Archive for June, 2011

On Hate

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Hating things is fine. I have built myself a summer home of hate—mortared together with antipathy for Malcolm Gladwell books, Aronofsky films, and Shakespearian comedies—into which I intermittently retreat like a small mammal in winter. Cleveland threw a tent over its skyline and became the world’s largest hate-fort for a few days following LeBron’s departure for Miami, and then again when he returned to the Q in early December. These explosions of loathing were understandable, even healthy. When misfortune befalls a person, anger is often the primary reaction; in the case of LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland for South Beach, the unfortunate masses had a target upon which to unleash this anger. So for a few nights, a couple in July and one in December, the whole city drank too much whiskey and whipped the empty bottle in the direction of the bastard who spurned them.

If you have lived until the age of five, you have probably experienced disappointment so acidic and unacceptable that it caused your face to blush red, and you felt as if your skin might sprout porcupine barbs. We have all thrown temper tantrums is what I mean. Cleveland had a grown-up version of that, and though my reaction to The Decision was more of a complicated sadness than a desire to set flame to Bron’s jersey, I empathized with angry fans. But the way that anger has fermented over the past few months is something I find ugly.

To the guy tweeting piss-takes while LeBron sleepwalks his way through the NBA Finals: I don’t understand you. Emanating from various corners of the internet (and not just Cavalier-related ones, mind) is a vicious schadenfreude that smacks of insecurity. Skip Bayless has been doing this for years, and it seems a small army has jumped aboard as he careens his hate-bus into whatever helps him ignore the fact that every lurid thought that comes out of his head exits through a mouse’s mouth. A well-placed barb has its merits, but when one decides to plop down on the couch with their laptop open, prepared to invest their happiness in someone else’s failure for two and a half hours, they cease to exist as a human being. They’re more like the insane supercomputer from a Patton Oswalt bit than something with feelings and an opinion I should respect.

The most irksome element of this hatefest is the smugness that clings to it like months of soap scum on a bathtub. Basketball is a sport, and in sports, there is no moral high ground. Jason Kidd almost definitely abused his ex-wife at various points of their marriage. LeBron’s contract expired, and he made an ass out of himself while electing to move on to another team. Those transgressions are miles apart in terms of heinousness. I’m rooting for the Mavericks specifically because I would like to see a team of title-starved veterans—Jason Kidd among them—capture a championship, but I would never delude myself into thinking the Mavs represent The Good and the Heat The Bad. Creating false binaries is foolish.

Hate is fine. Hate can be fun. But it is impossible to stand in front of someone’s house and throw eggs forever. One eventually has to let their anger wash away like so much chalk dust, to toss their empty carton in the bushes and go home. For Cavaliers fans, this will be easier later this month, as the additions of Kyrie Irving and Building Block X will provide us with a suitable home to which we can return. But, Irrationally Angry Cavs Fan: come home now anyway. We’ve got some Dortmunder Gold in the fridge, and you might find that when you stop focusing so much on Number 6, you’ll fall in love with this German guy’s high-post game. It’s pretty breathtaking.

Bismack Biyombo draft profile

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Biyombo's forceful dunks showcase his athleticism.

Question mark. Huge risk. Great potential. These are some of the words that have been used to describe Bismack Biyombo. The 6’9”, 240-pound big man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is perhaps the most intriguing prospect in the entire draft. He’s played less than 20 games of high-level basketball. I’ll try to speculate on his pro prospects and potential to help Cleveland with what little we do know and what I’ve been able to glean from a couple of highlight tapes.

Strengths

Athletically, Biyombo is almost as good as they come. He has great hops and not just in his first jump – his second and third jumps are as energetic and aggressive as his first. This enables him to finish with thunderous dunks after rebounds and block second-and-third attempts if his opponent regains the ball. He also runs the floor very well, showing that he’s a smooth athlete in addition to an explosive one.

Biyombo also sports an NBA body already – at the tender age of 18 if you are inclined to believe his agent, who says he has medical proof of Biyombo’s age. Though his height would put him in the middle ranks of NBA power forwards, his incredible 7’7” wingspan, along with his athleticism, more than make up for that. Finally, he was carrying just 4.8% body fat when measured at the Nike Hoop Summit.

As you can probably imagine, rebounding is one of Biyombo’s greatest strengths on the court. He grabbed 5.1 boards per game in 17 minutes of action through 14 games in the ACB, the top Spanish league. That extrapolates out to 11.6 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted, according to draftexpress.com’s database.

The defensive end of the floor is where Biyombo’s makes his presence most strongly felt. He blocks an amazing 5.2 shots per 40 minutes pace adjusted. His length, athleticism and timing are a nightmare for opposing guards and big men alike. He blocked a Nike Hoop Summit-record 10 shots while recording a triple-double in a loss to the U.S. Team.

Finally, Biyombo plays with great energy, a la Joakim Noah, often clapping and exulting after plays.

Weaknesses

Biyombo is an extremely raw offensive product. For all his athletic ability, he lacks the skills to put it to maximum use. Several times in the Hoop Summit game, Biyombo caught the ball more than a few feet from the basket and simply LEAPT toward the hoop, hoping to get as close as possible before releasing a shot. His only real options in a halfcourt offense right now appear to be a move where he spins baseline and attacks, and rolling hard to the hoop on pick and rolls.

Though his athleticism allows him to draw a ton of fouls (7.7 FTA/40m pace adjusted), he converts a lowly 55.3% of his foul shots. His shooting form is clunky.

Biyombo’s aggression on the defensive end has a downside: he’s very foul-prone. He committed two fouls per game in just 17 minutes, which extrapolates to nearly five per 40 pace adjusted.

Also, he kills nearly as many possessions with turnovers as he stops with blocked shots. Biyombo coughed the ball up on a whopping 25% of his possessions, made even worse by the fact that he assisted on just 4% of his possessions.

Biyombo looked like a man among boys at the Hoop Summit, but some have speculated that perhaps he WAS a man among boys. He’s listed at 18, but some have said he could be as old as 26 (!). It will be interesting to see what happens with the medical records his agent said he’ll produce.

How he fits with the Cavs

A player as limited offensively as Biyombo is going to need the right fit as he adds skills to his repertoire and (hopefully) develops a mid-range jumper like countryman Serge Ibaka. First and foremost, he’ll need a penetrating point guard to get him easy buckets at the rim. Luckily for Cleveland, it may be bringing in just the ticket in Kyrie Irving.

Biyombo’s potential for defensive dominance and offensive ineptitude means he will likely need an offensively skilled big to be pair with in the frontcourt. That’s a part the Cavs don’t possess right now, but could be addressed through trade or an early second-round pick like Justin Harper or JaJuan Johnson.

Biyombo presents an intriguing possibility for the Cavs, as he and Irving could be great building blocks for the future and complement each other reasonably well. At fourth overall, he’d be a huge gamble, but it may be a gamble worth taking for a franchise that needs home runs.

Cavs Offer Trade Exception for Andre Iguodala

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

From Hoopsworld:

Iguodala has been linked to the Orlando Magic in a deal built around Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson, although sources near the 76ers say that’s the least attractive offer they have received.

Iguodala was linked to the Golden State Warriors in a straight up transaction involving Monta Ellis and just yesterday word surfaced of a deal with the Clippers involving Chris Kaman.

The 76ers have had their share of suitors, with Cleveland offering to absorb Iguodala’s $13.5 million salary using their $14.5 million Traded Player Exception.

Andre Iguodala terrifies me. Like, “1000 Word Column Pleading Not to Trade for Him” terrifies me.

Kanter Impressive at Workout

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

From RealGM:

“Judging by the huge grin on his face, Coach Byron Scott seemed very satisfied,” [Kanter's agent Max] Ergul said. “We exchanged some complimentary words.”

Enes Kanter – Draft Profile

Monday, June 6th, 2011

This week will be the final profiles of lottery picks. Starting next week, Mo and I will profile potential second round picks. I will also list the top 20 players that I think will be most successful. My top six are:

#1 Kyrie Irving – I see no reason to disagree with the majority. Point guard is an important offensive position and Irving is the best in this or next year’s draft.

#2 Derrick Williams – I think he can be an NBA SF.

#3 Enes Kanter – See below.

#4 Jonas Valanciunas – I would consider picking Valanciunas over Kanter, drafting him on the condition that he works with a Cavs provided strength coach and shooting coach. In a year, he can come from Europe with 15 lbs of added muscle and a reliable 18 footer.

#5 Brandon Knight –He’ll eventually be a quality PG in the NBA.

#6 Alec Burks – He’s a great scorer and rebounder with good size and athleticism for a shooting guard. PER, offensive rating, on-court / off-court numbers are all impressive and he doesn’t turn 20 until July. I like that he was the #33 ranked SG in the class of 2009, now he’s a lottery pick. I give extra credit for players with late growth spurts who are rapidly improving. With improved shooting, he should be excellent.

Now, for my #3. Kanter is meeting with the Cavs this week and is a likely pick at #4.

Enes Kanter
Height: 6’ 11.25”
Weight: 259 lbs
Position: PF / C
Age: Turned 19 in May

Summary: Enes Kanter is the mystery of the high lottery. He was a basketball prodigy, dominating Europe’s youth tournaments and playing in the Euroleague as a 16 year old. Due to NCAA eligibility problems, he has not played competitively in over a year. He is projected as a top 4 pick.

Basketball Bio: Kanter first made his name in European youth tourneys. At age 16, his 15 rebounds per game earned him first team all tournament at the 2008 European U18 championship. The next year he dominated; averaging 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds while winning MVP and leading Turkey to 3rd place. At 16, he was signed by Turkish basketball power, Fenerbache Ulker, and played in 11 professional games, including 4 in the Euroleague. This brief professional stint proved more critical to Kanter’s future than the 2 ppg and 1.5 rpg would indicate. Kanter turned down large European contracts and decided to move to the United States to play college basketball. He enrolled at Stoneridge Prep in California, playing one year of high school. He committed to play at Kentucky, but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA due to his brief professional play. He has spent the last year practicing and training with the Kentucky basketball team.

Skill Overview: Kanter has the size to play power forward and center in the NBA. He measured as the second tallest player at the combine and was in great shape, weighing 259 lbs with only 5.9% body fat. Possessing the size & strength to match up with most NBA centers, he plays physically in the low post and is not afraid of contact. He is a strong competitor, staying active on the boards and defensively. His activity level, positioning, and great hands make him a dominant rebounder. Kanter has exhibited a range of offensive talents; displaying solid footwork and finishing moves in the post, while also demonstrating shooting range out to the college three. Kanter has a good attitude and works hard at improving his game.

Kanter is an average athlete. Of the seven players over 6’10” at the NBA combine, Kanter had the second lowest vertical jumping and wingspan. Of the “tall” players, he was 2nd in the speed drill and 3rd and 4th in agility drills. Kanter has been described as “non-explosive”, and the combine athletic tests support that. Kanter’s biggest negative may be his limited history of competitive basketball, with almost no experience against players older than 18. The game is about to get a lot faster; will Kanter’s rebounding and offensive games thrive against players as big and athletic as him? Will his defensive rotations look as impressive when the guards and ball are moving at blazing speed? No one can definitively answer these questions.

Additional Info: The other forum where Kanter impressed was the Nike Hoop Summit in April 2010. At this annual high school all-star game, Kanter nearly lead the internationals to victory over a United States team featuring Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Jared Sullinger, and Harrison Barnes. Kanter scored 34points, a new event record, and grabbed 13 rebounds in 24 minutes. He was great on the offensive glass and scored with post moves, jump shots, fast breaks finishes, and even on drives. Very impressive, but it was a high school all-star game, so it’s hard to tell how impressive. The US front line was not outstanding; consisting of Sullinger, Patric Young (3.4 ppg & 3.8 rpg at Florida State this year), Leonard Myers (2.1 ppg and 1.3 rpg at Illinois), and Terrence Jones (more SF than PF). Defensive rebounding wasn’t a priority in the game, as each team collected 17 offensive boards. Almost half the missed shots were rebounded by the offense.

Kanter is considered a good shooter, however again there isn’t a lot of actual data supporting this. High school highlights show him hitting high school three’s, but how many were missed? That info isn’t readily available. He shoots well during a workout, but what about with an NBA defender rapidly closing on him? Combine shooting tests were a mixed bag. Of the 16 players that performed the big men drills, he was in the top third in two drills and the bottom third in two. He was 5 of 12 for the timed shooting drill of 35 seconds shooting 15 – 18’ jumpers.

As an offensively skilled big man; comparisons include Al Horford, Kevin Love, or Carlos Boozer, and I won’t debate this. I have him rated #3 primarily because people who are a lot smarter than me have him rated highly. When he has played, he has been dominant against his age group. Hopefully the potential shown in the opportunities available to him will transfer to the NBA, both offensively and defensively.

Workout Week News

Monday, June 6th, 2011

From Scott Sargent at WFNY:

With the first-overall selection all but placed on the placard above the podium in the Prudential Center, the Cavaliers appear primed to pinpoint players who will be available with their second lottery selection as well as some who could fall to them later in the draft. Chief among those awaiting an arrival to Cleveland is Enes Kanter, the 6-foot-11-inch center out of Turkey that has been pegged to go anywhere from the second-overall selection down to the fifth and continues to be one of the more-discussed players heading into draft night.

I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted on these workouts at various points during the week, though I’m not sure I can tell you what they mean. It’s a good thing we hired draft experts.

I have a running joke with my friends that every music video should be Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice.” Like, artists should stop making music videos and instead just play their song behind visuals of Christopher Walken pirouetting around a hotel lobby. By same token, every rookie workout should be Yi Jianlian posting up a chair. If Derrick Williams shows up for his workout holding a flatscreen that’s playing Yi performing up and unders against a hunk of metal that comes up to his knee, I might re-evaluate who the Cavaliers should select at number one.

Russell Westbrook Will Never, Ever, Ever Wear a Cavs Jersey

Monday, June 6th, 2011

From Mary Schmitt Boyer:

Q: Hey, Mary: We need a good young two guard and I believe one will be available. We give up our trade exception for Russell Westbrook. He is young, athletic and a bona fide 2. Is this possible? With that, we look like this — Enes Kanter at the 5, J.J. Hickson at the 4, Antawn Jamison at the 3, Russell Westbrook at the 2 and Baron Davis at 1 with Kyrie in waiting. PLAYOFFS BABY!!!!! – Darryl Holmes, Houston

A: Hey, Darryl: No way Oklahoma City is getting rid of Westbrook.

Also included in the link are Mary Schmitt Boyer’s thoughts on the draft and general offseason goings-on. It’s a good read; it hits all the bullet points as far as pertinent Cavs news. But to confirm: Russell Westbrook to Cleveland is not happening. Not unless we deal them Varejao, the rights to Irving, and the next decade’s worth of first round picks.

Suns, Wizards Attempting to Trade up for Williams

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

From CBSSports.com:

On Thursday, DraftExpress.com reported that the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards are also in the mix, nothing that the two teams “have been the most active teams trying to trade up for Derrick Williams.” The site also reported that the Timberwolves are seeking a “veteran big man” in return.

The Cavs officially have competition for the Minnesota pick. No new word on the team’s attempts to acquire Detroit’s number eight selection, by the way, but I’ll keep you guys posted.

Baron Davis Looking Forward to the Kyrie Irving Era

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

From Bob Finnan:

“It would be a great addition if we do get another point guard to be that mentor,” Davis said on Thursday at Progressive Field. “(I can) go out with a bang and know that I’m leaving the game in good hands.”

I know most Cavs fans (including myself) are of the mind that the Cavaliers should draft Kyrie Irving regardless of how Baron Davis or Ramon Sessions feel about the decision, but this is encouraging news. If Baron Davis can be a positive force in Irving’s development and not whine when he relinquishes minutes to the young point guard, that’s going to make life a lot easier for everyone.

Tristan Thompson draft profile

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Tristan Thompson's athleticism leads to lots of dunks.

Last week, we looked at one of the most productive, polished forwards in the Big 12 in Marcus Morris. This week, we have another productive Big 12 forward, but he’s the more raw Tristan Thompson, a 6’9” 230-pound freshman from Texas. The no. 17 prospect in his high school class according to rivals.com, Thompson came in with high level, if not elite expectations (see: Barnes, Harrison). What did he show us in his lone collegiate season, and what will he bring to the NBA?

Strengths

Athleticism is Thompson’s calling card right now, the trait that speaks to his good potential in the NBA. His 35-inch max vertical and 10.92 lane agility time compared favorably to many of the guards at the combine, and both numbers trumped what Derrick Williams posted. Though he could stand to gain more upper body strength (only bench pressed 185 nine times), his 6.2% body fat showed that he’s taken his conditioning seriously. Thompson has an NBA body with NBA athleticism for a power forward.

One of the things Thompson’s athleticism allows him to do is crash the offensive glass effectively. He averaged 3.8 offensive rebounds per game this year and recorded 10 (!) in one game late in the season against Texas A&M. After getting these boards, Thompson often finishes with ferocious dunks that pump up the crowd and his teammates.

Thompson’s quickness and hops make him a menace on the defensive end of the floor. Collegiate post players have little chance of getting by him off the dribble or in the post, and Thompson blocks shots at a very good rate (2.6 per game in just under 31 minutes). In the NCAA tournament, he held Derrick Williams to 4-for-14 from the field.

Finally, energy and effort shouldn’t be problems for Thompson going forward. He runs the floor hard and fights for position in the post.

Weaknesses

Thompson’s offensive repertoire is extremely limited, and what little he has is far from polished. He lacks reliable back-to-the-basket moves and doesn’t seem to have much of a plan for attacking defenders one-on-one. He often just gets close to the basket, leaps into the air, and releases an awkward shot without much touch. His 54% TS% far trailed fellow first round power forwards Williams, Morris and Markieff Morris.

He has the quickness to get by defenders off the dribble when he’s facing up, but they can easily negate this by playing off of him. The reason they can get away with this: Thompson is a poor mid-range shooter. He doesn’t shoot many of them, but the results aren’t pretty when he does. Look no further than his atrocious 49% FT%, which mitigates his excellent ability to draw fouls inside (7.3 FTA/game).

Defensive rebounding is also an issue for Thompson. He barely averaged more defensive rebounds than offensive rebounds this year (4.0 to 3.8). That number is unacceptable for such an excellent athlete. Thompson gets pushed out of position by stronger players too often.

How he fits with the Cavs

Due to his athletic gifts and his low level of overall skill, Thompson must be considered a long-term prospect at the NBA level. He has the potential to be a very solid power forward in the league if he develops his offensive abilities. Post moves and footwork are sure to come in time, but Thompson absolutely must add a face-up game and a reliable jumper to keep defenders honest.

Are the Cavs the place for Thompson to develop his talents? Probably not. Right now, he’s considered a late lottery pick by most experts. If the Cavs really like him, they could trade down to get him as I outlined in my Alec Burks profile. However, unlike Burks, Thompson doesn’t fill a need, so trading down wouldn’t make sense.

Further, the Cavs already have a developing power forward in J.J. Hickson, and all of Thompson’s question marks make it far from certain that he’ll develop into a better player than Hickson. Thompson’s athleticism would make him an intriguing pick-and-roll partner for Baron Davis or Kyrie Irving, but he doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the Cavs right now, particularly if paired with another offensively challenged big like Anderson Varejao.