takeaways were his statements on the “controversies” that have come his way this summer: for the first time, public opinion is starting to turn against LeBron, and he addressed some of those concerns. By the way, the opinion here is that all of this “controversy” with LeBron being arrogant and disconnected from the world has everything to do with the Cavaliers losing-history is the propaganda of the victors, and that’s about all there is to it sometimes. It’s swagger when you win, but arrogance when you lose-wasn’t it a few months ago was it that LeBron was being hailed as the perfect team leader? How perfect does this man’s personality need to be? The disconnect this off-season seems to be that the public wants a humbled LeBron, because for the first time his team failed to meet expectations, but LeBron only knows how to be the cocky, goofy, child of destiny that got him to where he is.

I’m not saying that LeBron hasn’t made missteps, with the most egregious one being his classless behavior after the game 6 loss to the Magic. I’m on record against it, and I stick by it.

Here’s what LeBron had to say about the snub:

“I wouldn’t have done it the same. I would have done the media. Looking back on it, without you guys, there’s no LeBron James, D-Wade, Tiger Woods or no Peyton Manning. If I could have started over again, I would have done the media. As I thought about it I could see why people were talking about because your job starts when mine ends.

“But as far as the dunk or whatever car I’m driving, some things you shouldn’t comment and some things you should. I look at the no handshake like this — during the regular season, no one ever shakes hands. You move on to the next game. I congratulated Dwight Howard(notes) through email and told him good luck in the Finals. Shaking hands is not a big deal to me. It’s not being a sore loser, it’s moving on. Sometimes people want you to accept losing and I’ll never accept losing.”

I like the full apology about the media, and he said it for precisely the right reasons. However, I would’ve liked to see an apology for the no-handshake thing. I see LeBron’s point, but there was no game between these teams after the buzzer sounded, and it’s a common display of class. If shaking hands isn’t a big deal to you, then suck it up and do it, because clearly it is to some people. It doesn’t mean you’re accepting losing, it just means that you do the right thing in defeat and show class.

On dunkgate:

“I never told anyone to confiscate any tapes. Nike has a no videotape policy at pick-up games. They’ve always done that. Now that LeBron is involved, it’s blown up. It’s a play that happens in basketball all the time. You can go on YouTube and see me being dunked on by a lot of guys. I like to call myself a shot blocker and [getting dunked on] tends to happen. Jordan Crawford is going to be a good basketball player …”

I have no idea whether or not the Nike policy is true-it seems like a plausible explanation to me, and I’m willing to give LeBron the benefit of the doubt on the issue. However, if people want to believe he did ask for the tapes to be pulled, I can’t really say I blame them. He said the right thing in terms of how he’s been dunked on before and will be again, and was good to praise Crawford. My only qualm is that when you’re trying to convince the world you don’t have an out-of-control ego, you probably should refrain from referring to yourself in the 3rd person entirely.

On Shaq:

“Wow, anytime you can get a guy like that. I was asked [by management if I] would you like him to be a part of this team and I said, ‘Of course. I’ve never had a low-post presence since I’ve been in the league. I’d love it.’

“I can defer to a teammate. If Shaq is going, I’m OK. I know one thing that’s going to happen; you can’t check Shaq one-on-one. I can use some of my athleticism when a double team comes and slash to the rim. He’s a very good passer so he’ll just throw it at the rim and I’ll go get it. This will benefit ‘Z’ [Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes)] because he can go against second-tier guys. Shaq will be very big for us. I can be more of a threat. No matter if I catch it I can spot up and I’ll still have a live dribble. I don’t have to settle for taking a shot. Instead of dribbling the ball up where guys can pressure me. If I’m catching the ball out of double teams from Shaq, I can become a shooter. Now I can drive.”

Well, Shaq’s not coming off the bench. I don’t see how Z will be all that effective against 2nd units, seing how bad he is at creating his own shot, but I think management values LeBron’s opinion even more than mine. LeBron does seem to understand how Shaq is going to help his game, so that’s good.

On 2010 Free Agency:

“I hope so. I signed a contract in 2006 with a three-year extension to leave my options open. Hopefully everything works out. I’m not ashamed of anything in Cleveland … I’m looking forward to this season and we’ll see what happens.”

That’s actually a bit stronger than he’s been in previous statements-he’s definitely thrown down a bit of a gauntlet. What I took away is that he’d like to stay in Cleveland with all things being equal, but will leave if he doesn’t think this is the place for him to win championships. Basically,  what I hear him saying is that if there’s no championship next year, it’s time for a serious decision to happen. One thing we know about this offseason for LeBron: no matter how many viral video scandals he’s a part of, he will have a crazier summer next year.

Profiles In Profiling: Daniel Gibson

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

boobie shirt

I came up with the idea for that shirt a couple of weeks before I got asked to start this blog up, and was pretty much as proud of it as anything I’ve done in my life. I was expecting the Boobie shirt to become a running joke on the site, one of the little mini-traditions that made Cavs: The Blog a fun place to come to. Every time Gibson had one of his scoring explosions off the bench, the game would be blessed with the Boobie shirt, and the type of fulfillment, whimsy, and wonder that can only come from a half-baked web meme would course through the veins of all.

Only one problem: Boobie didn’t have one of those games. I mean, not once. And believe me, I was looking. I was rooting for it. Because I wanted to post that Boobie shirt picture a million times. I think I might’ve put it on there once, but as I remember it was seriously forced and I felt disgusting about it. He just didn’t have those games where he’d come in, pour in 5 threes on 8 shots, and go home.

Before this season, Boobie Gibson held a special place in the hearts of Cavalier fans, and in a lot of ways still does. He was, and always shall be, the man responsible for clinching the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals with a barrage of threes. And it wasn’t just that those threes, from a rookie, sent the team to the finals and kept LeBron’s 48-point game from going in the dustbin of history with his game 2 shot in this year’s ECF. It was that Boobie Gibson was what the Cavs had always coveted-a shooter.

After the harem of 40% three-point threats the Cavs had this season, it’s easy to forget just how bad this team’s perimeter shooting used to suck. LeBron would drive, and have the option of kicking out to, in order of desirability:

1. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who would catch the ball and shoot a 18-foot set shot that went in a fair amount of the time.

2. Drew Gooden, who would face up from 18 feet, down-fake once, and either slingshot a jumper, try an awkward dribble-drive after an up-fake, or just stand there, based on the moods of his various spirit animals. At no point did Drew Gooden ever realize that he could play in the low-post on the Cavaliers. Then again, Drew Gooden was necessary to stretch the floor. That was not a joke.

3. Larry Hughes. Larry would look at a three, realize he wasn’t a good enough three-point shooter, up-fake and put the ball on the floor, realize he didn’t have enough left in his legs to get to the basket, and throw up a leaning pull-up 22-footer. He would do this every time, and miss every time. Larry Hughes is terrible at basketball.

4. Eric Snow. Eric Snow cannot make a wide-open jump shot. You can sag off of him like Rajon Rondo, except he could do none of the good things Rajon Rondo can do. It’s like if you tried to combine Rajon Rondo and Derek Fisher, but the experiment went horribly, horribly wrong. This was the starting point guard.

5. The Cavs did bring in Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones to help stretch the floor. They were nearly immobile and couldn’t pass the ball. But they were three-point shooters, so they would very confidently catch the ball beyond the arc and miss. This represented a significant upgrade.

And all the while, LeBron was creating WIDE-OPEN looks for three as defenses collapsed on him with impunity. So when that little 2nd-round rookie from Texas came on and started draining threes, Cavs fans saw a man bringing water to the desert.

And as crucial as Boobie was in the 2007 playoff run, it was in 2008 when Gibson’s value to the team became even more apparent. When Wally Z, a career 40% three-point shooter, struggled as a shooter playing next to LeBron, it was clear that there was more to being a shooter on the Cavs than just being able to hit wide-open threes.

Gibson is a very good shooter when he gets his feet set-he flings himself forward (he gets fouled on jumpers often) a fair amount, and his release point is low, but once his feet are set his concentration is pretty unflappable, and can knock down threes even if the cl0se-out man is able to get into his space. However, Gibson’s speed gives him added value as a shooter with the Cavs, since many of the open threes on the team come from LeBron; instead of sitting in a corner and being the kick-out option on a set play, shooters with LeBron have to read where he’s going, react, and have the quickness to get to the appropriate spot before the defense collapses. Gibson excelled at this, and was a fixture in crunch-time lineups because of his ability to keep the defense honest when LeBron inevitably drove to the hole.

Gibson was one-dimensional, but when his contract ran out his extension was a no-brainer: he was LeBron’s security blanket.

From there, a number of things happened, most notably that Gibson’s three-point percentage, his only real above-average skill, plummeted from 44% to 38%. Everything else about his game, including how much he went to the rim and how well he converted there, stayed the same-he just became a shooter who couldn’t shoot. There were other factors in Boobie’s fall, including:

1. Obviously, any hope the Cavs had that Gibson might evolve into more than a spot-up shooter was debunked in 2008-09. After training camp, there was some buzz about Daniel Gibson having “expanded” his game, with a mid-range arsenal and more tools driving to the basket. After a very nice game against the Bobcats early in the year, Gibson appeared to be making the turn into a “microwave” scorer off the bench rather than just a shooter.

That was mostly crap. When Gibson was younger, there was hope he could utilize his quickness to become a Jason Terry-esque combo guard and run something resembling the point; however, he’s never, ever passed the ball close to well enough to merit consideration as an actual point guard. And when he puts the ball on the floor, it’s a nightmare-he has an extremely tough time converting around the rim, doesn’t seek out contact, and favors a floater in the 8-10 foot range that he never makes. To summarize, Boobie is a career 41.2% 3-point shooter and a 41.3% shooter overall, so he should stay behind the arc unless absolutely necessary.

2. Boobie became obsolete.

Mo Williams came in and gave everything Boobie brings to the table as a shooter and security blanket, except even better, plus he was better at everything else offensively, so that was the end of Boobie as a crunch-time player. Delonte West flirted with 40% from beyond the arc. Wally Z found his stroke. Even Pavs was over 40% for a while. After desperately searching for anyone to make an open three for years, the Cavs suddenly found themselves with an embarrassment of riches from beyond the arc, making Gibson far less valuable.

3. His toe got hurt.

Just as Gibson was starting to get into a shooting rhythm, he went on the disabled list with a toe injury, and it affected his ability to push off the foot and shoot the way he liked all year; he’d adjust, overcompensate, undercompensate, whatever. With the precision being an outside shooter demands, one little tweak can throw your game off.

4. It’s the nature of the position.

Shooters are like pitchers; it’s an extremely precise action that’s very difficult every time, and can often be more mental than physical. Shooters in a slump can’t just post their man up or crash their way to the line. The easiest thing they do is try to put a ball in a 10-foot high hoop 25 feet away, and that’s never all that easy. This year, Sasha Vujacic’s troubles essentially mirrored Boobie’s. Mike Miller fell from 43% to 38% from deep. Shooters are just not that consistent from year-to-year.

Not only is this because there’s no such thing as an easy shot, but some math comes into play: by definition, an absolutely incredible shooter (45%) is anything but consistent, since even he is actually missing most of the time. Common sense stuff, but it’s amazing how often it gets forgotten. Like the difference between a .275 hitter and a .300 hitter being a hit every two weeks, the difference between Boobie hitting 38% and 44% of his threes this year would have been .2 threes a game, or one three every 5 games. A lot of times, spot-up shooters get 4 chances to shoot a three all night-you can be feeling great, miss 4, and have a terrible game, or you can feel like crap, roll 2 in, and be as good a shooter as there is in the league that night. It’s not surprising that variance is possible with 3-point percentages, even when the shots look the same.

So that’s it on Boobie for now-we’re stuck with him for a while, but he can still be valuable if he finds his shot again and remembers his role. And as he knows from last year, there’s a very good chance someone else will lose the rim for a while and his three-point touch will be needed once again.

Ones Who Got Away: Matt Barnes/Jamario Moon Edition

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

It’s likely that this blog has, since its inception, grown to the point where it has literally multiple readers on a daily basis. However, only one of those readers has consistently commented on multiple articles, making one simple demand without regard for the context. And if the internet isn’t for empowering vocal minorities, then what is it there for?

So to show my appreciation and the fact that it is literally impossible for me to be a bigger pushover, I present you, on this most glorious of slow news days, a detailed comparison of Jemario Moon and Matt Barnes, the hybrid foward the Cavs ended up getting and the one who ended up on the team that knocked the Cavs out of the playoffs.

In a lot of ways, Moon and Barnes are more similar than they are different. Both are 29-year old late bloomers, with Barnes spending the first 3 years of his career on a tour of the NBA’s benches and Moon going through community college, the D-league, and even the Harlem Globtrotters before getting picked up by the Raptors for the 2007-08 season.

The main difference between the two players is that Barnes is regarded as knowing his game better, while Moon is regarded as the more gifted athlete.

There’s statistical and anecdotal evidence to back this up: Barnes was named a co-captain after a year with the Warriors despite being a role player on the team, and was a versatile cog in the Warriors’ watershed upset of the Mavericks a year earlier. As a forward, Barnes averaged an impressive 5 assists per 48 minutes last year, while Moon only averaged 2.

Offensively, Barnes’ greatest weapon is his versatility. All things being equal, he’d love to set his feet and launch open threes, which he can do fairly well for a power forward, shooting 35% last season from beyond the arc. (Like a lot of forwards, Barnes developed a three-point shot late in his career as a Darwinian mechanism, and you can tell from his unorthodox stroke; he flies forward as he shoots, and there’s a sort of hitch in his release, but he gets the shot off quickly and puts good rotation on the ball.)

But Barnes also has some guard skils and is gritty when he decides to go to the basket, with a tight handle, surprising finishing ability (63% on inside shots), the ability to pass, and a desire to finish drives that he starts.

Also, Barnes has played a lot of four for both Golden State and Phoenix, and a backup four with the capability to make outside shots is something Cavs fans have openly coveted since the addition of Shaq.

However, you have to remember that Barnes still isn’t really a four; he defended the position horribly even for Phoenix, and remember that saying someone’s a four because Don Nelson and Alan Gentry played them there is like saying a relationship is normal because it was in a Woody Allen movie. (Or Woody Allen’s life.) There’s absolutely no guarantee he would have been able to hold his own playing the 4 in Cleveland’s defense-centric system. Still, Barnes is versatile, smart, gritty, and a homeless man’s Rashard Lewis offensively, and he’ll make a great addition for the Magic.

With Moon, everyone knows about the athleticism, and it’s pretty freaky stuff. His propensity for dunking everything when he gets around the basket gave him a league-leading 75% eFG on “inside” shots last year,  he’s a monster in the open court, and he loves to finish alley-oops as much as any player in the league. However, he’s not known as a guy who gets the most out of his abilities on the offensive end. As mentioned, he almost never passes the ball, his ball-handling skills are nearly nonexistent, and he hates contact around the basket, with a horribly low foul rate of 3% with the Heat last year.

Also, analysis of Moon’s offensive game from the Raptors and Heat fans I talked to seemed to range from “I wish he’d settle for less jumpers” to “Every time Jemario would shoot one of those goddamned outside shots with 15 seconds on the shot clock, a little piece of me would die as I lay there, screaming out silently for any proof of a benevolent God, only to be left alone; so cold and alone. Now I look at my children and just see strangers.”

As much flak as Moon catches for his overreliance on being a catch-and-shoot player, he’s actually pretty much exactly as good at it as Barnes is; Moon had a 46.5% eFG on jumpers last year, with 79% of them assisted, while Barnes had a 46.9% eFG, with 77% of them being assisted. And Moon was actually the better three-point shooter, shooting 35.5% on threes to Barnes’ mark of 34.3%. A lot of the difference in the two players’ shooting ability probably has to do with perception. When a guy with role-player athleticism and a solid package of skills like Barnes launches, it feels like what he’s supposed to be doing, but when a freak like Moon pulls up everyone in the arena can feel the possibility of a dunk dying.

Defensively, Moon has better “tools” than Barnes in terms of length, athleticism, and “instincts” (blocks and steals), but has never been assigned to defend the position. One feels he could defend the new, more versatile model of power forward quite well, but is absolutely unproven at doing so. Meanwhile, Barnes has indeed guarded fours, but has done so in a manner that suggests he’s barely adequate at doing so. So who you’d want defensively is, at some level, a matter of opinion, like whether you think an elite middleweight will beat a merely very good light heavyweight at UFC 101. (MMA mentions on consecutive days!) Personally, I like the potential of Moon defensively, but there’s certainly an argument to be made that you know Barnes won’t kill you on that end.

Overall, the feeling I have is that there’s no specific skill, even shooting, that Barnes has a clear advantage in over Moon, but Barnes is much better at knowing how and when to utilize his skills to be an effective role player, while Jamario is much more prone to taking himself out of the game. The onus will ultimately be on the players on the court with Moon and the coaching staff to try and tailor the game towards his strengths and keep him from having to figure it out for himself. Moon may have been more available than Barnes, and might even have more upside over the long haul, but the downside is there’s a feeling that our new backup swingman does not come pre-made.

And Then This Happened: Cavs 09-10 Schedule Released

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Most important news first-I would be a horrible Cavs blogger if I did not link to this video of Delonte West Rapping in a KFC parking lot.

As promised in the title, here’s the Cavs schedule for next year. I don’t really have time to go over it right now, but the notables seem to be:

-The season opener is against Boston in the Q. After a few easy ones, the season starts in earnest with @Knicks, @Magic, and @Heat in consecutive games, all on national TV, with the Magic/Heat being a back-to-back. Big early measuring stick.

-Christmas day is @LA this year, and it’s the last day of a 4-game road swing.

-Only other big road trip is a five-game swing that starts off with Denver and Portland, but settles down with Golden State, Utah, and the Clippers.

From there, have fun, plan your trips, and get excited. Cavs basketball is on the horizon.

Profiles In Things That Contain More Things

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

“Get it? I have six pack abs…Cheap, trendy, gross tasting six pack abs.”

Fairly slow news day, so here’s a random amalgamation of things happening around the internet with small doses of snark attached for your reading pleasure:

-This isn’t an MMA blog, but it is a free blog, so I’m going to talk about Fedor Emelianenko, the consensus #1 heavyweight in the world and many’s pick for the #1 overall fighter and even GOAT of MMA. He signed with low-rent US promotion Strikeforce on Monday after being courted by the UFC. This was made necessary by his last promotion folding. The deal-breaker was that his promotional company, which has a legacy of destroying promotions, demanded a partnership with the UFC.

This is one of the most frustrating sports stories I’ve ever seen. The Lakers didn’t go to Europe after beating the Nuggets and play DKV instead of the Magic because Europe allowed Nike better access. I like MMA because after filling my days with ridiculous basketball arguments for months every year, I like a sport where two guys fight and one guy wins and it’s done with. Fedor just screwed that up. He’s now one of the great “what-if” guys in sports history, along with old ABA legends, although most of them eventually made it to the NBA. The best analogy might be Oscar Charleston, and the fact that Fedor had a choice while Charleston didn’t just makes the whole thing much, much more infuriating. At least team sports don’t have politics getting in the way of the product, unless Ricky Rubio is involved. Not to mention Mayweather-Paquiao, THE ONE FIGHT CASUAL BOXING FANS WANT TO SEE, appears to be at least 2 years away. Grr.

-News today: This may be the single most predictable story in the history of sport. I seriously can’t think of anything more obvious. That Jessica Simpson is saying stupid things on Twitter seems like an insane confluence of events compared to this.

-The Vanity Fair with Heath Ledger on the cover is an absolute keeper-this story on Politico is a must-read, as is Michael Lewis on the economic meltdown at AIG.

-Simmons put this on Twitter, but this WaPo article on Gawker is a very interesting read. Although I say this as someone who uses pictures with a particularly wanton disregard for copyright laws.

-The more free time I have, the more I’m loving rediscovering the archives of Will Leitch’s “Life as A Loser” column. As a many-year Deadspin reader, and a guy who’s read “God Save the Fan” multiple times and Will’s novel, I think those columns are Leitch’s best work.

-“Funny People”-worth a watch, but not all that funny. Not something to see with friends on a Friday night, but a solid one to rent. Particularly good for those who have been in the dregs of some form of entertainment past the age of 18 and felt a lack of purpose, which is to say everyone in the former group.

-And finally, Cleveland was fined for leaking the schedule. How are the Cavs going to have the money to keep LeBron now?

Searching For the Final 4

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Just very quickly, a heads-up: I’ve got something up on SLAM today that I worked EXTREMELY hard on and I think will be worth your time. Check it out if you get bored at owrk.

Alright, so here’s what’s happening now: with what remains of the midlevel exception, the Cavs appear to be persuing one more power forward. What you’re looking for in a power forward off the bench is a guy who can stretch the floor and play pick-and-roll defense if they want to play with Shaq and Z, or defend the post if they want to play with Andy. So here are the candidates that the Cavaliers have looked at or are continuing to look at to be that final piece of the puzzle (all relevant information gleaned from Brian Windhorst’s twitter feed):

Hakim Warrick:

Well, Hakim Warrick would’ve been a pretty nice addition. Warrick isn’t a star and will never be one, but he would’ve been a solid addition. He’s similar to Jemario Moon in a lot of ways, with the key difference being that nobody’s tried to play Moon at the 4 yet, while Warrick has been playing the 4 almost exclusively for most of his career. Warrick would’ve been fantastic as a pick-and-roll defender in Brown’s defensive system, which is crucial with Shaq and Z being as completely immobile as they are.

Warrick is also an excellent athlete who loves to dunk the ball when he gets inside, and would’ve been great to have slashing to the basket and running the floor with LeBron. Warrick’s jumper is just decent enough that he mistakenly believes it’s a good idea to shoot it; with an eFG% on jumpers of 37%, defenders may have occasionally followed him out to 17 feet, but his jumper is ultimately a losing proposition.

However, Warrick turned down the Cavaliers’ two-year offer to take a one-year offer from the Bucks, so alas. Play him off, keyboard cat.

Rob Kurz:

Kurz has been around a while, but got his first serious look at playing time as part of Don Nelson’s bizarre carousel of a rotation last season. He wasn’t all that effective, and his defense is a serious question mark, but he knows his role and can make wide-open shots. Excuse me for being unable to muster up any enthusiasm for the poor man’s Brian Cardinal. Play him completely indifferent, the theme from Dar!a.

Steve Novak:

Now Novak, I could imagine getting pretty excited about. Novak’s defense is not a strong point, but to be fair it might be a little underrated, if only because everybody automatically assumes tall white sharpshooters are terrible at defense.

Offensively, Novak could make this team pretty special. He shot 43% from deep and had a 60% TS last year, and that’s with the horrifying lack of ball movement on the Clipper offense forcing him to freestyle and often try to have to create his own shot, which was like asking Jessica Alba to do a biopic of Eleanor Roosevelt.

I’ve watched Steve Novak in warmups and in games: at 6-9, he is one of the best open shooters in basketball. When he gets to set his feet, he rarely so much as hits the rim. It’s beautiful. Imagine Donyell Marshall or Wally, only if they actually made their open threes. However, I doubt Mike Brown will willingly sign off on a move for a player with so little to offer on defense and the boards. Play him unlikely to happen, but still glorious to imagine, Sweedish hip-hop/swing amalgamation Movits!

Joe Smith:

Odd that serious negociations with him haven’t been discussed yet, but he wasn’t in the rotation in the Orlando series, and the Cavs may feel that for as well as Joe fit in his 2 years in Cleveland, it’s time to go with someone with more upside. Play him comfortingly familiar and yet ready to take his next journey, Belle and Sebastian side project.

Leon Powe:

Powe seems likely be become a Cav sometime in the coming weeks; all reports have the Cavs as Powe’s #1 choice, and the Cavs have reportedly offered Powe a contract. Powe is probably the best player on this “list” by a considerable margin, but may be the worst fit for the Cavaliers; he can’t defend the pick-and-roll or stretch the floor, doing his best work scoring in the low post and defending the post.

However, Powe is a phenominal worker around the basket; he can score on post-ups, he can get garbage buckets, and he can score by utilizing offensive rebounds. After having no low-post threat for years, the Cavs would suddenly have 2 of the 10 best low-post scorers in basketball if they added Powe. (Possibly three, if LeBron puts in the hours he needs to this summer.)

Powe is simply too dangerous as a scorer and banger off the bench to overlook, especially when he’s this readily available. The only concern is his defense, but in 07-08 he didn’t kill the Celtics in terms of +/-, so it may be a risk worth taking on that end. Coming out of college, Powe slipped to 49th despite being regarded as a phenom in his high school days because of serious knee problems. The Celtics snapped him up, and used his stellar play to help them win a championship. Then he had serious knee problems, and now he’s available for a song because everyone wants to underestimate again. Powe might not be an ideal fit, but he has too much potential not to take a flyer on at this value. Play him an odd mix and something we’re not used to seeing work but nonetheless extremely intriguing and exciting, French separatist gangster rap.