“This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines. Last year it was Abe Pollin’s widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin: ‘We’re toast.’ This is not happening for us and I was right.”
Joel: I still thought you were gonna save my life… even after that.
Clementine: Ohhh… I know.
Joel: It would be different, if we could just give it another go-round.
Clementine: Remember me. Try your best; maybe we can…
…Joel: I don’t see anything I don’t like about you.
Clementine: But you will! But you will, and I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped, because that’s what happens with me.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
So here we are, eight years later. After all the hope, the triumph, the heartbreak, the bitterness, and a truly awful season of basketball, we return again to the beginning. The #1 pick in the draft.
Only this time, the team is prepared like it wasn’t before. The 2nd player the Cavs take in this draft will be considerably better than Jason Kapono. Anderson Varejao isn’t Carlos Boozer or Ricky Davis. This time, the team is ready to do things the right way from day one.
Of course, Kyrie isn’t LeBron. Maybe that’s the best part, more likely the worst one. But the team has the best thing it could have hoped for: a fresh start. Here are a few more scattered thoughts:
- Kyrie Irving is the guy. I hope there will be no real debate on this. He’s one of two players in the draft with both great production and great athletic tools, and he’s the one with a position. And it happens to be the most important position on the floor.
The “rap” on Irving is that he doesn’t have “superstar potential,” but ever since those new hand-check rules went into effect, hyper-fast guards who know how to score have been consistently surprising people. Marvin Williams was supposed to have more star potential than Chris Paul. A lot of people thought Beasley had more star power than the reigning MVP.
I’m expecting Irving to be “safe,” meaning he’ll step in and flirt with top-10 point guard status fairly soon, but I think he has a better chance of being one of the best players in the league in three or four years than most people do. I am absolutely itching for the Kyrie Irving era to begin in Cleveland.
- I cannot stress enough how important patience will be going forward. Kyrie can be built around, and the team has some pieces in place, but this team will be a work in progress for at least another year, and it must be treated as such. We learned that lesson at the expense of the poor Clippers tonight.
The Clippers made what seemed like a completely logical trade at the deadline: they cut salary and traded for a point guard whose skills compliment those of their budding franchise player’s. It ended up blowing up in their face, hard, to the point where I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt that the Cavs prevented the Irving/Gordon/Griffin era from launching in Clipperland. (Not a huge twinge, especially since that team isn’t going anywhere until they can get a coach who will make Blake buy in on defense, but a twinge.)
The point isn’t that the Clippers made an indefensible trade: they made their bet after flopping a set with a rainbow flop on the board, the Cavs had two spades in their hand, and they ended up hitting a flush on the river. (My poker is a bit shaky, but I’m pretty sure the odds of the Cavs coming out with that pick were even worse than what I just described.)
The point isn’t that the Cavs’ 2.9% chance ended up coming through — it’s that the Clippers, a team in no position to make a legitimate playoff run in the next season or two, made a move that took away from their upside for a short-term gain.
Teams in the Cavs and Clippers’ position should NEVER, EVER DO THAT. The move blew up in the Clippers’ face in the lottery in reality — maybe it would have ended up blowing up if the pick they traded turned into the 8th pick, and Jan Vesely ended up becoming an absolute monster.
The point is that the Clippers should know about far Mo Williams, Vinny Del Negro, Blake Griffin, and Eric Gordon are going to take them, and Griffin and Gordon are good enough so that they should have dared to aim higher and been willing to risk one or two years of underperforming the kind of expectations a talent like Griffin brings. The Clippers’ pick revitalized the Cavs’ franchise — they lesson they should learn from the trade that got it will be just as important.
- Next season is not the season. The season after that may not be the season. But there is progress that can be made, and it’s progress that should be made at the correct pace. I’m actually hoping for a 35-win season next year, with about 12 games where Irving goes off, everything clicks, and we see the team’s potential, which will lead to another high draft pick in a better draft before the team really gears up to become a contender in the East again.
- As for the #4 pick, I really have no idea at this point. (DARN YOU, HARRISON BARNES.) Walker and Knight are the guys I feel best about overall, but that would be a crowded backcourt, and there’s only room for one point guard. Valanciunas and Kanter are both question marks, and I have concerns about the former’s ability to stretch the floor for Andy and the latter’s athleticism. Biyombo and Andy would make a heck of a defensive frontcourt, and I can see using Hickson in spurts to make them both work, but he’d be a bit of a reach. Vesely fits a need, but he’s both a question mark and a reach.
All I really have to say about the #4 pick is that the Cavs should go with fit ONLY AS A TIEBREAKER. The team isn’t good enough to be all that concerned about fit yet. If they feel strongly that one player will be objectively better than another, that’s the player they should take, regardless of position. I call this the “Take Al Horford instead of Mike Conley” rule, because I’m too nice to call it the “Trade down and take Martell Webster instead of Chris Paul because you already have Sebastian Telfair” rule.
As the Cavs look to rebuild, I think the Thunder/Bulls model is the one they should be following. Neither team rushed its rebuilding process or forced any short-term moves, and now they’re built around:
- Offensive weapons at the point who can both score and run the offense (Assuming Irving pans out, check.)
- Wing players who can be relied on as scoring threats (GAPING HOLE — DARN YOU, HARRISON BARNES.)
- Great defensive frontcourts who can finish what guards and wings create offensively(halfway there with Varejao, and the #4 pick could be huge for filling this hole)
- A coach who has a system from day one, especially on defense, and has a plan for how his team wins basketball games. (I have my doubts about Byron Scott — extreme doubts — but I’m willing to see what he can do with a real basketball team.
Great role players are important as well, but those are the main things, and they can’t be forced. The Cavs are still missing a frontcourt piece and a major wing piece, and need a better system than the one they had next year. Those things won’t happen overnight, and the Cavs’ management shouldn’t try and make them.
That’s all I have for tonight. This is a great night, because for the first time in a long time, it really feels like tomorrow will be a brighter day for the Cavaliers. Remember that feeling as the season progresses.
They say never say never, but for now, I think Cavs fans can consider the Rudy Gay rumor officially dead. This one just isn’t happening.
The full story is available over at WFNY, but the block quote sums up the short and narrow of it: Rudy Gay is not coming to Cleveland in a draft day deal or at some point over the summer. I’m at peace with that; Gay’s is a slightly more talented Danny Granger: a great player being paid like an elite one.
In 2009, the Lakers sold the No. 29 overall pick for $3 million. Kobe Bryant, the highest-paid player in the league this year, made $24.8 million. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined make $28.5 million. The Sacramento Kings’ entire team only made $44 million. Yet Gilbert was willing to spend some-$30 million for two first-round picks. And that is before he actually paid the guys that the Cavs picked.
If the lottery balls bounce the wrong way, our only solace might be that our owner is incredibly willing to spend money.
Tonight is the night for Cavalier fans. The last two seasons around this time, we’ve been on pins and needles over a big elimination game that we felt would potentially dictate the future of the franchise. This year, the stakes may feel the same, but the methodology of determining the fate is no longer in the team’s hands, but in the hands of the gods of fate and destiny and a handful of magical ping pong balls.
Let that paragraph cause sweat to form on the nape of your neck.
The Cavaliers not only have a 22 percent chance at acquiring the first pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, they have a hungry front office and an ownership team with a chip on their collective shoulder. They have two second-round selections, the ability to stash players overseas and a Traded Player Exception that could be considered gold by a financially-strapped franchise; Lord knows that the NBA is littered with these given the pending financial-fueled lockout.
Brandon Knight is an intriguing player. He is young and has been very successful however he is still a work in progress. I think he would be a good pick for the Cavs for the long-term and could be a good consolation prize if the lottery doesn’t go well. That said, hopefully the lottery goes extremely well tomorrow.
Height: 6’ 3”
Weight: 185 lbs
Age: Turns 20 in December
Summary: As a freshman this year, Brandon Knight was the point guard for the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky went to the Final Four, and Knight led the team in scoring and assists. He is still inconsistent, but current projections are that Knight will be a top 5 pick in the draft.
Basketball Bio: Knight went to high school at Pine Crest in Florida. After leading Pine Crest to two State titles and twice being named Gatorade National Player of the Year, Knight was a top 5 recruit in the class of 2010. Knight also found success on the AAU circuit, as his team won national championships in 2007 & 2008. He chose to attend Kentucky and during his freshman year averaged 17.3 points and 4.2 assists in 36 minutes per game while shooting 42 / 38/ 80. His performance earned him first team all-SEC honors as he helped Kentucky to 29 wins, an SEC tournament championship, and a Final Four appearance.
Skill Overview: Knight is 6’3” – 6’4” with long arms, so he has great size for a point guard. Although he doesn’t possess amazing speed like his Kentucky predecessor John Wall, Knight is very quick and a quality athlete. His speed allows him to create shots for himself; on drives, in transition, or by gaining separation on the perimeter. Using a quick release, he is an effective shooter from mid range to beyond the three point line, hitting shots off the dribble and coming off screens. His size and quickness provide the tools necessary to be an excellent defender. Knight diligently works on improving his game and is very intelligent. He finished his first year at Kentucky with a 4.0 gpa and is academically a sophomore.
Negatives for Knight include that he is turnover prone. He turned the ball over 3.2 times per game this year, experiencing trouble in traffic and when confronted with double teams. There are questions whether Knight can be a point guard in the NBA as he currently has better skills at creating shots for himself than for others. Getting to the free throw line is an issue due to settling for shots in the 5 – 10 ft range. Knight shot one free throw for every three field goal attempts, averaging only 4. 5 free throws per game. Finally, despite having a reputation as an intense defender in high school; Knight did not always exhibit this effort at Kentucky. Watching KY’s games, Knight sometimes lingers in no-man’s land when double teaming and can appear to coast defensively.
Additional Info / Advanced Stats: Knight turned over the ball 0.2 times per possession used and had an assist to turnover ratio of only 1.33, resulting in a negative pure point rating. In his defense though, freshman point guards typically experience turnover problems as they adjust to better competition. Knight’s turnovers per possession are similar to this year’s other lottery point guards (Walker’s freshman year) and with John Calipari’s three previous freshman guards. Each player’s turnover rate was between 0.19 – 0.24, and none had an assist to turnover ratio over 1.7. Early in the year; Knight particularly struggled, especially when forced to go left. In his first 19 games, Knight averaged 3.7 assists per game against 3.3 turnovers. As the season progressed though, he began showing signs of improvement as a ball handler and distributor. In the second half of the season he improved to 4.6 assists versus 3 turnovers while playing stronger competition.
Conversely to his ball handling, Knight’s shooting percentages got worse in the season’s second half. In his first 19 games; Knight was an efficient scorer, shooting 46% on all field goals and 41% from long range. In the latter half of the season; these percentages dropped to 39 and 35. The combination of his inconsistent shooting and ball handling was a slightly above average PER of 19.6 and true shooting of 55. Despite his flaws, Knight was the leader in minutes and the highest usage player on the NCAA’s 13th most efficient offense, and surely he deserves some credit for that. Improved consistency on his shot, in finding open teammates, and avoiding turnovers will be important for Knight to be a high caliber NBA PG.
Projecting Knight’s NBA potential is tricky due to questions about his eventual position and his inconsistency. He is very talented, athletic, and a hard worker; however he still has stretches like the SEC & NCAA tournaments, where he shot 34 / 29 / 79. Knight will continue to improve on his skills and get stronger, and a good case scenario for his career could be similar to Chauncey Billups (who incidentally averaged 4.5 turnovers per game his freshman year at Colorado). Both players are big point guards, good shooters, and can capably run an offense while not being outstanding assists guys. Hopefully unlike Billups, it doesn’t take a fifth team before Knight’s full potential is realized. If Knight doesn’t work out as a point guard, he could be a small, scoring “2” like Jason Terry or a player capable of manning both guard positions effectively, like the good Delonte West (from 2008 – 2009).
Knight is an interesting pick for the Cavs. He is not ready as a point guard in the NBA but could play alongside Baron Davis or Ramon Sessions. Knight could improve his strength and skills while not needing to be the primary ball handler today. By Knight’s third NBA season, the offense could become his as the starting point guard. The Cavs’ coach may have some tips for Knight too. Once upon a time, Byron Scott was s a top 5 draft pick as a 6’3”, 195 lb guard with a sweet shot.
One other note on Knight; several reputable sources list his birthday as 12/02/1992 however other sources say 12/02/1991. I called Kentucky’s basketball program, and they told me his birthday was 12/02/1991.
My apologies for being a little late to the party. I’m the picture guy. And what was initially conceived as a series of companion pieces to the ever so informative profiles Kevin and Mo have been supplying have since gone the way of the addendum; tragically tardy, but hopefully still of note.
I’ve brought with me today picture number one (Kyrie “good god please find your way to Cleveland because there is literally no one else I’m at all excited about” Irving) and I’m shooting for a new one to be posted each Sunday from now until the draft. Gauntlet thrown down. To myself.
Let’s hope this picture, more so than any of them to come, turns out to be prescient.
No team has asked for permission to talk to Scott, who completed his first season with the Cavaliers in April. If a team asked, an NBA source said the Cavs wouldn’t allow it.
No huge news here, but it has been confirmed that Byron Scott won’t be coaching the Lakers next season. He will be, for better or for disastrously worse, the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the foreseeable future.
Nate Smith is an Associate Editor. He grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and moved to NE Ohio in 2000. He adopted the Cavs in 2003 and graduated from Kent State in 2009 with a BA in English. He can be contacted at email@example.com or @oldseaminer on Twitter.
Tom Pestak is a Staff Writer. He's from the west side of Cleveland and lives and (mostly) dies by the success and (mostly) failures of his beloved teams. You can watch his fanaticism during Cavs games @tompestak.
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