Archive for February, 2013

Recap: Cavs 103, Toronto 92 (or, if the season was 90 games long…playoffs?)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Well, Milwaukee battles Houston as I type this, with Cleveland potentially moving within 8 games of the playoffs (actually Milwaukee won on a buzzer-beater).  I jest, but who thought this four-games-in-five stretch would net three wins?  Or what about dual wins on back-to-back nights minus Kyrie?  What was the money line in Vegas for that?  The Cavs polished off Toronto to move to 15 and 15 in their last 30 games.  Thirty games!  Five-hundred!  This is fun.

We couldn't get Kyrie to start in the All-Star game, but at least Dion earned Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, right?

The early stretch of the first quarter served as a worst-case scenario.  The Raptors sprinted to a 21 to 7 lead.  Tristan started 0 for 4, with a charge, while Jonas Valanciunas repeatedly abused Tyler, scoring a couple of times early and man-handling Cleveland’s rookie center for two offensive boards.  Toronto stretched a 19 to 2 run, as the Cavs played like a tired team that lacked their best player.  But then, in checked the bench unit…their hearts beat as one; their voices fuse into an immutable chorus…they forge 13 – 4 runs at the end of quarters to cut depressing early deficits.

That squad started the second frame, but with Waiters stepping in for Livingston.  Dion netted two free throws and assisted Walton and Miles for threes; Speights hit a put-back; Ellington drilled an and-one off a fadeaway post-move; Dion hit a jumper; and finally, a laser pass from Walton to Ellington for a reverse layup.  Midway through the quarter, Cleveland leads 40 to 35.  As the starters returned, Waiters maintained the momentum, upping his first half tally to 14 points, while TT pitched in four points, two rebounds, and an assist in a handful of minutes.  The Wine & Gold carried a 57 to 48 margin to the locker-room.

The second half initially saw Toronto trim the lead to two.  DeMar Derozan found twine on four jumpers and seven free throws, while Rudy Gay routinely abused the smaller Alonzo Gee.  The Raptor wings posed defensive issues all night, as this duo totaled 58 points.  Then, just as things got nerve-racking, Tristan scored six points in three minutes, guiding a seven-to-nothing run…

That the super-subs carried into the fourth quarter.  It wasn’t always pretty; Speights missed two dunks…one possession lasted 66 seconds…but after a beautiful Walton / Livingston give & go garnered a filthy reverse-slam, suddenly Cleveland’s lead sat at fifteen, 86 to 71.  Alas though, as soon as things got comfortable, Toronto mounted their own surge, cutting the lead to six as the squads entered crunch-time.  Fortunately, just like last night, Cleveland comported themselves as the composed, unflappable unit.  Walton found Miles for a MONSTER dunk; Waiters drained a huge jumper after Toronto cut the lead to three; Livingston found Gee for an easy slam; and then the show-stopper…a between the legs pass from Walton to Ellington…jumper is good, 99 to 92 Cavs (back to the Wellington?).  Cleveland closed on a 10 – 2 run, as grown men cried across Canada.

This was a tough stretch of games: four cities in five nights, two playoff-bound opponents, and the young Cavs finished with three wins and a +32 margin, while missing Kyrie for two games.  Things have definitely gotten interesting at the Q.

A few bullets:

  • Is there competition for Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month?  Dion netted 16 points per game on 57% true shooting with 3 assists and 1 steal.  Cleveland won 7 of 12…I would put his February over any rookie in the NBA, really.  Waiters finished tonight with 23 points, 6 assists, and 3 turnovers, on 59% true shooting, as he manned the point for the Cavs for significant stretches.  He played the entire second and third quarters.  Take a day off, young man; the Clippers come to town on Friday.
  • An odd season continued for Tristan.  For nearly two months, he paced the league in getting his shots blocked.  Then, for six weeks, he legitimately played liked an All-Star.  Now over the last 8 games, a return to 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 44% true shooting.  Early in the third quarter, Tristan made old-reliable, his righty-hook, while Dwane Casey screamed, “No middle, no middle, no middle” at his guys; they didn’t listen.  Time for Tristan to head back-to-the-lab and master additional moves and countermoves.  As long as he keeps hustling on the boards and busting his ass on D, his future looks rosy.  His free throw shooting sits around 66% for the last three months, and certainly this season displayed flashes of a scintillating future.  Tonight featured 14 points, 8 rebounds and perfect 6 of 6 foul shooting, bolstering his TS to 51% for the evening.
  • Has there ever been a less likely, amazing bench unit?  Ellington, Speights and Walton were given to the Cavs as salary-cap fodder.  Livingston couldn’t cut it with the Wizards.  CJ Miles ventured into free agency and netted a guaranteed $2 million.  None of them has played together before this season.  And they’re AWESOME…night-in and night-out polishing off their over-matched substitute foes.  Heading into tonight, in 291 minutes, Cleveland outscored opponents by 13 points per 100 possessions when Wayne Ellington played.  Against Tonroto, he was +18, Walton ended +20, and Miles +11.   Walton posted 5 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists; he and Livingston netted 13 assists with one turnover.  Ellington offered 13 points on 70% true shooting, and Miles, 10 and 56%.  They are wily and smart, move themselves and the ball well, and have been a great surprise.
  • Tyler Zeller needs put on a massive HGH program in the summer…I jest…6 points and 2 rebounds tonight.
  • It was not a great game for Speights.  Eleven points on 3 of 12 shooting, with two missed dunks, and an odd play where he knocked an apparent CJ Miles made-three out of the basket from underneath.  He snagged nine boards though, and plays tough.  His 12 points per game with the Cavs rank fifth in the Eastern Conference of bench players.

Cavs 101 – Bulls 98: Luke Walton Doesn’t Believe in Daggers

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

When the Cavs last defeated Central Division Rival (read: 4 chances a year) Bulls I was in graduate school, unmarried, and in possession of about 20 LeBron-related articles of clothing.  Today, I am happily married, gainfully employed, a proud father, and there is an orphanage in Jamaica full of witnesses.  The Bulls have terrorized the Cavaliers for quite some time (with and without Derrick Rose).  Tonight, the Cavaliers got the monkey off their back without superstar Kyrie Irving in an exhilarating and herculoidian effort.  Unlike the last podcast, which came on the heels of a loss, tonight there was plenty to celebrate.  So I’m going to keep this recap relatively short.  No running diary tonight.

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Cavs: The Podcast 0025 – Feeling Bullish

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

FINALLY!

When last we recorded, Tom and I had the unfortunate responsibility of covering a horrible loss to the T-Wolves.  Not anymore!  After many, many, many, attempts, the Cavaliers finally took down their rival Chicago Bulls in an exciting victory.

On today’s Podcast Tom, Nate and I discuss the Cavs 101-98 win over the Chicago Bulls. Topics include Dion Waiters’ improvement, the Cavs’ offense, Luke Walton, Tristan Thompson, and the bench. We also touch on whether or not Kyrie and Dion Waiters can co-exist, and who is a better long-term piece – Wayne Ellington or CJ Miles.

As always we’re on SoundCloud at – https://soundcloud.com/cavstheblog/0025-feeling-bullish

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

Enjoy!

Links Here

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Woah there, Andy.

– Our very own, very talented editor Colin McGowan wrote a nice piece on Anderson Varejao for the Classical. Check it out.

– ESPN Insider continues the Kyrie love-fest, and I couldn’t be happier.

– A fantastic article from the Shadow League on black superstars, Kyrie Irving and the ephemeral idea of  NBA “street cred.”

– Also, this is funny as hell.

Trends, Ranks, and Outliers: Episode 4

Monday, February 25th, 2013

In episode 3 of TRO we highlighted the Cavs trading low-percentage shots with free throws – I put the blame squarely on Dion and Tristan and I am confident that Dion is going to continue to reach his potential by attacking the rim.  ‘Twas tidings of good joy.  The Cavs have only played 7 meaningful games since then so this issue will probably contain information that could have been included in the last post.  At any rate, there are some interesting dynamics to this young Cavs team right now.

THIS...is your team.

Trends: 1st in Assist to Turnover Ratio in the NBA over the last 9 games

This is pretty remarkable.  If we split the Cavs season between the first 47 games and the last 9, here are the assist to turnover ratios.
First 47: 1.34 Assists per Turnover (26th in the League)

Last 9 : 2.17 Assists per Turnover (1st in the League)

That’s quite an about face.  (Maybe they watched Hoosiers as I had hoped and implemented the 4 pass rule) Additionally, here are the Assist Ratio (Assists per 100 possessions) splits.

First 47: 15.3 (29th in the League)
Last 9 : 18.7 (3rd in the League)

Much of this dramatic change in the last 9 games is due to Shaun Livingston (4.75 A/TO) and Luke Walton (3.89 A/TO).  I believe both players have thrived with the additions of Wayne Ellington and Mo Speights.  Having personnel proficient in the pick-and-roll and in catch-and-shoot situations really compliments the playing styles of Livingston and Walton.  Both guys are tall, see the floor exceptionally well, and their weaknesses (outside shooting for both, athleticism for Walton) are really minimized with all the movement, screens, and (maybe less obviously) playing with guys that are assertive.  If Ellington, Speights, or even C.J. Miles finds himself open off a screen – he fires away – no hesitation.  They don’t try to face up and take someone off the dribble.  Therefore, defenses aren’t collapsing on the players that would leave Livingston and Walton spotting up on the wings.  Win-Win

Oooh. That's really great guys. Still not a Win-Win-Win though.

Ranks: A .500 Team?

Tomorrow marks the 14th game since Chris Grant and John Hollinger sat down and made a trade.  Hopefully it’s not the last time.  That number is significant because it means Speights and Ellington will have been on the roster for about 25% of the season.  Taking a stroll on over to John Hollinger’s power rankings (oh the irony), we can see how both teams have fared for the last 25% of their seasons.  Overall, the Cavs are ranked 23rd on the season, and the Grizzlies 8th.   Over the last quarter:

Cavaliers : +1.33 point differential, .481 opponent winning percentage
Grizzlies :  +3.53 point differential, .452 opponent winning percentage

Now I’m not sure that a +1.33 point differential against opponents with an average .481 winning percentage necessarily equates to a .500 team in a vacuum.  But I’d contend that the Cavs have at least “looked” like a .500 team since the trade went down.  They are 7-6 since the trade, defeated the Thunder (1st in Hollinger’s PR), and lost close battles in the final moments to San Antonio and Miami (2nd and 3rd in Hollinger’s PR)  Offensively, they’ve looked almost elite at times.  Of course, you know the caveat that follows.  The Cavs have to shore up the defense – in so many ways.  Fortunately, since the all-star break, there have been some positives.  I thought the defensive intensity against New Orleans was palpable.  Obviously, having Anderson Varejao and Greg Oden/Nerlens Noel would certainly go a long way towards protecting the rim at the center position – something the Cavs desperately need.  Additionally, it stands to reason that Waiters and Irving have the tools and measurables to be at least average defenders someday.  So that should at least naturally improve the perimeter defense a touch.  It will be up to Coach Scott to get the entire team playing on a string.

Like this, guys - arms up

Outliers: Wayne Ellington

On one hand, Ellington is 25 and playing in only his 4th season.  In other words, he may be about to enter his prime, and what follows shouldn’t be seen as an “outlier”.  On the other hand, in over 4,000 minutes, his game has been fairly characteristic of an above average 3-point shooter and not much else.  The Ellington that I watch is a relentless (if not quite excellent) perimeter defender, a deadly 3-point shooter with a super-quick release, a guy that knows how to use screens to get open, and someone that can pump fake and put the ball on the floor (but only when it’s the correct move).  Additionally, his 3-point shooting has been gradually increasing in frequency and percentage since he entered the league.  But I do fear that Ellington might be playing a little out of his mind right now.  Consider that since joining the Cavs he is posting career highs in:

Minutes, FGM, FG% (40 points higher than any full season), 3PM, 3PFG%, FTM (double his highest season), REB, STL, and a career low in Fouls.

Of course, as you’ve probably deduced, his Points, Usage, PER, and WS/48 are also at career highs: his PER as a Cav is 17.  His previous career high is 9.6 which he set his rookie season.  My prediction is that Ellington continues to be an excellent 3 and D player but may regress back to the 13-15 PER range.  He reminds me of Anthony Parker when he came over to the Raptors from Europe.  Of course Parker was 31 then and had already lost a step but was a deadly shooter.  What is comforting about Ellington’s play as a Cav, and something that bodes well going forward is how consistent he has been.  He doesn’t force anything and doesn’t go through hot and cold spells.  He is a role player doing exactly what he should be doing and taking the shots he should be taking.  So while his FG% may dip back down a bit there aren’t too many indicators (at least to me) that he can’t continue to fill in as an average NBA player and above-average role player.  I’m glad he’s on the roster next season and I’d like to see the Cavs add him to the core.

Recap: Cleveland 105, Miami 109 (or the Trials of Saint Weirdo)

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

And lo on Sunday, the twenty fourth day of February in the year of two thousand thirteen, the faithful struggled to defeat the firey Heat of Miami.  Led by the the righteous baller Kyrie Irving, and the prodigal slasher Dion Waiters, the Cavaliers of Cleveland fell to the army of King James, and Dwayne of Wade, whose game was dirty as the floors of a stable…  Inspired by the marksmanship of Calvin Andre Miles, the Cavaliers twice fought back from the precipice of oblivion and overcame a score of points to stand poised to take victory.  But nay, the young defenders of Cleveland could not overcome.

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Cavaliers 118, Magic 94

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Kyrie helped lead the Cavs to an easy victory against the Magic.

The Cleveland Cavaliers romped to a blowout against the Orlando Magic tonight, as Kyrie & Co. dished dimes and dropped buckets to the tune of a 24-point victory. The Cavs bench actually scored 59 points. Guess who else scored 59 points? The Cavs starters. That, ladies and gentlemen, is called a balanced attack. This balance, combined with some spectacular highlights, made the Cavs look like an elite team- which, to say the least, is a rare occurrence.

1st half:

The Cavs started off hot, and had a great first quarter. Kyrie Irving’s jumper is silky as hell. But it wasn’t just #2. Alonzo Gee started off hot as well. When Gee is hitting midrange shots, you know it’s a special night. Also, for the record, Marreese Speights has an underrated nasty streak. He absolutely loves throwing his body around in the paint and dunking on people. The second quarter was a little more up and down. Sure, the Cavs were scoring, but they were also allowing all of the following players to get buckets: Kyle O’Quinn, Dequan Jones (?), Beno Udrih, Aaron Afflalo, Andrew Nicholson. Yeah, yeah, Afflalo is underrated and Nicholson is a blogosphere darling.Who cares? The defense was truly awful, and the half ended in a tie. CLE 51, ORL 51

2nd half:

Alonzo G33 started off the half with five straight points in under a minute, and it was awesome. If he scored at that rate all the time, he could average 180 points per 36. Wow! The Cavs generally kicked ass in the third quarter, which is to be expected when the offense if being run through E’Twaun Moore. Also, who is Daquan Jones? Does anyone know? Anyway, the Magic hit a few shots to end the quarter down seven. Immediately after the fourth quarter started, C.J. Miles starting bombing from deep. He has a gorgeous stroke when he’s on. Within minutes, the Cavs were up fifteen and Kyrie (from the bench) started grinning ear to ear. The Herculoids were out in full force in the final frame, with Marreese Speights bullying everyone in the post.  Also, Luke Walton should play back up point guard, for comedy’s sake and for comedy’s sake alone. Kevin Jones sighting! He has a nice jump shot. The Cavs ended this one smirking, with a 24 point victory. CLE 118, ORL 94

Highlights:

– Kyrie mostly played the facilitator tonight, which was a nice change of pace. We don’t usually see 12 point, 9 assist lines from him. And that off the backboard alley-oop to Alonzo was sweet. (Cue people saying that they can’t wait until it’s Lebron receiving those passes.)

– Alonzo and Tyler Zeller tie for player of the game honors, wherever such honors are handed out. Both of them played well on offense, and managed to shut down their assignments on the offensive juggernaut Orlando Magic.

– Dion: 5/16 from the field. Ugh.

– The Herculoids won this game. Shaun Livingston, Luke Walton– revelations. Wayne Elligton was solid.

– Tristan was pretty godawful tonight. He kept rebounding, though.

Links to the Present

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

According to the Israeli web site, Walla Sports (don’t bother clicking unless you can read Hebrew), Omri Casspi is attempting to negotiate a buyout with the Cavaliers.  HoopsHype originally linked/translated this story.

Via Twitter, Mark Spears of Yahoo Sports reports that Daniel “Boobie” Gibson has been excused from the team to attend a personal matter, and did not travel to Orlando.

Cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer’s Jodie Valade discusses Kyrie Irving’s increasing popularity among NBA fans.  Fans voted to put the Cavs on national television for the second time in a week, picking Tuesday’s game at Chicago for NBA TV’s Fan Night Matchup.  Also included: Byron Scott on Jerry Buss.

LaughingCavs previews tonight’s match-up against Orlando, link here.

Cavaliers Reset

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Unsurprisingly, not much happened for the Cavaliers on trade deadline day. There were a few rumors about a possible Mo Speights-for-a-pick swap, but nothing concrete enough to get excited about. All is placid here at C:TB HQ. Kevin is conked out in an armchair, and Mallory’s half-heartedly trying to beat a difficult Super Meat Boy level. Cavs: The Cat is asleep by my feet as I type this. But before we join Kevin in dreamland, let’s examine what the Cavs have going forward, since we now know what the roster is going to look like for the rest of the season.

Starting Backcourt:

Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters aren’t going anywhere. Saint Weirdo is in the first season of a four-year rookie deal, and Chris Grant will likely extend a max contract offer to Kyrie in the middle of next season that’ll make him a Cavalier until his mid-20s. The children are our future, etc.

Starting Frontcourt:

Alonzo Gee is on the books for $3.25M next year and has a $3.25M team option for the 2014-15 season. Hopefully, the Cavs will make a signing or draft selection that relegates him to the bench sooner rather than later. I think nearly every Cleveland fan has a soft spot in their heart for AG, but he isn’t much more than a decent substitute. After showing considerable growth in his first two seasons with the team, he’s revealing this season that he’s just not good enough to run with your average starting NBA wing.

After this breakout year, I feel terrific about Tristan Thompson as the Cavs’ starting power forward for the next decade. Like Waiters and Irving, he’s still on his rookie deal, though he obviously won’t get a max extension offer like Irving will, so it remains to be seen if the Cavs will lock him up long-term during next season or wait until he becomes a restricted free agent. At any rate, unless he gets a phenomenally stupid contract offer from another team in the summer of 2015, he’ll be a Cavalier alongside Kyrie and Dion for a long time.

Anderson Varejao’s future with the team is precarious, though perhaps not as precarious as it was a few months ago. Cavs fans have always seemed split down the middle on this issue, but I was in favor of trading Varejao before he got hurt, even if it meant doing so for eighty cents on the dollar. I’ve reformed my position, though: I think this last injury drove down his value to the point that the Cavs are better off rolling the dice that he’ll stay healthy than shipping him out for a pittance. Regardless of whether Varejao can stay healthy, the team needs to start grooming a future starting center. (Unless you think Tyler Zeller is that guy; I don’t think he is.) Wild Thing will be 31 by the start of next season, when the Cavs will pay him $9.1M. That’s a bargain if he plays his best for 70 games; it’s a sunk cost if he ends up sitting out two-thirds of the season again. If he does stay healthy, he also has a $9.8M team option for the 2014-15 season.

Rotation Players:

Tyler Zeller is a backup center. That’s a fine thing to be. You can do worse with the 18th pick in the draft. I look forward to a future in which T-Zell steps off the bench for 18 minutes a game, knocks down a couple open jumpers, draws a charge, and grabs a few rebounds. Watching him have to match up against starting NBA centers for 30 minutes every night is rough. I feel for him. He’s on a rookie deal, obviously, so he’ll be a cheap bench player for the Cavs through the 2015-16 season.

Marreese Speights has a player option he can pick up this summer that will pay him $4.5M next season, but the conventional wisdom dictates that he’ll probably turn that down to become an unrestricted free agent and guarantee himself more money. It’s hard to know what the Cavs will do with Speights now that they’ve elected not to flip him for an asset. Is keeping him an indication that they intend to sign him in the offseason or did they just get lowballed when shopping him? How you feel about Speights going forward probably hinges around what sort of contract he’s on. Is two years and $12M palatable? Is four years and $21M a deal-breaker? It all depends on how much you value a bench big with a nice jumper and a nasty streak.

The Wayne Ellington situation is less complicated. I don’t see much reason why the Cavs wouldn’t match any reasonable offer Ellington receives in restricted free agency. They could use a spot-up shooter off the bench, and as much as I would like Boobie Gibson to be that player, Ellington is a taller, less frequently injured version of Gibson. I think unless an opposing GM confuses Ellington for O.J. Mayo, Ellington will be in wine and gold for the next couple of seasons.

C.J. Miles will likely be back next season at $2.25M. Do you really want me to break down C.J. Miles? I refuse. You can’t make me. (Fine: he shoots too much, and I kind of hate him. Moving on.)

Shaun Livingston has been a revelation at the backup point guard spot. After picking through the scrap heap—Donald Sloan, Jeremy Pargo—it appears that Cavs have found their man. What I like best about Livingston is how well he complements the rest of the backcourt because of his versatility. He’s a nice defensive player who can guard multiple positions, and he’s happy to play off the ball or run the point. You can put him in three-guard lineups if you want. He just fits in well on this team, and he rarely makes mistakes. He’s like a guard version of Nick Collison, which is high praise. I hope the Cavs lock him up this offseason.

The Scrap Heap:

Omri Casspi is a restricted free agent but for whatever reason hasn’t been able to crack the rotation. (Okay, I’m being coy: he’s not very good, but the Cavs had the worst bench in the league before Speights and Ellington showed up.) I would imagine he’ll ply his trade elsewhere when the season’s over.

Everyone in Cleveland’s heart sings for Boobie Gibson, I’m sure. He’s overpaid at $4.5M this season simply because he can’t stay on the court. If he wants to sign a one-year or two-year deal at a discount, I’m all for it, but it’s hard to be optimistic about player who has a habit of missing big swaths of seasons.

Luke Walton, friend of Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Breugel until Breugel passed away in 1569, is a free man after this season. If you put his brain in Andray Blatche’s body, he’d be a borderline all-star, but unfortunately Walton has the body of a particularly athletic gym teacher. I don’t know if he’ll try to prolong his NBA career (perhaps even with the Cavs), go to Europe, or retire, but I’ve noticed that he genuinely seems to get a kick out of playing with this young Cavs team.  If I were Byron Scott or Chris Grant, I would ask if he wants to take up a coaching role in the organization whenever he decides to stop playing basketball.

* * * * *

So that’s more or less where the Cavs stand heading into the final third of this season. The obvious holes are at the starting center and small forward slots, but you knew that. What do you think the Cavs should do to patch those deficiencies? What sort of price would you pay for Marreese Speights? Was Sartre right when he argued that a text is not a concrete object, but something produced only through a dialogue between reader and language? Answer in the form of a sonnet.

Trade Deadline Rumors

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Well, there’s barely any time left, and the NBA Trade Deadline will have soon passed. The Cavs don’t have much going on this year, but let’s take a look at some rumors:

Jason Lloyd reported that the Cavs are trying very hard to get another first round pick, one way or another.

Sam Amico reported that the Cavs were approached by the Lakers about Daniel Gibson, but talks stalled. He also says: “If Spurs’ bid for Redick fails, may settle by making bid for Cavs’ Daniel Gibson at last minute, source says. Would offer 2nd-rd pick.” Interesting.

Hoopsworld reported that Casspi-Speights is a package the Cavs could move. Perhaps for Dejuan Blair?