Archive for April, 2012

Recap: Cavs 117, Nets 122

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

The Cavs pulled out a gutty overtime loss against the Nets of New Jersey.

–A man named Lester Hudson went for 26 points and hit a game-tying three-pointer with 0.3 ticks left in the fourth quarter. According to Ian Eagle, Byron Scott was going back and forth before the game about whether to start Hudson or Manny Harris. Given how ineffectual Harris has been lately, I wouldn’t be shocked if Scott gives Hudson and the very mortal Anthony Parker the bulk of the minutes at the 2-guard slot for the remainder of the season. Of course, for that to happen, the Cavs have to resign Hudson to a new deal, since his 10-day contract expires on Monday, but that’s a virtual given after Hudson’s pretty remarkable performance over the past week or so.

–I think Kris Humphries is shook from that Yeezy diss earlier in the week. He was only 6-for-15 with 11 boards and struggled to keep Tristan Thompson off the offensive glass. Or maybe he’s just hurt that his pseudo-wife upgraded from an ostensibly moronic role player on one of the worst teams in the NBA to the guy who made My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. And Khalifa’s got Amber Rose locked down, Kris, so there’s no real way to exact your revenge.

–Speaking of TT, he played very well. He had 15 points on 7-for-12 shooting and 15 rebounds, with 10 of those boards coming on the offensive end. It’s natural to focus on the skills Thompson doesn’t possess—and the development of those skills are going to determine whether he becomes a rotation player or a really good one—but I think we can say with a degree of certainty that he has a preternatural ability to find and snatch offensive rebounds. He’s just great at it for some reason. Now, if the Cavalier coaching staff can get him to stop trying to block every shot on the defensive end, he might start stuffing the box score with some Kevin Love rebounding numbers.

–Here’s a sequence that actually happened in this game: Anthony Morrow baseline fadeaway —> Samardo Samuels isolation —> Donald Sloan free throw pull-up —> Gerald Wallace catch-and-shoot free throw line fadeaway. None of those shots went in, and they were all as cell-vibratingly incredible as you can imagine.

–Fun fact I learned from watching the Nets’ broadcast team of Ian Eagle and Mike Fratello: since 05-06, the player who has made the most consecutive buckets in a game? Josh Boone! Or as he’s known to Big East aficionados: half of one of the ugliest PF/C combinations of all-time along with Charlie Villanueva. What a rich and storied history the Nets have! I really hope they hold on to that draft pick they inexplicably traded away for Gerald Wallace. If they open up their new arena in Brooklyn with Brook Lopez and Marshon Brooks as their best players, the state of New York might just give Brooklyn over to Jersey out of shame.

–Additional Nets trivia: Derrick Coleman was voted the fifth-best New Jersey Net of all-time by the fans. I think Coleman gets a bad wrap historically because, yes, he was a disappointment, but he had a pretty good NBA career regardless. The problem, though: Derrick Coleman played five years for the Nets. Five years! And he’s number five? Yikes. (By the way, to any New Jerseyites reading this: I write this as a Cavs fan. It’s not like the fifth-best Cavalier is Clyde Drexler or something.)

–Next season it’s gonna be a great feeling to remember how insanely talented newly-signed Dallas Maverick Deron Williams is. The guy’s been noncommittally loafing up and down the court for a year and a half, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him unleash holy hell on the league next season when he’s playing alongside Dirk and Jason Terry. He’s one of the 15 best players in the league and this New Jersey experiment has been a disaster. See you dropping 25 and 8 in the playoffs next year, D-Will. Until then, stay sane.

–How many NBA players participated in this game? Insane athlete and terrible basketball player Gerald Green posted 32 points. As much as I would like to be happy about Alonzo Gee’s 22 or Lester Hudson’s 26, it’s hard to take much away from a game involving so many scrubs. Here’s the emblematic stat line of the game: Donald Sloan dropped 14 assists, wasn’t totally destroyed by Deron Williams, and was 3-for-13 from the field. What the hell am I supposed to do with that information?

The Cavs host the Bobcats on Tuesday. Until tomorrow, friends.

Recap: Cavs 84, Raptors 80

Friday, April 6th, 2012

The Cavs won. That’s a bad thing.

–Woof. This game was not fun to watch. The notion that the Kentucky Wildcats could beat either of these teams is ridiculous, but the notion that both these teams could defeat my ability to like basketball is valid. I don’t know how two teams that play bad defense also manage to score in the low 80s, but that’s the kind of magic that happens when the Raps and Cavs get together.

–Donald Sloan: still a starting point guard. Winning starting point guard. Enduring champion. Thanksgiving dinner trump card holder. D-League John Stockton. He was 2-for-8 from the field with 7 rebounds and 2 assists.

–Antawn Jamison played himself right onto the 2012-13 LA Clippers. He was the best player on the floor, scoring 24 points on 50% shooting. His defense was Jamisonian, but he was guarding Andrea Bargnani, who couldn’t be bothered to shoot anything inside of 15 feet despite being very, very tall.

–A man named Lester Hudson is still on this team. He scored 21 points and was maybe the second best Cavalier tonight. Are the rest of you experiencing this whole Lester Hudson thing or am I hallucinating? Please confirm that he’s a real person with a social security number and family members. Else, I’ll assume he’s just a fever dream and perhaps consult my friendly neighborhood pharmacist.

–Byron Scott got tossed late in the first half. He was incensed; I’m not sure with whom, exactly. Sources say he was screaming expletives at Andrea Bargnani. (Those sources are me and my friend.) For the sake of having something to talk about: I’m actually kind of proud of B-Scott. The Cavs are a banged up team that’s playing for lottery balls at this point in the season; it’s comforting to know that, despite accepting his fate, he completely hates it. It’s almost over Byron. Starting this summer, Kyrie Irving, TT, Andy Varejao, Draft Pick X, and Free Agent Y saddle up for that eight seed. It’s almost winning time.

The Cavs host the Nets on Sunday. Until then, friends.

Ideas on Tanking?

Friday, April 6th, 2012

I’m not a huge fan of the NBA’s current lottery system.  Hoping for abject failure as the road to success doesn’t make sense to me.  ESPN’s True Hoop Network recently posted a week’s worth of articles on ending tanking.  There was one idea that I thought was particularly interesting.  In a presentation at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Adam Gold presented a concept where the team that wins the most games after they are eliminated from playoff contention, gets the first pick in the draft.

For the article at ESPN, see here.

I really like the idea, with one tweak; set the baseline as the “median playoff team” instead of “out of playoff contention”- i.e. the team with the NBA’s 8th best record.  The presented concept places too much importance on the strength of a team’s conference.  A thirty win team in a strong conference would start racking up opportunities to improve their draft position far in advance on a thirty win team in a weak conference.

To make this more clear, I’ll address how the idea would impact the race for the #1 pick during this season.  The basic idea (slightly modified, but totally stolen from Adam Gold) consists of: once a team has enough losses that they cannot surpass the win total of the NBA team with the 8th most wins, the “draft positioning clock” starts for them.  The team with the most victories after their “draft positioning clock” starts, gets the first pick in the draft.

For this season’s draft race, the LA Clippers will be the “8th best team baseline”.  Using their record over the last few weeks, here is the list of teams that would have started their clock, including the date, number of remaining games as of that date, and record after 04/04 games.

  • Charlotte starts on 03/25 and had 20 games left.  They are 0 – 6 since.
  • Washington starts on 03/27 and had 17 games left.  They are 1 – 4 since.
  • New Orleans starts on 03/29 and had 16 games left.  They are 1 – 3 since.
  • Cleveland starts on 04/04 and had 15 games left.  They are 0 – 1 since.
  • Toronto starts on 04/01 and had 14 games left.  They are 3 – 0 since.
  • Sacramento starts on 04/03 and had 13 games left.  They are 0 – 1 since.
  • New Jersey starts on 04/01 and had 12 games left.  They are 0 – 2 since.

So Toronto completely takes the driver’s seat on the road to the first pick.  Charlotte squanders a good chance to get a leg up.

Based on this scenario; Phoenix would be the last team to be mathematically eliminated from besting the median playoff team.  They end up with approximately 5 games to stake their claim to a high draft pick. (Edit: One other aspect that appears to be a benefit of indexing to the NBA’s 8th best team instead of to “playoff contention” is that it’s harder for borderline playoff teams to “game” the system.  If a team on the borderline of playoff contention rests some players with ten games left in the season, in order to become mathematically eliminated from the 8th best team, then plays those guys again to try to win many of their remaining games, they could end up making the playoffs, hence becoming eliminated from the top of the draft).

I think the idea is interesting and wanted to bring it to Cavs:the Blog readers for your thoughts.  Surely there are imperfections, but it gives the worst teams a solid chance at the highest pick, while continuing to make wins more valuable than losses throughout the last month of the season.  I definitely like it better than awarding the best picks in the draft by incentivizing teams to field subpar products, multiplied by the anarchy of  a ping pong ball bounce.

Recap: Cavs 98, Bucks 107

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The Cavs lost. It wasn’t really as close as the score indicates. I was kind of surprised Kyrie Irving’s suit wasn’t better. Here are facts based on things that actually happened:

–Monta Ellis scored 16 straight points to end the game.

–Anthony Parker finished with 27 points, seven boards, four assists, three steals, and one turnover. This game was not played inside a wormhole that made it 1999. At least I don’t think that happened because Brandon Jennings would’ve been, like, nine.

–A man named Lester Hudson played 28 minutes for a professional basketball team. He took 13 shots, missed most of them, and I have literally no idea who he is.

–Donald Sloan can tell people he is a starting point guard. Good for Donald!

–Antawn Jamison wore a Mavericks jersey and was paid the veteran’s minimum for this game. Rick Carlisle was displeased with his performance.

–Samardo Samuels was a minus-22.

–Tristan Thompson was plus-13.

–No idea how that happened.

–The Bucks shot a higher percentage from the field than they did from the free throw line.

–The Cavs shot 51% better from the free throw line than they did from the field.

–I kinda zoned out around the third quarter and started paying attention to the Heat/Thunder game (very entertaining, by the way). I snapped back in when the Cavs cut it to single-digits in the fourth. I don’t know why. They were definitely still going to lose.

–There was this one really cool moment when LeBron jumped in the passing lane, tipped a pass, ran alongside the rolling ball and then—nope, that was the Heat/Thunder game. Sorry, guys.

–Brandon Jennings is the opposite of Luke Harangody. He’s like Luke Harangody antimatter. Luke Harangody touched Brandon Jennings and instantly transformed into a pile of grapes.

–There are 14 games left in the Cavaliers’ season.

I lied about some of the things. See if you can guess which ones. Raptors on Friday. Until tomorrow, friends.

Kyrie Irving Out 7-10 Days

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Via the Plain Dealer:

Cavaliers rookie guard Kyrie Irving will be out 7-10 days after aggravating his sprained right shoulder Tuesday night against San Antonio. Starting Wednesday night in Milwaukee, the Cavs have six games in the next 10 days.

Have fun playing 35 minutes a game, Donald Sloan!

Recap: Spurs 125, Cavs 90 (Or, 8.8% chance of Anthony Davis, 8.8% chance of Anthony Davis)

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

MVP: The 3-headed monster of Tony Parker, Patty Mills, and Danny Green, who combined to score 58 points on just 34 shots from the field and 3 total free throws. Parker was able to live in the lane all game, and Green and Mills couldn’t miss from the outside, which allowed the Spurs to completely torch the helpless Cavalier D despite minimal contributions from Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan.

LVP: The Cavs’ defense, which allowed the Spurs to shoot 59% from the field and 47.8% from 3-point range. They had no idea how to stop any pick-and-roll involving a center, which every team in the NBA runs, and the Spurs were able to get wide-open 3s, layups, and easy trips to the foul line all game long. An absolutely pathetic effort from Cleveland’s defense.
X-Factor: 109 of San Antonio’s 125 points came from inside the paint, outside the 3-point arc, or at the free-throw line — the highest-efficiency scoring areas in basketball. In other words, the Spurs would have won this game by 19 points if they’d missed every single one of their mid-range jumpers. The Spurs have always been great about understanding where high-percentage shots come from, and the Cavs’ defense was powerless to stop them.
Turning point: The game was tied at 16 midway through the 1st quarter before the Spurs went on a 16-2 run to end the quarter, which the Cavs never came close to recovering from.
That was…ironic: Danny Green, who the Cavs decided to cut from their awful, awful, awful basketball team last season, is looking like a true NBA ballplayer for the Spurs. He plays smart, he hits open threes, and he’s a do-it-all guy on both ends of the ball. Playing with better teammates in a better system is certainly helping Green, but that’s still no excuse for a team as pathetic as the Cavs to have cut a promising 24-year old player go.

It may be too late to go into full tank mode, but I’m still semi-hoping for a Kyrie shutdown. All this season did was prolong the period before watching this team became absolute and total misery. Now that Kyrie has hit the rookie wall, there is no joy here. Miserable offense, miserable defense, miserable everything. Abandon all hope, unless that hope is for a miracle Anthony Davis lottery win. I mean, if it happened last year with the Clipper pick, it can happen this year, right?

Links to the Present: April 3, 2012

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Don’t rest your starters, Pop! Or at least play Tim Duncan. Maybe Tristan Thompson can learn something from checking one of the best big men to ever play the game.

Antawn Jamison has been struggling mightily since the trade deadline. I wonder, with Jamison failing to score with any efficiency, Irving on the bench with a bum shoulder, and Varejao rocking a blazer, if this isn’t the worst team in the league right now. My apologies to any Charlottans (I totally assume this is what Charlotte residents call themselves) because you’ve had to endure this level of basketball the entire season, but the Cavs are exceptionally not good right now.

Boobie Gibson underwent season-ending ankle surgery yesterday. He tweeted after the surgery was over that the doctor gave him great news afterward. He didn’t elaborate on what that news is, but one can assume the surgery went well.

And Kyrie Irving is the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. Even in a not-so-great month the gap between him and the best non-Rubio rookies is pretty wide.

UPDATE: Irving will play tonight against the Spurs.

Draft Profile: Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

At times during this season, I occasionally thought the draft profiles weren’t the most appropriate content for the Blog.  With Kyrie’s star rising and Varejao dominating; I asked “should more focus be placed on the present?”  Those sentiments are squashed; it looks like time for both eyes to look squarely at the draft.

The Cavs roster requires bolstering…badly; the need to nail both first round picks looms large.  The University of Washington recently reached the NIT final four behind two underclassmen guards: Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten.  Both projected in the draft’s 18 – 22 range, if the Cavs make a trade or the Lakers’ draft position rises, the Cavs could be interested.

Terrence Ross gets two fingers in the eye against Oregon (AP Photo - Ted S. Warren)

Standing 6’7″ and possessing a quick first step and quality leaping ability, Ross provides an immediate upgrade over the current crop of Cavs twos.  Primarily a jump shooter, the sophomore also utilizes his athleticism to score in transition and making strong cuts to the basket in the half -court.  With a quick shooting release, he’s improving his  jumper off the dribble and squaring up around a screen.  This season, he made 52% of his two-point field goals and 37% from long distance.  His size, athleticism and on-court drive provide for solid defense, and of 83 shooting guards available in draftexpress.com’s database, he ranks 3rd in pace adjusted defensive rebounds per minute.  He won’t be a 20 point per game scorer, but combining his athleticism, shooting and effort should find him in an NBA rotation for several years to come.

Wroten dunks, crushes OU's soul (AP Photo - Ted S. Warren)

For a ceiling, Wroten has been compared to Tyreke Evans.  A 6’6″, strong & speedy freshman that just turned 19 in April, he works best as an isolation scorer.  He aggressively attacks the basket using his dominant left hand, possessing a vast array of ball handling and change of pace maneuvers.  To some extent, his physique and frequent forays into the paint represent the extent of his strengths though.  He made 16% of his three pointers and 58% of his free throws; unfortunate considering that his drives result in a lot of attempts.  In addition to occasional bouts of poor shot selection, he does not take care of the ball, averaging nearly four turnovers per game.

For a further look at these players strengths and weaknesses, let’s check out some game notes.

Wroten (left) and Ross celebrate NIT quarterfinal win over Oregon - AP Photo (Ted S. Warren)

March 20th against Oregon

In this 90 to 86 Washington victory, Ross contributed to the high scoring with 24 points on 62% true shooting.  Of his 18 shots, 12 were jumpers, and he was much more effective as a catch and shoot player than off the dribble.  Using 9 possessions resulted in 16 points when spotted up, off screens, or from the post.  Scoring off the bounce did not provide good results; Ross ended with 4 points on 7 shots in isolation, combining drives and pull-up jumpers.  Despite continuing to develop this aspect of his game, I think the results of this day are consistent with his overall performance.

Wroten finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds & 2 assists behind 52% true shooting.  His playmaking style resulted in fourteen trips to the charity stripe, of which he made ten.  His driving abilities were on full display, including an array of quick first strides, nifty behind-the-back dribbles, tight spins, and controlled hop-steps to get into the paint, finishing strong through contact and flashing some fancy no-look passes.  Unfortunately, his poor marksmanship reared it’s ugly head, highlighted through two horribly missed jumpers (one air ball).  Towards the end of the second half, OU played at least 6 feet off him, daring him to shoot.

Regarding defense, Ross and Wroten weren’t largely responsible for Oregon’s offensive onslaught.  Oregon’s players 6’7″ and taller beat up on Washington’s interior players, finishing 16 of 25 from the field for half of the Ducks points.  While both players made defensive miscues, the Oregon frontline dominance was not based on dribble penetration, but instead on the OU big men establishing deep post position or grabbing offensive rebounds.  Oregon’s players shorter than 6’7″ netted the team’s other 43 points by shooting 15 of 44.  Ross exhibited solid perimeter fundamentals and Wroten’s length and quick hands were frequently disruptive.

March 27th against Minnesota

In this tight NIT semifinal overtime loss, Ross put in 21 points on 51% true shooting alongside 6 rebounds.  His pull-up jumper was much more effective, providing a respectable 8 points in 7 possessions used.  Utilizing an arsenal of post moves including hook shots, turnarounds and step-thrus, he posted his second consecutive effective game in this area.  As a 6’7″ shooting guard, this should be an area to also use advantageously in the NBA.  Downsides included ball protection; he’s an adequate ball handler, but travelled twice, got lazy and had the ball poked away on another play, and threw one poorly conceived alley-oop.  He continued to move well and get low on defense and was menacing in the passing lanes, tallying 3 steals and several tipped passes.  Unfortunately though, he also tended to stray too far from his man; resulting in frequent issues effectively closing out on a jump shooter.

Wroten won’t list this tilt high on his resume, as he finished with 9 points on 16 shots, with 0 assists.  The game was held at Madison Square Garden; perhaps Wroten chose not to sleep in the city that never sleeps.  I counted six first half possessions where a defensive mistake resulted in a Gopher layup or dunk.  Following a matador-like possession with 2:25 to go, he found his way to the bench, where he stayed until five minutes into the second half.  Later, following back-to-back possessions of wild shots, he sat again, this time during six critical minutes of the game.  After re-entering with less than three minutes on the clock,  he made a bone-headed play with 30 seconds left in regulation and Washington trailing 59 – 57, by fouling the ball-handler 25 feet from the basket after the Gophers had run the shot clock down.  The prevalence of his dominant left hand was also apparent; on seven drives where I made note of the direction he started, six went left.  On one attempted finish from the right side, he brought the ball back to his left hand, directly towards the defender, resulting in an immensely more difficult shot.  In isolation, he had almost no success finishing, as only one of his four field goals came this way.  The other three were via transition, an alley-oop finish, and an offensive rebound.  Overall, this was just not an appealing performance.  He did grab three steals, using remarkably quick hands to snatch opponent’s dribbles.

Summary: Based on an early look at the likely available players, I would feel pretty good about Cleveland picking Ross around 20.  He helps address the need for increased athleticism on the wing and should fill it up on the receiving end of Kyrie’s drive & kicks.  Statsheet.com tracks college plus / minus data for most games; in the games recorded there, the Huskies are +161 when Ross plays, but -21 when he sits.  That’s an encouraging snippet into the all around value Ross can bring.  Wroten on the other hand nets a +107 on-court, compared to +35 when he rides the pine.  He did just turn 19 though and is a freight train barreling into the lane.  Given the Cavs’ needs, Ross certainly rates above Wroten, and that is fine with me.

Links to the Present: April 2, 2012

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

“Remember when everyone was in a fit about the Cavalier competing too much, pushing for a playoff spot, and ruining their chances at a high lottery pick? Do you remember what I kept saying to anyone that would listen? “Things would take care of themselves”. By that, I meant that the Cavaliers were undeniably playing over their heads when they were in the playoff picture. I also believed that trading Sessions and a key injury (like Varejao’s) would have this type of effect on a team that lacked depth.” [Kirk at WFNY]

“The Cavs are fading fast, with the losses mounting and the injuries piling up. They’ve struggled so much lately, in fact, it’s hard to remember they were still in the playoff race a few weeks back. Now, they‘re 17-35 — and only three teams (Washington, New Orleans and Charlotte) have fewer wins.” [Sam Amico]

We’ve reached the point in the season where games against bad teams are more important than games against good ones. John over at FTS previews games against the Wiz, Nets, and Pistons. The Cavs can’t catch those scrappy Bobcats in the lottery race, but they could conceivably finish with the second or third-worst record in the league. In the words of the poet Waka Flocka Flame: “O let’s do it.”

I don’t have any updates on Irving’s shoulder injury. He was held out of the Knicks game on Saturday, but I don’t know what the timetable is for his return. Officially, he has a sprained right shoulder, and I would imagine the Cavs will be very careful in bringing him back. There’s no use in playing him at less than 100%, and it would be a disaster if Irving further damaged his shoulder because he was playing hurt during a season that has become meaningless.

By the way, the Cavs have lost 10 of their last 11. This is an heroic plunge. (The scale of this plunge inspires use of the archaic “an.”)