Archive for April, 2011

Player Grades/Report: J.J. Hickson

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

2010-11 Grade: C+

What Hickson Does Well:

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

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

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

What Hickson Does Poorly:

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

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

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

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

Bob Finnan’s Insider Retrospective

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Bob Finnan has a slew of stories from behind-the-scenes during the Cavs 2010-11 campaign, including an anecdote about being interviewed on SportsCenter about a game of which he had seen only three quarters:

I was live on “SportsCenter” not knowing who had won the game. I tried to get online quickly to check out the final score, but my wireless connection was slow.

I had to judge by the tone of their questions who had won the game (of course, the Grizzlies did).

Being quick on my feet, I got through the ordeal with flying colors. Thank God they didn’t ask about a last-second shot or something like that. I would have been cooked.

Read the whole thing here. It’s a pretty interesting read, and a pleasant exploration of the weirdness of being a beat writer for an NBA team.

Lottery Odds

Monday, April 25th, 2011

From John Bena at Fear the Sword:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves – 250 combinations, 25.0% chance of receiving the #1 pick
2. Cleveland Cavaliers – 199 combinations, 19.9% chance
3. Toronto Raptors – 156 combinations, 15.6% chance
4. Washington Wizards – 119 combinations, 11.9% chance
5. Utah Jazz (via NJ) – 88 combinations, 8.8% chance
6. Sacramento Kings – 63 combinations, 6.3% chance
7. Detroit Pistons – 43 combinations, 4.3% chance
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (via LA Clippers) – 28 combinations, 2.8% chance
9. Charlotte Bobcats – 17 combinations, 1.7% chance
10. Milwaukee Bucks – 11 combinations, 1.1% chance

Just a reminder of where the Cavs sit in terms of the lottery odds, since we’re only four weeks away. You know those moments in the playoffs when LeBron would drive, draw three defenders, then kick it out to Mo Williams, who would take aim, rise, and fire, and you—having already watched Mo clank many similar attempts off the rim—would feel a distinct sense of helplessness as the ball hurtled towards the rim? That’s what watching the lottery will be like for me. And if we end up with the 7th and 12th picks, I wouldn’t be surprised if I incredulously exclaim “[Gosh darn it], Mo!”

Texas’s Thompson, Joseph, and Hamilton Enter Draft

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

From ESPN’s Dana O’Neil:

The fortunes of the Texas basketball team took a dramatic turn Friday as sophomore Jordan Hamilton and freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph all announced they will enter the NBA draft.

I won’t claim to have an informed opinion on any of these guys since the only time I watch NCAA basketball is during conference tourneys and the big dance. I have seen Tristan Thompson once and can tell you that he appeared “athletic.” For more in-depth analysis, I refer you to the Draft Express pages of Thompson, Joseph, and Hamilton. I’m sure our draft expert will have some interesting thoughts on these incoming prospects, but until then, I’m just passing along information.

The Cavs Had a Really, Really Bad Year

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Bob Finnan recaps the Cavs’ futility, report card style:

C Ryan Hollins, 7-0, 240, 5th year: He went from an end-of-the-bench guy to being the team’s starting center. That shows just how bad this team really was. His play did pick up considerably after Davis arrived on the scene. He started looking for Hollins in the post, especially on alley-oop dunks. He shot a team-high 59.8 percent from the field. His lack of rebounding – 2.7 per game on the season – remains a sore spot with Coach Byron Scott. He wants his bigs to hit the boards. That point was pounded over J.J. Hickson’s head. He never really got it through to Hollins, who owns a player option on his contract for next year. He’ll undoubtedly pick it up. Grade: C-

Let us never speak of this season again.

Is This Draft Deeper Than It Appears?

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

From FS Ohio’s Sam Amico:

No, there aren’t many superstars expected to emerge from this draft. No, there are no Kobe Bryants or Kevin Durants. But yes, there are still a lot of prospects whom NBA types can’t wait to see — even without Barnes, Jones and Sullinger.

According to People Who Know Things, this draft has the potential to be particularly deep. Which: it might rain next Friday, but then again, it might not. But this a time of year for optimism, and the Cavs can use that massive LBJ trade exception to buy picks on draft night. If they can turn a chunk of that exception into Marshon Brooks and Marshon Brooks turns out to be a rotation player down the line, I think we’ll all be pleased.

Wildcats’ Jones, Liggins, and Knight Declare for Draft

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Good news, you guys:

Kentucky junior DeAndre Liggins and freshmen Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight have declared for this year’s NBA Draft. None of the three have signed or announced plans to sign with an agent.

Or: tentatively good news. Knight, Jones, and Liggins have not hired agents yet, which means they can withdraw from the draft any time before May 8th if they don’t like where they are rumored to be selected. Most mock drafts have Knight coming off the board around #8, Jones at approximately #10, and Liggins… well, Liggins might want to return for his senior year. My completely underinformed opinion is that if the Cavs fail to acquire the privilege of drafting Kyrie Irving, they will strongly consider drafting Knight with the Clippers’ pick if he’s still available.

Wanted: One Draft Expert

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

It is once again hiring time here at Cavs; The Blog, which really excites me because I got a TON of really, really good applicants both times I asked if anyone wanted to be links editor, and could only choose one person each time.

As you are all aware, the story of this off-season for the Cavs will be the draft. Two lottery picks, and one of those will be at the very top of the draft. So draft coverage is going to be important. Unfortunately, I don’t really watch college or international basketball, so I always feel a bit out of the loop when doing draft profiles. With the two picks in the lottery, there really should be comprehensive profiles of the top 15 prospects on this site before the draft, and I’m not the one to do them.

So I’m reaching out to you guys. If there are any college basketball fanatics or international ball gurus out there, send me an email at johnkrolik@gmail.com with the Subject line “Cavs: The Blog Draft Expert” with some brief info about yourself and why you’re interested, as well as a sample of your writing if you have it. (Don’t be discouraged from applying if you don’t have a sample, but it would be helpful if you do.) I look forward from hearing from you guys, and go ping-pong balls!

Cavs Will Draft for Talent, Not Need

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Chris Grant via Bob Finnan:

“We’d never pass on a star to fill a need, regardless of position.”

The translation: “if Derrick Williams is sitting there at two or three, we’re taking him.”

By the way, it seems every team that has more than a 5% chance at the number one pick will take Kyrie Irving except for the Wizards, who have John Wall. Then again, the T-Wolves are run by David Kahn, who might draft Harrison Barnes, then spend the next nine months bargaining with Roy Williams as Barnes regresses and shoots 31% from the field in ACC competition and scouts begin to wonder if he will ever play in the NBA. There’s a precedent for this.

Random Playoff Thoughts Extravaganza!

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Wow, what an opening weekend of playoff games. Just to prove I’ve been working, here’s some stuff I’ve done in the last few days from the NYT’s  Off The Dribble blog, Pro Basketball Talk, and a different website. And here’s me being interviewed for a few seconds on Good Morning America. A few completely scattered thoughts on the playoffs:

-Didn’t it seem like the NBA was pretty darn top-heavy coming into the playoffs? The Spurs, The Lakers, The Heat, The Celtics and The Bulls all had a legitimate case as the title favorites, The Mavericks and Magic still looked dangerous, and the Thunder and Nuggets were up-and-coming. A few days later, the Spurs and Lakers both have a home loss, the Bulls barely survived the Pacers twice, and Celtics look razor-thin without Delonte and Shaq healthy. The Heat have looked good so far, but we all know that the real test for them will come when they have to deal with the Celtics, the Bulls, or whoever comes out of the West. The league looks a lot more wide-open than it did a few days ago.

- Every time I’ve interacted with Lamar Odom, he has been an absolute prince. He’s overcome some incredible tragedies in his life. He’s one of my favorite active players in the NBA. But from a fan-to-fan perspective, there has never been a better way to rub salt in a wound than “Hey, at least there’s a new episode of Khloe and Lamar on tonight.”

- Part of me wants to remember that the Magic went 0-2 when Dwight Howard scored 30 or more points in their first-round game against the 76ers in the 2009 playoffs, and we all know how that worked out. (CURSE YOU RASHARD LEWIS.) Another point of me thinks that Dwight’s supporting cast is miserable, and the Magic should probably sell non-flammable Howard jerseys in the team store next season. And that Dwight should lose Jim Gray’s number.

- I fully recognize that I cannot be objective about whether losing Carlos Boozer and lucking into Anderson Varejao in a “crap, we really need to replace Carlos Boozer” trade was actually a blessing in disguise for the Cavs, because it’s too painful to believe otherwise. But still, watch Boozer’s performance in game one again and tell me there’s not at least an argument to be made.

- Derrick Rose is everything he’s cracked up to be, but watching Chris Paul go off in person on Sunday was a special experience. That man is a perfect basketball machine when he’s rolling on all cylinders.

- I am president of the non-Denver chapters of the Nene fan club. Tell me why his impending free agency isn’t a much bigger deal. TELL ME.

Okay, that’s all for now. Until later.