Archive for May, 2012

Kyrie Irving Will Be Named Rookie of the Year (Updated)

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

From NBA.com:

Irving’s selection is hardly a surprise since the 20-year-old led all first-year players in scoring – 18.5 points per game – and renewed hope for Cleveland’s franchise. He’ll receive the award on Tuesday, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the league has not yet announced the winner.

Something that we knew was going to happen is 99% going to happen but has not happened quite yet! I suppose this is as good a space as any to say I have a long-ish piece on Irving that I’ll be posting when the official announcement is made. But, y’know, for the time being, continue spending every waking hour of your day tittering with excitement whether or not Kyrie Irving will be your 2011-12 Korean Car Manufacturer Rookie of the Year. Because you just never know with these things. (Except in this case, where you totally know.) Jan Vesely might still have a shot at this one.

Update: Yeah, so it’s official now. Check back tonight/tomorrow morning for my extended thoughts.

Draft Profile: Tyler Zeller and John Henson

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Unless the lottery goes horribly awry, today’s profile won’t be terribly applicable to the Cavs. I’m trying to hit the top 40-ish prospects though, so we’ll discuss the University of North Carolina’s lottery-bound front court duo.

Zeller dunks on NC State

Tyler Zeller is a 22 year old senior seven-footer, who showed significant improvement every year of his college career, finally peaking this year as the ACC Player of the Year and a potential top-ten pick. In 28 minutes per game this season, he tallied over 16 points and 9 rebounds, including nearly four at the offensive end. Thanks to soft touch around the basket and a reliable ability to draw fouls, his offensive rating reached an impressive 121 while using nearly one-quarter of the Tar Heels possessions. Along with possessing an expanding back-to-the-basket game, including strong drop-steps and a right handed hook shot, he knocked down 81% of his 225 free throws. Although he largely eschews perimeter looks, that sterling percentage offers a glimpse of hope for growth there. As is typical, UNC played at the NCAA’s tenth fastest pace last season, and Zeller thrives in this environment, running the floor extremely well for a center. According to draftexpress.com, he finished 79% of his transition opportunities. He is a strong team defender, but lacks ideal strength or length for an NBA center. Those non-elite physical attributes cap his NBA ceiling.

John Henson is the Tar Heels’ 21 year old junior power forward: 6’-10” with a huge wingspan and explosive athleticism, but awfully skinny at 220 lbs. Despite his lanky frame, he utilizes his length and hops on offense to aggressively attack the basket. On the block, he goes to work with a left-handed hook shot and a turnaround jumper, while on the perimeter, he shows decent touch on a jump shot. His 14 points per game are not terribly efficient, at 51% true shooting, due to a lack of three point range and horrid free throw shooting. The 51% on freebies is actually a three year high. Where his living will be made is rebounding and defense. This season, he averaged 10 boards and 3 blocks, tallying the ACC’s highest defensive rebound rate and block percentage. His great length and constant energy make him a nuisance at the basket and on the perimeter; his non-muscular frame poses his primary weakness here, as stronger players maneuver him at will occasionally.

For a deeper look, onto some game recaps:

Henson finishes an awesome drive against the Blue Devils

03/03 against Duke - Henson polished off a tidy 13 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block and 0 turnovers as UNC routed their cross-state rivals, 88 – 70. While not pretty offensively, he connected on 2 of 4 mid-range jumpers and 1 of 2 from the block, en route to 60% true shooting. Defensively, he showed well on pick-and-rolls and always made an effort to box-out, but Duke’s Plumlee boys effectively out-muscled the Henson & Zeller frontcourt to post 33 points and 15 rebounds on 14 of 22 from the field.

03/10 against NC State - Zeller paced UNC with 23 points on 79% true shooting and 9 rebounds in this tight 69 to 67 win. Almost all of his offensive damage occurred from the low post, knocking down 6 of 9 from this location, primarily off of ambidextrous hook shots and lengthy drop steps. When he receives a pass, he exhibits great ability to fire quickly, still with a soft touch. NC State’s front line rotation isn’t exactly NBA-sized though, measuring in at 6’ – 8”, 6’ – 8”, and 6’ – 9”. Okay, it’s NBA-sized if you count Cleveland’s dynamic duo of Samardo Samuels and Luke Walton. Further damaging the impressiveness of Zeller’s performance are the six offensive rebounds by NC State’s Richard Howell. Howell’s a big guy at 250 lbs, built like the aforementioned Samuels, and he repeatedly out-worked the UNC center on the boards.

03/25 against Kansas - UNC’s season ended in the Elite Eight, as Henson posted a dismal 10 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block in 25 minutes in his third game after returning from a late season wrist injury. While making 5 of 12 shots, only his post game proved effective, as he connected on a lefty hook and a turnaround. He converted 1 of 5 jumpers, including an errant 18 footer with twenty seconds left on the shot clock, while Zeller posted up an over-matched guard down low. Really, his defense didn’t overwhelm either; Thomas Robinson beat him facing up and down low. TRob and Jeff Withey combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds on 64% true shooting, while Kansas netted an efficient 112 offensive rating.

In 34 minutes, Zeller scored 12 points on 6 of 11 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds. He drained a long two and scored on hook-shots and drop-steps. Poor ball protection resulted in two turnovers as a double-teaming defender stripped the rock away. On defense, he swatted four shots, including two outstanding pick-and-roll help rotations when he flew to the basket from the perimeter. Generally, he made life difficult at the basket for the Jayhawk guards and also drew a charge. As negatives, Robinson twice blasted past him on face-ups, and there was at least one defensive rebound that should have been his, but a weak box-out allowed a tip-in.

Summary: When I create a “draft board”, it’s likely that Zeller and Henson will show up in the consensus spots, around the second half of the lottery.

Zeller rates as the best senior seven-footer since Roy Hibbert, and with continued commitment to his game and strength, he’s capable of posting similar numbers to the big Pacer as he rounds into his prime. Hibbert averaged 13 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks this year on 54% true shooting, while making his first all-star team. I’ll say 27-year-old Zeller posts 14, 8 and 1.2 on 56% true shooting, if he finds himself in an up-tempo system with a solid point guard. The Cavs could certainly use a 7 footer with shooting range, but it appears that will need to wait another year, as better talent surely presents itself in the draft’s top five.

Henson gained 30 – 40 pounds since he showed up at Chapel Hill. If he can tip the scales a little further, he can be a poor man’s Serge Ibaka; wreaking havoc with his defensive help and knocking down 15 footers. With regards to the Cavs, hopefully the middle-class-man’s Ibaka already wears the wine & gold, in the form of Tristan Thompson. Cleveland can find someone that better fits their needs (although I know one commenter disagrees. Holla KJ!!).

Until next week, when three more big men with first round aspirations will be discussed.

Dream Residue

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Boobie Gibson is a strange, halfway sort of thing. He’s like a splinter over which a full inch of skin has grown. He is old enough now that Cavs fans no longer harbor delusions about what he could be, though what he is, exactly, is indeterminate, like we’ve been peering down the road for so long, expecting him to appear in the distance, a fully realized incarnation of our hopes for him, that we make a startled yelp when we look to our right and realize he’s been riding shotgun the whole time. Boobie Gibson, at this point in his career, functions more as placeholder than player. He is unique as a memory-conjuring figure. As a player, he’s interchangeable with a handful of smallish combo guards who can knock down an open three-pointer. His game is not dissimilar to Courtney Lee’s, though Lee inflicts painful memories where Boobie reminds us of the childhood of what was supposed to be a championship team. Do you remember when the Cavs lost to the Spurs in the NBA Finals, and you thought This team is much better than I expected, and they have so much room to grow? Boobie Gibson was part of that, one of the parts that was supposed to grow.

He didn’t, really. He’s not Ray Allen, it turns out. Instead, he’s an inch deep in the pad of our thumbs, buried beneath newfound hope but still visible. He’s still, persistently, a part of right now. I’m happy he’s here, though I’m not sure why. Here’s a game for you: try to come up with a Boobie Gibson memory other than him dropping 31 points on the Pistons in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007. Surely, you’re not thinking of anything that has happened in the past two years, over which Gibson has struggled to remain in Byron Scott’s rotation due to nagging injuries. You’re not likely to recall his performance in the 2009 Playoffs, when he played a total of six minutes during the first three games of the Eastern Conference Finals against Orlando. Maybe his regular season game-winner against OKC in 2010? His “Yessir!” head shake was in full effect after that one. Remember when he shaved a star into his head? That was pretty cool. Or at least mildly idiosyncratic.

Perhaps your aptitude for the Boobie Gibson Memory Game is higher than mine, but if someone were to ask me about him, I would have very few stories to tell. (Though, bonus track: here’s a clip of him play-fighting with Mo Williams. I really miss that team, you guys.) I would say only that I love him, and that it’s the same stale but curiously poignant love one has for things that spoke to them in high school. Then I would talk about his little brother-big brother relationship with LeBron and feel wistful.

The Cavaliers are entering their second summer of inspecting their roster, consulting the map Chris Grant has tattooed on the underside of his tongue, and pruning players accordingly. Boobie Gibson could be one of those players. (He’s got a team option for $4.8 million next year.) He likely won’t be expelled from the team for the boring reason that unless the Cavs splurge this offseason, he’s still going to be one of their ten best players. If you see a lanky dude with long brown hair holding a “Boobie Gibson is still on this team, and I’m pretty okay with it” sign at the Q this season, that’s me. (I’ll also be wearing “This hurts me more than you can imagine, but I really need you to suck, Jonas” body paint. I’ll be easy to spot.)

Empirically speaking, Boobie Gibson is the type of player you’re pretty okay with having on your team. He can knock down an open three about as well as anyone in the league and isn’t a disaster on the defensive end. He is capable, intermittently, of pouring in buckets as if possessed by a higher power. He will win your team between two and zero games per year. I worry about his ability to stay on the court.

Empirically speaking, Boobie Gibson is boring. But he is, persistently, part of right now. I don’t want him to leave, and I think I know why. If it’s all the same in terms of talent—are the Cavs getting anything better at the ninth spot of their rotation than a smallish combo guard who doesn’t miss open threes?—then we should embrace the difference between what Boobie Gibson means as opposed to what he is. Along with Anderson Varejao, he is the last remaining Cavalier who was present when Cavs fans’ dreams burned a bright shade of purple, when that feeling of This team has so much room to grow! was still palpable. Unlike Varejao, he is young enough (he’s 26) to participate in this new Post-LeBron Cavalier rebuild experiment. He cannot realize the unrealistic expectations we allowed ourself to bestow upon him, but he can help. If 31 year-old Boobie Gibson is the veteran on a Cavs playoff team, spelling Brad Beal for twelve minutes a game, and maybe giving a few “Yessir!” head nods after catching fire in the middle of a third quarter against the Bulls, I’ll be unspeakably happy. The dream died the day LeBron decided to leave for Miami, but the thing about dreams is they come back to you in fragments. Boobie Gibson is one such fragment; it would be ideal if the Cavaliers could rebuild the dream around him.

Cavs Will Not Be Big Spenders in Free Agency

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

WFNY pulled an interesting quote from Tom Reed’s interview on the Bull & Fox show concerning the Cavs’ status as possible players in the free agency market this summer:

“No, not at all. The only types of guys that they will bring in here, is if they feel that their leadership may be lacking, maybe they bring in kind of a smaller name type player. They will not put any significant money into free agency. When they do that it will be more like a final piece… they are not going to overpay anybody.”

This matches up with what Chris Grant and Byron Scott said in their presser after the last game of the season. I think the Cavs are taking a Prestian approach to building this team. Which is to say they’re going to cultivate young, inexpensive talent, then add free agents only when that young talent has made significant growth. You’ll remember, the Sonics/Thunder drafted Durant in 2007 (at #2), Westbrook and Ibaka in 2008 (at #4 and #24, respectively), and Harden in 2009 (at #3) before reaching the playoffs as the eight seed in 2009-10. My point is they finished with pretty abysmal records for three consecutive seasons, mostly because they spent that time playing young guys and cheap free agents.

I’m sure most of you are aware the Cavs are playing with fire. The Presti approach works well in theory, but it has only worked in practice because the Thunder have drafted exceptionally well. (With the exception of trading for Cole Aldrich on draft day in 2010. That guy’s probably a stiff.) It’s a lot easier said than done to claim, “The Cavs have drafted one future All-Star. Now all they need to do is draft two more.” But Chris Grant hasn’t given the fan’s much of a reason to distrust him (time will tell if he screwed up Thompson vs. Valanciunas, but, more importantly, he got Irving vs. Williams right), and I’m encouraged that it seems like there’s an unwavering philosophy in place and that Grant has Gilbert’s support to construct this team as he sees fit. It might not work—odds don’t really matter after you’ve already lost a bet—but I’m cautiously optimistic. And pleased the Cavs won’t be throwing the max at Eric Gordon or $9 million a year at Javale McGee.

Draft Profile: Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Today we’ll focus on three Vanderbilt Commodores that meet Cleveland’s positional needs and will be chosen around their #24, #33 and #34 picks.

John Jenkins may be this draft’s best shooter.  While launching nearly nine three-pointers per game during his junior year, he knocked down 44%.  He fires with his feet set, off screens, pulling up in transition or around a pick.  During one game, I recall the announcers discussing his 0.6 second catch-to-release, and how that bests what is normally considered an elite time of one second.  That’s his only strength though; of his 20 point per game scoring, nearly 12 of those come from deep, and his 1.2 assists, 2.9 rebounds, or 0.8 steals aren’t exactly stuffing the box score.  At 6’4” and as an average athlete, he’ll only be a marginal defender against fast NBA twos.

Jeffery Taylor soars to the basket

Jeffery Taylor stands 6’7” and plays small forward.  He is known as one of the draft’s elite athletes and a lock-down defender.  Finishing his senior year and turning 23 this month, Taylor averaged 16 points per game, aided by 42% shooting from deep.  Aside from his shooting, he is most effective in transition.  Defensively he moves very well and clocks-in for every possession.  His rebounding is mediocre and shot creation marginal; his role in the NBA is basically as a 3-and-D guy.   Currently projected to go off the board around #20, the Cavs likely need to package two picks if they want Taylor.

Festus Ezeli is a senior from Nigeria, a legitimate center at a long-armed 6’11” and 255 pounds, with outstanding athleticism for a man that size.  Offensively, his repertoire lacks.  Most of his “post moves” amount to sealing his man off, and dunking.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that; his 10 points in 23 minutes per game come on 54% from the field and he attempts nearly as many free throws as field goals.  He effectively muscles up on post defense and blocked two shots per game.  Like a lot of young, athletic big men, his rebounding on the offensive end far outpaces his prowess on the defensive boards.  Maybe it’s reasonable to shrug off 18-year-old Andre Drummond grabbing 16% of available defensive rebounds, but Ezeli isn’t much better at three years his elder.  Ezeli tries to block too many shots, frequently leaving him out of position.  As a final note, in 3000 career minutes, Ezeli dished out 18 assists.  Due to his unrefined post footwork and occasional oven-mitt hands, he turned the ball over that many times in one five game stretch this season.

For more details, onto some game recaps:

NCAA tourney against Wisconsin: In Vandy’s NCAA tournament loss against Wisconsin, Taylor finished with 9 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists, 1 steal and 3 turnovers in 30 minutes…kind of uninspiring.  Operating primarily from the perimeter on offense; nine of his twelve shots were jumpers, of which he only connected on three.  Despite not posing a huge threat penetrating to the basket, he showed off really well-practiced footwork and crossover moves to launch into pull-up jumpers, once leaving his man crumpled on the ground as he rose up for an uncontested 18 footer.  He defended Wisconsin’s point guard capably on multiple possessions and understands his rotational responsibilities, even swatting a three-point attempt on one close-out.

Jenkins netted 13 points on 42% True Shooting, along with 2 rebounds and 2 assists.  Of his 13 field goal attempts and 6 free throws, all but two were jumpers.  He was able to find shots, off screens or step-backs & pull-ups, either out of isolation or a pick-and-roll.  In this game, they weren’t going in.  His defense was largely non-noteworthy; a non-attempted box-out allowed a put-back and his man sped by him en route to an and-one.

Festus Ezeli hammers one home

After beginning the game on the bench due to a non-disclosed discipline issue, Ezeli posted one of his season’s best games, with 14 points on 73% True Shooting and 11 rebounds.  His offense is not terribly nuanced; of his five field goals, twice he established deep position, received a pass & dunked and twice he scored on offensive rebounds.  In his three attempts at making post moves – he charged, travelled, and bobbled a pass, resulting in a blocked shot.  This was a really impressive game though.  Playing very physically, he drew four off-the-ball fouls battling underneath.  As the ball swings around Vandy’s perimeter offense, he effectively seals his man off to benefit from an easy dunk.  Defensively, he hedged well & rotated back on a pick-and-roll, and he closed out on a shooter with choppy steps.  In the post, he denied the ball well, including stealing an inlet pass, and he generally made it difficult for Badger big men to get shots off.

SEC tourney against Ole Miss: In 28 minutes, Taylor turned in the most invisible effort I’ve watched while profiling draft picks: 2 points on 1 of 5 shooting, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks, 0 turnovers and 1 foul.  The Commodores won easily though, and JT rotated and slid his feet well on defense, drawing two offensive fouls.

John Jenkins makes it rain

Jenkins again functioned primarily as a jump shooter, with 13 of his 16 shots coming from behind the arc.  He made five from deep and finished with 23 points on 62% true shooting.  This is subjective, but JJ gets fouled while jump shooting more than any player I’ve seen.  The announcers noted his ownership of the SEC record for career four-point plays.  Again, his non-shooting offense was limited, including one transition layup getting chased-down and one time tripping and losing the ball. It’s pretty simple, shooting is what he does.

Ezeli battled foul trouble and finished with 0 points in only 16 minutes.  He did not foul out of this game, but has been consistently plagued by the issue, fouling out five times in 2011 – 2012.  His physicality works both ways though, as he drew two more fouls battling for deep position.  He exhibited a wide range of defensive skills; rotating as help to block a layup, and forcing tough looks whether faced up against or backed down by a big man, or switching onto the ball handler in a pick-and-roll.  His rebounding was a mixed bag; poor box-out fundamentals resulted in three defensive rebounds, but his aggressive demeanor at the other end netted him four off the offensive glass.  Finally, bad hands resulted in a bobbled pass and negated an opportunity for a dunk.

Summary: Watching these two games shows some of the danger in watching a couple of games and drawing conclusions.  Taylor averaged 16 & 5 this year, but only 5.5 and 1.5 in the games discussed above.  Jenkins drained 45% of his nearly 300 threes in the games I didn’t watch, but only 32% in the two profiled.  Ezeli is occassionally noted as a player that struggles with team defense, but these two games were solid.  Also his 8 defensive rebounds against Wisconsin matched his second highest total of the last two years.

Taylor’s projected role in the NBA as a “3-and-D” player is fairly straightforward; if he can’t consistently drain open looks or impede the opponent’s best, his usefulness will be limited.  Although it is a skill where he has improved every year, prior to this season, he only connected on 30% from downtown.  It may be worthwhile to look closely at his athleticism and shooting performance at the combine, and also see if any “Harrison Barnes and Terrence Ross couldn’t score against him in workouts” stories start coming out.  If they both pan out, Taylor and Alonzo Gee would be duplicative. If sufficient scoring is added through the lottery and free agency though, that’s not a horrible thing.

I think Jenkins can provide valuable bench offense to an NBA team, and Cleveland can certainly use more offense.  With a shot that fast and accurate, for 18 minutes a night, he can run around screens, pop jumpers, and  help maintain a lead while the starters hit the pine.

If the Cavs snagged Ezeli with a 2nd round pick; I could dig it.  I think he’ll be a suitable backup center; a Brendan Haywood to someone’s Tyson Chandler. He possesses appropriate size and athleticism, plays aggressively and flashes defensive skill.  In my “2011 Draft Follow-Up” from last week, I noted the strength of LaVoy Allen’s sophomore and junior years and that was perhaps indicative of his rookie year success.  Ezeli could fit this mold.  Despite a small usage decrease this year, his offensive rating plummeted.  In similar minutes, his scoring, rebounding and shot blocking were down, while his fouls and turnovers were up.  He missed the first ten games of his senior year due to a secondary NCAA violation and a knee sprain; perhaps these issues de-railed a potentially excellent senior year.

Suns Interested in Alonzo Gee

Monday, May 7th, 2012

From WFNY:

Late last week, Fox 8′s John Telich reported that “at least three teams” were interested in Gee with the Suns being joined by the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons. Brendan Bowers of Stepien Rules followed this up by reporting that the Suns were in fact in the lead for Gee’s services, set to offer the athletic wing approximately $4 million per year with the length of the deal unknown.

Two things: (1) Gee is a restricted free agent, so the Cavs will have the opportunity to match whatever offers other teams make, and (2) $4 million per year sounds a little high, but reasonable. I would bring Gee back for $12 million over three years or whatever the Suns offer looks like.

2011 Draft Follow-up (Season End Edition)

Friday, May 4th, 2012

This post is self-indulgent more than anything else; how did I do as a 2011 draft expert?  Is there anything to learn after the 2012 season is in the books?  One year removed, I would grade myself at a solid C, and surely there is something to take away from it all.

(Note: Colin wrote a great article on Antawn Jamison yesterday.  If you haven’t read it, skip this, click on the link.)

Last year, up until one month before the draft, my attitude was basically; “Cool, I write for my favorite Cavs blog.”  In the final month leading up to selection day, I buckled down and attempted to make a reasonably educated guess at how the players would fair in the NBA.  My results were mixed.  This year I hope to do better, as much of the season was spent with the frame of mind that I’m a “draft expert” (please note quotation marks.  I’m a father of two with a full time job.  I’m part “draft expert”, part “Phineas and Ferb” expert, and part Engineer).  This post may be helpful towards my prioritization of prospects on draft day (it was probably less helpful in my prioritization of Life).

Anyways, this is barely a Cavs post, other than me casting my (non-counting) vote for Crocodile Kyrie as the Rookie of the Year.  So, lets get on with reviewing select aspects of the 2011 draft.

“Cavs Rookies”

Sorry for the brief recap of the Cavs rookies, but this post is one-million words long without going in-depth into the fact that Kyrie is amazing and Tristan is raw.  Cavs:the Blog will certainly discuss each in detail this off-season.   For a few words on each player right now:

Kyrie Irving – The relatively out-of-this-world offensive stats that Kyrie flashed in 11 games at Duke translated well to the NBA.  I’m horribly biased, but he’s the ROY.

Tristan Thompson – For TT, I settled on 16th best rookie season out of the 2011 class (see table below).  He’ll end up better than many of the players above him though.  How could he not after helping to raise four championship banners at the Q?  Tristan improved as the year went on, and hopefully he ages like a fine wine this off-season.

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Next, we’ll explore players where my vantage point went against the grain last summer.  Who was smarter: me or the world?  It’s a mixed bag.

“Players I was contrarian about on Draft Day 2011″

Kenneth Faried – I’m outing myself here; please don’t chastise me, but instead embrace my bravery.  In summer 2011, I viewed Faried as a high energy, undersized frontcourt player without a jumper.  A player whose college stats were padded thanks to being the center in a zone in a small-conference.  When I thought of similar players, 8th men came to mind.  I ignored the obvious in front of me; rebounding is most likely to translate to the NBA and so many people were calling him a sleeper that he barely counted as such, etc.

Now, Faried is the #2 rookie from this draft class, as a highly efficient scorer and an elite NBA rebounder.       Ultimately, I’m not ready to eat crow on any player based on the results of one shortened, accelerated season though.  According to the numbers and play that I’ve seen, he struggles on defense, plus he’s still 6’8” and only hit nine shots from 10 ft or deeper this season.  I’ll let this one ride a little longer before admitting I’m an idiot.

Who this bodes well for in 2012: Certainly Thomas Robinson, but people really like him, so that doesn’t count.  I’ll go with Drew Gordon of New Mexico.  Gordon is a senior in a mid-major and ranked 5th in the NCAA in defensive rebounding percentage.  He’s a long, high energy player.  Most sources slot him near the back end of the second round, and while he won’t be Kenneth Faried, you may hear his name someday in the NBA.

Klay Thompson & Alec Burks – I liked Alec Burks a lot more than Klay Thompson.  Burks was younger, more athletic, scored more efficiently, rebounded better…shoot, he even owned the longer wingspan.

Having recounted Faried and now this comparison; I’m 0 for 2.  I viewed Thompson as a one-trick pony, but as it turns out, it’s a pretty good trick.  He made 41% of his threes.  Still though, he was not a good distributor, rebounder or defender.

I’m counting on AB to eventually make me look good.  He is 17 months younger than Thompson, held his opponent to a 12.8 PER, and played the 5th most minutes of any 2011 draftee that is still battling in May.  That has to count for something, right?

Who this bodes well for in 2012: With regards to Thompson, let’s say John Jenkins of Vanderbilt.  Jenkins lacks many ideal traits in an NBA shooting guard, but he possesses an extremely fast and accurate shot.  If a team is looking for someone to help fill it up with the second unit for 18 minutes a night, I think he’ll get it done.

Jon Leuer – I was a big Leuer fan and advocated for the Cavs to consider him at #32.  Of the 28 players below that logged enough minutes to qualify for adjusted plus / minus, only 3 were above average in each of three advanced stats I chose.  Leuer was one of them.  He didn’t see tons of minutes, but based on early results, I’ll give myself a pat-on-the-back for this one.

Who this bodes well for in 2012: Mike Scott of Virginia, who’s currently slotted late in the 2nd round by most.  Virginia played at the 7th slowest pace of the 345 Division I teams this year.  This really masked Scott’s effectiveness; while using 30% of Cavalier possessions, his offensive rating held strong at 115, he grabbed 24% of available defensive rebounds, and he made 52% of his jump shots.  Other than being 3” shorter, the comparison to Leuer is  strong.

Iman Shumpert – Prior to draft day, from my television, it’s hard to tell the mental make-up of these guys.  In college, Shumpert exhibited poor shot selection and relatively high turnover rates.  On the plus side, he was a great athlete and a ball-hawking defender.  I envisioned Shumpert in a situation where he was allowed to indulge his wild side on offense, potentially at the expense of locking down his man at the other end.  Really this was a tale of two seasons for I-Shump.  Pre All-Star break, he was shooting nearly 11 times a game and making only 38% of his field goals (25% on threes).   In the second half of the season, in similar minutes, he reduced his shot attempts to 7.5 per game while improving to 43% (35% from deep).  As long as he accepts a limited role on offense while locking-down on defense, Shumpert will be a valuable role player.

Who this bodes well for in 2012: Can Tony Wroten show up at the combine and post the highest vertical jump, then prove to have the mindset to be a lockdown NBA defender?  I’ll say no, but that would be the best comparison.  The nod goes to Dion Waiters instead; he’s not quite Shumpert’s athletic equal, but he’s the offensively aggressive combo-guard with an extremely high steal rate.  For what it’s worth, I certainly like Waiters more this year than I liked Shumpert last year.

Jan Vesely – I’ve beaten this into the ground, but I wasn’t a fan of Vesely as a top 5 pick.  So far, I’ll give myself credit for being right on that.

Who this bodes poorly for in 2012: Dare I say Andre Drummond?  A big, athletic player that doesn’t defensive rebound, bricks free throws at an alarming rate (30%!!!!), and lacks definable offensive skills?   Check, check, check (and no, this is not a veiled dig at TT.  My crystal ball says four championships).

Jimmy Butler – For the Cavs #32 pick in 2011, I was a big Jimmy Butler fan.  Instead the Bulls picked him at #30, where he didn’t see many minutes playing for the NBA’s regular-season-wins leader.  My view on JB was that he played the “right” way and would be a valuable role player on a contender someday.  Playing for Tom Thibideau can’t have hurt; so I’m maintaining high hopes for Jimmy Butler.

Who this bodes well for in 2012: Butler technically didn’t do anything in the NBA this year, so who is the player that may sneak into the end of the 1st round, drafted by one of the NBA’s elite?  My choice is his ex-teammate at Marguette – Jae Crowder.

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“Pleasant Surprises”

In this section, the players that most outperformed their draft position will be briefly expounded upon.  What can we learn from their pre-draft performance that potentially foretold of their first-season NBA success?

Isaiah Thomas – At last year’s draft combine, Thomas rated top ten across the board in the jumping, agility and speed drills.  As a junior in a big conference, his offensive rating was a very respectable 114 on 27 usage.  Of the 16 point guards in the draftexpress database for 2011, he had the 2nd best pure point rating.  Described as an adept pick-and-roll ball handler and a hard-nosed defender; it seems everyone tried too hard to write Thomas off based on his size.

Who this bodes well for: There’s a reason every team doesn’t have a 5’10” starting point guard with a 17 PER.  With hindsight as a guide, it looks pretty reasonable to have expected Thomas to be a sub-six-footer to show that size doesn’t matter.

Chandler Parsons – I’m not sure what to say about Parsons.  He didn’t test as a good athlete, wasn’t a particularly efficient offensive player, rarely got to the free throw line, shot poorly when there, was 23 years old at the start of the season, described as an occasionally indifferent defensive player…even in hindsight, I have trouble talking myself into him.  I know there were commenters who wanted the Cavs to draft him at #32; you’re pretty smart, so remind me why.

Josh Harrellson – Everytime I tuned in for one of Harrellson’s more celebrated teammates, it was easy to be impressed by him, because he played so hard.  Statistically, he was a very efficient low-usage center, with an extremely high offensive rebounding percentage.

Who this bodes well for: With consideration to Ricardo Ratliffe of Missouri, I’ll say Miles Plumlee of Duke.  Both were four-year role players on perennial powerhouses, with excellent “motors” and outstanding offensive rebounding percentages.  In the run-up to the draft, I don’t recall Harrellson being viewed as a draftable player.  Then he was selected 45th.  Maybe Plumlee will impress someone in workouts and interviews enough also, and warrant late second round selection.

Lavoy Allen – Allen peaked during his sophomore and junior years, with high rebounding rates and great offensive efficiency.  His senior year, he was described as coasting and his numbers were down across the board.  Leading up to draft day last year, many draft sites weren’t listing him in the 60 picks.  The 76ers must have heard something in interviews that made them think his prior performance was likely to resume.

Who this bodes well for: I’m stretching here, but I’ll give this to Ohio State Buckeye William Buford.  Buford converted 44% of this three pointers during his junior year, as a very efficient scorer for a top-flight Ohio State team.  This year, that percentage dropped to 36% and he plummeted down many draft boards.

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If you read this far through my dis-jointed 2011 draft follow-up; I’m impressed.  Now you get to see the somewhat arbitrary table where I rank the top 49 players from this year’s class.  Enjoy!!  Hopefully this endeavor has greatly improved my and your “draft expert”-ing.

The table includes Minutes, PER, Win Shares per 48 minutes, and adjusted plus / minus (with standard deviation).  If the player did not play enough minutes to qualify for adjusted plus / minus, I included their unadjusted impact on their team’s 100 possession efficiency.


Thank You, Whoever You Are

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Antawn Jamison announced about a week ago that he will not be returning to the Cavaliers next season. I met this news by glancing out the window at a crow perched on a telephone wire. Then I walked to the fridge and made myself a roast beef sandwich. It’s unremarkable that a guy who will turn 36 in the offseason would rather play for a title contender than a team in year three of a rebuild that will extend beyond his career. Like, it’s literally unremarkable; it need not be remarked upon. Cars are useful. Water slides are fun. Antawn Jamison is old and would like to win a championship.

Jamison’s departure brings a formal close to an era, of sorts—a musty crawl space of time that bridges the end of LeBron James’s Cavalier tenure and the beginning of Kyrie Irving’s. He was the last player Danny Ferry acquired before Ferry and the Cavs parted company in June of 2010, and, in a lot of ways, Jamison was emblematic of Ferry’s ill-fated attempts at surrounding LeBron with sufficient talent. News of the Antawn Jamison trade was met with mild approval. He was the type of good-not-great, not-quite-worthy-of-being-LeBron’s-wingman player with which Cavs fans were very familiar. For his first week as a Cavalier, his name might as well have been Not Amar’e Stoudemire. (In some alternate universe, Amar’e for J.J. Hickson and a dumpster’s worth of draft picks was a real thing, the LBJ-Amar’e Cavs won a championship, and Scott Sargent happily changed the name of Waiting for Next Year to This Is a Blog About Cleveland Sports Teams.)

Jamison averaged 15-and-7 in the 2010 playoffs, though he was markedly better against the Bulls than the Celtics, and Cavs fans will remember Kevin Garnett devoured him in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. If LBJ hadn’t performed like a robot who had just fallen into a dunk tank an hour before tip-off in Game 5, Jamison might have suffered the same scrutiny Mo Williams faced after he seemingly missed every important open three against Orlando in 2009.

Then LeBron left, Mo Williams’s wounded soul was sent to Los Angeles, and Jamison became the best scorer on the worst team in the league. A year later he was the second-best offensive player on a team that was still really bad. As is his wont, he handled this predicament like a gentleman. Antawn Jamison—who has had a great career, mind you; we’re talking about a two-time All-Star—is defined by this gentlemanliness. He is difficult to discuss in any detail mostly because all we know about him is what we see on the court and his impenetrable good guy-ness. Have you heard an announcer mention Antawn Jamison without citing a.) his professionalism or b.) his arsenal of strange scoop shots and floaters?

I, too, have trouble escaping either of these things. I’m convinced, when his UNC team was getting blown out by Utah early in the second half of the national semifinal in the 1998 Final Four, that I saw Jamison, behind the play and out of frustration, briefly put a Utah player in a headlock, but I was eight at the time, and being eight is like waking up every day and ingesting a bag of hallucinogens. I would love to ask him if that’s a thing that actually happened if we ever ran into one another. Mostly because it’s the only remotely dishonorable thing I’ve ever maybe seen him do. But we will never cross paths, Antawn Jamison and I. If he showed up in my living room, I would feel like Adam the moment he ate from the Tree of Knowledge and realized he was not clothed—an intense, searing shame. I’m morally naked, Antawn. Please don’t look me in the eye.

What can you say about Antawn Jamsion without sounding condescending or reductive? He is a person, after all. Imperfect, with indentations in his character. (Though I wonder if those indentations are perfect and symmetrical, like on a golf ball.) His blood surely isn’t the shade of taupe I imagine it to be.

Perhaps he is best conceived of as a man with aluminum skin. And I don’t mean that pejoratively—there’s perhaps teeming humanity beneath that reflective surface, but we lack access to what’s underneath.  All we—as fans, writers, whomever—can do is shout interrogative statements at Jamison’s exterior. And we receive in return nothing but ghost-mouthed iterations of our own words. A lot of athletes are like this to some degree—if you hate an athlete who hasn’t sexually assaulted or murdered anyone, it really says more about you than the athlete—but Antawn Jamison’s skin is as unfissured as anyone’s. Questions lobbed at him ricochet back toward our more penetrable hides. Maybe we learn something about ourselves. We learn almost nothing about Antawn Jamison. We should thank him, then, for his patience. It must be exhausting to be a mirror: everyone talks about themselves while they peer into you.

It would be disingenuous of me to say I don’t know anything about Antawn Jamison. I know he has emerged from this melting scrap heap of a Cavalier team still remarkably handsome, with a piercing smile that I hope to see more of when he plays in Dallas or Miami or wherever next year. I know he will bring his class, his articulate way, his still-decent jump shot to whatever future home he inhabits. I know he deserves the future success he encounters. May he have an excess of it. Farewell, Antawn.

Kyrie Irving Named to Team USA’s Select Team

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

From Tom Reed:

Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving will have a busy July representing team and country in Las Vegas.

The presumptive NBA Rookie of the Year not only will lead the Cavs’ summer-league squad, but also help prepare the U.S. Olympic basketball club as it readies for the Summer Olympics in London.

USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo confirmed that Irving will receive an invite to participate on the U.S. Select Team, which acts as a sparring partner for the Olympic team and serves as a pool of talent from which future international sides will be drawn. The select squad, comprised of 10 to 14 players, will scrimmage against the Olympic team from July 5-11, a Team USA spokesman said.

This sounds like it’s going to be a great (albeit brief) experience for the 20 year-old. Any time Irving spends around USA basketball is likely to be productive.

Sporting News Wrong About Things

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Via Sean Deveney:

3. Cleveland Cavaliers. Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina

The Cavs drafted Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson last year, and they need to address the small forward spot. It’s likely to be either Barnes or Kidd-Gilchrist.

I do not accept this as a thing that can happen in reality. I just will not. If it happens on draft night, I’ll be as surprised as anyone that I have apparently been living in a Charlie Kaufman movie my entire life.