Archive for May, 2012

Bobcats Possibly Willing to Trade Down

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

According to Jason Lloyd:

Of the three teams selecting ahead of them, the Charlotte Bobcats’ pick at No. 2 seems to be in play. The Hornets certainly won’t trade the No. 1 pick and the chance to draft Kentucky center Anthony Davis and Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis made it clear Wednesday night the Wizards are staying put at No. 3.

Lloyd also writes, “Make no mistake, the Cavaliers are not trading down in this draft.” I know he’s likely going off of what he has been told from sources in and around the Cavs’ organization, but that sentiment runs counter to what Chris Grant has done during his tenure as the Cavaliers’ GM. It seems to me that the mindset of this front office has been to stay flexible, not look too far down the road, and take advantage when they feel they have the upper hand. What if the Cavs like a player at four and his draft position slides?

In terms of moving up: I like it in abstract because I think the four spot is an undesirable place to be. Whether or not you like players outside the top three of Davis-MKG-Beal, I think the perception across the league is that the draft falls off not insignificantly after those three guys are off the board. Because of this, I’m not sure what the value of the fourth pick is league-wide or amongst possible trade partners. I’m a strong believer in doing what you need to do to get the guy you want. If the Cavs absolutely love MKG or Beal and feel they need to move up to get either of them, they should do it provided they don’t have to make some outrageous deal that would mortgage their future.

And what constitutes “mortgaging one’s future” is tricky. I guess this all translates to “Do a good job, Chris Grant, or people (including myself) will be upset.” I was chatting with FTS’s Conrad Kaczmarek last night on Twitter about how I so don’t envy having to stand next to a 19 or 20 year-old, and say with a reductive sort of confidence, “I believe in this young man completely. He’s going to be great.” Grant will have to do this soon, just as he did with Kyrie Irving (a delight) and Tristan Thompson (a work in progress who will be forever compared to incoming rookie Jonas Valanciunas). At what cost?

Draft day Maybes

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

After the lottery, there is a lot going on at Cavs:the Blog.  Please don’t miss Colin’s reactions to the lottery from last night, or the request for podcast questions right below this.

I was often in a group saying that good management and decision making will trump draft position, especially over the long haul.  For every Oklahoma City Thunder, there are ten teams that had three picks in the first half of the lottery in three straight years and did almost nothing with that.  I’ll also note that OKC picked #4 and #24 in 2008, when they grabbed Russ Westrbrook and Serge Ibaka.  As you’re surely aware, the Cavs pick #4 and #24 this year.  With that as intro, a few developments that would / could make draft day positive.

Maybe Washington or Charlotte talks themselves into Drummond, and Beal slips to #4.

Maybe Perry Jones III dominates MKG in a few June workouts, resulting in one of the aformentioned teams picking him as their SF of the future over the UK star.

Maybe Cleveland can trade up or down.  Several people are noting the Trail Blazers as a potential target, with the #6 and #11 picks.  The Cavs give themselves two chances to add high quality players, potentially filling holes at the wing and in the frontcourt.

Maybe the Cavs looks hard at PJ3 or Drummond and decide their “motor” issues are fixable…and the Cavs select one of them as a future star at #4.

Anyways, I’m not trying to make this too long, but wanted to shine a ray of sunlight on a day when Cleveland has wrapped up their third top-4 pick in two years.  It’s now up to Cavs management to make the most of it and build the City’s next contender.

Post-Lottery Podcast

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Mallory, John, and I (and possibly Ryan, who is travelling and may or may not pop in) are recording a podcast tonight (Thursday night) about where the Cavs stand now that we know they’re picking in the four slot. Post some draft-related questions in the comments, and we’ll select a handful of them for the pod.

What This Means

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Personally, I’m crushed. After the fourth pick announcement came down, I felt my limbs get heavy, and I was subsumed by a despondent sensation. I couldn’t hear what Adam Silver was saying anymore. I think this pick is a death sentence. Some of you will disagree with me, and I encourage you to do so in the comments. But here’s my blunt initial take in bullet form:

–Things can change from now until the night of the draft, the consensus 1-2-3 in most scouts’ and experts’ mock drafts is Davis-MKG-Beal (with the latter two in some order). I think there’s a significant drop-off after those three players are off the board. I’m not going to delineate the abilities of each player here (you can consult Kevin’s excellent draft profiles for that), but each of them, I think, have potential to be special in their own way. And at the very least, they’re going to be solid NBA starters. If another team becomes enamored of Andre Drummond or Thomas Robinson, the Cavs could still draft Beal or Kidd-Gilchrist, but, at present, it’s not a likely scenario.

–So, Thomas Robinson? On a lot of boards, he’s the fourth-best prospect in this draft, and don’t get me wrong, I like him just fine. He presents a number of the problems for the Cavaliers, though. He plays the same position as Tristan Thompson, which means if the Cavs drafted him, TT would have to learn to guard centers. Or the Cavs would have to relegate TT or Robinson to the bench and find a center through the draft or free agency. (I’m speaking of the future. Obviously, Andy Varejao will be the starting center next season if nothing crazy happens this offseason.) Or Thompson becomes trade bait. See how this scenario gets complicated rather quickly? On top of that, this is a team with a rather bare cupboard outside of Varejao (who turns 30 in September), Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and Alonzo Gee. Thomas Robinson may end up being a quite good NBA starter, but I don’t see him ever putting up an efficient 19 and 10 on a nightly basis.

–Remember that conversation we had about Andre Drummond? Turns out that wasn’t rhetorical at all. It’s time to start scrutinizing UConn’s moody man-child. If Robinson’s ceiling and basement are only a few stories apart, Andre Drummond’s NBA potential spans galaxies. The Cavs need to take a really good look at him. Perry Jones III, too. In a draft where the Cavs desperately need to land a future All-Star, interrogating every strength and flaw of the boom-or-bust prospects becomes job number one.

–Chad Ford has the Cavs drafting Harrison Barnes. I’m not a Barnes fan—I think he’s a great shooter who’s not great at much else. There’s something terrifyingly Wesley Johnson-ish about his game. Ford justifies his Barnes projection based on the fact the Cavs loved him last year, but I wonder if Barnes’s sophomore season at UNC soured Chris Grant and co. on taking the young Iowan as high as number four.

Oh, and the early word is next year’s draft class isn’t good. So there’s that. (Obviously early word is just that, but I feel like I’ve just had a 50-pound anvil dropped on my psyche, and that’s the 5-pound barbell that’s conking it on the head as it woozily scrambles to its feet.) Do what you do, comment section.

Cavs Get Fourth Pick in Upcoming Draft

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I enjoyed the Kyrie Irving Era. Discuss.

Links to the Present: Lottery Edition II: Electric Boogaloo

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

This isn’t breaking (breakin’? I’ll see myself out) news, but the Cavs are sending Nick Gilbert to the Draft Lottery tonight. Is it weird that I’m reassured by this? With the Gilbert kid there (hopefully) in a bowtie and his big glasses, I’ll feel 3% better about the Cavs’ chances at landing Anthony Davis.

I know the writers don’t often choose their headlines, and so I don’t blame Jason Lloyd for his brief breakdown of how many times a team in a certain slot in the Lottery has won it being “Cavs in Prime Spot to Win,” but I don’t want to hear anything about the history of the Lottery. I’m not as stats-oriented as a lot of other NBA writers, but I learned how probability works in first grade: regardless of past outcomes, having a 25% chance to win the Lottery is better than having a 13.8% chance. Shammgod willing, the Cavs can defeat probability.

If you’re confused about how the Lottery process works, this breakdown from Conrad Kaczmarek over at FTS is incredibly useful. The long and the short of it, though: the Cavs have a 13.8% chance at Davis and cannot fall lower than sixth. I also echo Conrad’s advice: positive vibes, everybody! Throw on your favorite record, wear your hat inside out and backwards, whatever you need to do.

Links to the Present: Draft Lottery Edition

Monday, May 28th, 2012

“[One] reason the Cavs like to acquire assets such as these are to be able to package them to make deals. In addition to trying to use them to move up, there are also teams such as New York or the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers that don’t have a first-round pick and might be interested in parting with a player for a pick or two. Of course, as the Cavs showed last year, they don’t mind drafting a player knowing he will continue to play overseas for a while. So right now, I think the Cavs, and most NBA teams, are looking at all their options.” [Mary Schmitt Boyer]

“Ryan Blake, senior director of NBA scouting operations, has no problem with Beal being just 6-3. ‘He’s listed as 6-5, but he’s 6-3,’ Blake said in a telephone interview. ‘He plays bigger than that. He can play a couple positions. He can handle the ball. He’s a good defender. He’s not a great outside shooter. He’s someone who can get inside and is fearless. He has a high (basketball) IQ. He lets the game come to him. He can step up when he needs to.'” [Bob Finnan]

“Obviously, it’s always more important to get the first piece. You can’t build anything without a foundation. But where you go next with that foundation is what defines your success as a franchise. I trust the folks doing the building, and sometimes, thanks to the bounce of a ping pong ball, these decisions take care of themselves. But the pressure is still there for Gilbert and Chris Grant, and while it’s early, the clock is always ticking. This is a momentous opportunity to wind it back a bit. With four selections, including a potential top 3 pick, this is the time to seize the dream of the ‘OKC model.'” [Brendan of WFNY]

And a programming note: as many of you know, the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery is Wednesday evening (8 PM EST). I’ll have a post up immediately after the Cavs’ selection has been announced, so you guys can feel free to turn that thing into a comment thread where you debate Kidd-Gilchrist vs. Beal, yell about Anthony Davis, or try to talk yourselves into Andre Drummond or PJ3. We’ll also, since we will finally know where (and possibly whom) the Cavs will be picking, start shifting our attention toward the draft. Mallory will put together a podcast or two; I’ll write a couple draft-related longform-y things; and Kevin will continue to provide you with in-depth pre-draft stuff. These are exciting times in Cavsland. Get excited, or, if you’re like me, all clammy-handed and nervous.

Draft Profile: Doron Lamb

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

After failing to pump out five player profiles last week, Doron Lamb of Kentucky receives his own spot-light today.  Lamb currently falls towards the late-first round or early second round in mock drafts and may intrigue the Cavs at 24; especially if they nab a non-shooter in the top three (I’m talking about you: Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-GIlchrist.  The Draft Lottery is Wednesday – Come on, ping pong balls!).

Lamb goes hard in the paint at Kansas in the NCAA Championship game (photo by Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

Lamb finished his sophomore year a National Champ and turns 21 in November.  Standing around 6’ – 4” or 6’ – 5”, with 6’ – 7” wingspan, he has reasonable length for an NBA shooting guard.  Despite entering college as a McDonald’s all-American, Lamb gladly accepted his duties as a role player for the Wildcats, functioning as their ace-marksman, secondary ball-handler, and a solid cog in a top-tier defense.  His offensive rating of 127.5 ranked eleventh in the NCAA; largely aided by blistering 47% three-point shooting and a minuscule 1.1 turnovers per game.  With his satisfactory athleticism and rapid release, UK frequently runs Lamb around screeners, relying on his accurate shooting for points on a number of set plays.  Non-existent as a rebounder; his 13 points every night were second highest on the most loaded NCAA team in recent memory.  Although not suitable as a point guard in the NBA, he spelled Marquis Teague this year and performed respectably, thanks to ambidextrous dribbling and above average speed.  These skills prove useful towards generating mid-range looks, although a lack of explosiveness and strength impedes his finishing; his two-point field goal percentage ranked him 13th of 18 shooting guards in the draftexpress 2012 database.  Needing to bulk up also proves as a limitation on defense, where he struggles through screens & picks, despite engaging whole-heartedly and displaying solid fundamentals.

Game recaps: In UK’s Final Four victory over Louisville; Lamb posted 10 points on 51% true shooting with only one rebound and one assist.   This game is a poor snapshot of Lamb’s typical performance; his 4 turnovers were a season high and his zero makes-from-deep represent one of only five such outings this year.  Six of his points came in transition, where he utilized speed and body control to beat the field and convert.  U of L uses full-court presses often, and Lamb exhibited good ability to break the press using both hands, showing controlled ball-handling at full speed.  Definitely not a point guard though, his turnover total accumulated due to picking up his dribble, getting trapped, and tossing passes to Cardinals defenders.  Active on defense with his feet and hands, he works hard to stay in front of his man, although his slim frame causes difficulties following his man through an opponent’s gauntlet of big men.

Against Baylor in the Elite Eight, Lamb tallied 14 points on 57% true shooting, largely buoyed by twelve trips to the charity stripe.  Four of the free throws came during close-out time, but Lamb drew several fouls running off screens or putting the ball on the floor.  Functioning as the Wildcats starting shooting-guard and back-up point guard, he again flashed high-pace controlled dribbling with both hands as the opponent pressed regularly.  He is definitely a shoot-first player, with only 1.5 assists per game, but on this night, he finished a slithery baseline drive with a wrap-around pass to Terrence Jones for a dunk.  Also, he forfeited a transition gimme to throw an alley-oop to trailing Anthony Davis…wait, that ended in a turnover – he should have taken the free two points.  Anyways…on defense, the tale is similar to the Louisville game.  He maintains routine focus and solid fundamentals, but Baylor’s Center rocked Lamb on a few picks.  If he packs on 20 pound of muscle by age 23 or 24, that would be a large benefit defensively.

Summary: Despite the relatively lackluster efforts described above; Lamb finished the season strong, averaging 15.3 points on 65% true shooting through the SEC and NCAA tournaments.  An exciting draft day scenario involves pairing Kyrie with Doron Lamb and both players’ former teammate: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  Two elite shooters, one athletic beast, three high-character guys all committed to winning; that’s a backcourt a team can build around (please go well, lottery.  pretty, pretty please).

I’m not sure who to compare Lamb to…he’s not a three-and-D wing, due to no lock-down defense.   Not a limited three point spot-up guy, because there’s some athleticism and ball-handling.  He’s not Ray Allen or Steph Curry.  Anyways, I’m sure in two or three years, he will be useful in the NBA for 25 minutes every night.

Draft Profile: Darius Miller

Friday, May 25th, 2012

After forcing a steal, Miller gets his reward in transition against Louisville (Photo by Ronald Martinez - Getty Images)

While Doron Lamb waits until next week, I churned out a quick overview of his role-player teammate at Kentucky: Darius Miller.  Currently ESPN rates Miller #42 with draftexpress at #34, so he definitely falls near Cleveland’s second-round picks.

Miller’s strengths are twofold; at 6’ – 7” and 238 pounds with suitable athleticism, he meets the physical expectations of an NBA wing.  Second, on 280 three-point attempts over the past two seasons, he’s drained a prolific 41%.  Having turned 22 in March, he understands his offensive limitations, allowing him to rack up a respectable assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.4.  Confining him to his “role” is a lack of adept shot-creating, which results in nearly half of his shots coming from three and less than two free throw attempts in his 26 minutes a game.  On defense, he’s neither a liability nor a lock-down guy.  Largely non-existent on the boards, his defensive rebounding percentage ranks him 73rd of the 79 SEC players that appeared in more than 24 games.  That’s not good.

Onto some game recaps:

In their Elite Eight tilt versus Baylor, Miller posted 8 points on 52% true shooting; overall a quiet game, as 4 of his points came through off-the-ball fouls.  Oh, and ZERO rebounds in a season-high 35 minutes…that should not happen to a small forward.  He displayed impressive court vision with three assists, while also skipping a nice bounce pass hockey-assist in transition and driving & alley-ooping to Terrence Jones, only to have the play wiped out by a foul against Baylor.  On defense his stance is too vertical, which inhibits his lateral movement, and on a few occassions allowed a quick guard to speed past him.  Otherwise, his defensive performance was solid.  A stealthy post double-team snagged him a steal, and he jumped a passing lane nabbing another.  Battling through screens, he pursued his opponent well and he also made proper rotations to obstruct otherwise open shots at the basket.  One heady play involved trapping out of a mismatch to allow the UK defense to rotate to their proper assignments.  Finally, for a stretch in the second half he played PF, and although he looked overmatched, Baylor scored no points from PJ3 or Quincy Acy when matched against Miller.  Overall, a commendable effort in helping his team win.

In UK’s 69 – 61 Final Four triumph over Louisville, Miller pitched in 13 points and 3 rebounds on 74% true shooting.  Much of his damage offensively was accomplished using what appears to be his favorite move; two righty dribbles, followed by a hop-step left into the paint for a 10 – 12 footer.  Six points on three possessions originated this way.  Combined with another pull-up jumper, his mid-range game looked solid.  Despite only one turnover, two ball-handling miscues narrowly avoided demerits on the box score; once he dribbled off his foot only to watch a diving teammate recover, another time he drove into traffic and got tied up, but was saved by the possession arrow.  Quick hands and feet corralled two steals, and he fought hard through screens, but his non-ideal defensive fundamentals again left him prone to abuse from speedy ball-handlers.

Summary: The team that drafts Miller won’t throw parades about it, but I think his size, shooting, and ability to fit in, keeps him in the league for awhile.  My crystal ball shows…a player similar to the Indiana version of Brandon Rush (not the career year Golden State version).  A jump-shooting wing with an 10 or 11 PER that does enough to keep seeing court time.  There are certainly worse types of players picked at #34, but when all is said and done, I will probably recommend someone else.

A Few Scattered Thoughts

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

So, under normal circumstances, I would have sat down this morning and tried to spend 1,200 words comparing Alonzo Gee to an antelope or whatever, but I’ve got a few thoughts kicking around my head that I don’t think I can channel into a coherent essay, but wanted to talk about anyway. Bullet points: engage!

–I think it was David Thorpe who recently wrote about team-building through the draft, and how drafting certain types of prospects in the same draft or consecutive drafts has a significant impact on their development and, by extension, the direction in which a team grows. Considering that this Cavs team is likely going to have to be built through the draft (last year’s, this year’s, and the next), I think this draft is the one in which fit becomes important. Not “fit” in the sense that the Cavs shouldn’t draft Anthony Davis if they win the lottery because they already have a lanky, athletic forward, but “fit” like not drafting too many projects or ball-dominant players or guys who can’t shoot. For example, I like Andre Drummond. He scares the hell out of me with his intermittent passivity, but I think, in the right situation, he could sort himself out and become one of the best centers in the league. Let’s suppose I’m right—that if there are six realities that lie in front of Andre Drummond, in one of them he is a seven-time All-Star—and that Chris Grant agrees with me. The Cavs have the fifth pick, and they’re deciding between Drummond, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, and trading down. What should they do? I think the answer revolves around a number of questions.

–Are you okay with having a future front line (TT and Drummond) that can’t shoot free throws? We’ve seen the Clippers have this problem with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. When your starting forward and center pair can’t shoot a respectable percentage from the line, you’re leaving points on the table every game. On top of that, you can’t run your offense through the post late in games. Everything has to be isos, pick-and-rolls, and running shooters off picks. Because the Clippers have the best point guard in the world in Chris Paul, they often get away with this. Are the Cavs comfortable running literally every play through Kyrie Irving late in games? Maybe they are.

–This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the previous question: is a TT-Drummond front line going to be sub-par offensively and is that an issue? I think OKC is a good team to look at to answer this question. They start two offensively-deficient big men in Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. One is a hyper-athletic shot-blocker, and the other is… well, whatever your opinion of Kendrick Perkins is. This works fine for the most part. Perkins sets screens, guards the other team’s center capably, and grabs rebounds while Ibaka catches alley-oops and protects the rim. It doesn’t much matter (except when it does, late in games, but I’ll get to that in a minute) that neither can score because OKC has two of the best perimeter scorers in the league in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Plus James Harden is eminently capable of going off for 25 and six. I don’t think, unless the Cavs are incredibly lucky in future drafts or free agency, that they will have three perimeter scorers on the level of KD, Russ, and The Beard. So where do those points come from? Is Irving going to have to become Derrick Rose and score 30 a night in order to carry his team offensively? We also occasionally, in crunch time, see the problems OKC experiences as a result of having two non-scoring big men. Because neither Ibaka nor Perk is particularly apt at making a 15-footer, the paint becomes clogged with defenders, and OKC has to either live or die by long jumpers or pray Westbrook can pull off one of those impossible Westbrook drives where he knifes through three defenders and lays it in. It’s not the most efficient way to get clutch baskets.

–Is Tristan Thompson a project? So, we’ve talked about this a bit. You can’t write a sentence about TT without using the words “raw” and “athletic.” But where is his ceiling, exactly? I think, defensively, he has the potential to be similar to Serge Ibaka. But offensively, it’s hard to know where his game is headed and what the Cavs expect from him. Do they think he will learn to shoot? Do they expect him to be the third-leading scorer on a playoff team? His status as a project depends on what you expect him to be. If he’s supposed to be a good offensive player, then he needs a lot of work. If he’s supposed to grab rebounds, block shots, and score in the same ways Andy Varejao does, then he’s closer to his objective. I mention this because Drummond is definitely a project. He needs to be coached in terms of asserting himself, playing hard on every possession, etc. I don’t think there’s a giant disparity in talent between Anthony Davis and Drummond, but the difference is Davis works his ass off, and Drummond seems like a weird, moody giant. My point is the Cavs don’t want two projects. You can overhaul one raw talent’s game, but two? That’s a challenge the coaching staff likely can’t handle.

–How do you feel about PJ3 and Barnes? This is not a question I care to answer. Go bother Kevin about this. But it’s something that needs to be considered. PJ3 actually has a lot of the same problems as Drummond re: work ethic, disappearing from games, etc., and Barnes is a kind of terrifyingly limited player.

Anyway, I’m just throwing this out there as something to chew on. Feel free to fight about this in the comment section.