Archive for February, 2013

Three Trades to Consider

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

So with the trade deadline fast approaching (3 PM Eastern), we threw down the gauntlet and asked for some (realistic) trades we’d like to see the Cavs make.  Here’s what our writers came up with.

Kevin: Let’s try this:

The Cavs should send Daniel Gibson to a contender, and Chicago looks like an ideal team to trade him to.  The Bulls rank 29th in the NBA in made three-pointers per game, they are in the luxury tax, and also employ a big point guard to pair him with in Kirk Hinrich.  When Derrick Rose returns, Boobie helps spread the defense during a Rose drive.

Cavs trade: Daniel Gibson
Bulls trade: Richard Hamilton, Vlad Radmanovic, Marquis Teague

For the Cavs, the trade is mainly about Marquis Teague, a late first-round pick in 2012.  At 19 years old, he could play in the D-League for a season with Livingston backing up Kyrie, then emerge as a youthful, athletic & skilled sub in 2014 – 2015.  If he reaches his full potential, he serves as another trade asset down the road.  Radmanovic, and possibly Hamilton would be immediately waived.  For the Bulls, they give up only one rotation player – and that is a 35 year old shooting guard with an 11 PER.  In return, they receive a 26 year old with career 41% three point shooting, that may finally be able to resume his natural role of floor-spacer.  The Bulls save $4 million, as the move pushes them lower towards the luxury tax line.

Tom: OK, here’s my blockbuster trade idea.

Admittedly, I don’t have a ton of interest in the CBA and all the rules and how often deals are made purely for salary cap relief/luxury tax savings.  The Memphis deal seems more mind boggling every day.  So here is a trade mostly about fit.

Cleveland gives up Tyler Zeller and guys that probably won’t be in a Cavs uniform in 2 years anyway: Boobie, Casspi, and Walton.  Cleveland gets their SF of the future Ersan Illyasova who becomes a top 5 SF in the East.  They also agree to absorb Caron Butler’s 2-year deal and trade him away the following season to a contender.  It’s a Zeller for Illyasova swap as far as I’m concerned.

Indiana needs playmakers.  As much as stat geeks and Jason Whitlock love Paul George, I’m not convinced he can set the other guys up.  Remember, in playoff games, half-court execution is necessary and having ball-handlers that create easy baskets is huge.  Unless you employ the triangle offense.  Indy goes all-in this season acquiring Brandon Jennings and sharp-shooter Boobie Gibson.  They are currently 26th in assists and steals, so adding Jennings helps here.  They got smaller, but they’re front line is beastly on the boards.  They give up?  Ewing-theory candidate Danny Granger to….

LAC!  Danny Granger is great at sitting in the corner and hitting wide open 3s.  Occasionally he’ll put the ball on the floor and score.  But really, he’s a rich-man’s Caron Bulter (perfect!)  With CP3 running the show, Granger certainly won’t be counted on to be the “closer” or the “go-to” guy that he could never succeed at in Indy.  Granger is a big upgrade and on the Clips he’d be content getting a sneaky 16 points every night.  That is a devastating roster and the Clips give up Eric Bledsoe and (now expendable) Caron Butler.

This isn’t Milwaukee’s year and they have about 9 forwards.  So they punt on the potentially well-overpaid Illysova and the mercurial Jennings for the supremely athletic (and huge upgrade on D) Eric Bledsoe.  They also get rookie Tyler Zeller who is on a very favorable rookie contract as well as a bunch of expirings to help them get to an insanely cheap team + Monta Ellis, and go from there in 2014.

Nate: As I’ve stated, the goal of any Mo Speights trade should be to get a future first round pick and/or first round talent.  It should also be to trade Speights to a team with no cap room, so that the Cavs can attempt to sign him in the offseason.  Accomplishing this is as simple as sitting down with Speights and saying, “Look.  We really like the way you’re playing.  But we’re not competing for a playoff spot, and we’re looking to trade you to someone who is.  So go compete in the playoffs.  If you decide to opt out, we would love to negotiate with you this off-season.”  With that in mind, I designed this trade a week ago, which sent Speights to San Antonio in exchange for a first rounder.  The main response was, San Antonio won’t do it.  So I give you the pu pu platter de jour.

In this trade, Golden State gets Speights, and the Cavs get prospects Jeremy Tyler and Festus Ezeli, the injured Brandon Rush, and a future 1st round pick.  The Warriors can’t send Cleveland their pick this year because it’s committed to Brooklyn, or in 2014 because of the Stepien Rule, so it would be in 2015 or later.  Rush would have to agree to this deal because of his Bird rights, but given that he will probably pick up his player option for next year, I doubt this will be an issue.  Golden State does it because it gets them under the tax  this year and  gets them a quality 4th big.  Cleveland does it because it gets them prospects (Tyler is still an intriguing player with a 7’5″ wing span), a future first rounder, and a guy who could be a rotation player next year in Rush.

The only drawback of this trade is that Cleveland would have to cut two players.  To remedy this problem I propose this trade .  Here, Cleveland trades with Minnesota to get Brandon Roy and Derrick Williams.  They give up Walton, C.J. Miles, and Josh Selby.  Some other picks might be shuffled around, and maybe the Cavs throw a 2nd rounder or two the TWolves’ way, or maybe the right to swap some picks in future years.  Cleveland does this trade to get Derrick Williams, and immediately waives or buys out Brandon Roy.  Minnesota does this to clear Roy’s salary off the books and clear $8 million in cap space for next year (they’ll need it to sign Pekovic), and to get a shooting guard who is actually healthy.

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Admittedly, these proposals are all a little underwhelming and not of the Luke Walton, C.J. Miles, and a future 2nd round pick for Kevin Durant variety, but they are the kinds of trades that net assets.  Assets allow teams like Houston to fleece teams like Sacramento for number five overall picks like Thomas Robinson.  Let’s hope Chris Grant channels his inner Daryl Morey today.

Cavs 105 – Hornets 100: A Running Diary

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

"Bring it Uncle Drew". "Young blood, do you even know what I'm capable of?"

The Cavs represented themselves well in front of a national TV audience and (more importantly) a very enthusiastic home crowd.  I could get used to this script.  Act 1: Cavs come out with a purpose and a dedication to the defensive end.  Act 2: Cavs offense looks like a well-oiled machine.  Act 3: Cavs show off the bright spots and ugly warts of being a young team, putting on a clinic in the first part of Act 3 before reverting to stagnant iso-ball and chaotic breakdowns on defense.  Act 4: Cavs bench holds the line, Uncle Drew brings em home to MVP chants.  Yeah, I could get used to that script.

Overall, I was very impressed with the tone the Cavs established at the outset and carried through until Buckets Unlimited™. They came out with a purpose, particularly at the defensive end.  I’ve been one of the Cavs’ most vocal critics, citing a lack of defensive intensity, cohesion, commitment, etc.  Tonight was like watching a different team.  A few notable examples: Kyrie was fighting picks all night.  Over, under, through the woods, whatever.  The rest of the Cavs were making a concerted effort to identify pick and rolls before they developed, and anticipate the direction of the penetration.  They were very successful to that end.  They also did a nice job staying home with the scouted 3-point shooters.  At least 4 times I noticed the Cavs’ defensive big man hedge on the pick.  Thompson, Zeller, and Speights all did it on occasion.  Tristan was particularly effective, as he showed so strongly he forced the ball-handler to retreat halfway to the timeline before he hustled back and the Cavs were able to regroup.  This was a staple of Mike Brown’s “little engines that could” defenses, particularly when Zydrunas was hitting his twilight years.  It’s a very effective maneuver and it’s been missing since Mike Brown left.  On offense, the Cavs were stagnant at times, but they showed a committed to attacking, despite the Hornets length inside.  Dion Waiters and C.J. Miles in particular were super effective at slashing into the teeth and finishing despite a crowded paint.  The scoring was balanced – everyone that played contributed.  The bench guys did what we’ve come to know and love, and Kyrie put on an offensive clinic from the moment he re-emerged in the 4th.

The format for this recap is going to be a running diary.  I admit that this might seem clunky or hard to read, but honestly, I’ve noticed how much more excited I get about individual moments in real-time than when I’ve had 48 minutes to let the “nuance” and “balance” and all those horrible things cloud my hyperbolic judgement.  The reality of this team is, they are young, and promising.  Game recaps need not be (individually) characteristic of the season, the team, or the trajectory.  Each game is its own story, and it’s worth diving into all the highlights and lowlights.  So I present my running diary – and of course more over-arching analysis during timeouts and halftime.  Love it or hate it, just let me know either way.

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1st Quarter

Cavs win tip – Tristan jumps out of bounds to save ball.  Ball swings, Gee hits corner 3. Great start.

Pick n foul-line-extended pop for Zeller (more his range than the 20 footers). Drains it.

Cavs defense force two straight out of rhythm Js to start game.

Cavs anticipating screens and ball movement early.  (good sign)

Waiters goes strong to the hole! (EXPLOSIVE)  Jon Barry likes the Waiters draft pick.

Tristan Thompson with a beautiful step through move that draws a whistle (boooooooo get that prescription checked ya bum!)

Kyrie fighting under screens early (another good sign)

Waiters another drive – gets into teeth – nice interior pass to Zeller who flips it in.

TT tosses in an OLD SCHOOL Jump Hook!  Throwing it DOWNWARD towards the net.

Oh my TT’s handle.

NO is a “long” team.  OKC being the original “long” team.

Alonzo Gee has a very strange shot.  Some of his threes look like Bill Cartwright’s free throws.

Kyrie tried spinning curve-ball bounce passes twice already in the 1st quarter.  Pretty low-percentage pass.  He might have to learn how to pass with his left.  We already know he’s basically ambidextrous with his shot – but he likes to bring it back to the right side to pass.

Tristan working hard to get shots at the rim – but he’s pressing a bit.  Needs to get comfortable and get that euro-touch back.

Cavs being kept off the O-boards.  Every possession is 1 and done.

Bill Cartwright hits his second 3.

This is a real man’s game in the 1st.  Intensity is high – every shot being challenged.  Lots of blocks and body checks.  Kinda jarring after the all-star game.

Kyrie hits his veteran Andre Miller bank shot.  Then gets doubled, finds Luke Walton who finds Speights for the money 17 footer.

Cavs trapping now.  I really like that they’re mixing it up.  And that was maybe the 5th travel called in this game.

Jon Barry laughs off LeBron to Cleveland rumors – says people can keep dreaming. [ok?]

Kyrie shows Barry why any free agent should give Cleveland a look – just a sick dribble move and floater.

Cavs use their FOUL-TO-GIVE!!  (don’t even care that Ryan Anderson hit a circus 3).  Byron Scott gets a huge air high-five from me for that quarter.  Cavs played very well at the defensive end, mixed up their D, used their foul to give, and Kyrie played with an intensity on D that I haven’t seen from him in a while.

2nd Quarter

Herculoids/Speights cowboys in.

Whoa – don’t talk about the video of that Shaun Livingston injury.  Yeesh that makes me more queasy than the blood donation questionnaire.

Walton backdoor pass to Livingston drains 8 footer.  I love the Herculoids.

Brian Roberts? I feel like there is a Brian Roberts in every professional sport.

C.J. MILES puts his head down and does his best Dion Waiters impression.  Jon Barry remarks how C.J. Miles played well early this season, which proves that ‘early’ is a relative term.  And yeah, he’s right, at this point, December was early in the season.

Walton with another gorgeous pass.  Doesn’t lead to a bucket though.  Pelicans defend the rim pretty well.

Wayne Ellington can shoot.  I really love his game – hope he’s a Cav for a long time.  It’s very valuable to have role players that know their role, and fulfill their role.  It’s not an easy job in pro sports to be that guy, the pinch hitter you can count on etc etc.  You see lots of guys make a career out of playing within themselves and leveraging their talents – as opposed to trying to be dynamic scorer.  [Heed Baloo]

C.J. Miles goes strong AGAIN this time with a soft high layup in traffic.  Roger Mason!  Wow I remember him draining wide open 3s all night long for SA after the trade from Wash.  Didn’t even know he was still in the league.  Feel like he had a negative PER or something a few seasons back. (checks bball-ref…nah 7.2)

Austin River is like a 3rd-world-orphan-man’s Kyrie Irving.

Was that the 9th travel called?

C.J. Miles is playing like a man possessed – Jumps passing lane, throws down monster 2-handed dunk.

Waiters having a REALLY great game so far.  He just hit a step-back, contested 2 but unlike every other step-back, contested 2 this was actually a good shot in rhythm.  C.J. Miles just swatted a ball out of bounds. (!)  Seriously that dude is ridiculously athletic.  He’s just too nice of a guy.  Someone needs to disrespect his family’s honor or something – he needs a mean streak.  @RichMcCreedy the floor is yours…

Waiters hits another long, contested 2.  But it was end of the shot clock and it was in rhythm.  Well done, FREON.

Tyler boxes out Geico Caveman and the refs correctly call an over the back.

Tristan doing a good job getting in position – just tossing up bowling balls.  Cavs working really hard on D but a great defensive possession ends with Tyler Zeller getting pump-faked out of his shoes.  He really has poor lateral quickness.  And Zeller turns it over…

Byron Scott calls a “quick” timeout off two bad Zeller possessions.  B Scott winning me over this game.

The play is getting physical and the onus is really being put on the refs, and I feel like they’ve gotten almost every call correct, even if they are being a little overzealous with the traveling calls.

Just did a bball-ref check of Brian Roberts.  Here are some interesting tidbits.  He’s a 27 year old rookie from Toledo.   He’s hit 51 of 55 FT this season, which is eerily similar to C.J. Miles’ 50-54.

Dion tries a hurry-up offense and draws a non-shooting foul.  Shoots after the whistle and drains it.  He is engulfed in flames right now.

Cavs playing really good D right now.  As usual, the starters are a little bit stagnant – iso-oriented on offense, but they are attacking the rim which is always good.  TT with a nice boxout draws free throws.

Dion pushing in transition off a steal, and Anthony Davis spikes it so hard into the ground they might have to replace some hardwood at halftime.

Kyrie with just a DEVASTATING pump fake dribble drive – Gee hits his 3rd triple.  Cavs end half up 2.  A very solid 2nd quarter, Cavs played that half like they have a good in-game coach.  Have I given you a clue?

1st Half Analysis:

The Cavs came out focused and determined in this game – which is commendable.  As a fan, it’s really fun to watch a team compete on defense.  They were even mixing up their coverages.  During a recent podcast, you may have heard a 9-hour-long back and forth between Mallory and I about the offensive style/execution differences between the starters and the bench.  If you happened to remember my analysis, this half is very characteristic.  The starters like isolation.  TT likes to face up and take his man to the hole, Waiters likes to explode to the rack, Kyrie as we all know is one of the top 5 one-on-one players in the NBA right now (prediction, he will go down as a top 5 ALL-TIME one-on-one player alongside Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and an old timer that I’m overlooking because I’ve only seen grainy highlights of a few playoff games.)  At any rate, the starters are fairly good in transition – Kyrie is ridiculous in transition (he’s always ridiculous), Waiters is learning how to finish in traffic, Alonzo Gee is certainly better suited to some chaos which may help him get open, and Thompson and Zeller run the floor very well.  The second unit, comparatively, is much better at executing half-court offense.  They showed that in this half.  Luke Walton is the half-courtiest of players, and Wayne Ellington and Shaun Livingston really understand how to use screens to create spacing.  Walton is an elite passer and Speights is really a dynamic half-court scorer for a big.  That high release allows him to score from a lot of different ‘pops’.  C.J. Miles showed up in a HUGE way in that half.  [We interrupt this half-time analysis to point out the Pacers are up FORTY on the Knicks right now and it’s only the 3rd quarter]  C.J. Miles is 3 of 3, has 2 boards, a NASTY swat, a steal, and is +7 in 9 minutes.  About all you can ask for.  The Cavs bigs have struggled so far against the length of the Hornets frontcourt.  Al-Farouq Aminu is listed as 6’9″ but he looked silly-long on a few blocks.  Just checked his measurable – he is not human.  He has a 7’4” wingspan?  Laaaawd have Mercy.  Between him, AD, and Caveman Lopez, this team can protect the rim.  Tristan was pressing a bit in the 1st half and wound up 1-5, as did Speights.  The good news is the Cavs interior D has been making life difficult for the Hornets bigs as well, and both teams are protecting the offensive glass.

I’ve been pretty agnostic about Byron Scott since he was hired, but he has earned some brownie points with me tonight.  Besides the Cavs coming out focused and competing hard on defense, there were a couple “good coaching/awareness!” plays in the first half.  The Cavs used their foul-to-give with a few ticks left in the 1st half and even though Ryan Anderson took exception and hit a circus buzzer-beater after the inbounds – it was nice to see the Cavs do a ‘veteran’ thing.  B Scott also called a super quick timeout after a sequence where Tyler Zeller got burned trying to close out on a pump fake, and then turned it over right away at the other end.  Not used to seeing that, a lot of times he lets his young guys hit rock bottom.  Good to regroup the troops and halt any momentum the visitors may have gathered.

3rd Quarter

Robin Lopez comes out with two nice post moves from the left block.  Monty Williams calls him “the most coach-able player he’s ever had”.  I’m sure Robin appreciates the atta-boy.

Waiters with a huge GTWSOH chase down on Austin Rivers.  Both teams starting the 3rd with intensity.

Kyrie with a filthy crossover and J and then one of those traffic layups that only he can pull off.  Fans getting into the game.

TT block-fouls Anthony Davis and I swear before the whistle he put his hand up like “I got him”.  The Cavs are a bunch of gentlemen I tell ya.

Tyler Zeller quietly having a decent game.  Has bounced back from an early blown dunk and is switching like a madman on defense.  Fairly effectively too.

TT MEETS LOPEZ AT THE APEX!!  GET THAT WEAK STUFF OUTTA HERE!

Cavs continuing with some supreme defensive intensity.

LOPEZ MEETS TT AT THE APEX!!  (TT FOULED)  (…but having trouble at the line tonight)

Tristan showing how far he’s coming, thrashing about among the long-johns for a man’s rebound and draws another trip the line.  His FTs look flat but he finally hits one.

Cavs show a full court press.  Byron +1.

Waiters not too bad at the falling-8-feet-to-the-side jumpers when he’s inside 17 feet.  He’s still engulfed in flames tonight.  He cares not for the Cavalier jersey-burning stigma.  – and THERE’S the bad-Waiters shot.  NBA JAM rules trump logic – Freon is neutron star hot right now.  Monty Williams calls time.

[GASP] A LUKE HARANGODY D-LEAGUE COMMERCIAL! [re-inserts jaw]  And it’s freaking AWESOME!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sF8Z9kehY0


Tristan with a great job attacking the PnR ball handler and then retreating.  Austin Rivers making some creative buckets.

Alonzo Gee finally misses an open 3.

Waiters is having such a great night.  Blows by transition defender and realizes he is way out of position – but finds Zeller following the action with a crazy twisting pass.  Alonzo Gee steals inbounds pass (this defense!?)

Cavs playing some really good D and Hornets just being patient and finding ways to make shots after the first few options break down.

Cavs with a couple defensive breakdowns – looking like the 3rd grade soccer defenders suddenly.

Alonzo Gee should probably come out of the game now.  Cavs 11 point lead evaporates in a hurry.

Tristan just wants it more.  3 towering bigs all over him and he just keeps on going strong.  Going back to the line after the timeout.

I remember when Chad Ford described Austin Rivers as [paraphrasing] a guy that thinks he’s Kobe Bryant but has the game of Ricky Davis.  (BUCKETS!)  He’s looked very good in this game.  NO caps off a 10-0 run with a steal and a vicious flush.  (The Rivers exchange between Simmons and Ford is biting.  http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8100861/ford-vs-simmons)  Refs still calling travels.  Cavs in a rut right now.  Hornets have all the momentum – they look bigger, faster, stronger and they are out- executing.  I’m starting to get a sinking feeling those free throws are going to haunt the Cavs when this one is all said and done.

Kyrie makes a tough blowby layup look easy and does it with enough time for a 2 for 1.  Then Kyrie gets a little too dribble happy, and NO smartly doubles him with about 2 seconds left – he’s forced to give it up and the buzzer goes off before the eventual C.J. Miles shot.

4th Quarter

Roger Mason is ALIVE.

C.J. Miles makes a bad shot.  He’s now 4-4.  Cavs need to start executing and getting some easy baskets again.

Cavs have done a good job making sure Ryan Anderson doesn’t get good looks.  In general they’ve done a good job chasing 3-point shooters off the line.  C.J. Miles follows up a heat check 3 that he missed with a LeBron-esque power drive and finish.  Geez.  And Miles throws up another heat check!  He’s not getting cheated out there.

Cavs have made 3 more shots than the Hornets but are only 6-15 from the line (Hornets are 14-16).

Cavs have on at least 3 occasions tonight had the big hedge on the PnR, stopping the penetration and then retreating quickly enough to recover.  Maybe digging into the Mike Brown archives in the underground bunker at the Q. (Same bunker where the aliens that took over LeBron’s soul in the Celtics series are buried)

Cavs getting quite frustrated with the ball-possession calls in this half.  At least 4 times guys were genuinely convinced it should have been their ball.  Brian Roberts with a layup that makes contortionists cringe.  Kyrie back in.  UncleDrew time?  (7 minutes left Cavs down 2)

Brian Roberts bodies Kyrie – which seems like a smart thing to do since you can’t back off him, and Kyrie spins around him and pops one in while getting fouled.  Tie game: 79 all.

Cavs playing super small right now, trying to spread the floor for Kyrie (seems to be working) but the Hornets are trying to create mismatches at the other end (also working).  Kyrie got caught in no-man’s-land on the switch and eventually Tristan had to leave his man to stop an easy dunk.

TT with a nice job forcing Lopez into a tough hook shot and then immediately turns to box him out.

Kyrie just destroyed whatever member of Kingdom Animalia that just tried to check him.

Oh and Kyrie with a PUJIT from 27 feet.  BOTTOM.  Lot of time left but Cavs have taken over the momentum behind Irving’s prodigy-enous scoring. (the fusion of prodigenous – a word that Uncle Drew’s contemporaries probably used to describe him and prodigy – which is what Kyrie is.)

Kyrie grabs a rebound, goes coast to coast through 9 guys and lays it in softly despite going full speed.  Oh, and then he takes a charge.  MVP chants coming?  Caveman Lopez fouls out.

Kyrie defers to Dion who is on the weak side and has a flat-footed defender just staring at him.  But Freon freezes up before kicking it back out to Kyrie with 2 seconds left.  But after a shot with 0.6 that captures iron, the Cavs get the ball back.  This time Dion spins past a double team, kicks out beautifully to Kyrie who somehow misses an open 3.  Cavs get 2 more offensive rebounds and I can’t even keep up – this game in frenetic.  But Kyrie just did a sick inside-outside dribble and up-and-under scoop for another layup.  After Anthony Davis’ first basket, Kyrie draws a foul on a pull-up.  THERE’S THE MVP CHANTS.

Cavs up 9 after the free throws.  I think the Cavs have made the last 10 or so free throws.  Anthony Davis with a tip-in off an Austin Rivers drive.

Cavs not exactly looking like the Spurs right now but there is a spring in their step as the crowd is really taking them home.  They are getting all the rebounds and Kyrie is just securing the livelihoods of ‘ankle doctors’ everywhere.

After a NO 3, they foul TT, who’s 3-10 tonight at the line.  Rubber rims the first one in.  Nails em both.  Earning the right to be on the court in crunch time.

(Beaver) DAM.  Ryan Anderson hits a 3.  Four point game with 40 seconds.  Ellington does a good job avoiding the foul before passing off to Waiters.  Rook’s turn to hit some pressure free throws.

Calmly nails both.  Cavs are now 18-28 from the free throw line.

Brian Roberts drives unimpeded for a fingeroll.  Wayne Ellington again does a great job getting across the timeline and drawing the foul.  And swishes both free throws.  I see what’s going on here.  Cavs purposely letting NO score instantly to pad their FT stats.  (Or maybe just going for Chalupas?)

Roberts hits a long 3 and this is the longest minute in NBA regular season history?  Ellington back to the line.  Drains em both.  Cavs were 6-15 from the line and have since gone 18-19.

Game finally ends.  Really strong all-around game for the Cavs, who beat a team playing better as of late.

Final Thoughts:

Everyone played well tonight.  Some fans on twitter were expressing boredom in the game or pointing out a lack of execution by the Cavs.  I disagree.  This game had a very different feel to it than most Cavs games.  The Cavs did the little things to stay in the game when the offense went stagnant.  They played hard for 48 minutes and were rewarded with a W.  Now, I’d like to gush about Kyrie Irving a bit.

I could probably write 10,000 words gushing about Kyrie Irving.  But I just want to point out a couple things.  The guy who, in my opinion, has the best handle in the entire NBA (yes, even better than CP3) just WON the THREE POINT CONTEST.  Steve Kerr made a comment after Kyrie drained back to back corner 3s in the actual all-star game that “3s aren’t even his specialty”.  And I totally get that sentiment!  Look at the rest of that field!  Other than Steph Curry, who can shoot off-the-dribble almost as seamlessly as spotting up, the rest of those guys are in the NBA [dramatic pause] BECAUSE spot-up 3s ARE their specialty.  Matt Bonner is in the NBA because he makes almost half of his spot-up 3-point shots.  As I anxiously waited for the 3-point contest to start I thought: “Kyrie is the best scorer of this bunch, but he’s lethal when he uses his dribble to create rhythm for himself.  He’s really not a spot-up 3-point shooter.” [Incidentally Reggie Miller echoed this sentiment during Kyrie's first round]  And he went out and almost broke the record…on National TV.

People are running out of ways to describe Kyrie Irving.  He’s not even 21 and the comparisons to other players are already becoming meaningless.  We’ve already established he has the best dribble in the NBA, and he just won the 3-point contest and is a legitimate threat to be a 50-40-90 guy.   I’m gonna add another accolade.  When Kobe Bryant started slowing down he was lauded for things like “footwork” and “precision” and “creativity”.  Lots of subjective terms that indicated it was very difficult to keep Kobe Bryant from getting to the spots he wanted to get to and getting the shots off that he wanted to get off.  I’d like to submit, for your approval, that Kyrie Irving, is the most “creative” 20-year-old scorer the NBA has ever seen.  Many players have been more athletic, more explosive, more savvy, or whatever.  But what Kyrie is doing is unstoppable.  You back up?  He’ll drain a 30 foot buzzer beater. Body him up?  He’ll spin right around you (like in this game) and make you dizzy.  Get happy feet?  He’ll break your ankles and unlike Iverson he’ll drain the mid-range shot.  But it doesn’t end there.  In Transition?  Devastating. PUJITs?  PU3ITs? He can split double teams.  He’ll throw in soft floaters, layups from every angle with either hand, including those patented up-and-under layups with crazy english.  He’s got inside-outside dribbles, euro-steps, and THIS.  And the ones that always make me shake my head are those leaning bank shots, when that’s the only angle the defender gives him – he can kiss it softly off the glass.  There’s like 5 guys in the entire NBA that even attempt that shot.

He’s the most creative scorer I’ve ever seen play in the NBA.  Admittedly, I’m not a big Kobe Bryant fan, and I feel that many of the game’s truly great players leveraged a few (effective) go-to moves.  Kyrie’s like an all-star pitcher that has total command over 10 different pitches (if there ever was such a pitcher).  Every time you watch him it’s like “how’s he gonna figure this one out” and more often than not, he does.  And this is from a guy that has only played 105 NBA+College games combined.  It’s been said, but it bears saying again.  “What’s not to like?”

Mailing it In: Post All-Star Break Wish Edition

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

No major content this morning.  Instead, a topic: pick a Cavalier, and describe one thing you’d like him to improve before the end of season.  I’ll start.

I’m hoping that Kyrie starts to distribute a little more, especially at the ends of games.  Kyrie Irving’s AST% (the percentage of teammate field goals that he assisted on while on the floor), is down from 36.5% last year to 30.7% this year according to basketball-reference.  (It’s down to 32.4 from 28.9 according to NBA.com).  His assists per 36 minutes are also down from 6.4 to 5.7 this year (basketball reference).  The perplexing thing about this is that his teammates are better this year, at least anecdotally.  Yes, Kyrie’s scoring is up 5 ppg, from 18.5 to 23.5 and the Cavs per game scoring is higher this year improving from 93 ppg to 97, with a slight increase in pace of 91.3 to 92.5 possessions per game.

But Kyrie tries to force things in the fourth quarter this year.  Last year, Kyrie’s fourth quarter shooting was .518 FG% and .410 3P%, which was higher than what he shot in the first three quarters.  This year, it’s .438 FG% and .283 3P%, which is lower than his first three quarters shooting percentage.  (Kyrie shoots a ridiculous .511 and .519 from 3 in the the first two quarters, this year).

Checking NBA.com’s, fantastic interesting new stats engine (I’m not sure they’ve worked out all the bugs yet), we can see that Kyrie’s assist percentage does not fluctuate much from quarter to quarter.  But what does fluctuate is the defense.  As we’ve been able to see, defenses are keying on him in the fourth, knowing he’s going to force it.  Passing it to a wide open teammate on the wing versus throwing up a double teamed 3 pointer is always going to be a better option  Kyrie may have to learn to pass more when he’s being trapped and double teamed until defenses even out on him.  Let’s hope his teammates step up and help him out.

So commentariat, what would your focus be if you were the Cavs player development coach?

Links to the Present

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Chris Grant is really, really tall. Could he back up Tristan for 15-20 MPG?

Lots of links and goodies await. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

– The Cavs have discussed trades involving Marreese Speights, but don’t seem interested by the picks being proffered thus far. I’m all for trading Speights if a 16-22 type pick can be had. But as every NBA fan (and Daryl Morey) knows, you can never have enough picks/young players.

– Greg Oden is putting the brakes on a contract until this summer. This slightly reduces the Cavs’ chances of signing him, but the smart money still has Oden playing in Wine and Gold next year.

– Should the Cavaliers sign Donte Greene? They appear to be interested.

– Jeremy Pargo has found a home in Philadelphia for the rest of the season. Good luck, Jeremy. The memories of the two or three alley-oops you threw down in garbage time will live forever in our hearts, as will those of the 28 points you dropped the night after Kyrie got injured.

UPDATE:

– Also, this Bill Fitch interview should be of interest to the Cavs historian.

A Schedule Primer for the Next Two Months

Monday, February 18th, 2013

How many times has Kyrie dunked this year? Two? Anyways...take that, World!!

First off, congrats to Kyrie on winning the three-point contest, and his 47 combined points between two All-Star weekend games.  At my house, we finished a lot of cleaning on Saturday and Sunday, plus I made it to the gym…I feel accomplished, but Mr. Irving probably had the better weekend.

But now, it’s time to move on; there are more games to be played.  When Cleveland plays New Orleans on Wednesday, they effectively finish two-thirds of their season.  As of the All-Star break, exactly two months remain until the 2012 – 2013 campaign ends; it progressed relatively quickly.

The final twenty-nine games present a manageable schedule; eight teams play less than Cleveland, seven also have twenty-nine on the schedule, and fourteen squads suit-up more often.  Their thirteen road tilts are the fewest remaining in the Eastern Conference; only five games are outside the Eastern Time Zone, and they never travel west of Texas.  After a four-games / five-nights stretch to end February, the team faces only three back-to-backs total in March and April. Unfortunately, the combined winning percentage of their remaining foes is 0.516; they play the Eastern Conference Divisional leaders seven total times, and face opponents with winning records on seventeen occasions.

So what does it all mean?  How many more wins can be hoped for? Let’s look at the remainder of the season.

Wednesday, February 20th – Cleveland only plays once prior to Thursday’s trade deadline, in their sole ESPN-televised game of the season.  New Orleans looks strong lately, winning four of five, including steam-rolling Portland by 36 last week.    This is the second night of a back-to-back for them though, and they are 19 – 34, with the game in Cleveland…let’s say the Cavs start their post-All Star stretch with a victory…unless all the youngsters are still hungover on their recent celebrity-binge.

February 23rd to the 27th – Four games in five nights in four cities, as Cleveland tours Orlando, Miami and Chicago before returning home to battle Toronto.  I project one win here; Orlando is playing their fourth-in-five, while Cleveland visits on two days rest…plus Orlando has lost 13 of 14.  As Cleveland wears down, facing the Heat and Bulls, the last few games of this stretch look like losses.

March 1st to the 8th – The final four games of this homestand feature four potential playoff teams in the Clippers, Knicks, Utah, and Memphis.  LA  and Utah travel across the county, and the former plays on the final night of a back-to-back.  So does NY; my crystal-ball shows two Cavalier wins out of this gauntlet.  The revenge of Jon Leuer could throw in a monkey-wrench though.

March 10th to the 15th – Cleveland continues meandering through a leisurely seven games in sixteen nights, while also gaining some respite in the quality of opponent.  Toronto, Washington and Dallas are all lottery-bound, and although the Cavs travel to Canada and Texas, the Mavericks face night two of a back-to-back, while the Raptors return home from a west-coast trip.  Due to Toronto’s current four-game win streak since the Rudy Gay acquisition though, I think the otherwise-rested Cavs snag only one victory during this stretch.

March 16th to the 27th – For strength of opposition, this stretch of five games rivals any.  Beginning with the second night of a back-to-back in San Antonio, they progress to play Indiana, Miami, Houston, and Boston.  Fortunately, the Pacers, Celtics and Heat voyage to Cleveland, and Miami is playing their third game in four nights at the end of a five-game road trip, while Boston faces a fourth-game in six days against the Cavs with four days rest.  I’ll give the Wine & Gold two wins during this stretch.

March 29th – Philly comes to Cleveland, potentially unravelling as the conclusion of a disappointing season nears.  Cavs win.

March 31st – Next voyaging to New Orleans, the good guys face the Hornets as they wrap up a seven-game homestand.  They have emerged victorious 14 of 26 times since Christmas, and pick up this game, too.

April 1st – Playing on back-to-back nights, away from home, Cleveland faces the Hawks, who will be battling for playoff seeding.  Unless they trade Josh Smith and Al Horford and blow everything up.  For now, this W slides to Atlanta.

April 3rd – Next up, at home, the Cavs face Brooklyn, winners of 17 of their last 25.  The Nets are on the final game of an eight-game road trip though, and play the Bulls the next night.  Currently, the two teams are separated by one game for first-round home-court advantage.  I say that Brooklyn looks past this one, and Cleveland sneaks out a home-court victory.

April 5th to the 7th – Tilts against the Celtics and Magic follow.  Kyrie thrives at the Boston Garden, and Orlando faces game five of a road trip, probably in full-on tank mode.  I foresee a tidy, three-game win streak for the Cavs.

April 9th and 10th – Probably two losses here.  First, the Cavs head to Indianapolis to square-off with a Pacers team likely jockeying for the #2 seed in the East.  I plan on attending this game, so hopefully my prediction is incorrect. The next night, the Pistons, on two days rest, visit Quicken Loans Arena to battle the weary Cavs.  Detroit has supplanted Toronto as the lottery-bound-divisional-rival-that-Cleveland-inexplicably-can’t-beat…I expect that to continue in April.

April 12th – Sandwiched between a nationally televised game with Chicago, and a potential night with major playoff seeding implications against Indiana, New York engages the Cavs, in Cleveland, on the second night of a back-to-back.  I expect the Wine & Gold to sneak one past the Knicks, scoring an upset that helps solidify Indiana’s quest for the second-seed.  This may be wishful thinking on my behalf.

April 14th to the 17th – This stretch amounts to silly-season.  Philly squanders their first-round pick if they make the playoffs this year.  Currently injury-ravaged, perhaps they are booking summer travel plans by mid-April.  The next night, Miami travels to Cleveland on the second night of their own back-to-back, possibly with nothing left to compete for in the regular season.  Finally, in the regular season finale, the Cavs travel to Charlotte, for a game that is definitely not on national television.  I think both teams should agree to play Rising Stars game style; run up-and-down the court, no defense, and see who can win 148 – 143.  Maybe Kemba Walker can even through an alley-oop off the backboard to Dion Waiters.  As a whole, I will guesstimate that Cleveland wins two of three during “silly season”.

Summary: I am not sure what was accomplished here.  I started with a concept of having a pre-All-Star break post, and then something immeditely after the All-Star break.  As an eternal optimist, I forecast Cleveland for 14 wins in these 29 games.  They finish with 30 wins and perhaps the 7th-most ping-pong balls.  I can support this scenario.

All-Star Recap: West 143, East 138 (or CP3 is the best point guard in the NBA)

Monday, February 18th, 2013

As long as the scores are close, the only thing that matters in an all-star game are the last eight minutes.  This exhibition was no exception was no exception.  The game bounced back and forth for three quarters with some up and down play.  Highlights of the first three quarters included:

  • Joakim Noah playing like the crazy guy at the gym who doesn’t realize that no one else is really trying.
  • Kyrie Irving with a nice sequence in the mid 2nd with a couple nice pretty decent feeds and then a patented pick and roll split dribble into a two handed soft slam.  He followed this up with a three, a nice lob pass, and lots of joshing around on the sideline like he belonged.
  • Jrue Holiday with an explosive left handed slam in the 2nd that surprised everyone.
  • Craig Sager’s suit:
  • Blake Griffin scoring 19 points, almost entirely on slam dunks, and most off ridiculous feeds from CP3.
  • Chris Bosh being routinely isolated on guards and then destroyed.  The best moment came when Paul passed to himself on the dribble between Bosh’s legs for a layup (see the pic below).
  • Kevin Durant “falling out of bed and scoring 30 points” (that line courtesy of Reggie and Marv).
  • Kevin Hart on the halftime show talking about being a two time celebrity game MVP with Charles, Kenny, Ernie Johnson, C-Webb, and Shaq; replete with riotous laughter and and lots and lots of short jokes.  This segment went on for at least fifteen minutes.  I really had no idea what was going on.  Did anyone else find this laughing gas infused sequence as inscrutable as I did?
  • A pretty brutal 3rd quarter sequence with both teams trading missed pull up three point attempts on six consecutive possessions.  I believe one of these was by Brook Lopez.  Ugh.
  • A bizarre Craig Saiger sideline interview with Dwight Howard that made about as much sense as the Kevin Hart sequence.
  • A VERY nice game by Paul George, who had 17 points in 20 minutes on drives, finishes, three pointers, and post ups.  He’s a poor man’s Kevin Durant.  If George could put it all together on a consistent basis (and if he had a better point guard), he could average 24 ppg.

Crunch Time officially starts at 8:41 left in the 4th.  The score is 119-109 West after an 11-5 run to start the quarter.  After a Tyson Chandler free throw, Kyrie cans two left corner threes in a row.  One point game.  Wow.  That escalated quickly.  Then the moment Clevelanders have been waiting for happens: LBJ checks in. He and KI are on the floor together in crunch time for the first time ever.  And then?  Kyrie starts to press.

First, he misses a heat check three and two possessions later gets his pocket picked by Chris Paul.  KI does get a runout layup, and then with 3:19 left tries to go in amongst the tall trees and loses the ball to Blake Griffin.  His two turnovers resembled the ones that have come at the end of recent Cleveland losses: trying to do too much — over-dribbling and not simply passing to the open teammate.

Meanwhile…  A subplot has developed.  Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant have made this personal.  Chris Paul seems a little annoyed at all this Kyrie talk.  It’s almost as if someone has told him about Reggie Miller’s hyperbole from the first half: “Kyrie Irving best skill set of any point guard in the NBA.”  Taking the ridiculousness of that assertion as motivation, CP3 goes on a mini tear: feeds Durant, then Blake Griffin, then makes a sweet layup on Kyrie at an impossible angle, and then makes a pullup 25 footer all in the space of about 3 minutes.  He’s checking Kyrie, and the ball pressure has gone from nonexistent to well, at least regular season level.

CP3, your all-star game MVP, or "Momma, there goes that man."

Kobe has made this personal too, and LeBron seems to be wearing his “why doesn’t Kobe like me?” face during the middle of this West run.  Kobe converts a vintage layup driving from the left wing to the right side of the basket, and then COMES FROM OUT OF NOWHERE to block a 19 foot LeBron jumper, leading to a calmly laced Durant dunk.  136-126 West.  All the chatter heading into the time out is about the Jordan comments on picking Kobe over LeBron because of five rings to one and how these comments are fueling Kobe’s fire.

(LeBron’s rebuttal to Jordan’s comments was lame and equivocating.  It boggles my mind that LBJ didn’t have the brains, fire, or nuts to just say, “Why would you take team building advice from a guy who drafted Adam Morrison over Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay?”  Jordan would’ve thrown a dagger like that without blinking an eye.  LeBron just seemed pained by the whole thing.  And this is why LeBron will NEVER be better than Jordan.  He’s just not the –rhymes with bass troll– that His Airness is.)

Kyrie is replaced by Paul George at 2:32 after this 7-0 West run.  37 second later, Chris Paul engraves his name on the MVP trophy with a 26 foot three to ice the game.  Paul George tries to make it interesting with two quick threes off of Noah led fast breaks (I love how Joakim never quits), cutting the lead to 139-134.

Kobe then rips LeBron which leads to a Blake dunk, and then block’s LeBron’s shot from 5 feet.  James definitely did not get the memo that said, “coffee’s for closers,” or the one that said, Kobe will eat your children if you let him.  Kobe’s barking about how LeBron can’t score on him, after which LBJ tries to bull move him into the post and gets a pity free throw.  Man, that was lame, LeBron.

Melo cuts it to 4 on a three pointer, and then CP3 hits 1-2 at the line, timeout.  West up 143-138 with 20 seconds left in the game.  Kyrie comes in for Noah, and the play out of the timeout is Paul George for three?  I was laughing on my couch.  Is there any way that Kobe’s not shooting that shot for West if the situations were reversed?  I’m pretty sure Spoelstra was protecting LeBron’s ego by not drawing up that play for him.  Game over.  West wins.  Two years of LeBron punking out in the all-star game in a row…  Please pretend that the Heat can’t be beat.

Chris Paul killed this game, with 20 points, 15 dimes, 3 turnovers, and 4 steals.  He proved the old Bill Simmons assertion that all-star games are always better when a great point guard is getting everyone involved.  The East didn’t have that great point guard.  KI needs to watch this game and realize how Chris Paul makes everyone around him better, and goes for the right decision instead of the highlight play.  Right now KI is trending more towards Allen Iverson’s game and not Chris Paul’s, and long term, I’m not sure this is a good thing.  But he’s only 20: a youngblood.  I have to keep remembering that.  He had a mostly scintillating all-star weekend.  I just hope it doesn’t go to his head.

Linkage of Kyrie’s Arrival

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Kyri3 Swirving!

In case you didn’t hear about All-Star weekend yet, here’s a Kyrie-centric recap: 32 points in the Rising Stars game, a three-point contest trophy, and 15 points in the All-Star game itself.

Sam Amick wrote a great article about Kyrie’s All-Star experience and how Kyrie feels about the Lebron-returning rumors.

Kyrie straight-up owned Brandon Knight when they went mano a mano at the end of the Rising Stars game.

And, for anyone who expected to see Uncle Drew this weekend: “No. I already have enough to do. That makeup would take four hours out of my day, man. I don’t think I have time for that.” Bummer. (source: cleveland.com)

Running Diary: All Star Saturday Edition

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

I’ll save you guys the read – Tonight, Kyrie Irving again outdid himself, winning the three point contest.

I, of course, knew that was coming.  So I decided to do a running diary of all star Saturday.

(more…)

Links to the Present, mid-season mock draft edition.

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Lots of Cavs related news today on all the usual sites, including the Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com.

A few things stand out:

Ball Don’t Lie with a nice quote from KI on the Rising Stars crossover contest:

But more or less, that kind of rivalry with me and B. Knight has been happening since high school, since we started playing against each other. We were battling for the one and two spot in high school. He’s a good friend of mine. It’s great competition.

In a sign that the summer of 2014 is going to reach ridiculously inane levels of hype, Mary Schmitt Boyer spends 375 words talking about how LeBron and Kyrie weren’t talking about something.

Of course, Fox Sports’ Sam Amico counters with third hand conjecture: “Sources suggest James already has the ear of Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving about the potential of teaming up for an entire season (and beyond).”

(Please note, that this isn’t meant as a criticism of Scmitt Boyer or Amico, who are just doing their jobs: feeding the sporting public’s appetite for wish fulfillment).

Finally, Cavs the Blog’s own Mallory Factor does his best Chris Grant impersonation in a mock draft for The TrueHoop New Orleans affiliate, Hornets247.com.  With the #4 pick after a colossal whiff by Washington at #3, Mallory takes Shabazz Muhammad :

It would be a blessing if Muhammad fell to Cleveland at 4. With the recent injury to Noel, and the Cavs’ drafting of Dion Waiters last year, the obvious choice is the highly touted small forward.  Though Cleveland could easily take a center with this pick, the most glaring need is a natural swingman. After two years of the Alonzo Gee/Omri Casspi experience, it’s time to find a real starter.

To read the more of what they had to say on Muhammad and the rest or the draft lottery, click here.

Rising Stars…

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Four Cavaliers in the rising stars game tonight, a game which features even less defense than an actual all star game. TT, Kyrie, and Waiters all acquited themselves well. Team Chuck with only TT representing the Cavs, beat Team Shack (whatever that means) 163-135. Kyrie led team Shaq with 32 points and 6 dimes, mostly off of dribbling to the basket at will, and countering that with feathery step back jumpers.

Tristan Thompson had a double double of 20 and 10, and was endemic of team Chuck’s plethora of quality big men. The 54 to 21 rebounding advantage might have had something to do with the final score.

Dion Waiters had a nice game with 23 points on 11 of 12 shooting, including a lob dunk off the glass where his head was at the rim. Towards the end a dunk contest broke out, and Dion had a wicked between the legs slam, followed by a pretty lame lob to himself.

Tyler Zeller pretty much deferred during his 16 minutes, and just collected 4 points and 4 boards.

All star games are by their nature an absurdist abstraction of basketball. Tonight’s was no exception, except no one told Kenneth Faried that he wasn’t supposed to be trying that hard. He was all over the court with rebounds and dunks, even hustling at the end of the game when team Chuck was up over 20. Many of those points were fed by sweet no look one handed passes by Ricky Rubio. His actual trying earned him MVP honors.

Towards the end a crossover contest developed between Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving, and as can be evidenced from the video above. Kyrie won that contest with an absolute ankle breaker that made Knight end up on his face, and brought some excitement to a game that had gotten pretty ho-hum.

For three of four Cavs to play great in the game was awesome, and Kyrie and Dion probably had the top two plays of the game. Exciting stuff. Kyrie was -22 for the game though. What kind of schmuck looks at +/- in an all star game? This kind of Schmuck.