Archive for December, 2012

Dear Papa Noel…

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.  There will be no complaining today or tomorrow from anyone on the Cavs the Blog staff.  December 23rd was Festivus, and we’ve spent the better part of the last month practicing the traditional “airing of grievances,” at least as far as the Cavs are concerned.  So regardless of whether the Cavs won or lost Saturday night in Milwaukee (they won), it seems like a good time to reassess our attitude towards the team.  One of the reasons that it’s good to do this is that when we write about the team, watch the team, and dissect the team on a daily basis, it is easy to forget that these guys are human.  They have families.  They have friends.  They have dreams.  They have fears.  They have stories of tragedy.  They have stories of triumph.

One story that always sticks with me is when I was at a Cavs game several years ago, and they were asking all the Cavs’ about their favorite Christmas memory.  Zydrunas Ilgauskus’ story always stuck with me.  He said (I’m paraphrasing through the haze of memory), “My favorite memory was my rookie year in Cleveland because it was the first year that I was able to have a Christmas tree, because I grew up in the U.S.S.R.”  That story cuts through a lot of BS.  There are more important things in life and in the world than basketball.

One thing I like about the current Cavs team, is that they seem like a pretty good group of guys.  I dare you not to like some of these guys after watching this video of them visiting the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital on December 4th.  In fact, the Cavs website is packed full of lots of great holiday moments.  For a list of some of the many charities that the Cavs support, go here.

So with the warm wishes of the holiday season in mind, we thought it would be fun to come up with a Christmas wish list for the Cavs.  In some cases it was hard to come up with something appropriate, but we tried to delve into the depths of the Cavs’ psyches to get a glimpse into what makes them tick, in order to come up with a crappy gift for each one of them.

Kevin Jones: Our most recent Cavalier addition has been relegated to lugging around basketballs, buying donuts, and generally being the butt of most of the good natured rookie ribbing.  He’ll be getting the ubiquitous Krispy Kreme gift card, for all those donuts he’ll be buying over the next few months.

Donald Sloan: According to his twitter account, Donald Sloan is wishing for tickets to the Cotton Bowl where Oklahoma is playing his alma mater, Texas A&M.  Sadly for him, the Cavs have a game that night.  In lieu of that, the elves have weaved this snazzy t-shirt, commemorating the 2013 bowl game, which should suffice.

Jon Leuer: For a history major in college, and a current NBA player, what could be a better gift than an NBA history book?  One written by Bethlehem Shoals of  FreeDarko.com, a blog that published an NBA history book, certainly seems apropos to me.  May you leave your mark in the sequel, Jon.

Samardo Samuels: The 2008 USA Today High School player of the year lists his favorite show as “Martin” and Will Smith as his favorite actor on his NBA profile.  What better item to get for a man who loves Will and Martin?  Only a commemoration one of the finest duologies by one of the great auteurs of the 21st century: that’s right, Samardo, may Santa bring you an autographed copy of the poster for Michael Bay’s Shakespeare rivaling epic: Bad Boys II.

I'm talkin' 'bout Mike Lowwwery.

Luke Walton: What better gift to give everyone’s favorite deadhead than yet another Grateful Dead boxed set?

Alonzo Gee: For the NBA’s most underrated dunker we’re asking the fat man for an all expenses paid trip to the 2013 NBA all star game to participate in the dunk contest.  We know you can do it, Alonzo.  This is going to happen.

Jeremy Pargo: So judging from his twitter pics, he’s a fan of the striped socks.  So here you go, Jeremy.  I know.  It sucks to get socks.  But these are pretty classy…

C.J. Miles: For the self proclaimed “king of video games” Santa’s trolling ebay for the rare NBA2K13 dynasty edition, which retailed for $99 when it was released and now sells for no less than $150 on ebay and other sites.  Enjoy C.J., I hope I never meet you online, because I’m terrible at that game.

Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson, and Kyrie Irving: For the guys that represent the most masked team in NBA history, we’re going to lobby David Stern to remove the requirement that your masks be clear and have the elves make bad@$s custom artwork to strike fear into the hearts of Cavs’ opponents.  If the elves won’t do it, then click on the pic for the guys who will.

Omri Casspi: What should we get him for Hannukah?  (I know we’re a week late).  After lots of research to come up with something appropriate, I decided to leave it up to the experts, and just get Omri a gift certificate to Lax and Mandel, which according to google and their own website, is Cleveland’s #1 Kosher Bakery.

YUM

Dion Waiters: So Dion, I uh, kind of made you a T-Shirt.  That’s right, get your own Saint Weirdo t-shirt, right here.  It’s yours, Dion.  Embrace your enigma.  Embrace your inner saint.  Embrace the weird in wine or gold.

Byron Scott: A tie from E. Marinella of Napoli, makers of some of the finest neckties in the world. I’m quite sure that would be right up Byron’s alley.  Santa, you’d better have some cash.

Zydrunas Ilgauskus: If you’ve seen him lately, you’ll notice he’s quite svelte, and that he wear’s some pretty classy sweaters.  Here’s a tasteful piece from Nordstrums, snooty department store of the west.  Pricey, but we know Z’s on the nice list.

Chris Grant: A treatise on strategy, not that he needs it.  But maybe a book on unorthodox strategy could help him take on the big boys.  But perhaps something even better, a wargame, Hannibal: Rome versus Carthage.  He and Z should stay up nights playing it.  Hint.  We’re Carthage.

Dan Gibert: What should Kris Kringle get for a man who has everything?  A coffee mug, of course.

Daniel Gibson: Don’t know what to get him.  I’m finishing this article at 3 in the morning, checking his mad twitter.  It’s incessant.  It never stops.  My personal favorites, “A turkey sandwich right now would put me in gangsta’s paradise.”  and “I was battling internally with myself and my conscious.. trying to piece it all together” but my favorite is “It’s 2:30 n the morning & I have come to the conclusion that Black folks never see Big Foot, nor do they hunt them. #ItsAWhiteThing”  I don’t know what to ask Santa to get Daniel “boobie” Gibson, so I’ll just say “thank you.”

Thank you Boobie for being positive and hardworking the entire time you’ve been in Cleveland.  I have a feeling that this might be your last Christmas in a Cavs uniform, with your contract expiring, and if it is, I just want to say, that you’ve been a joy to follow for your entire career in Cleveland.  You’ve done a ton of work in the community.  You stuck up for the whole team when LeBron tried to punk us in the comeback game.  You’ve been here since you were 20 years old, and you’ve been nothing but a class act.  You exude a mix of positivity, professionalism, and just enough fun quirkiness that you always leave me with a smile.  And you’re also responsible for my single greatest Cavs memory.  So Merry Christmas to you and your family, Mr. Gibson.  I hope Santa uses his best judgment and brings you a lifetime of happiness, and that you keep ballin’ and helping people here and around the country.  Dang.  I just got a little misty…

Anderson Varejao:  As much as I’d like to get him a spa day, I think I’d rather wish for an All Star game slot.  So if you’re listening Mike Woodson or Eric Spoelstra, you’d better be adding Andy to your squad, cause he’s the most hustlinest passinest funkylayupinest reboundingest statstuffinest center this side of Barra do Chuí (the southermnost city in Brazil), and clearly at the top of Santa’s “awesome” list.   If you don’t give him some run in Houston, Papa Noel will mess your stuff up.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays everyone.

Trade Machine Fun

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Those uniformss look a little strange, somehow...

With a couple of slow days for the Cavs coming up, let’s have some fun with the ESPN Trade Machine! I spent some time kibitzing around with the Machine, and came up with a few potential trades.

Trade #1

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=ajxmwrf

Anderson Varejao and Jon Leuer to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Kendrick Perkins, Jeremy Lamb and Toronto’s lottery pick. (Explanation of the pick’s protection)

This trade has a real shot at happening. While it’s unclear if the Thunder have directly expressed interest in Varejao, we all know Sam Presti is willing to do the unexpected. Andy would be a perfect fit in OKC, and Perkins has become an offensive liability and slowed on defense. As for the Cavs, this might be one of the few trades that could really tempt Chris Grant into trading Andy. Jeremy Lamb is an extremely talented offensive player, and everyone knows we need more offensive play-making off the bench. Perkins is a decent stop-gap option at center, and that Toronto pick is immensely valuable. Obviously, this would hurt us short term. But Jeremy Lamb and a lottery pick is nothing to sneeze at, and Kendrick Perkins is a decent starting center.

Trade #2

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=d4rs4h6

Anderson Varejao and Omri Casspi to the Houston Rockets for Carlos Delfino, Terrence Jones, and Chandler Parsons.

If the Rockets are fighting for a low playoff seed near the trade deadline, Daryl Morey may feel the need to pull the trigger on a deal to get them closer. An Asik-Varejao front-line would be devastating on the boards. The Cavs would be snagging one of the brightest young small forwards in the league in Chandler Parsons, a player averaging 15, 5 and 4 in only his second year in the NBA. He also has a reputation as a great team player with a ton of heart. Terrence Jones was a lottery pick last year, and could slot in nicely as a backup to Tristan Thompson with a dash of star potential. Carlos Delfino is, well… Carlos Delfino. This is a wild-card in the Varejao-trade scenarios, as an option most people haven’t been talking about. But everyone in the NBA loves Parsons, and Andy (#alliteration) is exactly the type of looks-even-better-in-advanced-stats player that Morey loves. I actually prefer this to the OKC trade. Parsons wasn’t a lottery pick, but he’s producing like a future star. (Watch this.)

Trade #3

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=bt4zztm

Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller for Demarcus Cousins.

Keith Smart and Boogie Cousins are not looking like a healthy partnership right now, and Sacramento needs a culture overhaul. A trade seems to be necessary. If the most recent incident isn’t going to cause a move, the next one will.  Zeller and Thompson are both high-character guys that could provide some mental stability in an organization that needs just that. Meanwhile, the Cavs could be just what Cousins needs. Byron Scott’s tough but fair (sometimes), and Kyrie Irving is a young superstar who leads by example. If that isn’t enough, Anderson Varejao exemplifies what every young center should aspire to. The hardest part about this trade would be condemning Tristan and Tyler to the black hole of sorrow, despair and Maloofian greed. But when it comes down to it, Demarcus Cousins is a star. He’s putting up 17 and 10 despite all the fighting. He’s putting up 17 and 10, basically without a point guard. These are the kinds of moves that make championship teams. High risk, high reward.

Let me know what you think, or tell me how stupid I am!

Comment below, or yell at me @DanSoch

Barely a recap: Cleveland 94, Milwaukee 82

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

The last two games featured a much more 'purposed' Dion. I like that.

Nice win last night, as Cleveland never trailed and cruised to a double-digit road win.  The puzzle pieces fit for a night, and the team enters Christmas on a win streak.  Everyone can go home, ice their aching joints, and celebrate with loved-ones under the glow of victory.

I will cover this through some bullets:

  • Last night featured the perfect Tristan-game.  Six of eight field goals, four of them assisted, and one a put-back; the offense found him opportunities and he finished them.  At the other end, he snagged twelve defensive rebounds, and despite what the box score says, I swear he blocked more than one shot.  He certainly impacted several others.  Overall, a really nice two game stretch for the young big man.
  • Dion Waiters continued his aggressive play from Friday, taking seven shots at the rim and making five.  His jumpers were also falling on the way to 18 relatively efficient points.  His two assists netted Tyler and Tristan bunnies, including a beauteous wrap-around look for Thompson’s dunk. Did the official score keeper have a grudge against Cleveland?  I really thought that Waiters tossed more than two dimes.
  • The refs also seemed to prefer Milwaukee.  Despite Dion’s continuous forays to the basket, he shot zero free throws.  A series of questionable block / charge calls went Milwaukee’s way.  Cleveland shot 45 times inside of nine feet, compared to 34 for the Bucks, who still received seven more freebie attempts.
  • Kyrie took a back-seat, but tallied 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and only 2 turnovers on 58% true shooting.  He hit an absolutely huge buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter; Milwaukee was in the midst of a 16 to 4 run and the game appeared ready to unravel before Kyrie’s momentum shifter.
  • Tonight featured a welcome return for Jeremy Pargo.  After sitting six straight games, his attacking style primed a ten-to-nothing run to start the second quarter.  Milwaukee never came within six again.
  • Luke Walton played his best game as a Cav: seven points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.  His three points and three assists, along with Pargo’s play, fueled the 18-to-6 run that opened things up.  Two months ago, I would have assumed that it involved one-million monkeys sitting at one-million type writers to generate that sentence.  In the second half, he looked a little more like 2012 Luke Walton, but very nice early run.
  • C.J. Miles scored sixteen to perpetuate a streak of ten double-digit games in his last eleven.
  • Milwaukee flexes the league’s fourth-worst offense, but Cleveland’s fourth-worst defense held them in check.  Stoppable force meets movable object?  Put this one in the win category for the latter.  The Cavs only allowed Monta Ellis into double digits.  Ellis, by the way, was unstoppable.  Waiters, Gee and Gibson had no answer; Ellis scored on pick-and-rolls, in transition, and he canned a couple threes for good measure.  Other than Ellis’s 37 points, Milwaukee’s True Shooting ended at 38%.

Not a Recap: Cavs 94, Milwaukee 82

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

In honor of Andy, Tristan went for exactly 14 & 14 tonight.

There we go.  One win down, nineteen to go.

The youngsters played great tonight and drove the victory.  Tristan nets back-to-back team MVP honors, tallying 14 points, 14 rebounds and a ridiculous +25.

Dion and Kyrie combined for 33 points on 55% true shooting, with 10 rebounds.  The defense allowed only one Buck into double digits; Monta Ellis was unstoppable though, scoring 37.

And, it’s over.  29 games in 54 days.  Now the team receives a well-deserved three day Holiday break, with only three more games this calendar year.  Hopefully everyone travels safe and spends quality time with their families.

Recap in the morning.

Patience, Reasons and Excuses

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

I want to expand slightly on this theme of the last twenty-four hours.  Clearly hope remains that the root causes of the discussion (long losing streaks, runaway home losses, horrid offense & defense) disappear.  Like tonight, or Wednesday…just sometime near term.  If not though, it is a valid time to start asking hard questions about the State of the Team, lest anything sneak up on us.

PATIENCE is definitely a virtue, and it is warranted during this early season.  Many REASONS exist for Cleveland’s 5 wins.  Their schedule has been grueling; after tonight, 29 games exceed all but one team, and also 17 roadies are only outpaced by one squad.  They are young; weighted by minutes played, their average age is 24.8 years.  Their experience together is ridiculously limited; new arrivals have played 31% of the team’s minutes.  On the entire team, entering this season, only the pairs of Gibson & Varejao and Tristan & Gee have logged more than 1000 on-court minutes together.  Isn’t that crazy?  Those are the only combos with more than twenty full games worth of experience together.  Somewhat schedule related, the injury bug has hit; Kyrie missed eleven games and Dion sat for eight.  The team practices PATIENCE, with C.J. Miles serving as the most flashy free agent signing of the past three years.  The PATIENCE is prudent, as the team possesses the best cap flexibility in the league; there is not one guaranteed contract for 2014 – 2015.  Their current payroll sits at $47.8 million, the second lowest in the NBA, and certainly another REASON for their struggles.

Recently though, I have contemplated the fine line between patience & reasons, and EXCUSES.  With all the REASONS outlined above, it is easy to rationalize the team’s struggles.  I have done it all season and consider it completely appropriate.  But, when do we expect the switch-to-flip?  When is it no longer acceptable to rationalize the Cavs, with all their starters healthy, at home, losing by fourteen to the 6-and-19 Raptors who are missing two starters?  At what point in the re-build are six game losing streaks, including four double-digit losses, not acceptable?  When do the answers become EXCUSES and not REASONS?

For me, the answer is now, or more precisely, December 26th.  Granted, it’s not time to expect the team to win three-quarters of their games, but putting 25 wins on my Christmas list doesn’t seem like much.  For me, a 19-win season certainly crosses a line.  This team has talent.  The point guard is an offensive wunderkind.  The other guards are the #4 pick in this year’s draft and a veteran 41% three point shooter.  The front-court features: the league leader in rebounds per game and rebound rate; the #4 pick from 2011; and a polished rookie, a four-year college player serving as the reigning ACC POY.  Available wings include an eight-year veteran with a career PER over 12; a 6’ – 9” guy with 36% success shooting from deep; and an athletic dunk machine, also with career PER of 12.  Not spectacular, but all definitely NBA players.

Add it all up, and while playoffs aren’t in the cards, that is not a 19 win team.  The schedule is about to become a lot more forgiving.  If the team does not start producing more wins, it will result from one of a few things.  Maybe injuries ravage the team in 2013*. That will be easy to see and understand.  The other options essentially amount to the team not making the most of what it has.  Either the youngsters are not developing as individuals, the team is not buying into / learning the system, or the system just isn’t very good.  Any of these outcomes is a problem.

Obviously, I hope to see this turnaround.  I really, really like this team and this sport.  Certainly ping-pong balls are important, but even with an up-tick in wins, decent lottery odds remain.  Over the last five full NBA seasons, twenty-five wins typically nets about the fifth-worst record in the league.  Based on current standings, 25 wins projects to still leave Cleveland with a top-five pick.

It’s time to expect more from the franchise, before REASONS morph into EXCUSES.

*While there have been injuries in 2012, I do not consider the team to have been ‘ravaged’ by injuries.  Combined, the starters played in 84% of the possible games.  Zeller, Miles, Gibson and Casspi have been available at a similar frequency.

Cavs: The Podcast – Episode 18 – “Patience is a Virtue”

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

What does Byron Scott have to prove?  Kevin and I discuss in this 18th installment of Cavs: The Podcast.

https://soundcloud.com/tom-pestak/episode-18-patience-is-a

Commenters: What sorts of changes, results, benchmarks do you think the Cavs should demand of their coach?

Recap: Cavs 89, Pacers 99 (or, this ain’t easy street)

Friday, December 21st, 2012

TT - Way to go, man

Well, Cavs fans, we are at the intersection of Patience Drive, Reason Street, and Excuses Boulevard…but let’s wait until tomorrow’s outcome to talk about that.

Tonight, I will keep this brief.  Anderson Varejao took a breather tonight, and T-Zell started in his place.

Cleveland hung tight early, tied after one quarter by a score of 23 to 23.  Zeller struggled early with 2012 All-Star Roy Hibbert.  The Big Hoya scored eight in the first stanza.

Early in the next frame, success resulted as per usual; C.J. Miles made three jumpers for seven points in 75 seconds.  Also, Dion threaded a bad-ass dime to Tristan for dunk.  Tyler Zeller threw down a nasty dunk, and the Cavs carried a 45 – 44 lead at the half.

The third quarter is where things started to unravel.  David West, Paul George, and Roy Hibbert combined for twenty-three and Cleveland offered few amusing plays.  The Pacers mounted a double-digit lead.

The fourth quarter was, ummmm, worse.  The Cavs fell behind by eighteen before staging a 9-to-1 rally in the final minute.

A few notes:

This was Waiters’ best game since returning.  He looked to attack, and threaded seven dimes, including the no-look gem.  His shooting must improve, but the offense doesn’t generate many easy looks for him.

Zeller netted 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks, but Hibbert + Mahinmi’s 26 points on 18 shots were largely due to his defense.

Leuer was on the active-roster, but instead we got 27 minutes, 6 points, and 3 rebounds from Samardo and Kevin Jones. I am still not completely sure why Leuer played in only three non-garbage games before bench-time.

Alas, Kyrie can not do everything; 17 points on 45% true shooting with 5 assists and 6 turnovers.

Tristan undoubtedly reigned as tonight’s MVP.  12 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks; he capably defended West and Hibbert, and finished a commendable amount of righty-shots.  Well played, Mr. T.

The OKC Model: A Referendum on Coaching

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Yeah, I coached Durant and Westbrook. What's it to ya?

At the tail end of the comments for Nate’s article yesterday; Tom, Mallory, and me briefly discussed the “OKC Model”.  To varying degrees, thoughts on the frequency of this model’s success range somewhere between “finding a unicorn” and “eh, let’s wait and see”.

Occasionally though, I do marvel at some of the relatively inane similarities between the OKC and Cleveland re-builds.  For example:

Step #1: Clear house.  Following the 2006 – 2007 season, OKC traded Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.  Beyond the obvious LBJ leaving, Cleveland spent 2010 – 2011 peddling Mo Williams, JJ Hickson, Delonte West, etc

Step #2: With two top-five picks secured, draft a perimeter player that looks poised for superstardom and a forward that appears destined for a more average spot in the NBA constellation (Durant & Kyrie, Jeff Green & TT, for those that aren’t trying very hard).

Step #3: Have another miserable season.

Step #4 With the fourth pick in the next draft, select a sophomore combo-guard praised for defense and transition play.  Ensure the pick surprises most observers.

Step #5: In the same draft, using a late first round pick acquired via trade, draft a big man.

Step #6:  Start the next season miserably.  Fire your coach.  Hire a fresh-faced, untested coach. Turn the season around.

Step #7: Make the playoffs the next year.

Well, the Cavs are midway through step #6.  With five wins and twenty-two losses, they easily surpass OKC’s 3 and 29 start to 2008 – 2009…then the Thunder promptly rallied with 20 wins in their final 50 games.

Step 6b?  The Cavs have not reached that point.  They employ the reigning rookie-of-the-year; the best debuting point guard since Chris Paul.  Acquiring their starting shooting guard was like “hitting the jackpot”.  Starting at Center is a ball-of-energy averaging 14 points and 14 rebounds, rapidly declaring his bid for All-Star status. And currently the Cavs rank bottom-four in the NBA for offense and defense.  The offense frequently acts as ”every man for himself”; the fourth lowest share of their field goals are assisted, with the second lowest frequency of possessions including an assist.  Players do not seem to understand their roles.  On defense, they often play catch-up, chasing the opponent around, and ranking fourth-worst for percentage of opponent’s field goals that are assisted (and the opponent is making a lot of field goals).

It’s time to poop or get off the toilet.  After Saturday, Cleveland receives a restful Holiday break.  Starting December 26th, thee next ten games feature Washington, Charlotte and Sacramento.  How about a referendum on the team’s coaching?  Four wins in those ten, or the Cavs look for a new coach?  Then the ten games after that…same thing.

The “OKC Model” has worked once.  Based on their schedule, now is the time for the foundation to start showing signs of becoming a skyscraper.  I don’t know how twitter works, but #TwentyMoreWinsorCavsFindaNewCoach

Trade Ideas: Non-Varejao Edition

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Why wait for free agency for Millsap? Let's get him now.

The cool idea is to acquire more draft picks.  I am anything but cool.

It is time to start considering a different type of trade; the desired return no longer consists of unknown quantities, but instead, proven commodities.

Assuming the Lakers reach the playoffs this year and Sacramento evades the dregs of the NBA in the next five; Cleveland possesses 14 draft picks in the next four years.  Unfortunately, only twelve guys wear the wine & gold every night.  With Kyrie quickly climbing the NBA ladder, next year represents the time for a big move forward.  And frequently, free agency serves as a bastion of disappointment.  So what to do?

Time to turn palatable contracts and draft picks into contributors.  Below, I present three trades where Cleveland helps a middling team turn their prospects in a more favorable projection.

Trade One

What a mess the Dwight Howard trade became for Philadelphia.  Their payroll rests at $65 million this year, and $47 million next season, for nine players, none named Andrew Bynum.  If they are a fringe playoff team, two of their next three first round draft picks are dealt.  With that bloated payroll and dearth of upcoming draftees, they built a five-hundred team.

I can help.  How about: Thaddeus Young for Luke Walton, Samardo Samuels, 2013 Lakers / Miami pick and lesser of 2015 Miami or Cleveland selection?

Why it works for Cleveland: At 24, Young combines youth, production, and a reasonable contract (3 years after this, for $28 million).  In this season and the last two, his PER hovers between 18 & 19, while RAPM considers him an above-average defender.  His most glaring weakness, rebounding, pairs well with the Cleveland contingent of Varejao and Tristan.  Add in Tyler Zeller, and a strong, reasonably-priced rotation mans the frontcourt for several years.

Why it works for Philadelphia: Did you see the lead?  Other than owning Bynum’s Bird Rights, the Sixers could not make a max-offer to a free agent this off-season.  If they make the playoffs, their pick goes to Miami, which then triggers their 2015 pick towards Orlando.  A lottery pick this off-season remains theirs and sets the dominoes back one year.  Trading Young and abandoning this season turns them from a “first-round-exit with a future of perpetual mediocrity” into a team building around Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Lavoy Allen, Arnett Moultrie, $20 million in cap space and four 2013 draft picks (probably around 10th, 20th, 35th and 42nd…not bad).  Other than this season, future prospects appear brighter.

Trade 2

Paul Millsap sits near the top of many free agent lists.  But what if Utah wants something in return?  In Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, Utah currently preps twenty and twenty-one year old top-three draft picks as their front-court of the future.  It seems unlikely to re-sign Millsap to a deal extending into their next contracts.  Rather than plow through another April playoff exit, Utah should trade Millsap.

How about: Paul Millsap (signing an extension) for Walton, Gee, 2013 Lakers / Miami pick, Orlando 2014 2nd rounder, and worse of Miami / Cleveland 2015 selection.

Why it works for Cleveland:  Millsap is really good.  Plus a contract extension amounts to his age 28 - 31 seasons, still very near prime performance.  Based on PER, he always resides as a top-35 NBA player.  RAPM, which loves his defensive contributions, ranks him as one of the NBA’s best-twenty from 2010 – 2011 through this  season.  An efficient scorer with a solid mid-range jumper, and an excellent rebounder, the Millsap / Varejao duo provides an exceptionally productive and underrated front-court to pair with Kyrie and whatever Tristan, Zeller, and Waiters become.  Also, Cleveland still keeps all their picks, plus a future Sacremento first-round and two extra second-round choices.

Why it works for Utah: Assume that February approaches, and Utah stands embroiled in a four-team race for the opportunity to get thumped by the Thunder in the Playoffs.  Their long-term plans strongly consider letting Millsap walk via free agency.  Shouldn’t they look to get something in return?  With this trade, they enter Summer 2013 with their young core of Favors, Kanter, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, combined with three first-round choices and $30 million in cap space.  Gee brings veteran athleticism at a reasonable price.

Trade 3

Portland’s record currently resides at a mediocre 11 and 12.  Their 2013 – 2014 payroll eclipses $44 million for nine players, with 2014 – 2015 touching $45 million for eight players.  None of those players is J.J. Hickson, presently fifth on the team in minutes and pacing them in PER.  At some point, they owe a top-12 protected pick to Charlotte.    Their best five players turned 27, 26, 24, 24 and 22 this season and have played in 96% of their games, against the League’s fifth-easiest schedule.  Where is this team going?  A fringe playoff team, minus one draft pick, with limited ability to add salary, and a bulk of their core already entering their prime?  Maybe they win 8 of their next 10, but if not (Hollinger Playoff Odds are 7%), perhaps a shake-up is in order.

How about: Wesley Matthews for Alonzo Gee, Jon Leuer and 2013 Laker / Miami pick.

Why it works for Cleveland: As a third guard to pair with Kyrie and Dion, Matthews makes sense.  Possessing good size, and as a 39% career three-point bomber, he will spread the floor for his new driving back-court mates.  An efficient scorer, who tries on defense, there are a reasonable 2 years and $14 million remaining on his contract.

Why it works for Portland: Did you read everything above?  If January passes with this team still winning half and losing half, it seems time to make a move.  This move gives them the opportunity to make a max offer (similar to this off-season with Hibbert) and also restores their missing draft pick.  Gee presents a serviceable replacement for Matthews; before being buried in Cleveland, Jon Leuer played well for Milwaukee; this move offers reasonable ‘now’ and ‘later’ situations for the Blazers.

Summary: Those are the three trades.  Time to add some talent, using the plethora of picks the team accumulated.

Recap: Cleveland 91, Boston 103 (or cheer up. It’s Christmas.)

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

like a drum

We measure events by their ability to pierce the cacophony of the world around us.  During December this is an especially difficult task.  The days are filled with caroling and figgy pudding, desperately trying to finish (or avoid) work before a long weekend, parents coming to see their grandchildren, Christmas shopping, Star Wars Christmas specials, holiday editions of Chopped, bowl games, worrying over bills, and elementary school concerts where the soundtrack from hell is played by 4th graders with hand bells.  In the wake of the season, it seems as if the gravitas of this Cavaliers teams is fading quickly.  I can tell by the way the comments have quieted.  I can tell by the way no one talks about the Cavs at the office.  The Cavs are drifting to the small print in the Beacon.  Terry Pluto seems worn to the nub.  The Cavs are in danger of fading into afterthought status: the winter Indians.

This game was endemic of the squelching of the buzz.  The Cavs sorely missed Anderson Verajao: bringer of energy.  Without him it seems as if the Cavs have none — no hustle, no excitement, no fire.  Dion Waiters seemed as if he was trying to summon that fire at times, but he had no effective way to channel it.  After a meh first half in which the Celtics started to inch away, the Cavs melted down in the first half of the 3rd quarter – lacking energy and direction, and ended up down 80-60.  Somehow, 3 minutes later they’d cut the lead in half on a 12-2 Samardo Samuels, Kyrie Irving run.

Tyler Zeller, in his best offensive game of the season, helped cut the lead to 80-84 about halfway through the 4th.  Tyler looked like he was at UNC, hitting on an array of jump shots, hooks, and freethrows though I believe that Kevin Garnett scored all twelve of his points on turnaround jump shots with Tyler Zeller (not really) guarding him.   Speaking of (not really) guarding… Gee, Kyrie, Dion… all did a lot of that.

Then the Celtics pulled away, as basketball teams tend to do when the team they’re battling doesn’t play any sort of disciplined or coherent defense.  The Celtics also realize what most teams should have realized throughout the year: to beat the Cavs in the late 4th quarter, just make anyone other than Kyrie beat you.  The Celtics double and triple teamed Irving, and Kyrie obliged their dogged defense with a turnover, Gee too, and Dion Waiters with two more.  It was certainly a game of runs, and The Celtics made more of them.  Terry, Rondo, and Pierce ran the offense and dropped an easy 8-0 run in less than a minute.  And that was the game.

I fear very much that we are at a tipping point for the Cavs.  The Cavs are in danger not being a promising young team with a bright future, and instead being a lousy team that doesn’t play defense, doesn’t have an identity, and has a questionable future.  The Cavs are wandering in the wilderness right now, and I’m not sure Byron Scott is their Moses.

I know the schedule will get better.  I know the draft is coming.  I know that they have two more games before Sunday.  I know TT is trying.  He’s even hitting free throws, and he’s learned how to pass.  I know he’s the only Cav playing defense.  But as a tribe, the Cavaliers seem listless: guided by a never ending series of baffling decisions on and off the court.  Why is Dion Waiters jacking up long 2s and hogging the ball?  Why isn’t he coming off the bench after Miles was so effective as a starter?  Why is Luke Walton our de facto backup point guard?  Why when he can barely stand up did Andy even travel with the team?  Why not tell him to sleep an extra day?  Why isn’t Casspi playing?  Why can’t Paul Pierce’s defender resist the temptation to help?  Why don’t all four other Cavs on the floor rush to pick a guy up the way Boston does?  Why can’t Gee play defense any more?  Why aren’t we doing anything about global warming?  Why does the inevitable entropy death of the universe make me cry?  Why isn’t Byron Scott screaming?

As another CtB staffer told me, “Watching the Cavs offense is like watching a pickup game.  Watching the Cavs defense is like watching a train wreck.”  I think that’s an apt description.  But I’m not going to dwell on it too long.  I think I’ll go check out the botanical gardens while my folks are in town, or maybe take Saturday and go eat my way through the West Side Market.  I hear the Life of Pi is good, and I’ve got to take my kid to see the Hobbit.  Maybe I’ll even watch a good basketball game tomorrow night.