Archive for March, 2012

Recap: Cavs 105, Bucks 115

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

The Cavs lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in an utter shootout that I’m sure turned Scott Skiles some shade of purple so pure that it cannot be detected by the human eye.

–Not a lot of defense in this one. The Bucks shot 54.4% from the field, and both teams were getting into the painted area at will. Drew Gooden had a triple-double! He dropped off 13 assists! What a ridiculous basketball game!

–Kyrie Irving, for what it’s worth, was pretty terrific. Way too many turnovers, but he rediscovered his shooting touch, posting 28 points on 8-for-12 shooting. He also moved the ball really well in the first half. I think we’ve seen, during Irving’s shooting slump, some emerging point guard instincts. I wouldn’t be surprised if he averages eight dimes a game in a few years when he has better teammates.

–Trill AG was great, too. He was uncharacteristically efficient, putting up 19 points on 50% shooting. He was also super active in the passing lanes; I think he got his hands to about five passes tonight. I still think that, ideally, Gee is a bench player in this league, but he’s a really good bench player. If he’s the Cavaliers’ sixth or seventh man in a few years, it means the Cavalier front office has done a lot of things right.

–TT did very little. Three offensive boards and a whole lot of watching Ersan Ilyasova score.

–I would applaud the performance of the Cavalier role players in this game (Boobie had 9, Samuels had 8, etc.), but Carlos Delfino went for 17, so maybe I’m going to cut my hands off with a bandsaw instead.

–Also, Ersan Ilyasova is one my favorite non-Cavaliers. His game is like watching an upright crocodile do Swan Lake.

The Cavs have a couple days off before they take on the Hawks at the Q on Sunday. Until tomorrow, friends.

Links to the Present: March 14, 2012

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

“The Cavaliers might be standing at something of a crossroad right now. Chris Grant has a choice. He has paved the road the team is currently on. The plan is in place and you can see it working before our very eyes. On this road, the team continues adding draft picks, leaning on the strength of this scouting staff to infuse more young talent, when eventually the team will be good enough to make the playoffs and mean it.” [Andrew Schnitkey]

“[Kyrie Irving], who turns 20 in nine days, has been so good for so long this season fans aren’t accustomed to seeing him convert just 14 of his 44 attempts in a three-game span. Of course, two of those games ended in wins in which Irving contributed handsomely in the fourth quarters. But it does mark the first time Irving has shot less than 50 percent from the floor in three consecutive games.” [Tom Reed]

“[Jonny] Flynn has long been on the radar of the Cavaliers front office as the team attempted to acquire him in the summer of 2010. Helping matters is the fact the player and his contingent of representatives would love to get him out of Houston where he is buried behind Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic. The beneficiary of a team option, one which Houston has already decided to not pick up, finding a team that would be willing to pay the $4 million option would be in the best interest of Flynn, averaging 3.1 points and 2.1 assists per game this season.” [Scott Sargent]

Recap: Raptors 96, Cavs 88

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Due to a puzzlingly flat performance, the Cavs lost to the Raptors in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.

–It’s not like the Raptors dominated this game or the Cavaliers closed an 18-point gap in garbage time, but the game didn’t feel terribly winnable after the Raps exploded for 33 points in the second quarter. The Raptors dominated the boards (45-34), and that rebounding differential indicates how much harder they played for 48 minutes.

–The Raptors are Kyriptonite. (I’m so sorry for that one, you guys.) He was thoroughly outplayed by Jerryd Bayless—who seemed to relish the challenge—and shot a paltry 5-for-17 from the field. Irving did some good things. He had seven assists, seven boards, and only one turnover. I think the way the Raptors defend the paint—they’re a very long, athletic team along their frontline—is one of the reasons Irving struggles so much against the Raptors. He had a number of shots blocked and altered when he entered the paint. Or maybe Irving is just trying to improve his friendship with Tristan Thompson by taking it easy on TT’s boyhood team. There has to be an explanation why he plays his worst basketball against one of the worst teams in the East.

–Speaking of TT… well, there’s not much to speak of. He did go 5-for-6 from the free throw line! To balance that out and return to his average, I assume he will have a game where he goes 0-for-15 before the season is over.

–These sorts of games illuminate why Antawn Jamison is both valuable to this team and not actually all that good. He put up 20 points, which was essential in keeping the offensively-challenged Cavaliers in the game, but he did it on 8-for-18 shooting, posted no rebounds, one assist, and played his usual brand of translucent defense. He also airballed a 20-foot two-pointer with, like, 20 seconds left on the shot clock about eight minutes into the fourth quarter. Antawn Jamison is the Oliver Stone of the NBA. He has a positive reputation that’s not entirely unfounded, but still: I mean, he’s terrible. (In this analogy, I believe Wall Street is Jamison’s leadership qualities, and Wall Street 2: Money Is an Inanimate Object So Why Would It Ever Sleep in the First Place is his inability to guard anyone born of woman and whose name contains a vowel.)

–Man, remember when the Suns were good and Leandro Barbosa would seemingly jump off the bench every night and drop 11 points in 2 minutes? He did that in this game. He posted a 12-point second quarter in which he drained a couple threes, a pull-up, and converted a few forays to the rim. Also, he’s only 29? Can we get Leandro Barbosa on a good team so he can do Leandro things once or twice per playoff series? I miss Brazilian Jamal Crawford being relevant.

Anyway, the Cavs will be in Milwaukee tomorrow to face what I believe will be a depleted Bucks team (since Monta won’t be uniform yet). Until tomorrow, friends.

Links to the Present: March 13, 2012

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

“At the center of any dealings remain Ramon Sessions and Antawn Jamison, although both players have expressed an interest in remaining with the Cavs through the deadline. Jamison’s $15 million expiring contract is drawing interest from teams interested in dumping salary, which is precisely what the Cavs would like. But Jamison has remained steadfast in his belief he’ll finish the season in a Cavs uniform.” [Jason Lloyd]

“General manager Chris Grant is trying to acquire first-round draft picks and young, talented pieces that will ensure the Cavaliers won’t be hovering around the playoff cutoff line in coming seasons.” [Tom Reed]

“I’m highly in favor of keeping Sessions unless we get a pick in the 10-15 range. There’s simply no reason to ditch him just because he’s another point guard as Irving is. I’m bothered when people worry so much about ‘positions.’ How often does a team actually ever truly have a 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on the court at the same time? Is it so awful that Irving and Sessions should actually share the court together? I say no. And I absolutely love when they play together because I like to see our best and third best players get as many minutes as possible.” [John of FTS]

“Cavaliers coach Byron Scott says center Anderson Varejao’s broken right wrist will not be re-examined by doctors until next week. Varejao has been out since Feb. 10, when he broke his wrist during a game against Milwaukee. The Cavs expected Varejao to miss from 4 to 6 weeks and were initially optimistic he would return sooner. One of the NBA’s top rebounders, Varejao continues to wear a wrap on his wrist. He has not yet resumed basketball activities and has been limited to working on his stamina.” [Associated Press]

Draft Profile: Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller

Monday, March 12th, 2012

After the trade deadline, the next highly anticipated personnel decision for Cleveland will come in June. At this point, it’s still difficult to gauge where the Cavs may pick. This week’s profile covers two talented youngsters from Baylor: Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller.

AP Photo - Tony Gutierrez

Now a 20 year old sophomore, Jones III has perplexed scouts since his high school days.  At 14 points and 7.7 rebounds in 31 minutes per game, standing 6’11” with outstanding length and smooth athleticism, talent evaluators marvel at his potential.  Whether running the floor on a coast-to-coast gallop for a layup, or using a quick first step for a dunk from a half-court set, his combination of size and skill presents an NBA-star sized ceiling.  Offensively his speed and skills are a mismatch for power forwards, while his size can’t be matched by small forwards.  Unfortunately though, with game-to-game outcomes all over the board, his performance and effort level frequently leave people wanting.  Compared to his freshman year; his minutes, points and field goal percentage are all unimproved.  For a player his size, he is a marginal rebounder and is struggling to get to the free throw line, notching only one freebie per four field goals attempts.  His shooting could stand improvement, evidenced by 27% career three point shooting (54% true shooting).  In February he didn’t hit a three and swatted only two shots, but in the Big Twelve tourney he was a beast, notching two double-doubles and tallying 22 points a game. These wild inconsistencies currently leave him 7th on ESPN’s board.

AP Photo - Tony Gutierrez

As Jones’ freshman teammate, Quincy Miller arrived at Baylor with high expectations.  Prior to an ACL tear in December 2010, he drew comparisons to Kevin Durant.  Miller is a 6’9″ small forward with long arms and silky athleticism.  Since his injury, hopes for Miller have slightly faded but he did end his high school career as the 5th highest ranked player in his class and currently sits around 15th on most draft boards.  Miller shows signs of a well rounded offensive game; making shots from deep, exhibiting ball-handling skills in isolation, and posting up smaller defenders.  Offensively, he’s only Baylor’s 4th or 5th option, but has filled the role admirably.  In 25 minutes per game, he averages 11 points on 55% true shooting (36% from three).  While getting to the charity stripe at a solid rate, he makes the most of the opportunity by converting 81%.  He needs to get stronger but rebounds acceptably for a small forward, grabbing 15.6%  of available defensive rebounds, nearly on par with Kidd-Gilchrist (16.4%) and better than the confounding Andre Drummond (15.4%).

Notes from recent games include:

    01/28 against Texas

With 22 points, 14 rebounds & 3 assists, this was Perry Jones’ best game of the regular season.   Jones showcased the whole array of skills; taking defensive rebounds coast to coast, posting up smaller players, finishing alley-oops high above the rim, threading passes from the high post, knocking down jumpers…an effort like this from a near 7 footer, explains why at different points in his career he’s been viewed as a potential #1 pick.   It is worth noting that Texas as a team is prohibitively young and undersized.  His defense around the basket appeared to be suspect, something backed up by his shot blocking numbers (9 in 17 Big Twelve games this year).

A fine game by Miller in this 76 – 71 Baylor victory; highlighted by 18 points on 58% true shooting.  Generally his rebounding looked strong and his effort level adequate, he’s not opposed to getting on the floor for loose balls.  Regularly staying aggressive, either putting the ball on the floor from the perimeter or establishing post position, lead to ten foul shots.  Offensively, he flashed a diverse skill set, hitting a pull-up jumper and a set shot, while also finishing a nice drive with a spin move & short bank shot.  In what will be a recurring theme, Baylor almost exclusively plays zone, so it is hard to gauge these two players defensive abilities.

02/08 against Kansas

While Texas was PJ3’s best effort, this game hit bottom.  Five points, three rebounds and four fouls in 25 minutes represent a huge letdown in a game that could have helped stake his claim as a top five pick.  Defensively, my notes are skewered with questionable possessions.  His length caused occasional issues for KU, but as a whole highlights were scarce.  Leading a coast to coast fast break and finishing it off with a sweet pass is about the extent of it.

No one will ever catch Quincy Miller reminiscing about this game.  In 14 minutes, 3 points and 2 rebounds didn’t do much to keep KU from waltzing to a 68 – 54 win.  He nailed one catch and shoot three, but missed another badly.  On a couple of occasions, I noted sloppy ball handling and poor zone defensive rotations.  He sat for most of the second half after picking up a flagrant – 1, based on a thrown elbow while boxing-out on a free thrown attempt.  The announcer explained the referee told Baylor’s coach that he was trying to get Miller to play less physically all night.  This seems odd considering Miller only had one foul on the game.  I didn’t think the box-out was that violent; if anything the physicality endeared me to Miller’s play.  The NBA is a man’s game, this aggressiveness will serve him well in the long run.

02/25 against Oklahoma

Battling foul trouble, Jones III notched 8 points on 35% true shooting with 6 rebounds in 22 minutes.  Showing off his unique blend of talents early, his length allowed him to negate an OU fast break and also lead to two steals in the first ten minutes (one a deflection by him).  His finishing skills lacked, but he featured right handed baby hooks and left-handed spin moves from the post, and attacked the basket from isolation sets.  He also drew a charge, which is always nice to see.  Close enough is only acceptable in horse shoes and hand grenades though, and PJ3 needs to make more of those pretty shots if he wants to move up draft boards.

Shooting poorly while getting to the free throw line nine times, QM finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds.  The game began on a rough note, including a turnover on a post move and a fumbled entry pass on a different possession (no turnover).  Generally he was aggressive in the first half, looking strong on the boards and attacking the basket; this was crucial, because his shot was off, including misses of two open threes (one air-ball).  It was the same story in the second half; poor shooting mixed with commendable displays of aggression, on offense, defense, and on the boards.  He displayed solid passing ability from a drive & dish perspective, but struggled passing out of double teams in the post.

Summary:

Jones, like Andre Drummond, represents the ultimate of high-risk, high-reward draft day decisions. Can someone finally turn on his frequently non-revving motor?

As a mid-first round, relatively low-risk pick, Miller looks appealing.  He’s young, has great size & the start of a diverse offensive game.  A primary question is: will his high school knee injury be a recurring issue, or is what we’re seeing only the start of a promising career by a still-recovering player?

Through 6 players, my rankings are:

  1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – Anthony Davis is by far the class of the 2012 group, and I also like Brad Beal better than MKG right now.
  2. Harrison Barnes – His scoring efficiency has been down significantly since February as he’s only making 41% of his field goals (50% true shooting over 12 games).
  3. Andre Drummond – Game to game, his numbers are wildly inconsistent.  In three big East tourney games, he averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds. Right now, I can’t get over his 30% free throw shooting.
  4. Perry Jones – Surely you’re aware of NBA players who post a great March & April in their contract year, then sign a new deal only to return to their old ways. With a spectacular NCAA tournament on the heels of a huge Big 12 tourney, Jones could join that group and leap back into the top 5 picks.
  5. Jeremy Lamb – He’s playing a lot better than when I profiled him last month, with 19 points per game on 57% shooting since.
  6. Quincy Miller –  His offensive rating and usage rate are comparable to his sophomore teammate (108.7 and 23.5 compared to 111.9 and 22.7), he’s 14 months younger, and I like his toughness.  In the mid-first round, QM serves as stellar value.

Links to the Present: March 12, 2012

Monday, March 12th, 2012

I spaced out and forgot to recap last night’s Cavs-Rockets game. I offer my apologies and FTS’s recap. Also, if you’re willing to travel to the north side of Chicago, I will refund you 15% of your annual subscription fee to this blog.

Bob Finnan’s got a bunch of stuff in a pre-trade deadline rumor mill column. The most interesting insight (I mean, if you discount the “Josh Smith to CLE” rumors that I won’t totally buy until someone like Marc Stein reports it) is that Finnan doesn’t see the Cavs buying out Antawn Jamison if the deadline passes and they can’t move him.

The Cavaliers will not be offering Manny Harris a contract extension through the end of the season. I don’t necessarily think this is the end of the Manny Harris Era; the Cavs might just be saving a roster spot for the sake of staying flexible leading up to the trade deadline. Manny might be back after March 15th has passed.

Pre-Trade Deadline Win Streak – What’s it mean?

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Following an improbable, highly exciting three game win streak against Western Conference teams best characterized as somewhere between good and excellent; the Cavs are one game outside of the 8th seed in the East. Six of their remaining eleven March games are against teams with winning percentages below five-hundred. Anderson Varejao should return later this month. The trade deadline is a few days away – how should the Cavs respond?

While I’m not a proponent of “tanking”, the Cavs still need to focus on the future. I am super psyched about the three recent wins, especially against OKC (seriously – who saw that coming?), but the sixteen games in twenty four days in April is daunting and could very well leave this young Cleveland team outside-looking-in regardless of their mid-March moves. For me, the win streak hasn’t changed the view on trade deadline questions.

Trading Sessions still seems to be the right move. After this season, his player option likely won’t be picked up. Acquiring a first round draft pick beats the value of twenty-seven more games of Ramon.

Moving Jamison as part of a three team trade, even at the expense of taking back a contract with a year or two left on it, can have benefits. If the right deal doesn’t surface though; move on, enjoy the rest of Antawn’s time in Cleveland, and try free agency this summer.

Don’t trade anything that could be useful in the future, solely for a 2012 playoff push. Chris Kaman trade rumors come to mind.

I look forward to hearing other’s thoughts on the win streak and if it changes your perceptions of the 2012 trade deadline.

Recap: Cavs 96, Thunder 90

Friday, March 9th, 2012

–Kyrie [Gleeful Expletive] Irving. On one hand, he was a mere 4-for-12 from the field. On the other hand, the Thunder frequently tried to take the ball out of his hands, and he obliged with 12 assists and just one turnovers. On the mutant third hand growing out of my chest, he single-handedly won the game in the final two minutes, twice blowing by the Thunder’s perimeter D for buckets at the rim, then putting Kendrick Perkins on his backside before dishing to an open Antawn Jamison for an uncontested lay-in. He also held Russell Westbrook to 19 points and four assists on 8-for-17 shooting. Anytime he wants to post a respectable defensive effort against one of the best point guards in the league, I’m cool with it.

–The Cavs had 21 offensive boards in this game, in part thanks to the board-crashing of Tristan Thompson, who pulled down six offensive rebounds. TT had an awful shooting night (2-for-8), but, y’know, he tried hard.

–Anthony Parker played great. He pulled out all his best old man defender tricks on the perimeter, and he was 6-for-8 from the field. I feel compelled to mention this because, I’m not sure if I’ve been dumping on Parker a lot in these recaps, but I’ve certainly been cussing him out in my living room.

–Shouts to Alonzo Gee for not looking like a scrub against Kevin Durant, who has a habit of making professional basketball players look like scrubs. KD missed a couple decent looks late, but you can’t complain about holding the best pure scorer in the league to 23.

–One can only hope that TT studies tape of Serge Ibaka. Dude was a shot-swatting menace in this game.

–The Thunder were 17-1 at home before this defeat. I believe, using the transitive property, that this makes the Cavs the third-best team in the league.

The Cavs return home to face the Rockets on Sunday. Enjoy the weekend, friends.

Links to the Present: March 9, 2012

Friday, March 9th, 2012

“I see it in [Kyrie Irving's] eyes. It’s like a confidence to where it doesn’t matter about the moment. He just loves playing the game and he’s invested at that time and in that moment. You can see it at the end of the game, he made a layup and was like ‘Fourth quarter, this is my time, this is my time!’ If he gets everybody else to feeling the same way, you can feel it in his eyes when that time comes. He relishes that moment.” [Boobie Gibson via Mary Schmitt Boyer]

“We’ve known for a while now that Sessions is on the trade block but still haven’t heard much more about him. We know that the Cavs want a first round pick for him and that there are several teams interested. As the deadline approaches in just under a week (March 15th), we’ll turn to my expert speculation (if that exists) to see where I think Razor Ramon ends up on March 16th.” [Conrad Kaczmarek]

And I urge you to check out WFNY’s latest installment of their Not So Big Board if you’re looking to keep abreast of all possible future Cavaliers.

Before Emergence (Part 2)

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

On Tuesday, I pulled the camera lens back a bit on Tristan Thompson’s burgeoning NBA career. While I think it’s important to keep a broad perspective when assessing young players, we should also take a look at TT’s game in more practical terms.

The table below shows some numbers from the rookie seasons of players with Thompson-like skill sets. It’s a series of imperfect comparisons. Obviously, Thompson is a better athlete than Anderson Varejao, Jordan Hill is more of a center than a power forward, etc. It’s difficult to find a player exactly like Thompson, so I included a broad range of players. I think putting Thompson side-by-side with these somewhat similar players gives us some insight into his rookie season through 31 games.

Name Age MPG FG% TS% PPG TR% BLK% PFG PER
T. Thompson 20 19.8 41.9 43.8 6.9 16.8 4.4 1.9 13.3
Joakim Noah 22 20.7 48.2 53.9 6.6 15.3 3.3 2.3 15.5
Serge Ibaka 20 18.1 54.3 56.2 6.3 17.2 5.5 2.7 15.2
A. Varejao 22 16 51.3 53.4 4.9 17.6 3.3 2.3 17
Tyrus Thomas 20 13.4 47.5 52.1 5.2 15.9 6.2 2.3 14.8
Jordan Hill 22 13.3 49.3 52.8 5.2 16 2.5 2 15
Derrick Favors 19 19.7 51.7 54.2 6.8 16 3.5 3.2 13.9

I’m hesitant to make too many claims based on the statistics of rookies who spent more time on the bench than on the court, but the numbers illuminate a few things. In a couple of places, we can see where a player had an NBA-ready skill in their rookie season. Serge Ibaka’s block percentage and Anderson Varejao’s rebound percentage illustrate that, even as overmatched rookies, they did one thing incredibly well. (And Tyrus Thomas, who is not particularly great at blocking shots, takes a blowtorch to this premise, but let’s chalk that up to him being Tyrus Thomas.) Thompson, like Varejao and Ibaka, has a terrific rebounding percentage, which bodes well for his ability to grab double-digit boards once he’s given sufficient playing time.

Another more obvious takeaway from this statistical comparison is that none of these rookies (some now quite good NBA players) were particularly effective. The highest PER is from Varejao, and he was a 22 year-old rook. We tend to overlook this simple fact when we talk about first-year players, I think because the majority of the dialogue about rookies tends to revolve around the handful of players vying for Rookie of the Year honors. But most first-year players don’t adjust well to the NBA game. They’re either ineffectual or overmatched. Thompson has vacillated between the two, and the statistics show he’s in good company. It’s unfair to Thompson that he was drafted three slots behind a spectacular scorer like Kyrie Irving. We’ve seen from the performances of last year’s draft class that the drop-off between Irving and everyone else is steep. While Irving is carving up defenses, the rest of the league’s rookies have shown flashes of potential followed by extended slumps. Irving’s only Rookie of the Year competition is coming from Ricky Rubio, who was drafted three years ago. Thompson was drafted in the top five, but it would be generous to consider him a conventional top five talent, especially considering how many of Thompson’s peers elected to stay in college another year due to the lockout.

What should concern Cavs fans is that Thompson has no offensive game. This is apparent when you watch him play, and the numbers reflect this reality. Merging observations with statistics, Thompson’s exceedingly low shooting percentages are the product of the times he receives the ball in a stationary position. I don’t know why he demands or receives the ball in these situations. When he’s not receiving the ball on a cut or off of a rebound, Thompson is forced to utilize his paltry offensive arsenal. In face-up situations, he often tries to use his quickness to get around his man, but because the defender doesn’t have to respect his jumper, Thompson’s quickness is rendered ineffective, and he ends up barreling into his defender’s chest. TT’s back to the basket game seems at this point to consist solely of a running hook fired at about a six degree angle. He doesn’t often get to the free throw line in one-on-one situations (he was quite good at drawing fouls in college), and even if he did, he shoots just 47.3% from the stripe.

I think what we’re seeing from Thompson is a player who is adjusting to the superior athleticism of the NBA. In college, he was often the most athletic big man on the floor by a wide margin, and he could use his athletic advantage to get around opponents and draw fouls. He’s still a freak by NBA standards, but the gap between Thompson’s athleticism and the athleticism of the average forward defending him has lessened. Plus, NBA competition plays him more intelligently. Why press a guy who can’t shoot when he’s standing 12 feet from the basket? NBA defenders take an extra half-step off Thompson so they can better react to his inevitable move toward the basket.

The obvious solution to this problem is for TT to develop a reliable 14-footer or a couple of post moves (athletic as he is, shouldn’t he be able to hone a good up-and-under?) that defenders need to respect. I’m reading intentions here, but either Chris Grant and co. thought Thompson was capable of improving offensively or they thought he was going to be so devastatingly effective on the boards and the defensive end that any offensive improvement would be a bonus. I have to believe the Cavalier front office was thinking Thompson would figure it out on the offensive end, in part because the reason a lot of the advanced metrics guys loved Thompson coming out of the draft was because of his ability to score the ball efficiently, and it’s not like he was a dominant defensive force in college. As his game is currently constituted, Thompson can score efficiently, but that means never giving him the ball on the block or elbow. He can probably put up six to eight points per game on rebounds and dunks, but unless he becomes Josh Smith on the defensive end, that’s a disappointing future for a guy who’s supposed to be a fixture in the starting lineup over the next half-decade plus.

I keep returning to the unknowability of Tristan Thompson. If this article were written in a more stream-of-consciousness style, every third sentence would be “I dunno.” But I just can’t figure him out. Or more accurately: I can’t figure out how he becomes better a lot better than he is right now. When we talk about prospects, we often talk about their potential to develop into a better shooter/passer/rebounder/etc. For example, Kyrie Irving’s assist totals don’t jump off the page, but once or twice a game he makes a terrific pass, so there’s hope that as his understanding of the NBA game improves in concert with his teammates, he can eventually average seven to nine dimes a game. Thompson’s potential to develop a specific area of his game isn’t as apparent. He’s a tremendous athlete who tries very hard, but it’s difficult to discern his nascent skills aside from his knack for pulling down offensive boards. Cavalier fans can dream of him developing a LaMarcus Aldridge-like baseline jumper, but I don’t see the ingredients for that shot.

I think we’re going to learn a lot about Thompson at the outset of next season. Not that he’s suddenly going to turn into Pau Gasol, but if he’s as committed to working hard as the Cavaliers believe he is, he’ll lock himself in the gym this summer until he comes up with some semblance of an offensive game. Until then, drink in the athleticism and grit your teeth every time he catches and faces from 13 feet.