Archive for May, 2011

Kawhi Leonard – Draft Profile

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Athletic tests from the draft combine were released. Derrick Williams had average vertical jumping, but lead the combine in the bench press and was in the top half for the speed and agility drills. Brandon Knight was top 5 (of 53) for the speed and agility drills and in the top third for vertical leaping. Knight also performed ten reps of 185 lbs in the bench press. One player with disappointing athleticism test results was Kawhi Leonard. Leonard had the 7th worst standing vertical jump, 12th worst maximum vertical, was in the bottom third on agility drills, and performed three reps in the bench press. Leonard is a potential top 5 pick and deserves a closer look.

Kawhi Leonard
Height: 6’ 7”
Weight: 227 lbs
Position: SF
Age: Turns 20 in June

Summary: Kawhi Leonard just finished his sophomore year at San Diego State. He was the leader in scoring, rebounding, and steals for a 34 win team. He is most intriguing due to his length and energy level and is viewed as a top 4 – 8 pick.

Basketball Bio: Kawhi Leonard played high school basketball in San Diego, where he was named Mr. Basketball California his senior season. As the 60th ranked recruit in the class of 2009, he stayed close to home and attended San Diego State. His freshman year, Leonard lead the Mountain West Conference (MWC) in rebounding and was first team all conference. In 2010 – 2011, Leonard averaged 15.4 points and 10.7 rebounds in 32 minutes while leading SD State to the MWC tournament championship and the sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Skill Overview: Leonard is a great rebounder. While not possessing outstanding jumping ability, he gets off the floor quickly and has long arms and huge hands. His wingspan is 7’ 3”, amazing for a 6’7” player, and his hands were the largest of the 2011 NBA draft combine. Leonard is an active, high energy player and a hard worker; often described as a “gym rat”. These attributes allowed Leonard to snag the 9th most rebounds per game this year, despite SD State playing at only 64 possessions per game (68 was NCAA’s median). He was most effective on the defensive glass, grabbing 26% of the available rebounds which was the 15th best rate in the NCAA. Another strength is that Leonard uses his length and energy as a force on the defensive end. Guarding multiple positions (2, 3 & 4), he is disruptive in the passing lanes and fights through picks defending pick and rolls. Offensively, he can create scoring opportunities for himself and is also a good passer, finishing second on the Aztecs with 2.5 assists per game against only 2.1 turnovers.

Offensively, Leonard is still a work in progress. He shot 29% on three pointers in 2010 – 2011 and 31% on long 2 pointers. He wasn’t particularly skilled at anything, instead showcasing average ability to score in many different ways. Based on data from Synergy Sports (via draftexpress.com); Leonard was slightly below average as a per possession scorer on spot-ups, isolations, put-backs, fast breaks, cuts, and pick & rolls. Leonard creates scoring opportunities each of these ways, but was unable to distinguish himself as extremely effective at any of them. Leonard shot 44% from the field and had a true shooting percentage of only 51. He shoots free throws at 75%, but shoots less than one free throw for every three field goal attempts. At offseason workouts in Las Vegas, scouts have been very impressed by the work Leonard is putting into shooting and ball handling.

Additional Info / Advanced Stats: Due to his positional flexibility, size, and energy; Leonard is known as a high quality defender. He collects steals at 1.4 per game, good for 4th in the MWC (225th in the NCAA), but only blocked 0.6 shots per game. Sometimes these two stats are poor means to evaluate defensive impact. Looking deeper at SD State’s plus / minus, it appears their defense was better when Leonard was on the bench. Starting with their first BYU game (final17 games), SD State allowed 0.94 points per possession with Leonard playing compared to 0.87 with Leonard sitting. Over these games; the SD State defense was good with Leonard, but great when he was on the bench, as the 0.87 points per possession edges Fairfield’s NCAA best defense (0.88). This is a small sample size at just over three games worth of off-court possessions, but the difference in performance is enough to say that SD State’s defense was not better with Leonard playing. Perhaps the way that Leonard was used within SDSU’s system was not perfectly suited to his talents.

The most used comparisons for Leonard are Shawn Marion and Gerald Wallace. Both use their athleticism to rebound and play defense and are also good offensive players, despite below average outside shooting. Leonard probably projects as a “poor-man’s” version of either player. Marion has been racking up defensive stats since his college days, when he averaged 1.9 blocks and 2.5 steals at UNLV. Wallace has been first team NBA all-defense and, at his best, improved the Bobcats defense up to six points per 100 possessions when on the court. Leonard is probably not on that level and Marion and Wallace were likely not in the bottom third of their draft class in tests for agility and jumping.

A month ago, Leonard was considered a late lottery pick and that may still be appropriate. Leonard is undoubtedly a very good rebounder, plays with high energy, and works at improving his game. He is a reasonably skilled ball handler and passer. In interviews, Leonard wants to be viewed as a 2 / 3 however a more realistic career is as a 3 / 4. A lesser possible comparison could be a better version of Matt Barnes. Both are around 6’7” and 235 lbs. They are great rebounders, bring a lot of energy, and are capable of guarding multiple positions. Both are average to below average shooters, but Leonard can bring more to the table as an offensive player and has better defensive tools than Barnes. Leonard will be a valuable NBA player, but likely won’t be a top echelon offensive or defensive player.

Drawings from Notebook of Chris Grant, (episode three):

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

Well, this turned out to be prescient. (I drew it last Thursday.)

My non-pictorial thoughts—for the record:

If I’m Chris Grant and I get the opportunity to add Derrick Williams via the 4/8 for 2 trade, I do it.

I couple that sentiment with the belief that ultimately, Derrick Williams is not a 3 and thus he and J.J. would be in direct competition for a role that only one of them could fill. (J.J.’s never been an invigorating bench player, and we wouldn’t be drafting DW at 2 to mimic Paul Millsap.) While I’m not sure that Derrick is the more talented prospect—which is both a defense of J.J. and a minor indictment of DW, who, turns out, is not quite the athlete he’s purported to be—DW strikes me as the more reliable one. In the end, I think reliability trumps even talent, and it’s not like Derrick Williams is a slouch of a talent.

Also for the record: I legitimately love our occasionally wayward J.J., could see him having a 20 and 10 season next year, and if this deal fails to materialize I take back every word of what I just wrote.

Happy Sunday everyone :)

……

(One more note: this week’s picture was colored by my friend Nico Colaleo, who is a super-talented cartoonist with a website worth checking out if you’re at all interested in that sort of thing.)

You Guys!

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

From Chris Broussard:

Cavs, Pistons, Twolves discussing 3-team trade that would give Cavs 1st & 2nd picks, sources say.

Cavs absorb Rip Hamilton into 14.6 mill trade exception & get Det’s 8th pick. Cavs send 4th & 8th picks to Minny for 2nd pick

Cavs would then draft Kyrie No. 1 and Derrick Williams No. 2. Nothing imminent but trade us being discussed by the teams.

Update from Scott Sargent at WFNY:

Source close to WFNY places considerable doubt on reported #Cavs rumors.

Says Pistons would demand more, #Cavs not valuing Williams enough to burn picks; would rather pick 1, 4 and 8.

On Delusion

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Donald Sterling is unconcerned that the Clippers effectively traded away the rights to Kyrie Irving this past February. He thinks the cap space he cleared by unloading Baron Davis’s contract will be used to sign Dwight Howard or Chris Paul to a max deal next summer. He thinks a young core of Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, and Big Name Free Agent X will rapidly cohere, and L.A.’s other team will vault into championship contention. Sterling’s aspirations are characteristically quixotic. Last summer, he was positive the Clippers could effectively court LeBron James. The rest of the league politely chuckled.

Sterling’s delusion—paired with the fact that he’s, like, an awful human being—is one of the key reasons the Clippers have been one of the least successful franchises in NBA history. He has heckled his own players, brought women into his team’s locker room to ogle his players’ “beautiful black bodies,” and stated that he does not like to rent his properties to African-Americans because they ”smell and attract vermin.” How he believes that anyone with a conscience—let alone a black superstar—would want to play for his organization is a riddle only a syphilitic mind can solve.

Cavaliers fans are not burdened with an owner of horrendous moral fiber, but Dan Gilbert’s volatility has the potential to be destructive. The construction of a championship contender is a lot like building a fire—one cannot set ablaze an entire woodpile by throwing matches at it. It’s a slow process, the type of activity best enjoyed with a glass of Scotch and someone to chat with while the smoke thickens. It can also be boring to the wrong type of person. The 2011-12 season is when the embers stir, and Cavs fans should be able to envision what might be. There will be no playoff push this season, but there should be a palpable future.

It is imperative for Dan Gilbert to understand this. He was justifiably elated when the Cavaliers snagged the number one pick in the NBA Lottery, but one worries he might allow that elation to consume him, skipping past the “new beginning” of which he spoke and forcing roster moves that favor minor, short-term successes. This week, Memphis rejected a trade proposal in which the Cavs offered the number four selection in the 2011 draft and a Rudy Gay-sized chunk of their trade exception in exchange for the Grizzlies’ injured star. Andre Iguodala’s name keeps floating around in unsubstantiated trade rumors; presumably the Cavs would offer or have already offered Philadelphia the same type of deal. These whispers sketch an unsettling picture: I sense Gilbert’s giddy tentacles creeping into the frame and meddling with the Cavaliers’ future.

The prevalence of 27 year-old Andre Iguodala’s name in trade rumors over the past couple seasons is the Sixers’ implicit admission that the Iguodala and Brand Era was a mistake. If the Cavaliers were to add him to their squad, their starting lineup would look something like this: Varejao-Hickson-Iguodala-Gibson-Irving/Davis. The last Iggy-centic team was the 2009-10 Sixers. That squad juggled their starting lineup quite a bit, but the most heavily employed one consisted of Samuel Dalembert, Elton Brand, Thad Young, Iguodala, and Lou Williams. The ’09-’10 Sixers won only 27 games. Iguodala played 39 minutes per game in all 82 games, averaging 6.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.7 turnovers, and 17.1 points per game with a true shooting percentage of 53.5%. Iguodala made $12 million that year, and he is scheduled to earn another $44 million over the next three seasons. If Oklahoma City has established a viable blueprint for rebuilding in a smaller market—acquire players at or below value, stockpile assets, embrace youth, and don’t be afraid to lose for a few seasons—then Iggy is the opposite of a building block.

The Rudy Gay trade—which we can speak about in hypothetical terms because, by all accounts, it’s not happening—would have presented similar problems. Gay is a better, younger player, but he has four years and roughly $67 million left on his current contract. He is a borderline all-star with the salary of a savior. I want the Cavaliers front office to remain as active as possible. By all means, field all phone calls and consider all offers. Maybe Sam Presti will get drunk while watching tapes of the OKC-Memphis series and offer Westbrook for J.J. Hickson and a first-rounder. But the Iguodala and Gay trade rumors are the fever dreams of a team attempting to accelerate an inaccelerable process.

I wrote earlier this year about how desire is essential to fanhood. This is true, but when desire becomes the driving force behind front office decision-making, it’s poisonous. Dan Gilbert sometimes employs a fan’s desire in areas more suited for an executive’s restraint. Gilbert, like all Cavs fans, is correct in being optimistic about this upcoming season, but that optimism can easily transform to disillusionment if he views this team through the wrong prism. Last year, the Cavaliers were a bad team. This year’s incarnation is going to be younger, better, but probably still bad. Their ceiling is an eight seed and a swift first-round exit. It makes no sense to pay Rudy Gay $14.3 million for the privilege of finishing seventh. There is no player for which the Cavs can trade that will change their fate considerably.

Here’s where we—joyous, friend-hugging optimists on Lottery night—must unhinge ourselves from our delusions. Wanting to win now and being able to win in the future are mutually exclusive if the former dominates the latter. So, I implore you: enjoy the flashes of brilliance, enjoy the sporadic wins, enjoy the weirdness of watching young players get their sea legs. Adjust your appetite, and enjoy the process. The victories will come, perhaps precipitously in the coming seasons, but this offseason is about assessing reality and bending its path in our favor. This offseason is about the tedious first steps of firebuilding. We must do this because the margin for error in the Cavaliers’ rebuilding process is slim. In the future, when we desperately need it, we may have only one match to throw, and it would be a shame to waste it this summer.

Shirt of the Day

Friday, May 27th, 2011

We don’t normally have a Shirt of the Day here at Cavs: The Blog. In fact, we have never had a Shirt of the Day. But if we did have a running Shirt of the Day feature, this shirt would surely be featured.

[Via Darren Rovell]

Marcus Morris draft profile

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Marcus Morris is a force with the ball in his hands.

Few pairs of post players in college basketball matched Kansas’ Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, in production this year. The duo averaged more than 30 points and 15 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 60% from the field. Marcus, standing just under 6’9” in shoes and weighing 230 pounds, was the slightly smaller but slightly more productive of the two. He’s also generally considered the better NBA prospect, though both could hear their names called in the lottery. Today, we’ll examine the potential impact the junior would have on the Cavs.

Strengths

Morris has a complete, NBA-ready offensive game. He possesses both a smooth jumper with range out to college 3 (shot 34% this year) and a refined back-to-the-basket game. In the post, he uses his body well to clear space for himself and uses spin moves, fadeaways and pivots to generate clear looks at the basket from in and around the paint. After he catches the ball when fronted or gets a rebound in traffic, he is highly aware of secondary defenders and maneuvers around them to score. On the perimeter, he uses a jab step to clear space for his jumper and has very good ball-handling skills, though he doesn’t showcase them often.

Efficiency plays a huge role in Morris’ value as a prospect. He averaged a sterling 1.23 points per possession on 63% true shooting. He shows excellent discipline playing within the offense, evidenced by his surprisingly low usage rate (20%). In the game tape I watched to prepare this scouting report, Morris didn’t take a single bad shot.

Morris is tough and physical in the rebounding and defense departments. He shows a willingness to bang in the post and gives good effort most of the time on defense. He hedges out on pick and rolls well and gets low when opposing ball handlers are in front of him. He fights hard for position at both ends of the floor.

Morris answered a big concern at the combine, where he measured out with a 6’10” wingspan. Nothing great, but he had previously measured with a shorter wingspan than height. He also showed that he’s a fluid athlete, with a decent standing vertical of 29” and a ¾ court spring of 3.15s, among the top marks for power forwards. Running the floor won’t be a concern for Morris at the next level.

Weaknesses

Though he isn’t a stiff by any means, Morris doesn’t have explosive athleticism and leaping ability. He’s a force on the offensive glass, but grabbed just 5 defensive rebounds per game this year, good for a mere 20% of his team’s defensive boards. He also averaged a paltry 0.6 blocks per game. At the college level, playing against mostly inferior athletes, that’s a startlingly low number.

Help defense is not one of Morris’ strengths. When one of his teammates gets beat on the perimeter, Morris can be a little slow to rotate over. Instead of aggressively contesting the opponent’s shot, he often just puts his hands the air and then turns to rebound.

Morris’ free-throw shooting also needs work. He made just 69% of his attempts this season, a little disappointing considering he shows solid form.

Finally, as a 21-year-old junior, Morris has limited upside compared to other prospects in this draft.

How he fits with the Cavs

I actually think Morris is a better prospect than many are giving him credit for. He shows few weaknesses on the offensive side of the ball, where the only real question is how he will adjust to facing NBA athletes, as his measurements and athleticism are only average for NBA power forwards. The fact that he already shows comfort and discipline playing within a role and a system despite being the best player on his college team is also a major plus.

The problem with regard to the Cavs is that they already have a developing young power forward in J.J. Hickson who is only a year older than Morris and has shown some ability.

Morris, who is currently projected to go in the mid-to-late lottery, would also be a reach at #4. As with Burks, the Cavs could consider trading down to draft him. But in a draft this mediocre, and with a team this bad, the Cavs should definitely be thinking long-term. Morris is a low-risk pick who should be a solid NBA rotation player right away, but Cleveland is probably better off swinging for the fences with a higher-risk pick.

This is me talking about Mike Brown

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

With the Kamenetzy Brothers of ESPN Los Angeles. Hope you enjoy it — as you know, I’m a card-carrying Brown apologist and now I bring that message to a wider audience.

Does Drafting Kyrie Irving Present Problems?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

From SBNation’s Matt Conner:

If Kyrie Irving is the No. 1 overall choice for the Cavs, that speaks volumes about two primary things concerning the team and the draft. First, it insinuates the team is committed to a long-term rebuild that ignores the present value they currently possess on their roster — current point guards be damned. That might not mean a fun team to watch this year, but it also means the Cavs aren’t interested in mediocrity.

The cited article addresses some of Chad Ford’s concerns that Irving will not be selected at number one because the Cavaliers already have Ramon Sessions and Baron Davis. This strikes me as pre-draft chatter that doesn’t amount to much. If drafting Kyrie Irving means Ramon Sessions has to ride the bench or find a new team, I think every Cavs fan is at peace with that.

Memphis Rejects Trade Offer for Rudy Gay

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

From Draft Express’s Jonathan Givony:

Heard Cleveland offered Memphis their #4 pick in exchange for Rudy Gay (w/help of their trade exception). Memphis rejected.

I’m fine with this.

Jonas Valanciunas – Draft Profile

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

It was obviously a very exciting week for the Cavs. Having picks 1 & 4 gives them a variety of options. The NBA draft combine also occurred. A few interesting items regarding previously profiled players includes that Kyrie Irving was taller than Brandon Knight (6’ 3.5” in shoes versus 6’ 3.25”) however Knight’s wingspan was 3” longer. Irving’s body fat was reported as 10.2% (6th highest at the combine). For comparison; Knight was 4.2% (2nd lowest), but Derrick Williams was at 10.8%. Irving went through medical exams, didn’t work out at the combine, and is focused on “getting in the best shape possible”. Kemba Walker had the combine’s smallest hands. Anyways, today’s profile is about a player that was not present in Chicago. Jonas Valanciunas may be of interest with the 4th pick or if the Cavs trade down.

Jonas Valanciunas
Height: 6’ – 10”
Weight: 230 lbs
Position: PF / C
Age: Turned 19 in May

Summary: Valanciunas is a 19 year old Lithuanian power forward / center. He has found great success versus his age group and played significant minutes in Europe’s top professional league last year. He has buyout issues with his European contract, and has positioned himself as a top 5 – 10 pick depending on resolution of the buyout.

Basketball Bio: Valanciunas has been a top player on the European Junior circuit for several years. In 2008, he led Lithuania to the Under-16 (U16) European Championship before leading them to the U18 championship in 2010. He was the MVP of the 2010 tournament, averaging 19.4 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks on 70% field goal shooting. In 2009, he was first-team all tournament at two major Europeans events; the U18 European championship and the Nike International Junior Tournament. He plays professionally with Lietuvos Rytos in the Euroleague, Lithuanian League (LKL), Baltic League (BBL), and VTB United League (VTB). For 15 games in Europe’s highest league last year, he averaged 7.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in 15 minutes per game. In his other 46 games in 2010 – 2011 he averaged 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in 20 minutes and was named MVP of the LKL all-star game, totaling 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Skill Overview: Valanciunas has great length and may still grow. His long arms are immediately noticeable. He is not an elite athlete; but does jump quickly, run the floor well, and play with energy. There are U18 highlights that include some athletic dunks. He has good touch around the basket and shoots free throws well, typically around 80%. Offensively, his greatest skill is operating in a pick and roll. He is a willing pick setter; always moving on offense and looking to set picks. Following the pick, he can effectively find open space and convert in the paint. According to draftexpress.com, Valanciunas had 52 possessions through 12/26/2010 used as “pick-and-rolls or cuts to the basket.” He scored or was fouled on 42 possessions, which is a remarkable rate of conversion (unfortunately I was unable to update this stat through the end of the year).

One concern about Valanciunas is his defense. He frequently plays center and possesses the size and “motor” to play good defense, but needs to add strength as he has trouble with stronger players posting him and sometimes gets pushed too far under the basket trying to maintain rebounding position. He needs to improve his instincts as he often appears a half move behind when rotating. Surely some of his difficulties can be excused due to playing the most important defensive position in quality professional leagues at 18 years old. Valanciunas’ offensive game is still developing. He is effective, scoring 20 points per 40 minutes with nearly 70% shooting, but most of that comes on offensive rebounds and assisted shots in the paint. He rarely shoots from the perimeter and is still developing post moves. To maximize his pick and roll potential, he will need to hit 18 footers (like a former Lithuanian Cavs big man). Hopefully his free throw shooting reflects this ability.

Additional Info / Advanced Stats: Valanciunas played as a reserve professionally, but he was very efficient at what he does best. In 15 Euroleague games this year, he averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds per 40 minutes while shooting 71%, finishing with a PER of 26. In his other 46 games in 2010 – 2011, he averaged 21.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per 40 while shooting 66%. Due to his aggressive play, quick leaping, and long arms; he was great on the offensive glass, averaging over 5 rebounds per 40 minutes. He showed good ability to block shots; averaging 1.7 per 40 minutes in the Euroleague and an impressive 3.5 per 40 in non-Euroleague games. A symptom of his current defensive issues is a propensity for fouls. In the LKL, VTB, and BBL he averaged 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes and in the Euroleague he averaged a troubling 8 fouls per 40 minutes. The energy Valanciunas brings to the floor is outstanding, but he needs improved defensive positioning and controlled aggressiveness to stay out of foul trouble.

Considering that the Cavs have two lottery picks, Valanciunas may be an interesting selection. He is currently negotiating buyout conditions for his contract with Lietuvos Rytas. If the Cavs are willing to use a lottery pick on a player that may be in Europe for two years, they could trade down and gain an additional asset while also securing Valanciunas. I like to envision Kyrie Irving and Valanciunas as the Steve Nash – Amare Stoudemire pick and roll combo of the 2010’s. That is admittedly a crazy dream. A good case scenario would be Andris Biedrins of a few years ago; one of the most efficient scorers and offensive rebounders in the NBA, only with an added bonus of making free throws. John Hollinger of ESPN describes Biedrins with: “he rebounds and finishes shots in the paint as the dive man on the pick and roll. He can’t…defend the post.” Very similar to Valanciunas’ current skill set, but if Valanciunas can develop the ability to capably defend the paint or shoot from mid-range; he will be even more valuable in the NBA.