Archive for January, 2013

Cavs: The Podcast 0020 – Can’t We Just Talk About Tristan Forever?

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Things are looking up, my friends.  Tristan is playing well, Waiters just had an absurd game attacking the basket, and, as Kevin points out in this podcast, the Cavs are now 5 of our last 14, with a heavy dose of home games on the horizon..  Despite Andy’s best efforts, there’s lots to be positive about.

And so Kevin, Tom, and I decided to record a podcast.

In today’s episode we discuss Tristan Thompson’s development, Dion Waiters’s shot selection, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bench situation, and why the Cavs keep losing so much.

We can be found on SoundCloud at – https://soundcloud.com/cavstheblog/0020-cant-we-just-talk-about

And on iTunes at – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cavs-the-podcast/id528149843?mt=2

Enjoy!

Anderson Varejao Out for the Season

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Per the Plain Dealer’s Twitter account:

#Cavs announce Anderson Varejao developed blood clot Thursday, on blood thinners, will miss remainder of season.

This doesn’t make a huge difference basketball-wise. Tyler Zeller will continue to learn on the job by playing 30+ minutes each game, and Varejao’s absence will help the Cavs’ lottery odds. But oof, blood clot? That doesn’t sound good. We all want you to get healthy and live a very long time, Andy.

Cavs 98 – Jazz 109

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Cavs close out the West coast trip with a pretty methodical loss to the Utah Jazz.  As it often happens, I try to live-blog these games and invariably lose steam.  Really wasn’t ever in the balance after mid-way through the 3rd quarter.

Pre-Game – Utah coming off 5 days rest, the Cavs 3.  Should be some high-level basketball.  C.J. Miles back in Utah for the first time after playing there for 7 years.  Strange that C.J. Miles is a 7-and-a-half year veteran and he’s only 25.  Also strange is that he was listed as a point guard his first season in the NBA.  Would have liked to see Mo Williams playing tonight – always liked Mo.  He had some very positive things to say about Dan Gilbert and the Cavs organization in an interview with FSN Ohio.  He’s recovering from an injury to his finger.  I think he makes the Jazz a sleeper team to be reckoned with in the West.

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1st Quarter Overview: Cavs started out hot with a variety of different scoring looks.  Quickly out of a timeout, the Jazz came back led by Randy Foye.  C.J. Miles and Tristan Thompson both had nice 1st quarters and were relatively quiet the rest of the night.  The Cavs went cold near the end of the quarter and only scored 5 points in the last 5 minutes.  At the end of 1, Jazz had a 26-23 lead.  It didn’t feel so bad as most of the Jazz’s shots were long 2s and 3s – they were just making them.  The Cavs weren’t getting exposed on D although they did give up a few offensive rebounds which lead to second chance points.

1st Quarter Live-blog Notes:

- Tristan sets pick – Kyrie decides to pass to Tristan who really didn’t roll so much as clear.  This with less than 3 seconds left on the shot clock.  Tristan left chasing down a bad pass and 24 sec violation.  Kyrie doesn’t always have the best clock awareness.

- Zeller cans his second deep jumper, now 2 of 3 from outside 15 feet.  Something he hasn’t done this year and needs to refine as his career progresses.

- TT fakes a screen and rolls – gets a touch pass and flips one in from the baseline.

- Cavs letting the Jazz hit the offensive boards.

- Cavs running an offense with Walton and Waiters in.  On defense, Jazz stroking from outside.

- Waiters with a disgusting crossover –  but gets blocked at the rim.

- Kyrie/Walton PnR. Walton buries 3.  Jazz announcer: “are you kidding me” x3

- Cavs end quarter with a wimper – poor execution.

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2nd Quarter Overview: The Cavs came out aggressive in the 2nd thanks to Dion Waiters.  He started the quarter off right with a VICIOUS dunk and it really seemed to light a fire under him.  He just continually attacked from that point onward.  Many times as he surveyed the defense, I wholly expected him to fire a long 2 or do some worthless through the legs dribbling and take a fadeaway.  And yet, in the same situations that I’ve seen him settle for those shots, he just kept attacking the basket.  He wasn’t especially successful finishing, but he was drawing fouls like Finals Wade ’06 only with Reg Season Waiters ’13 referees.  (A convoluted way of saying: no phantom fouls here.)   At the other end the Jazz began punishing the Cavs inside.  Well, maybe more specifically, the Jazz bigs punished the Cavs, but it wasn’t always from inside.  Regular reader/commenter/Jonas-hater extraordinaire Rich was lamenting the DeMarre Caroll long 2s that were falling in the 2nd quarter.  Unlike the first quarter featuring a heavy dose of Randy Foye and Jamaal Tinsley, this quarter featured nothing but bigs:  Favors, Carroll, Kanter, Millsap, Jefferson.  They all scored on multiple possessions and the Cavs more or less played the Jazz to a stalemate.  Kyrie Irving couldn’t find the net and Tristan Thompson had less success trying to overpower his foes down low.  C.J. Miles cooled down quicker than lead solder, and the Cavs went into the half trailing 53-48.

2nd Quarter Live-blog Notes:

Waiters with a MONSTER jam.  Goes right back on the attack on next possession.  Good sign.

Waiters draws 2 fouls in a matter of seconds.  Brings Cavs back within 5.

Waiters breakaway dunk.  Been all Dion Waiters this quarter.

3J Miles with a nice pull.

Waiters goes right back to the rack!

Out of timeout – Cavs back to back turnovers lead to runouts.  Suddenly Cavs down 7.

Away from ball foul gives Livingston 2 FT (Thanks, Dion!)

Kyrie block, Kyrie 3.  Tie game.

Tristan tried to out-muscle Millsap – didn’t work out.

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3rd Quarter Overview: The Cavs effectively lost the game in the first part of the 3rd quarter.  They came out lackadaisical, and Jamaal Tinsley decided he’d rather take it right to Kyrie Irving rather than retire.  The Cavs almost exclusively took deep jumpers to start the 3rd, and Utah was obliged to push the tempo on the long rebounds leading to a few passes and a wide open shot as the Cavs scrambled to get set.  The low point of the game came with about 5 minutes to play in the 3rd.  Kyrie drove in for a layup and was blocked by Paul Millsap.  Instead of sprinting back he decided to have a debate with the nearest referee while Jamaal Tinsley streaked up court, went behind his back, and then threw a dart into the right corner where Marvin Williams calmly drained a 3, putting the Jazz up 15.  Fortunately, Dion Waiters picked up right where he left off in the 2nd quarter.  He was RELENTLESS attacking the basket tonight.  On multiple occasions he was in a situation where he’d normally just fire away an off-balance 2 – and he refused.  He scored or made plays that directly lead to 7 straight points.  And they were all from slick drives to the basket.  Shaun Livingston had 2 free throw attempts to cut the Cavs deficit to 10 with about a minute and a half remaining.  He made 1, and the Jazz scored 5 quick points to finish the quarter.  The game effectively seemed over as the Cavs could not get it below double digits.

3rd Quarter Live-Blog Notes:

Cavs sluggish to start 3rd.  Quickly down 10.

Cavs collapsing in the paint leading to open 3s for Foye.  Gotta know the situation.  Tristan usually doesn’t need help.

Low energy to start the 3rd for the Cavs at both ends.  Misses leading to fast offense for Jazz.

Kyrie having a very poor quarter.  Whining for fouls, not getting back, missing shots.

Dion comes in and starts attacking the basket.  Repeatedly.  Unfortunately, Cavs can’t get a stop.

Jazz just methodically killing the Cavs.  Ball goes down low, Cavs double, kick out for 3.  Cavs miss, Jamaal Tinsley pushes tempo, Cavs transition D very poor – Jazz score.

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The FINAL QUARTER Overview:

Dion broke his streak of attacking the basket very late in the 3rd and started off the fourth firing away again.  It’s really Jekyll and Hyde with him sometimes.  The Cavs had a 16 point deficit to start the third so it’s not exactly something you chip away at.  The Cavs came out aggressive, but they had trouble getting stops when they really needed them.  With 7:22 left in the game, Enes Kanter checked in for the Jazz (the Jazz have quite an ensemble of big men) and it was pretty much Enes making sure the game never hung in the balance.  And the Cavs never cut it to single digits.  But you can’t fault Dion Waiters for not trying.  After getting 3 or 4 bad shots out of his system, he went right back to attacking.  He scored 8 points quickly, including a much-needed 3 to cut the Jazz lead to 11.  Here’s what happened next:

4:05 89-100 Derrick Favors misses 8-foot two point shot
4:03 89-100 Enes Kanter offensive rebound
4:01 89-102 Enes Kanter makes layup
3:45 89-102 Gordon Hayward shooting foul (Dion Waiters draws the foul)
3:45 Dion Waiters makes free throw 1 of 2 90-102
3:45 Dion Waiters makes free throw 2 of 2 91-102
3:30 91-102 Derrick Favors misses two point shot
3:28 91-102 DeMarre Carroll offensive rebound
3:17 91-102 Derrick Favors misses 6-foot jumper
3:16 91-102 DeMarre Carroll offensive rebound
3:08 91-104 Enes Kanter makes two point shot (Gordon Hayward assists)

It was the final nail in the coffin.  And it was pretty much a microcosm of the entire game.  Anytime the Cavs would start looking like a mild threat, the Jazz would do whatever they needed to do to push ahead.  Kanter was really beating up Zeller in the post in the 4th quarter.  He may have knocked Tyler in the face and stolen a rebound, or it might have been a superflop – I couldn’t tell, but Kanter looked bigger/faster/stronger and he just wanted it more in the 4th.  After the Kanter bucket I declared the game over and hoped for a Leuer sighting.  But wouldn’t you know it, TT fumbled a pass, recovered, and made a nice move for an and-1 and he hit the free throw.  Overcoming a 10 point deficit with a little over 2 minutes is tough, but it’s not clear-your-benches tough.  Few stops, few buckets, two possession game with under a minute?  Why not?  Here’s what happened next.

2:39 Tristan Thompson makes free throw 1 of 1 94-104
2:16 94-104 Derrick Favors misses 17-foot jumper
2:15 94-104 Earl Watson offensive rebound
2:00 94-104 DeMarre Carroll misses 23-foot jumper
1:58 94-104 Gordon Hayward offensive rebound
1:45 94-106 Gordon Hayward makes jumper (Enes Kanter assists)

Eerily familiar.  And that was the ballgame.  The Jazz are a better team, they are a bigger team (especially with Varejao missing) and they exposed the Cavaliers defensive rebounding fundamentals tonight (contesting paint shots without putting a body on people afterwards).  Six Jazz players scored in double figures.  If you didn’t see any of the game, here are the 3 stats that would tell a lot of the tale:

Fast Break Points: Jazz 21, Cavs 5

Points in the Paint: Jazz 46, Cavs 36

FG%: Jazz 50%, Cavs 41%

Credit the Cavs (mostly Dion) for attacking tonight.  They shot 30 free throws to Utah’s 17.  Unfortunately Cavs fans can’t bask in the warmth of obvious referee bias tonight.  Dion definitely bounced back from his last outing and in some ways tonight was his most impressive game (at least to me) because of his decision making.  With the exception of a few bad shots, he used his elite 1st step to get into the teeth of the defense where he looked to draw contact.  He hit his free throws as well.  23 points on 14 shots is a very nice game.

Tyler Zeller did some nice things offensively, but his team low -17 (despite a robust statline) was a function of the Jazz bigs having their way with him.  Many of the Jazz offensive boards came because he did not put a body on people.  It’s alarming how spaced out he seems when the shots go up.  Hopefully, this is just a rookie thing.

Alonzo Gee is the hardest person for me to evaluate.  Expectations are admittedly low for him, yet he often seems to kill a mini-rally with a poor turnover or bad shot.  I wish I could say there is an identifiable thing that Alonzo does exceptionally well that he could leverage to add value.  He does have quick hands and forces some turnovers, and he occasionally plays good man defense on wing players.  Every now and then he’ll hit some shots off the dribble or make a spot up 3.  But it’s hard to really count on it and the Cavs do not look for him when the game is in the balance.  He had a poor night tonight.

Luke Walton had another solid game (calm down).  Luke is limited athletically and he’s not a great shooter, but the offense always looks better when he’s playing.  He can be frustrating because his bad is very bad looking (Eric Snow was this way)  but he moves well without the ball, he sets and receives picks very well and he has very good court vision.  If he could have more “3-5 from the field” games, like tonight, I think Cavs fans would come to appreciate him.

C.J. Miles looked like he was going to have one of his crazy good games, and then he barely grazed the rim on a few open shots and became ordinary.

Tristan Thompson started off strong, and he showed off some nice touch around the hoop even when he didn’t have great position.  He had another double-double but it was a bit of a quiet night for him.  He didn’t play poorly by any means, but his size, strength, and rebounding prowess were somewhat neutralized by the Jazz ensemble of bigs.  The Jazz bigs took him seriously on offense and denied him good position all night.

Jon Leuer checked in and missed a bunny.  Somewhere, Kevin Hetrick is drinking.

Kyrie Irving had 9 assists and I’m struggling to remember more than 2.  I’ve studied a few things about Kyrie the last few weeks – most notably, how he uses picks.  If you want the short version, he doesn’t use them well at all.  It’s partially a function of his reliance on shiftiness and crossovers, but it is difficult for the Cavs bigs to set screens for him.  He’s not patient enough to wait for them, he rarely even uses them, and he and his screener have poor chemistry.  Kyrie treats many screens like an option.  You can see the confusion in the body language of the screener who often doesn’t know whether to roll, pop, or just clear out.  Sometimes Kyrie ends up dribbling against a double team in a corner because he attracted the attention of the screener’s defender without any openings created by an actual screen (and this is because Kyrie doesn’t actually use the pick to create separation).  This lack of chemistry/patience is even more noticeable when you watch other Cavaliers like Livingston and Waiters receive a pick.  TT, Zeller, and Walton don’t seem like a fish flapping out of water when they set screens for other guys.  This is something the Cavs, specifically Kyrie, need to iron out.  It’s OK to slip screens once in a while, but there really isn’t much point having a screener bring an extra defender if the screen isn’t going to create any advantage at all.

In a few weeks we won’t remember this game.  I’m hoping that right now Byron Scott is making a big stinking deal about how awesome Dion Waiters played tonight.  For 85% of the night, it almost seemed like Dion had a self-imposed jumper ban.  The coaches need to reinforce this.  For Dion to reach his potential, he has to attack like he did tonight.

Dion: "You said, keep attacking". Kyrie: "Yeah, the RIM"

2011 Draft Round-up (Or, Kevin had writer’s block)

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Tristan asks, "Kyrie, you think we're the two best players from the 2011 draft". Kyrie says, "No doubt, my man."

We are midway through the Cavaliers 2012 – 2013 season.  These are always only tangentially related to the Cavs, but it is something I like look back on.  In 2011, John Krolik “hired” me to write as the Cavs:the Blog draft expert.  While probably unqualified, I stepped in with zeal.   Obviously, this draft comprised a major chapter in the story of the current incarnation of the Cavs.  Cleveland possessed the 1st, 4th, 32nd, and 54th picks.  Of course, they traded one pick and stashed a Euro with another.  Certainly the day after, I was unimpressed; the aforementioned picks, plus a lottery-project left me underwhelmed.  Two days later though, I came around to the start of a new, athletic era.  Now as that group of draftees reaches the mid-point of their second season, it is interesting to check in.  For a group frequently presented as epically bad, they fare pretty well.

Hopefully after two years of blogging, I have become a slightly better writer and talent evaluator, but let’s see how the class of 2011 is performing, and also how I did (players are listed in draft order.  The number in parentheses is where I slotted them leading to the draft.  Any statistical ranking included is relative to the 27 players who have played in the NBA this season, as of Wednesday morning).

  1. Kyrie Irving (1) – With a fabulous start to his career, Kyrie leads the first-rounders in PER and RAPM, while residing third in win shares this season, despite missing eleven games.  Kyrie’s scoring efficiency at Duke was sick, and in hindsight, that deserved to be the big story leading to the draft, not his toe injury. (more…)

Recap: Cavs 93, Blazers 88

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

I get that reading this blog is sometimes like being bored into by the hum of fluorescent lights. It’s not intentional—it’s not our mission to drag this team through the dust; rather, it’s dragging us through the dust, and we’re trying to narrate as our mouths fill up with gravel—but the bleakness and mock-giddy fatalism that has permeated C:TB over the past few years is a product of accumulation and circumstance. We’re not particularly invested in using the word “terrible, “and, in fact, would prefer to use it sparingly, but it’s something that comes up a lot. This ball movement is terrible. C.J. Miles’s shot selection is terrible. Luke Walton—friend of famed 16th Century painter Peter Bruegel—is terrible. We’re all poking a dead body with sticks and trying to come up with novel things to say about the experience. I’m an advocate for using the mundane and the numbing as a window into talking about a multitude of interesting things—tedium is a garden for creativity and all that—but when you get down to it: we’re corpse-pokers. Sometimes we’re tried, and we don’t use the mundane and the numbing as a window into interesting things. We poke the corpse and go “See, it’s a corpse.” We breathe the sort of dream-breath that doesn’t feel like anything.

We also try to build with our imaginations a day when we won’t be corpse-pokers. An imagined future is the preferred domain of the bereft fan, and so, sure, we entertain and linger in a world where Dion Waiters makes good on his Dwyane Wadeish flashes; Tyler Zeller puts on 20 pounds; Kyrie Irving competes for MVPs. And then we stand over a corpse and try to figure out how we get from here to the place in our heads. We assemble various talents into a team that makes sense like molecules do.

Last night offered a glimpse of a path forward. The team was unified and fun to watch and almost came apart but didn’t. The various talents cleaved to one another through one of the very best Cavaliers’ performances of the year. Let us recap:

–In the first half, the Cavs were excellent. On defense, they were characteristically opportunistic, swarming passing lanes and trying to knock the ball free—the Cavs nabbed three steals in the opening period, which led to six easy points on the other end—but they also put in the extra effort to scramble back into position off double-teams and steal attempts. The rotations were quick and decisive, and it seemed like every time the Blazers made a smart pass to relieve pressure, a man caught the ball and was covered within a half-second. We’re used to seeing Cavaliers opponents shooting open jumpers as a defender half-heartedly runs at the them, but the Blazers really had to work hard to get a decent look at the basket. And, of course, good defense yields good offense: the Cavs were able to get a few buckets and trips to the free throw line in semi-transition off of missed shots and defensive rebounds.

–Offensively, the Cavs executed about as well as a basketball team can. Their off-the-ball movement was remarkable. One of the things I noticed was that, when a guard penetrated into the lane, the man who usually sits in the corner cut down toward the basket parallel to the baseline. They got some dunks and fouls off of that movement. The interior passing was also impressive. I joke about Luke Walton being old, but he sees the floor really well—in the second quarter, he gifted Tyler Zeller a couple of easy baskets. I would have to look at some tape of Tristan Thompson last year, earlier this year, and over the last couple of weeks to figure out if this is something he has recently started doing or if I just hadn’t noticed: he seems to have a much better idea of where on the court he and his teammates are when he catches the ball. When he moves across the lane, in particular, he keeps his head up, and once or twice per game, it seems to result in an open jumper for a teammate. TT also just had a tremendous night in general aside from some missed free throws down the stretch. In the first quarter, he was flying all over the place and accumulating a bunch of garbage buckets. And that little floater/hook in the lane is getting softer and softer every day.

–Things fell apart after the first 24 minutes. The Cavs had their usual third quarter swoon. The ball stopped moving as well as it had in the first half (11 first half assists vs. 5 second half assists). Portland started hitting some shots and the lead dwindled. Then Kyrie Irving did that thing where he transforms into a basketball-playing pterodactyl in the fourth quarter. He was phenomenal in the final period, and about as under control as you can get when you’re a giant flying death lizard playing a children’s game. The most spectacular play he made was where he bobbled the ball, might have double-dribbled (did Dame Lillard get a finger on the ball?), and hit a turnaround fade from a tough angle. He did this about as leisurely as you or I reach down to pet a dog. He also did about eight other things that were remarkable in their own right. Go find the video. Words won’t really suffice.

–Additional Kyrie note: his play was calm as ever, but between plays he was really demostrative as the Blazers threatened to wrest the lead from the Cavs. He was in Tristan Thompson’s ear; he was talking to himself and/or Blazers players after nailing buckets; and he generally bounced around a lot more than he usually does. I don’t know if he was upset with his poor performance against the Kings the other night or what, but this was a fiery iteration of Kyrie that one rarely sees. I liked it, at any rate.

–I also liked when Luke Walton hit Tyler Zeller with a nice pass, Zeller absorbed some contact and converted, and Walton gave T-Zell a little gleeful shove. I wonder if Tyler’s just a nice dude who takes a little encouragement to get going because it seems like his teammates give him an “atta boy” whack or two every game as a reminder that—despite the fact that he’s overmatched physically—if he really exerts himself, he can get the job done. Which he did, tonight: 11 points, 2 blocks, and 5-for-5 from the free throw line. J.J. Hickson, especially early in the game, got around him a few times for offensive rebounds, but Zeller played well.

–Dion Waiters had a comedown game after having one of his best games of the season against the Kings the other night. He went to the rim a few times in the first half, couldn’t finish, and I think he got frustrated. He ended the night with five points on 1-for-9 shooting. Just graft Sacramento Dion onto tonight’s performance, and you have the Best Case Scenario Cavs teams we’re all dreaming about.

The Cavs head to Utah to take on the Jazz on Saturday. Until tomorrow, friends.

Are the Cavs Getting Jobbed by the Refs or Someone Else?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Dion Waiters

There has been a lot of talk over the last several weeks over whether the Cavs have been the victim of biased officiating, especially when it comes to foul calls. It is worth looking at the shooting numbers to determine whether this is the case. Hoopdata helps out here. A few numbers jump out immediately.

The Cavs average 21.8 free throw attempts per game for a 25.9% free throw rate, or free throws/field goal attempts. This is tied with three teams for 17th in the league. Not a great number, but certainly not conspiracy theory level.

Breaking down the Cavs’ shooting by shot location tells a different story. Most fouls come at the rim or within 3-9 feet from the basket. If you’re going to get to the line, attacking the basket is the best way to do it (further discussion of this correlation and its relevancy is warranted, but a subject for another article).

• At the rim: Attempts, 26.3 (9th), FG% 57.7 (30th), Assist% 45.3 (30th)
• 3-9 feet: Attempts, 8.3 (21st), FG% 30.3 (30th), Assist% 45.8 (12th)
• 10-15 feet: Attempts, 6 .0 (16th), FG% 41.9 (12th), Assist% 32.6 (25th)
• 16-23 feet: Attempts, 18.4 (15th), FG% 37.2 (17th), Assist% 57.3 (23rd)
• 3 Pointers: Attempts, 21.7 (10th), FG% 35.6 (12th), Assist% 86.4 (8th)

Conclusion: The Cavs are really bad around the basket. Despite being 9th in attempts, they are last in field goal percentage. One might think that perhaps they are getting jobbed by the refs until one looks at their assist% which is dead last in the league. There is a correlation between assist percentage and field goal percentage around the rim. Most of the fact that the Cavs are so bad around the rim is not because they’re not getting foul calls, it’s because they’re not finding open guys near the basket. Furthermore, the Cavs aren’t excessively good at offensive rebounding. They’re 10th in the league with a rate of 29.4. Denver attempts 35 shots per game around the rim, has an offensive rebound rate at 32.47 (best in the league), and still shoots 66.8% at the rim (8th). Yes, there is a thought that the Cavs could be getting fouled, getting offensive rebounds, and then getting fouled again, but I think the more likely culprit is that unassisted forays to the rim are more likely to get blocked (The cavs are 4th worst in the league at getting their shot blocked, at a rate of 7.8%) and less likely to get foul calls.

3-9 feet from the basket paints a similarly rough story. The Cavs’ FG% here is abysmal, even though their assist% is respectable. A lot of blocks are probably coming from here, and the Cavs are really bad at these shots.

10-15 feet seems to be the Cavs sweet spot. They shoot a respectable 41.1% (12th) from here. They are 25th in assist% from here, so obviously this is the result of a lot of pullup jumpers.

Simply put, there’s no overwhelming evidence that the Cavs are getting any more or less calls than anyone else. They’re simply really bad at finishing and passing around the basket.

This leads to an interesting question. Just how bad are the Cavs on offense? Let’s take a look.

• 98.3 Offensive efficiency rating (28th).
• 54.8 Assisted field goal% (27th) . Of the top 10 offenses in the league, only New York has an assist rate below 57%.
• 50.3 True shooting % (28th) the correlation between TS% and efficiency is extremely high.
• 25.9 Free throw rate (17th)
• 74.2 FT% (21st). This is up from 71.6% last year (28th). And has been much better of late. Much of this is due to Tristan Thompson’s much improved free throw shooting.
• 13.88 Turnover rate (16th)
• 7.8 Blocked rate (27th)
• 29.4 Offensive rebound rate (10th)

The Cavs are a very bad shooting and passing team, which leads to them being a very bad offensive team.

Let’s look at the defense.

• 105.9 Defensive Efficiency (28th)
• 62.2 Opponent Assisted FG% (26th)
• 55.8 Opponent TS (30th)
• 31.7 Opponent free throw rate (29th)
• 14.9 Opponent turnover rate (3rd)
• 3.7 Block rate (30th)
• 72.56 Defensive rebound rate (21st)

Yikes. The Cavs are a team that gambles a lot on defense. This leads to a very high turnover rate for the defense, but a lot of wide open looks and fouls, leading to a dreadful combination of free throws, fouls, and threes. It’s a mess.

The comment was made earlier this week that Chris Grant acquires players based on advanced statistics, but that Byron Scott does not allocate minutes based on advanced statistics. I’ve waxed and waned endlessly over the questions, “Is this by design?” “Are the Cavs trying to lose?” “Or is Byron Scott this incompetent?” The Cavs are bad enough that a minor change at certain positions like playing Omri Casspi more, or Luke Walton less, might help, but those suggestions might just be putting lipstick on a Moondog. I wrote an article earlier this year encouraging everyone to trust the process — that this painting was going to be ugly before it was beautiful. I have to keep telling myself that, because in the moment this team is tough to watch. There may only be a core of only 3-6 players that will be on the Cavs beyond this year. Unfortunately, I fear that those players are developing some very bad habits, as can be evidenced by these stats. They seem to be consistently put in a position to fail. Who bears responsibility for this? I leave it to the commentariat, but I’ll cast my blame on the head coach. As input for a future article, I’d like to know who you’d like to see coaching our favorite team. If it remains Coach Scott, please tell us why.

Recap: Kings 124, Cavs 118

Monday, January 14th, 2013

The Cavs lost narrowly in a game that featured no defense whatsoever. Let us recap:

–I’m not going to worry too much about the outcome of this one. Or any other Cavs game this year, for that matter. The Cavs struggled down the stretch after clawing their way back into the game in the third quarter and came up short. It’s nothing to lose sleep over. But one troubling thing: we got a serious dose of Kyrie Irving isolations, and normally, I’m fine with Kyrie Irving isolations late in games because I like seeing him dart down the lane through a double team and around a looming big man, but in this particular game, Dion Waiters was playing terrifically, and I would have liked, if Byron Scott could have possibly been bothered to coach this team a little bit, if Waiters could have slid into the corner-three spot normally occupied by Alonzo Gee so that Irving would have a better option to pass to when he inevitably got double-teamed as he tried to dart into the lane. Instead nothing changed, Irving got stripped a couple of times driving to the bucket, easy lay-ins for the Kings, etc. Maybe Kyrie wouldn’t have passed the ball to Waiters either, but, y’know, maybe at least get the guy who had flames shooting out of his butt into a position where he might possibly touch the ball so that the defense has to think about him.

–By the way, this might have been Dion Waiters’s best game as a Cavalier. (With the time he rained flames from heavens against the Clippers being his other notably great game.) Saint Weirdo was really smart in taking it to the rim and drawing fouls in the first half, and then at some point in the fourth quarter, he did that Dion Waiters thing where he took some unconscionably bad shots and just kept hitting them. He finished the game with 33 points on 12-for-18 shooting. He also got to the line eight times (converting six of his attempts), and pitched in five assists. A really, really impressive performance, even against sub-par defense. It’s these sorts of games that give us hope.

–Tristan Thompson had a nice game as well, putting up 17 points and 15 rebounds. He also was the only guy on the court who seemed to bother DeMarcus Cousins (who played very well: 26 points and 14 boards) when DMC caught the ball near the paint. Another coaching note: if TT was the only player on the Cavs’ roster capable of keeping Cousins somewhat in check, why was Zeller allowed anywhere near him? I can perhaps see the wisdom in not sticking Zeller on Thomas Robinson because T-Rob’s a little too athletic for him, but why wasn’t Jason Thompson (a good player in his own right, but he’s no DMC) Zeller’s assignment whenever he was on the floor? I’m not criticizing Zeller at all for getting beat up by Cousins: he just can’t handle him at this point in his career. He was put in a position to fail, and I don’t really understand why. Besides, it seems like Thompson is beginning to relish his role as a defensive stopper. With Andy out, why not throw him on the other team’s best big the whole game and see what he can do?

–I would analyze other players in this game, but it’s difficult to parse the numbers in a contest that featured almost no defense. 12 players finished with double-digit scoring totals, and the teams combined to shoot 49% from the field. Under normal circumstances, I would be applauding #FREECASSPI for putting up 10 points or C.J. Miles for putting up a (I swear) very quiet 17 points, but, y’know, this one finished 124-to-118, so those numbers are a little inflated. It was a fun game to watch, though, especially if you like freneticism for freneticism’s sake.

The Cavs travel to Portland Wednesday to take on the Trail Blazers. Dame Lillard v. Kyrie Irving should be fantastic. Until tomorrow, friends.

Insert Lord of the Rings Joke Here

Monday, January 14th, 2013


Would we accept him back with open arms?

Would we take him back?

The Lebron-to-Cleveland tumors rumors have started back up again. Here’s a link. I don’t have much to say about this, and I don’t feel like arguing with anyone. The idea of Lebron coming back leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’m sure many people feel that a chance at getting the best basketball player in the world is something you don’t pass up. But I sincerely hope that the Cavs don’t handicap our next two years of basketball for a shot at the hometown hero who stabbed us in the back, then twisted the knife.

Los Angeles 113, Cleveland 93 (Or The Meta-recap)

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

There are a lot of ways to write a recap.   There’s the basic media recap.  Go there if you want to read it.  It’ll tell you Dwight Howard was awesome in his return with 22 and 14 and the Lakers got healthy against the Cavs, and all the boring details: the ins and outs and what have yous of the basketball game.  But, it’s not really true.  I mean Howard’s hard to guard, but the Cavs sucked, and didn’t have anyone who could guard him.  Also, Danny Crawford, J.T. Orr, and Courtney Kirkland were calling fouls on Zeller and Tristan for disrespectful looks towards Howard.

So that’s one way to do it.  Then there’s the running diary recap, where you write it live as you’re watching.  That would have been tough to do this game after a 37 point first quarter.  I would’ve probably given up.  And the little tease at 3:57 left in the 3rd when the Cavs cut it to 12 off two straight Dion Waiters buckets?  That would have killed me.  I would’ve thrown my laptop through the TV after Dion turned the ball over the next three possessions and Kobe made them pay.  And there would’ve been a lot of Luke Walton jokes.  Like: “They’re going to let retired players play this game!  Oh wait, that’s just Luke Walton.  You can put your suits back on, Kurt Rambis and A.C.”  Or, “Uh, oh, it’s only a 14 point game with 9:23 left in the 3rd.  There’s a 2% chance the Cavs could win this thing.  Yep.  Not taking any chances here.  Chris Grant just called down to the bullpen.  Time to bring in ‘the cooler.’ Walton checks into the game for Tyler Zeller.  Close one there.  If there’s even a chance we could win this thing we’d better shut it down now.  There’s no one you’d rather have on the floor right now for the Cavs.  Luke Walton is the Mariano Rivera of losing basketball games.”

I might even have had a little fun in garbage time: “Down by 20 with 8:48 left in the third.  Yep, and here comes Kyrie back into the ballgame.  Scott really has to balance the complete lack of accountability of his star players with the need to pad Kyrie’s stats.”  Then a few minutes later, “Kyrie out of the game at 5:22 as the bench clears.  It’s a good thing we got the core group in for that 3 minute stretch.  One of the hardest things the coach of a terrible team has to do is to make it look like he’s not completely tanking in January.  Playing your stars an extra 3 minutes for no reason is why Byron Scott could teach a masters class in losing.”

But yeah, I would’ve burned through a month’s worth of sarcasm with a running diary thread.  Of course then there’s the ok, this is how everyone did recap, where we kind of tally up everyone’s performance with little blurbs.  I’d make some comments like, “Omri Casspi: didn’t shoot well.  He launched a couple ‘eff you’ threes after which he stared at Byron and made a throat slitting gesture.  But he did collect 6 rebounds in 9 minutes, as opposed to, you know, Walton who collected 5 in 24 minutes.  Just sayin’.”

Or, “Kevin Jones: 3-5 in 16 minutes with 2 boards and 2 steals.  Also the only player who played in the part of the game that mattered who had a positive plus/minus.”  I like the way he shows and recovers on defense.  He has nimble feet and long arms.  He might make a decent backup power forward.”

“C.J. Miles: Hey.  Good news.  http://heycjmilespleasestoptakingsomanybadshots.com/ is available.  Let’s take up a collection an register this.  Oy.  Seriously though, how can the Cavs (Kyrie) not realize that they have to get C.J. some looks in the first 5 minutes or he can’t get in a rhythm.  C. Miles was abysmal this game.”  Get it?  I left the J out.  I kill me.

I’m not really like running through the roster tonight.  We could’ve given you the Tag Team Recap.  The guys were shooting this back and forth a bit on the CtB staff running thread.  Topics included talking about Cleveland’s own Patricia Heaton, who was repping Cleveland at the game, and had this funny tweet, “Cavs are carrying on the great Cleveland sporting tradition of getting their butts whipped.”  One blogger was counting the number of worthless picks: “a ‘pick’ that creates no advantage whatsoever and merely brings more defenders toward the ball.”  Some guys were talking about how many blown layups and easy blocks for Dwight Howard the Cavs threw up.  Another topic was how inaccurately rated Tyler Zeller is in 2K13.  His tendency to take charges is set to 0, and yet he is among the league leaders.  Meanwhile he’s a decent jump shooter, whereas in real life, his effective FG% is 34%.  Yikes.

Unfortunately, missed layups the return of Evil C.J. Miles and his case of Waiteritis, caused the email to devolve into the things I’d rather be doing than watching the Cavs (recap). Those jerks left me to watch High Fidelity, rearrange a record collection, share Lena Dunham Jokes, identify the essential Dylan Albums, and hack a Wii so that you can play old ROMs.  Oh, and of course to drink: A selection of IPAs, Old Rasputin, and Smirnoff Ice.   I’ll let you guess as to who was drinking what.  (Oh, and as for the essential Dylan, it really comes down to four trilogies of Dylan’s best work.  The early folk: Freewheelin’, The Times They Are a-Changin, and Another Side of Bob Dylan.  Dylan goes electric: Bringin’ it all Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde (possibly the greatest three album stretch by an artist in rock history).  Dylan’s 70s comeback: Blood on the Tracks, The Basement Tapes, and Desire.  Dylan’s 1997-2006 trilogy: Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, and Modern Times – oh, and make sure you listen to Things Have Changed, Dylan’s Oscar winner from the soundtrack for the vastly underrated film, Wonder Boys).

But all those guys abandoned me, and I was left alone and bitter, with the lonely task of recapping a 30 point loss that wasn’t even that close.  I could turn to the angry rant recap, which I did a few months ago about officiating.  It’s one you can only pull out once or twice a year, but it’s always a good one.  I’d get all mad at Byron Scott this game, and throw out snippets like, “How does Tristan Thompson only play 19 minutes?  Yes, I know he’s in foul trouble, but what’s the point of having him if you’re not playing him?  We’re obviously not winning this one, teach him how to play with foul trouble!”  I’d be throwing out exclamation points like Tarantino throws around “F” bombs and racial slurs.  “Byron, look at advanced statistics!  Did you read Kevin’s article yesterday? Luke Walton is one of the worst players in the NBA over the last few years!  Did you order the code red on Omri Casspi!?”  That kind of recap would be disingenuous.  Because no one plays Luke Walton 24 minutes if they’re trying to win.

Yeah, I’d rather write the asking a lot of incredulous questions style recap.  Byron Scott is either incompetent or trying to lose.  It has to be the latter, right?  I mean Byron Scott is REALLY good at losing ball games this year.  There are three teams with a worse point differential than the Cavs this year, Charlotte (-8.1), Washington (-7.5), and Sacramento(-6.2).  Only Washington has a worse record than the Cavs.  Is Byron Scott the best coach at losing basketball games in the NBA?  “Mr. Scott, did you know that your team has the second worst shooting percentage in the league?  And did you know that your team allows the best shooting percentage in the league?  How have you let Washington lose more games than you?”  Is there anyone who is better at tanking basketball games than him?  I mean what other coach could play Walton for 24 minutes with a straight face?

Also, did anyone see Kyrie miss some wide open passes this game and just jack up jumpers, or was it just me?  Toward the end Shaun Livingston was alone under the basket with no one within 15 feet of him, and Kyrie shot a pullup 3 instead of passing.  Did KI not see him, or just not pass to him?  Is he completely losing faith in his teammates?  Is he developing horrible shoot first habits that will haunt him for the rest of his career?  Is he being coddled and not held accountable?  Does anyone else think his defense is looking better? Is evolution really determined by natural selection, or is it completely stochastic?

That’s kind of exhausting too.  Who likes reading that many questions?  I’d like to give you the slash fiction recap, a CtB specialty for the dog days of the NBA, but that’s Colin’s bag. If I was a real clever guy I could write about how my inability to decide on a recap style mirrors the Cavs’ inability to find an identity.  That’s a bit too Umberto Eco for me, so for this one, I’m ending with the it’s a Sunday night, the Cavs are on the west coast, and I’m tired and mailing it in recap. The Cavs sucked tonight.  I am thinking they might’ve hit the L.A. clubs Saturday and not quite recovered.  Not much to write about here.  Dwight Howard abused Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson.  Kyrie made his nut, and was his normal efficient self.  Kobe Bryant was abusing the Cavs defenders and playing most of the game on cruise. Alonzo Gee had a few nice dunks. C.J. Miles, Shaun Livingston, and ZPA couldn’t shoot.  Luke Walton is still a “shrink 4” style power forward.  Dion Waiters is still Saint Weirdo: 7-18, 15 points, 4 turnovers.  The Cavs really ought to watch how Kobe Works the refs: incredulity, mollification, engagement, smiles.  The man’s a damned personable sociopath.  I bet he signs stuff after the game for their kids and knows all of them by their first and last names.  Anyway, for the sake of getting a high teens draft pick, we had to throw this one away to help the Lakers make the playoffs. Good job, Byron. Lets hope the Lakers keep winning.  Though, please make the next Cavs loss a little more entertaining, coach Scott. To suck worse than the Wizards, you might have to start channeling your inner Randy Marsh.

Floor Spacing Woes?

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

With how much we talk about these guys, you would think our favorite team was 9 and 29 or something.

One item I did not mention in yesterday’s recap is something said by the Denver announcing team.  During a timeout following their early struggles, George Karl told his team to play off the Cavs and make them shoot…because they can’t.

And he is right; the effective field goal percentage of the current roster, from 15 ft and out is:

  1. Casspi = 57% (49.5% career)
  2. Kyrie = 56%
  3. CJ Miles = 54%
  4. Gibson = 52%
  5. Pargo = 46%
  6. Waiters = 43%
  7. Leuer = 43% (last year)
  8. Gee = 42%
  9. Varejao = 39%
  10. Walton = 37%
  11. Zeller = 34%
  12. Livingston = 33%
  13. Kevin Jones = 33%
  14. Tristan Thompson has taken 3 shots outside of 15 feet this season

Notice that four of the top seven are not in the rotation right now.  Take out Kyrie and CJ, and the remaining rotation players provide 41% eFG from the perimeter.  Last night’s front court combines for 34%.  With a big man rotation consisting of no threat to reliably knock down a jumper, opposing coaches will instruct their teams to pack the paint…and scoring may be tough.

The Cavs bench is thin.  What can be done?  Obviously nothing dramatic, but here are some hopes & ideas:

  1. Tyler Zeller needs to convert here.  From 2003 – 2004 through the end of his career, the Original Z provided 42% eFG shooting from this range.  I will hypothesize that this is approximately the rate where opposing teams need to respect the shooter.  Tyler’s career success is contingent on providing similar floor spacing.  If he does not, it could be difficult building an effective offense around him and Tristan.
  2. Casspi and Leuer should get some burn.  Casspi is the team’s third or fourth best shooter.  He’s big, gives effort, and rebounds.  Leuer probably possesses the best outside touch of the bigs.  I know neither of these guys are all-stars, but they should help open up the paint.
  3. Gibson needs to return, confined to a role of spot-up shooter.
  4. No more Walton.  Here are some numbers from 2009 – 2010 through 2012 – 2013.
  • His annual PER has been 9.7, 5.1, 3.4, and 8.2 (replacement level is defined as approximately 11)
  • Win Shares per 48 minutes = 0.047, -0.016, -0.050, 0.004.  He has been worth -0.3 win shares over the four seasons.
  • RAPM = -1.3, -3.3 (58th worst), -5.4 (5th worst), -4.2 (17th worst).  Over the last two seasons, he rates in the bottom 4-percentile of NBA players.
  • WARP = -0.1, -1.2, -1.6 (no 2012 – 2013 data).  ln 1120 minutes, Walton was worth three wins less than a replacement player.

Each of these metrics say, “Luke Walton is less effective than a player that can be found in the D-League.  This has been true for at least three years.”

You know what else has happened during that time?  Omri Casspi and Jon Leuer have performed at a higher level than “replacement player”.  Why do the Cavs play a guy that is a decade older and produces ineffectively since the Mike Brown era?  Casspi and Leuer are 24 and 23, both rebound better than Luke, both shoot better…what is there to lose?  I obviously do not anticipate either of these players blowing us away with how amazing they are.  They are young enough and proven enough to warrant an opportunity over a guy that the numbers unanimously agree is not an NBA caliber player.

Anyways, if Zeller struggles at this range, and Gee continues draining only 31% of his threes, a few rotation change possibilities exist to help un-congest the lane.