Archive for February, 2012

Recap: Cavs 103 (and it pains me to write this) Knicks 120

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

As most of you have probably come to learn over the last few months, I tend towards hyperbole when writing.  I have a flair for the dramatic, so sue me.  But what I am about to say comes from deep down.  It’s not hyperbole, it’s my honest to god belief.  This loss was catastrophic for the Cavs.

That score tells only a small portion of the story.  The Cavs lead by as much as 17 in the first half, and went into the third quarter leading by 12.  They weren’t playing their best, but the guys were staying tough, and, behind a great first half from Jamison and a fantastic second quarter by Gibson, looking well on their way to a big win.  Then it all fell apart.  Casspi’s D on Melo was horrific, Scott waited too long to sub Gee in.  Then, of course, Novak caught fire and it was over from there.

But the catastrophe extends beyond a heart-wrenching loss to a rising team.  Considering how the first two post-All Star break games have played out, I’m starting to worry.  Irving has looked far more lost than I’ve ever seen him, and suddenly we’re depending on the bench a little too much.  Our D looks confused and the heart just doesn’t seem to be there anymore.  To be up by so much and then fall so badly is a giant red flag, especially after last night’s loss.  I have a horrible fear that what we’re witnessing is the rapid deterioration of a once promising season.

Two more points of note are how horrible our interior offense was, and how many fouls we committed over the course of the game.  Yes, Chandler is a top tier center, but Thompson, Erden, and Jamison showed zero muscle in this game.  Every time they’d go up for a shot inside they were immediately rejected.  And, since our outside shooting wasn’t really falling (beyond Boobie) this spelled disaster for the Cavs.  As for the fouls, I believe that was the catalyst to the downfall.  Even in the first half, the Cavs came out a little chippier than they should have.  Erden spent most of the game on the bench because of it, and Thompson had 5 at the end of the game.  In total, the Cavs had 31.  That’s bad.

I could go on and on, but I suppose it’s time to move on.  One quick happy note – Harangody had easily his best game as a Cav.  He played for 10 minutes, and his +/- was 0(!!!) on the game.  He had some nice disruptive D and hit a nice shot.  I think my opinion on him could be swayed with a few more performances like this.

An aside – this was the first game I’ve attended at the Garden in nearly 8 years.  I had a fun little idea planned for the game, but with this loss I decided to keep it simple.  Still, it’s worth noting that even though Lin had a pretty unmemorable game, the crowd was living on every moment he was in there.  It was also pretty funny to hear them chant for Novak when he wasn’t in the game.  The crowd was dead for most of the first half, too.  Too bad it didn’t last.

Until next time…

On First Round Draft Picks

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I assume the discussions of “to win or not to win” and “what to do at the trade deadline” have the same effect on me as everyone else…cold sweats, sleepless nights, uncontrollable shaking, blurred vision.  In a rarely ending quest to make sense of it all, curiosity struck about the value of first round draft picks.  Not curiosity as in “I’m going to spend my free time for a week researching this”, but more like, “I’m going to spend thirty minutes copying and pasting numbers into a spreadsheet and then draw broad conclusions from it.”

Using the Win Shares data at basketball-reference for all players drafted in the 2001 – 2010 drafts, the following table was derived:

  WS Per Player Years Per Year
Picks 1 -5 1539.9 30.8 295 5.2
Picks 6 – 10  899.4 18 295 3
Picks 11 – 15 554.9 11.1 295 1.9
Picks 16 – 20 497.3 9.9 295 1.7
Picks 21 – 25 548.3 11 295 1.9
Picks 26 – 30 521.7 11.9 239.6 2.2

Disclaimer: The ideas below are based on minimal data / reflection on the data, and probably include some personal bias.  Anyways, I look forward to hearing what conclusions that you derive.

  • This was never really in dispute, but picking at the top of the draft is better than everything else.
  • That said, as a broad average, picking in the top 5 is worth only 3.5 win shares per year over picking from the worst spot in the first round.
  • The real “value” of a top five pick is the chance to select a star, a player that immediately starts paying huge dividends.  This is called a lottery for a reason; one or two teams scratch off the $10,000 prize, a few might win $100, some go home empty handed.  To hone in on this; if the best player is excluded from the top-five of each draft class, the numbers drop to 23.5 win shares per career and 4 per year for the other forty top-five selections.   
  • The two bullet points above help to clarify why my “Building a Winner” research did not unveil a massive rising to the top for repeatedly lottery bound teams.  If a team can combine great management, lottery luck and extended losing…that’s a potential dynasty like the Thunder.  With lesser lottery outcomes though; the 1 to 2 win per season benefit of a top five draft selection cannot save a franchise on its own.  (Also most teams that draft a STAR, combine that with some level of regression to the mean the next season, and don’t get three straight top five picks.)
  • Picking in the bottom two-thirds of the first round appears to be interchangeable.  On average, all draft ranges have been worth two win shares per year.  For a re-building team that’s not in win-now mode, this reinforces that gathering first round draft picks, regardless of where, can be beneficial.   Kind of a “throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks” approach.
  • Surprisingly, selecting at the bottom of the first round has been the third most successful source of players.  Tony Parker, David Lee and Kevin Martin headline this group, but eighteen of the forty-five players have accumulated over ten career win shares to date.
  • It’s likely that this table tells us something about the teams that pick in these ranges.  Squads floundering in “NBA no-man’s land” gain less from their choices than anyone else.  Teams picking at the end of the first round have been the third-most successful.  This may be indicative of those respective teams general ability to make good decisions, hence why the one group is stuck and the other perpetually contends.
  • Arguably, picking 26th to 30th is the second most “valuable” drafting range.    Players picked six to ten, cost three times as much as the late picks.  Are 0.8 win shares per year worth $2 million annually? 

Those are my quick takeaways.  What do you think it means, if anything?

Links to the Present: February 29, 2012

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

“The last time the Cavaliers and Knicks met on Jan. 25, Kyrie Irving had yet to hit a game-winning shot and Jeremy Lin never got off the bench in Cleveland’s 91-81 win at The Q. The reputations of both point guards have been dramatically enhanced since that night. Irving and Lin face each other Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in a big game for the Cavaliers, who are trying to remain within reach of the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Cavaliers (13-19) enter off a disappointing 86-83 loss to the Celtics in which Irving scored 24 points, but couldn’t make the big plays in the waning minutes.” [Tom Reed]

“Tristan Thompson: While many people are super high on young Tigger so far, my optimism is lower than most. I’m sure that he’ll be a productive player for quite a long time but he’s 3-4 years away from being a true threat in every single game. Few players in the league need more polishing up of their offensive game but Thompson is someone who each season I am confident will keep sneaking up this list. But for now, he’s just not there quite yet.” [John of FTS Ranks the Cavalier Roster]

“How many long-term answers are there on the Cavs’ roster? The two 2011 draft picks, G Kyrie Irving and F-C Tristan Thompson, are keepers. G-F Alonzo Gee has barged his way into the conversation with his recent play. He has averaged 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals in his past 13 games. Thompson, called a walking double-double by coach Byron Scott, is averaging 10 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in his last five games. C Anderson Varejao, out another month with a fractured right wrist, is also a building block.” [CBS Sports]

Recap: Celtics 86, Cavs 83

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Despite coming back from a 13-point deficit to lead by two heading into the final period, the Cavs came up short in the game’s final minutes.

–Kyrie Irving posted 24 points on 8-for-14 shooting and outplayed Rajon Rondo, who finished with no points and 11 assists. He was great, for the most part. In the last two minutes of the game, however, he missed a pair of running lay-ins (they weren’t easy or particularly smart shots) and threw a bad pass into the arms of Kevin Garnett. Whatever, he screwed up. The Celtics did a good job of pressuring him into bad decisions, and he looked like a 19 year-old for once. Point: old guys.

–The ostensible key to this loss was the Cavs inability to defend the three-point line (the Celts were 7-for-17 from behind the stripe), but they actually did an admirable job against Ray Allen (4-for-8 from long range), who simply got hot. The rest of the Celtics were a combined 3-for-9 from three-point land. The Cavs perimeter D this season has been sub-par, but not nearly as bad as last season. They are currently allowing teams to shoot 35.3% on threes, good for 19th in the league.

–Anthony Parker returned tonight after an extended struggle with back pain. He was completely ineffective, scoring one point on 0-for-4 shooting and committing a pair of turnovers. Beyond the box score, I’m sure that something something veteran presence something something professional was a crucial element in tonight’s game.

–Antawn Jamison was 4-for-15 from the field, got outplayed by KG (as is his wont), and somehow I’m not really that upset with him? He crashed the boards with alacrity a handful of times tonight. Maybe, like a dog whose urine has stained every inch of carpet in my apartment, I am compelled to either fly into a fit of rage every time he does something stupid or proclaim my undying love for him. I’m too tired to be apoplectic anymore. Screw it, Antawn Jamison: my all-time favorite Cavalier. Someone get this husk of a man a number four jersey.

–TT had an eventful night. He was 5-for-9 from the field with 10 rebounds in 27 minutes of action. I know he’s more athletic than anyone on Boston’s front line, but that’s an impressive performance against the likes of KG, and, um… regardless, I remain impressed. Also: never start a post move more than four feet away from the basket, Tristan. It will only end in heartbreak.

–Manny Harris was in the game for six seconds. How did it taste, Manny?

The Cavs visit the Big Apple tomorrow to take on the Knicks. Irving and Lin might hang 35 on each other.

Fault Lines

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

On a basic level, sport can be a great equalizer. At least that’s the sentiment we’re sold by beer ads in which a partisan bar erupts after a play so spectacular it brings disparate demographics—truckers, college professors, sycophants, serial killers, oil tycoons, pacifists, large-breasted women—together like Pangea. As reductive as Anheuser-Busch’s depiction of this phenomenon is, it’s not entirely untrue. Most of us don’t walk around high-fiving people we don’t know, but it’s acceptable behavior after a touchdown or game-winning bucket. Cities build stadiums and arenas for the purpose of allowing thousands of strangers with the same rooting interest to assemble and watch their favorite teams play; a couple drinks and a close game can dissolve one’s misanthropy long enough to have a moment with one of these strangers.

Achieving this state of harmony with one’s fellow fan requires a certain single-mindedness. Two Bulls fans, for example, during the third quarter of a playoff game against the Heat, are likely in such a state. They might disagree about whether Luol Deng should guard Dwyane Wade or Lebron James or what offensive sets the team should utilize to free up their shooters, but their desires are in concert. They want the Bulls to win, and they’ll be satisfied with a victory regardless of whether or not Tom Thibodeau runs enough screens for Rip Hamilton.

This is a single-mindedness afforded to fans of good teams. Fans of poor or mediocre teams—Cavs, Bucks, Bobcats, whoever—tend to think about more than what’s happening in front of their eyes during a game. My experience of watching the Cavaliers this season has been one of constant evaluation. Kyrie Irving needs to focus on improving his defense this offseason. Is Alonzo Gee a rotation player? If the Cavs don’t find a center soon, I’m going to throw my coffeemaker through a window. Not that a Bulls fan is a Pavlovian dog while watching a game—sports talk radio and blogs are forums tailor-made for game-to-game critiques of a team’s players, coaches, and front office—but his or her thoughts don’t extend three years into the future as often as the fan of the mediocre team. Why spend much time projecting the kind of player Derrick Rose will be in four years when championship contention is your present?

Here’s the other peculiar feature of the Cavs fanbase: it’s not united behind winning. I know this isn’t as strange as it sounds to someone not familiar with the NBA. A young, unexceptional team like the Cavaliers are a blank slate upon which fans project their philosophies about how to construct a winning basketball team, and one of those philosophies calls for two or three consecutive seasons of prodigious losing, of which the Cavs have endured only one. But it’s an unnatural feeling, to be down ten with six minutes to play and half-hope one’s team doesn’t bridge the deficit. We’re supposed to use comebacks as an opportunity to bond with like-minded strangers, after all, and wins are the lifeblood of the fan beaten down by sub-par performances and losing streaks.

But part of being human is the ability to let logic drive the bus once in awhile. Losing this season gives the Cavaliers the best chance of winning in the future. It’s a percentage play more than anything. Losing leads to better lottery odds; better lottery odds might lead to a better draft pick; a better draft pick might lead to a better player; and a better player wins basketball games. Two gigantic “might”s are involved. But logic drives the bus. Andre Drummond, according to scouts, has a better chance of becoming a franchise-altering talent than Brad Beal. If you walk up to a craps table, and the casino gives you 40-to-1 odds on a hard eight, you take it. It doesn’t mean you’re going to roll correctly, but at least the numbers are in your favor.

This is a difficult philosophy to internalize because it forsakes the present without the guarantee of a better future. Some fans would rather see the Cavs win games, perhaps compete for a playoff spot, let the draft pick fall where it will, and build upon the relative success of Kyrie Irving’s rookie season. Hope Tristan Thompson sprouts wings, and the Cavs make steady progress over the next three years. This argument makes sense, but it’s myopic. The Cavaliers will likely improve over the coming seasons regardless of whether they have the third or twelfth selection in the 2012 draft. Irving possesses special talent, and if that talent gestates over the coming seasons, he’ll begin to win bunches of basketball games by himself. If he has some decent role players around him, Irving will be able carry the Cavaliers into the playoffs. But what is the ceiling of a team with Irving, an aging Anderson Varejao, Thompson, Alonzo Gee, a couple late-lottery/mid-round draft picks, and whatever free agents the Cavs have to overpay to lure them to Cleveland?

If Irving evolves into a superstar over the next half-decade, then the sky is ostensibly the limit. The 2015-16 Cavs could be one month of Irving unleashing holy hell upon the league from a championship. But why not make it easier? Why not flank him with superior young talent with which he can grow? Derrick Rose’s Bulls have a chance to win a title this season, but pretending D-Rose wouldn’t sell Carlos Boozer’s left arm for a young scorer like James Harden or Steph Curry is ignoring the fact that he shoulders too much of the burden offensively. A team can surround one supreme talent with great role players and win a championship in the NBA (Dirk’s Mavs did it last season), but if two months of losing separate the Cavaliers from an opportunity to pair Irving with a top 5 talent, why wouldn’t they take those odds? What’s the harm in grounding this rocket until day one of the 2012-13 season?

I have no doubt similar fault lines run through the Cavaliers’ fanbase and their front office, because I can see how two intelligent people would come to different conclusions about which course of action is best. But Chris Grant and company aren’t fans; they don’t have to sit by passively and hope the team succeeds or capsizes. If they want to burn this season to the ground, there’s a matchbook and some kerosene at their fingertips. Flipping Andy Varejao, Ramon Sessions, and Antawn Jamison for whatever assets they can acquire during a season when a playoff push is a legitimate option is a hard sell to people who hate losing.

I fear Dan Gilbert’s hatred of losing. I feel about Gilbert the way Jews felt about Old Testament Yahweh: he means well, but that doesn’t mean he won’t fly into a blind rage and rain down meteors from time to time. I’m even more afraid that Grant—who, to Gilbert’s credit, seems to have been given a lot of latitude to conduct this rebuilding process as he sees fit—thinks that the Post-LeBron Cavs are ready for phase two. Sticking with the roster they have and hoping for the best is a big red button that can’t be unpressed. Grant watched LeBron James become a Sisyphean figure without an All-Star wingman. (And no, Mo Williams doesn’t count.) I wonder if enduring repeated failure during the LeBron Era informs Grant’s philosophy at all.

A team’s management can unite a fanbase in two ways: uncensurable success or repeated failure. It was unfathomable at this time last season that the Cavaliers would be at a crossroads two months into Kyrie Irving’s rookie season, but here they are: staring down a series of long, twisty roads that disappear at the horizon. It’s time to take a scissors to road maps and start consulting holy books. Crucial decisions begin now, and they will determine whether the fans unify into a chorus or a mob.

Links to the Present: February 27, 2012

Monday, February 27th, 2012

There are Cavs midseason reports available from WFNY and FTS. I’ll have my own version of a midseason report for you guys tomorrow morning.

Scott Sargent over at WFNY has a massive profile on Antawn Jamison that I compel you to read.

Hardwood Hype’s Emile Avanessian published a piece on Friday about Kyrie Irving’s clutch exploits this season.

And Ramon Sessions might be headed to the Hawks? Surely, he’s headed somewhere. The rumors have been to persistent for Sessions not to be headed somewhere, either as a starting point guard or a scorer off the bench.

The Case for Acquiring “Bad” Contracts (or, I’m addicted to bulletpoints)

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

I’m going to advocate for something that will leave some Cavs fans questioning my sanity; trading Jamison and Sessions and taking back “bad” contracts that end in 2013 – 2014 as a return, to some extent for the sake of having the bad contracts. Benefits of owning and trading expiring contracts include:

  • When trading these assets, the other team relinquishes a more tangible, “this is going to help us win” related asset, in exchange for taking a “bad” contract off their books.
  • Free agency has a pretty poor track record.  Unless a team is signing a no brainer max-contract player or signs inexpensive players at solid cost / benefit, a majority of $4 to $12 million annual contracts have been poor value.  Trading expirings allows a team to build where they have more control, through trades and the draft.
  • Almost all lopsided trades include an expiring, salary balancing contract; Theo Ratliff and Wally Szczerbiak in the Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen trades to the Celtics, Kwame Brown for Paul Gasol to the Lakers, Erick Dampier brought Tyson Chandler to the Mavericks …honestly, this list could be long.

For the Cavs, I think there is almost no downside to taking back deals that expire by 2013 – 2014.  Reasons include:

  • Kyrie or any other youngsters won’t need extended until after that.  There is no reasonable way the Cavs run up against salary cap issues in this timeframe.  Cleveland will need to pay someone over the next two years; it’s likely better as a short term commitment through a trade than an overpaid free agent.
  • Once the more prohibitive luxury tax kicks in, the NBA could see heavily lopsided trades.  Trading for contracts with a couple of years remaining right now has a dual benefit.  It gives the Cavs expiring contracts to include in those robberies,  and also helps restrict long-term payroll obligations, so they can take on money while staying under the luxury tax themselves.

Finally, other examples of team’s using cap space or trading expiring contracts to their benefit are:

  • Dallas built their champion by continually trading expiring contracts to upgrade their roster.
  • Oklahoma City used their available cap space to take on Matt Harpring and Mo Petersons contracts.  The payoff was that, as a bonus for taking those deals, they acquired Eric Maynor and the 11th pick in the 2010 draft.

On a parting note, I’ll offer a wild trade that requires the Cavs to take on $18 million of salary next year and $12 million through 2013 – 2014.

  • Cavs gets Hedo Turkoglu, Luke Walton, first choice of Magic, Lakers or Mavericks (owned by Lakers) 2012 1st round pick, Andrew Goudelock, DeAndre Liggins and Lakers 2017 1st round pick
  • Orlando gets Andrew Bynum, Antawn Jamison, Omri Casspi, second choice of Magic, Lakers or Mavericks 2012 1st round picks, Lakers 2013 1st round pick, their own 2014 2nd round pick back from Cleveland, and the Lakers 2015 1st round pick
  • LA gets Dwight Howard, Ramon Sessions, third choice of the three 2012 first round selections.

The ESPN trade machine says it works, and it has benefits for all three teams.

For Cleveland

Certainly some Cavs fans are screaming at their computers right now, and I understand that some of you still will be after my explanation.  Maybe converts can be won by breaking it down this way:

  • Jamison’s expiring contract for Turkoglu and Walton’s near-term expiring contracts.  Walton expires next season and Turkoglu in 2013 – 2014.  Basically until youngsters start needing extensions, Cleveland has short term filler instead of over-paying a free agent.  Ideally Turkoglu’s contract can facilitate grand larceny at the trade deadline in 2014; at a minimum, it can be traded to acquire additional assets.  The Cavs keep plenty of salary cap flexibility, with an extension for Gee and 4 eventual first rounders; they have 12 players for $50 million in 2012 – 2013, 9 players for $42 million in 2013 – 2014, and only Varejao & rookie contracts in 2014 – 2015.
  • Sessions for a mid-first round pick in 2012.
  • Casspi and the 2014 2nd round pick for Goudelock, Liggins & the 2017 Lakers 1st round pick.  Basically a known, below average player for a couple of unknown youngsters.  Goudelock and Liggins were the 46th and 53rd picks in 2011.  The players received combined salaries are lower than Casspi’s, plus the acquisition of a future first round pick.  Piling up first round picks from now until forever can’t be a bad thing.

None of the three players that were traded are major parts of the Cavs’ future, this trade won’t result in salary cap concerns, and there are six new assets brought in (includes Walton and Hedo’s expiring deals).   This is a trade with little downside that continues building on the Cavs’ future flexibility.

For Orlando

They move a big contract, allowing a match on offers for Ryan Anderson this summer without worrying about the salary cap.  In 3 months time, they go from being a franchise severely over the luxury tax, looking at Dwight Howard’s impending departure, to possessing:

  • An under-25 front court of Andrew Bynum and Ryan Anderson.  One a center fresh off averaging 16 points & 13 rebounds a game; the other a floor stretching, offensive rebounding power forward that lead the NBA in made three pointers.
  • Six 1st round picks in the next 4 years.
  • A team that’s under the salary cap in 2012 – 2013 and has $15 million worth of expiring contracts after that season.

This seems like the groundwork for a relatively smooth transition out of superstar abandonment.

For LA

The Lakers instantly become serious contenders again, with upgrades at center and point guard while taking on minimal additional salary.

2011 Draft Update

Friday, February 24th, 2012

As the Cavs:the Blog draft expert in 2011, I thought a lot about the eligible group of incoming players. Now that half of their rookie seasons are complete; it’s interesting to see who is meeting expectations or struggling. Below, I offer a ranking of all the drafted players.

It’s “Subjectively objective”, I use three numbers that attempt to quantify total player contribution.  Though not perfect, Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Win Shares per 48 minutes (WS/48), and Adjusted plus –minus (Adj +/-) each have value.  As a broad overview:

  • PER – As developed by John Hollinger of ESPN, this number strives to define a player’s per-minute, pace-adjusted performance.  It is calibrated so that 15 is average.  Below ten is poor, above twenty is excellent.
  • Win Shares per 48 minutes – Basketball-reference.com calculates this number using Offensive and Defensive ratings developed by Dean Oliver.  Average equals 0.100.  I’ll say that below 0.05 is bad and above 0.150 reflects exemplary performance.
  • Adjusted plus / minus –The outcome of every lineup matchup that takes place in every NBA game is represented as an equation.  Tens of thousands of these, summarizing the actual result of each lineup matchup, are solved for 400-ish variables.  The variables are each NBA player.  The value derived for each player represents their value in points per 100 possessions, compared to an average player.  An average player has adjusted +/- of zero.  Positive values are good.  Also included (in parentheses) is the standard deviation for each player’s adjusted plus-minus.  Players with a (U) have not logged enough minutes to qualify, and the net change of their team’s scoring margin per 100 possessions with them on the court is included instead.

Some players worth noting:

Kyrie Irving – His 18 points and 5 assists per game on 57% true shooting definitely provide early justification for selecting him first.  His defense must improve though, an issue that the adjusted plus / minus is likely picking up on.

Nicola Vucevic & Jon Leuer – Vucevic provides an anchor at center for the 76ers “night shift” (second unit); scoring efficiently and rebounding for the first place team in the Atlantic Division.  He’ll be a very solid contributor for a long time.  From the 40th pick in the draft, Leuer has exceeded expectations, shooting well and rarely turning the ball over.

Isaiah Thomas – An emerging trend involves NCAA juniors and seniors springing to the top of my list. Obviously more seasoned, the older players’ impact is more immediate.  At 23 years old, Thomas is making 29 NBA teams regret letting him slip to “Mr. Irrelevant” status.  He’s only 5’9”, and there aren’t alot of shorter player that have played much better than he is right now…this could be his ceiling.

Chandler Parsons – Despite going #38, he’s fourth in minutes played, as the starting small forward on an 20 – 14 team.  His box score numbers don’t jump off the page; in 26 minutes per game, he’s averaging 8 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Offensively and defensively though, the Rockets have been better with him on the court.  He doesn’t make mistakes, evidenced by fewer turnovers than steals, and he frequently defends the opponent’s best offensive wing.  I recall commenter’s suggesting that the Cavs should pick Parsons at #32; those astute readers were right.  Parsons is 23 years old and doesn’t have “upside”, but he’s helping his team win basketball games.   That’s a successful 2nd round draft pick.

Marshon Brooks – Another “old” rookie; for perspective on the seniors discussed here, the NBA’s reigning MVP is only four months older than any of them.  Despite not having the potential of younger players, I count at least six seniors drafted 25th or later (5 after 38) that are already NBA contributors.  Though not terribly efficient, Brooks shows ability to create shots and score at a decent clip.

Josh Harrelson – He hasn’t been active since late January.  When playing though, he stretched the floor, hustled and played error free (21 steals + blocks vs 20 fouls).  Adjusted plus – minus loved what he had to offer.

Lavoy Allen – Another young big man that’s rebounding, finishing easy looks, and not making mistakes (1 turnover per 37 minutes).

Shelvin Mack – Per 36 minutes he’s notching 11, 5 & 5.  He’s knocking down a few threes and playing tough defense.  Every year, there are six or seven second round picks that become valuable contributors; he’s one staking an early claim this year.

Tristan Thompson – It’s still hard to tell exactly what the Cavs have with Thompson.  He may never develop into more than a solid defense & rebounding big man that pitches in points on o-rebounds & from other’s assists.  Is there anyone above him on my list, that I would definitely rather be on the Cavs?  Actually no.  When all is said and done, do I think he’ll end up as the second best player on the list?  No to that, too.  Like everyone else, I’m waiting to see where TT’s career goes.

Bismack Biyombo – He’s very young and not quite ready.   He’s an athletic freak though and did have 7 blocks in a game last week.

Jan Vesely – My worst case draft day scenario involved the Cavs talking themselves into Vesely at #4.  So far, he’s justified that sentiment.  He’s committed more fouls than scored points.  He rebounds as poorly as advertised, and none of this is encouraging from a player that will be 22 years old at the end of the season.

Jimmer Fredette – Not good for the Jimmer.  His sieve like defense is not compensated for by his offense.  The Kings 28th ranked defense is 8 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the court; the man he’s guarding rings up a 20+ PER.  His eight points and two assists per game (in 21 minutes)…not enough.

Josh Selby – Two years ago as a prospect, he was considered equal with Kyrie Irving.  Leading up to last year’s draft, a few teams were linked as potentially drafting him late in the first round.  He’s followed his poor play at Kansas with abysmal play for the Grizzlies, resulting in recent demotion to the D-League.

Marcus Morris – Morris was largely regarded as a top 10 pick until draft day, when he slipped to 14th.  Prior to the draft, he was viewed as the more refined Morris twin, with an array of post moves and a tough defender / capable rebounder.  In the week leading up to the draft, he started talking about playing small forward in the NBA.  This was confusing; maybe he was getting bad advice.  He’s becoming more and more a perimeter player:

  • Sophomore year – 11% of his field goal attempts were from three
  • Junior year – 18% taken from long range
  • In limited NBA time – four of ten shots are from the even deeper distance.  He missed all four.

Most of this season has been spent in the D-League, where he’s been solid with 21 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes per game; 25% of his shots are from NBA 3-pt range though (he’s only making 26%).  Draftexpress.com suggested his best-case was “David West with 3-pt range” and his worst-case was “Udonis Haslem”.  He needs to get back to his basics and break out the three-point range when it’s game ready.

Jonas Valanciunas – How could I provide a 2011 draft update without mentioning the player that many Cavs fans wanted at #4?  In 38 professional games this year, he’s playing 23 minutes and averaging 12 points, 8 rebounds and nearly 2 blocks.  He’s still an amazingly efficient shooter, at 65% on field goals and 82% on free throws.  Looking solely at his 11 Eurocup games, the numbers are similar but generally slightly worse.  He’s still foul (almost 5 per 36 minutes in Eurocup games) and turnover prone (would rank 48th of 60 NBA centers), but this seems excusable from a 19 year old.  At one year younger than TT, he’s still the one player I definitely would rather the Cavs had selected at #4.

I continue to hope that Thompson makes me look stupid for that.

_________________________________________________

Here are my rankings.  The actual draft order is in parantheses.  Minutes played are also included.  Take these rankings with a grain of salt.  Its one-half of a condensed, accelerated season, based on a non-defined balance of four numbers.  The rankings do not forecast who is the best future prospect, only the most effective this season.  All numbers are through 02/22-ish.

Player Min PER WS/48 Adj +/-

  1. Kyrie Irving (1), CLE                                 868         20.7        0.141     -4.16 (8.77)
  2. Nicola Vucevic (16), PHI                        425         18.4        0.185     4.78 (9.39)
  3. Jon Leuer (40), MIL                                 428         17.2        0.149     10.16 (8.22)
  4. Isaiah Thomas (60), SAC                        626         16.8        0.106     -0.6 (7.08)
  5. Derrick Williams (2), MIN                      627         13.9        0.094     4.13 (7.29)
  6. Chandler Parsons (38), HOU                  856         12.5        0.083     4.84 (6.97)
  7. Marshon Brooks (25), NJ                      761         16.3        0.065     -4.4 (9.70)
  8. Josh Harrellson (45)                               296         12.4        0.107     20.3 (9.35)
  9. Lavoy Allen (50), PHI                             367         15.1        0.168     2.37 (9.86)
  10. Alec Burks (12), UTA                               324         14.7        0.071     11.84 (12.85)
  11. Kawhi Leonard (15), SAS                       791         15.0        0.128     -13.78 (6.46)
  12. Markieff Morris (13), PHX                    698         13.7        0.078     -5.8 (9.74)
  13. Enes Kanter (3), UTA                             463         16.0        0.093     -15.98 (16.19)
  14. Kemba Walker (9), CHA                         934         15.5        0.024     -12.64 (7.22)
  15. Brandon Knight (8), DET                        1113       11.9        0.021     -6.18 (7.22)
  16. Kenneth Faried (22), DEN                     233         22.5        0.222     -3.75 (U)
  17. Shelvin Mack (34), WAS                        337         12.6        0.042     8.8 (15)
  18. Tristan Thompson (4), CLE                  465         13.7        0.032     -5.84 (9.76)
  19. Norris Cole (28), MIA                              705         11.2        0.055     -16.42 (9.43)
  20. Iman Shumpert (17), NYK                    844         10.1        0.032     -5.46 (6.84)
  21. Klay Thompson (11), GSW                    496         12.3        0.042     -12.56 (8.12)
  22. Bismack Biyombo (7), CHA                   520         11.8        0.025     -8.42 (8.11)
  23. Jan Vesely  (6), WAS                                402         7.5          0.012     0.74 (8.68)
  24. Tobias Harris (19), MIL                           213         18.7        0.141     6.35 (U)
  25. Jimmy Butler (30), CHI                           151         16.8        0.219     -6.95 (U)
  26. Jordan Williams (36)                                193         13.7        0.073     13.78 (U)
  27. A. Goudelock (46), LAL                          288         10.6        0.058     -1.62 (U)
  28. JaJuan Johnson (27), BOS                     181         16.2        0.109     -9.11 (U)
  29. Jimmer Fredette (10)                             600         11.0        0.02        -14.89 (7.39)
  30. Reggie Jackson (24), OKC                    322         10.2        0.023     -12.30 (10.62)
  31. Chris Singleton (18), WAS                     621         7.7          0.029     -8.56 (7.65)
  32. Jordan Hamilton (26), DEN                   73           20.6        0.115     13.69 (U)
  33. Vernon Macklin (52), DET                     71           19.4        0.159     29.25 (U)
  34. Julyan Stone (Un), DEN                         124         10.0        0.048     -2.99 (U)
  35. Charles Jenkins (44), GSW                    156         10.7        0.058     -23.5 (U)
  36. E’Twaun Moore (55), BOS                    219         8.7          0.029     -2.09 (U)
  37. Jeremy Tyler (39), GSW                         65           13.2        0.099     -14.23 (U)
  38. Darius Morris (41), LAL                         133         7.4          0.030     -13.34 (U)
  39. Cory Joseph (29)                                      191         7.2          -0.004    -17.79 (U)
  40. Trey Thompkins (37), LAC                    89           11.7        0.006     -21.91 (U)
  41. Travis Leslie (47), LAC                            39           13.7        0.041     -33.51 (U)
  42. Josh Selby (49), MEM                             186         5.0          -0.094    -9.8 (U)
  43. Nolan Smith (21)                                      135         4.8          -0.077    -11.99 (U)
  44. Tyler Honeycutt (35), SAC                    9              32.2        0.345     57.15 (U)
  45. DeAndre Liggins (53), ORL                    14           22.7        0.250     19.25
  46. Marcus Morris (14), HOU                      17           -4.0        -0.244    -18.65 (U)
  47. Justin Harper (32)                                    17           -7.5        -0.295    -55.83 (U)
  48. Kyle Singler (33), DET                              0              0              0              0
  49. Keith Benson (48), ATL                            0              0              0              0
  50. Jon Diebler (51), POR                               0              0              0              0

Links to the Present: February 23, 2012

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

“Kyrie Irving is quickly developing the reputation as a clutch player. Now the stats are beginning to back it up. According to the website 82games.com, Irving ranks 15th in the league in scoring during clutch time, which the website defines as the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime when neither team is ahead by more than five points. Irving has been involved in 12 games under that circumstance, and his clutch-time production, when stretched across 48 minutes, is 36.4 points. His free-throw percentage in that instance is 87 percent, up slightly from his season average of 85 percent.” [Jason Lloyd]

“Not only could the Cavaliers offer [Wilson] Chandler more money this season, but with the contract of Antawn Jamison slated to come off of their books at year-end, a longer-term deal could certainly be in the mix. Couple all of this with the team potentially sliding down in the lottery enough to focus their efforts on big men like Myers Leonard or either Zeller brother, addressing the wing via free agency may not be a misguided concept, as unsubstantiated as this specific possibility may be.” [Scott Sargent]

“One can see why Tristan Thompson is logging so many minutes at center. He had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the 89-84 loss to New Orleans on Wednesday — more rebounds than starting center Semih Erden (three) and primary backup center Ryan Hollins (six) had combined. Thompson is averaging 5.7 rebounds on the season, which dwarfs the numbers put up by Hollins (1.9) and Erden (2.6). In 203 minutes this season, Hollins has 14 defensive rebounds.” [CBS Sports]

Recap: Hornets 89, Cavs 84

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

The Hornets defeated the Cavs in an utter rock fight.

–Don’t let the scoreline fool you: this game was a mess for both teams. The Hornets shot just 40% from the field and led for the duration of the game. This is because the Cavs shot a paltry 32%, including a 6-27 performance from behind the stripe.

–Irving had his worst night as a professional, shooting 2-13 from the field. He did have a career-high 11 assists, but his wayward shot overshadowed his court vision tonight.

–Marco Belinelli looked great tonight. He was 8-13, including a dagger three with a minute left. Marco Belinelli.

–If Cavs fans are to take any sort of silver lining from this game, it’s indication that Tristan Thompson might have the Andy Varejao rebounding gene. TT had an ugly game (like almost every player on the floor tonight), but he grabbed six offensive boards (ten total) in just sixteen minutes of action.

–I would be remiss if I didn’t give Antawn Jamison some more much-deserved credit. He wasn’t as efficient as last night (8-22 from the floor), but on a night when Irving didn’t have it, Jamison kept the Cavaliers in the ballgame. Way to raise that trade stock, ‘Tawn.

–Chris Kaman shot the ball 25 times in this game, and would have led all scorers if Antawn Jamison hadn’t dropped in a couple garbage time buckets. That’s as good a summary as I can offer.

The Cavs have almost a week off before the Celtics come to town on Tuesday. Time to rest legs that look incredibly weary. Until tomorrow, friends.