Archive for March, 2013

L2tP, LeTalk Edition

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Sorry, King, Chris Quinn trumped you today.

Well, on the eve of another return to Cleveland for the Miami Heat’s #6, our old friend Brian Windhorst has published a rather long piece on the next decision.  It’s rife with speculation on the options and thought processes of a certain former Cleveland Cavalier.  So people might be talking about that for the next couple days or so.

As a followup, Fox Sports Florida looks back on LeSeis’s rise in Cleveland, and recaps the heady days of 2003-2004, when Paul Silas led the Cavaliers.  They even go back to Ira’s Newblehood for a look into the future…

Newble was James’ teammate for 4 ½ seasons, the longest anybody ever has played with James in the NBA with the exception of Ilgauskas and current Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao.. He also sees a chance James could go back to Cleveland.

“Maybe,” Newble said. “It’s 50-50. If he’s in Miami and they’re winning championships, it would be hard to leave. But that being said, it is your hometown. He enjoyed being there. He liked the organization. There’s no doubt in my mind that if he ever returned, the fans would accept him.”

Meanwhile, the Cavs have signed 29 year old, five season NBA vet, Chris Quinn from the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League to fill in for all the injured guards on the Cavaliers’ roster.  Cavs.com breaks the news, here, and The Plain Dealer’s Mary Schmitt Boyer profiles Quinn here.

The Plain Dealer’s Branson Wright has a fun video interview with Wayne Ellington at Dylan’s Barber Salon at 1370 West 9th Street in Cleveland.  Topics include North Carolina’s run, his secret favorite NBA player, and Philly cheesesteaks.

In one of a million LeStreak and LeReturn related articles on Cleveland.com, Jodie Valade wonders, If David beat Goliath, why can’t the Cleveland Cavaliers halt the Miami Heat’s 23-game winning streak?

Indeed, Jodie.  Indeed.

NCAA Tournament Opening Weekend!! Who do you like?

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

We ran a similar article last week, but Cleveland’s season is slowly being decimated by injuries, and hell, it’s March Madness!  Let’s talk about who will make a big impression this weekend in the NCAA tourney…who could be a nice addition with the Cavs next year.

QUESTION 1:  The Midwest Region; looking at the top four seeds, only Marcus Smart, Mason Plumlee and Gorgui Dieng look like first round picks.  You got a no-name that will be household by the end of the weekend?

Nate: Doug McDermott (Creighton).  Who else?  One of my favorite uncles pitched for the Blue Jays in the 80s, so they’re a mid major I always follow.  #4 in the nation in scoring, at 23.1 a game, he’s been all over the board in mock drafts.  Nbadraft.net has him going 18 to Atlanta (a Kyle Korver replacement?) and Draftexpress slots him as the 48th pick…  He’s a a 6’8″ light’s out catch and shoot guy from anywhere on the floor, and a proficient postup threat who moves well without the ball on cuts. This all adds up to a .68 TS%, and the #4 PER in the country at 33.9.  While an adequate rebounder in college, as a pro, he’s a 3/4 tweener who will struggle mightily on defense.  Also, he doesn’t get to the line as much as he should.  McDermott probably needs to model himself as a Korver type, and set himself up as a bench scorer who can play the 3 in the pros.  Despite his deficiencies, he’s an elite shooter who will help a smart team stretch the floor.  The question on McDermott: is he Dino Gallinari or Jon Diebler?

Kevin: I’m veering way into outer-space on this one: Adreian Payne of Michigan State.  He’s a junior and Draftexpress lists him as the 23rd pick in 2014.  I remember him playing spectacular defense against Ohio State last year.  In three years, his free throw shooting increased from 49% to 70% to 83%, while providing an excellent 117 offensive rating with 20% usage.  Combining that with the Big Ten’s second best defensive rebounding presents a promising package.

Tom: I’d like to cheat and say Gorgui Dieng of Louisville, since I don’t think he’s a household name now, and I think he will be by tourney’s end.  But since you rigged the question, I’ll go with Michigan State’s Gary Harris – who I think will still be a relatively no-name guy until draft night when he will be selected in the lottery.  Advanced stat guys like him and his measurables/game is somewhat similar to Dion Waiters – who also surprised some people on draft night.   He’s a better shooter than Waiters but less explosive and doesn’t have the PG-skills.

Mallory: You’ll begin to notice a pattern here with regards to small forwards, especially since the competition at center is pretty difficult to judge on a game-to-game basis during the tourny.  Michigan State’s Brandon Dawson isn’t the best three point shooter, but boy oh boy is he explosive.  Dawson contains one of the best first steps in college basketball and is a good ball handler for his height.  But where the young Spartan really shines is as a defender.  Using his athleticism, quickness, and length, Dawson is a terror to both wings and power forwards.  If he can help MSU go deep into the tourney, look for the light to shine on him.

Dani: Gorgui Dieng, from Lousiville, is the kind of player who could come to the NBA and contribute right away. The combination of rebounding, shot-blocking, and facilitatory abilities add up to a pretty tantalizing end-of-round prospect, even for a guy who’s already 23. You would prefer that a player that old have at less some modicum of scoring ability, but hey- if Dieng could score, he might be a lottery pick.

QUESTION 2:  Ohio State is in the West bracket, playing in Dayton?  Maybe C:tB’s resident Daytonian will go watch his favorite player, Aaron Craft.  Maybe he will talk about someone else in response to this question: Who skyrockets up draft-boards from this group?

Nate: Of the top 200 scorers in the country, only one has a better TS% than McDermott.  Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga) has shot up the draft boards this year with a blistering .70 TS% and leads the nation in PER at an ungodly 38.1.  A friend of Tristan Thompson’s from team Canada, this fellow Toronto area native is a first team All-American.  A true seven footer, Olynyk actually redshirted last year as a junior to avoid having to play behind Robert Sacre, Elias Harris, and Sam Dower for the Zags.  In that time, he went through a pretty crazy training regimen to develop his neural system.  That regimen is soon going to be copied by every team in college basketball, given its results.  A 17.7 PPG scorer, and a 7.1 RPG rebounder, Olynyk can score on the block, the cut, out of set shots, and can even put it on the floor.  Turnover prone, and not the greatest defender, he is still incredibly coordinated, shoots 36% from three, and will block some shots.  Superb shooting?  Check.  Crazy training routine?  Check.  Do it all 7 footer?  Check.  Long flowing locks?  Check.  Who’s the NBA comparison?  Only Dirk Nowitzki.  Would I love to see Olynyk share the frontcourt with Tristan Thompson?  Double check.  Not even on the national radar when the season began, Kelly’s currently in the early teens on draft boards.  He will be drafted in the top ten.  With a strong tournament?  He could climb all the way to the top pick of the draft.  Oh, Canada.

Cavs:the Blog - Scouring the second-round for hidden gems

Kevin: DeShaun Thomas can score in the NBA as part of a second-unit.  He gets buckets inside and out, and although his efficiency tailed off some this year, his 20 points per game paced the Big Ten.  Perhaps he can turn-around his miserable 17 of 47 shooting from the Big Ten Tourney and creep up draft boards.

Tom: This is the strongest bracket [4 teams in the AP Top 12 including the #1] and it will be difficult for the Buckeyes to emerge.  Aaron Craft is admittedly my favorite college basketball player.  That said, I find it almost impossible to settle on an upper and lower bound for his post-collegiate career.  I feel like he could play 18 NBA seasons and become a hall of famer and we’d all look back and go “well duh – best defensive PG since Gary Payton with court vision to match…” or he could wind up wrestling with ‘Gody for loose balls in the D-League and we’d all look back and go “well duh – unathletic guard that can’t shoot at all…”  I’m throwing my hands up – I have no idea what his future holds – sometimes I watch him and I see Rajon Rondo, other times a guy that wants the ball in his hands but can’t even create his own shot much less make it.  If OSU does make it out, I do say Craft skyrockets up draft boards [so there, Hetrick] – in that he will go from UDFA to early second round pick.

Mallory: The theme today is Big 10, the best conference in college basketball this year.  The guy to watch in the Midwest is none other than Ohio State’s Aaron Craft.  Putting aside the arguments that I’m sure will go on in the comments section, the fact is, in the last few weeks, Craft has been the offensive player he needed to be in order to raise his draft stock.  Craft’s uncanny ability to adjust his shot while slashing to the basket, despite a serious lack of vertical leap, is nothing short of amazing.  His floater is equally impressive, especially since he lacks any semblance of an outside game.  If he shows some signs of a jumper, continues to drive to the basket, and plays the amazing D we all know he’s capable of, Craft will work his way into the draft discussion this year.

Dani: Kendall Williams is a second-round tier point guard for New Mexico that the Cavs would be remiss to ignore in the second round of the draft. He dropped 46 on Colorado State recently, and has the size and scoring ability to be a valuable PG off the bench in the NBA. He’s also got great size (6’4″) for the 1, which bodes well for his future defensive impact.

QUESTION 3:  So this is where the prospects have been hiding?  Who will separate themselves from the heap in the South bracket?

Don't worry, we are aware of the top-ten picks.

Nate: What a bracket!  Every single first round game but SDSU/Oklahoma features draft prospects.  But I’m interested in Shabazz Muhammed (UCLA).  He was once considered the most can’t-miss prospect of this draft, but he mailed it in this year.  Now people are questioning his athleticism, his defense, and whether he has a position in the NBA.  He may be a victim of the hype machine that pumped him up just to tear him down.  Can he reclaim his mojo?  Can he stop shooting so many threes? (He had a 2-11 game at Washington State two weeks ago).  Can he help UCLA make a run?  He really has to step up his game to avoid falling out of the top 5, and while I was really high on him a year ago, unless I see something different, I don’t want the Cavs to touch him…  Of course he could be one of those guys that’s just better as a pro.  Who was the last guy purported to be like that?  O.J. Mayo?  Whoever it was, UCLA should make for interesting theater.

Kevin: Quick!  What is the lamest answer you can think of?  Well, Eric Murphy, of course.  The Florida senior is currently slotted towards the latter stages of the second round.  Especially if Speights is allowed to leave, Cleveland needs some front-court players with shooting range (please show this next year, Tyler).   Standing 6′ – 10″, Murphy drilled 46% from deep this year.  What, you say that Cleveland needs interior toughness, too?  Oh.  Moving on…

Tom: Well I’d like to say Trey Burke – but Michigan will have to play Kansas and if they upset the Jayhawks they will find Florida waiting.  Both teams are elite defensively – so this tourney probably won’t boost his draft stock unless he leads the Wolverines into the Final 4.  Rather, Ben McLemore will “separate himself from the pack” in the sense that Kansas will continue to be on TV and he’ll do enough things to reinforce the narrative of being a top 3 pick even if he doesn’t take over any games.

Mallory: With the need for a long, athletic SF so glaring on this Cavaliers team, the guy to watch is Wolverine Glenn Robinson III.  Robinson is still very raw, and likely doesn’t get drafted this year, but he’s the kind of player that, with some improvement on both the offensive and defensive end, would be a great addition to most NBA teams.  If he can show signs of a sweet three-point stroke, there’s no doubt the Cavaliers would be taking a serious look at him.

Dani: If the Cavaliers find themselves in position to draft Ben McLemore of Kansas, tough decisions will abound. Chris Grant feels he has his shooting guard of the future in Dion Waiters, but McLemore is an ultra-athletic Ray Allen type who ACTUALLY plays like Ray Allen (as opposed to Bradley Beal). That’s an awfully tough opportunity to pass up. The biggest concern with McLemore is his apparent lack of a killer instinct; watch that over March Madness.

QUESTION 4: Who is the Beast from the East(ern bracket)?

Nate: Anthony Bennett (UNLV).  I think drafting an undersized power forward in the lottery is like drafting a running back in the first round of the NFL draft.  Unless they are once in a generation players, it’s probably a waste of a draft pick.  But… I do want to see what the big deal with Bennett is.  6’7″ 239 pounds of muscle and bone with a 7’1″ wing span, Bennett is another efficient scorer, .531/.387/.696 with a 15.8 PPG average.  He’s a crushing finisher who through January was finishing over 70% around the basket.  He’s tailed off during the second half of the season, but he’s an extremely skilled player with the shooting and ball handling skills to play the 3 and the power to play the 4.  He’s the right kind of tweener.  Unfortunately, he is often described as “disinterested” on defense, and scouts doubt he’ll have the speed or lateral quickness to play on the wing in the pros.  Best case scenario?  Larry Johnson.  Worst case scenario?  This season’s Brandon Bass.

Tom: Anthony Bennett is the beast.  When I messaged Nate and told him that’s the dude I want, his response was: “ARGH!  NO!”  I know he’s undersized, I know he’s one dimensional, I know the Cavs have enough undersized/1-dimensional players, and I agree with Nate’s argument.  But…THIS!  I’m sorry, Nate.  I want a guy that can close out on a shooter like that, run the floor like that, and wants to TEAR. OFF. THE. RIM.  He’s got a 7’1″ wingspan – it’ll all work out I promise.  We’ve made a lot of comments regarding college players – this is the first guy that I am officially endorsing for the Cavs front office to select.  I’ll sink or swim with Bennett.  (Yes, I’ve even got reservations about Noel now.)

Kevin: Averaging 11 points, 11 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 2.2 steals, Andre Roberson of Colorado seems bound to carve out a niche in the NBA.  His 27% defensive rebounding rate ranks in the NCAA’s top-ten, and if the Cavs want to substitute another strong defender and rebounder when they sit Tristan, this could be their guy.  He is only a junior, but Draftexpress projects him to be taken in the second round this year.

Mallory: While I’ll give a shout out to Zeller’s baby bro, the guy to watch, without a question, is Cody’s IU teammate, Victor Oladipo.  Like Dawson and Robinson, Oladipo is raw.  Unlike both the aforementioned players, Victor is already incredibly refined on defense and has the ability to stretch defenses with his outside shot.  There’s a high likelihood that, with strong tourny play, Oladipo will boost himself to a top-10, and even top-5 spot in the draft.

Dani: Victor Oladipo is amazing, he will be amazing and I cannot imagine a scenario in which he falls out of the top ten. Oladipo can score, he can jump higher than anyone in college, and he plays hard-nosed defense. He can also play either wing position. Oladipo is a star and the Cavs should do everything possible to draft him.

QUESTION 5:  I know none of our writers knew any of these guys before this article (just kidding), but let’s pretend we’re college basketball experts, and missed someone we really wanted to talk about from the four Regionals.  Who is you wild card to watch?

Nate: My 2013 super sleeper pick: Mike Muscala (Bucknell).  6’11”, 232 pound Muscala is one of college basketball’s best two way players.  He’s currently #3 in the country in rebounding, and #4 in rebound rate, and the only player in the top 30 in rebounding to have a foul rate below 3 per 40 minutes.  (Though this may be because he is going against scrubs in the Patriot League).  He also averages 2.4 blocks per game with a nice wingspan and 2.4 assists with only 1.7 turnovers — fantastic for a center.  Shooting .517/.267/.787, his jump shooting is actually down from the previous three seasons, probably because he scores 19.2 PPG and is the centerpiece of the Bucknell offense.  But he gets to the bucket  and the line more this year, attempting almost 7 freethrows a game, and has learned how to finish proficiently with either hand.  And oh yeah, he’s #2 in the nation in PER at 37.4.  This combination of scoring, defense, rebounding, polish, and motor from a big man is rare.  My bet is that despite being a senior he will move past his borderline first round projection and into the late teens on draft night.  Meanwhile, It will be fun to watch this Patriot league standout take on perennial Nate favorite, Butler, on Thursday in the battle of the Bulldogs and the Bison

Tom: Kelly Olynyk has a super-rare combination of skills.  He’s 7’0″, a legitimate 3 point threat, has Varejao circa 2013 touch around the hoop, plus an actual post game.  He’s also 7’0″ and I’m not sure he can dunk on a 9 foot hoop.  I don’t think he can even jump rope.  Not because he isn’t coordinated, he’s super coordinated, it’s his total lack of leaping ability.  Unless that jump rope is made out of fish line, it’s not getting under Kelly’s shoes.  He’s the only guy I can watch and take the Lord’s name in vain in both a good way and a David Wesley layup way in the same sequence.  Still, college PER doesn’t lie right? [Hides Michael Beasley in nearest closet]  And he’s 7’0″ with 3 point range.  What’s not to like?!  [Hides Bargnani in next-nearest closet].

Kevin: Victor Oladipo from Indiana.  For a guy whose calling card has been defense, his 60 / 44 / 75 shooting, 30 PER, and 123 offensive rating (23 usage) light up the stat-sheet.  I remember watching Indiana games when he was younger, seeing him throw down a monstrous jam, and thinking, “who is that guy?”.  Turning 21 in February, his future appears bright.  Maybe Kyrie, Dion and Victor could co-exist on-court for 8 – 10 minutes per night.

Mallory: Since I’ve spent so much time talking about Aaron Craft, who I still see as a great bench guard for any NBA team, I figured I’d give another Buckeye some love.  While I easily could’ve gone with DeShaun Thomas (whose game I dislike, by the way – I want nothing to do with a volume shooter like that) or Amir Williams (raw, physical center, who definitely wont be drafted this year, but has the tools to someday be a pro) I’ve decided to highlight the most underrated player on OSU’s roster.  Namely, Shannon Scott.  Scott isn’t much of a shooter, although he’s dramatically improved as one from last year to this year, and he’s not an absurd athlete.  Scott is just one of the quietest great defenders you’ll ever watch.  It’s rare he gets beaten, and rare that he misses a rotation.  If he improves his shooting, particularly from the perimeter, he’s a guy to lookout for in the next few years.  Maybe not as a high pick, but certainly as someone with the talent to contribute.

Dani: Shabazz Muhammad is a basketball enigma. No one can agree on his ability to star in the NBA. Some see superstar potential, pointing at his passing and shooting ability, which all comes with an insatiable, infectious hustle after every ball. I personally believe he’s going to be a slow shooting guard on defense. He doesn’t have the height, speed or athleticism to play the 3. Watch out for him.

Another One Bites the Dust

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

We won't see this against the Heat, sadly.

Dion Waiters is out for at least a week with a sore knee and may need surgery. This is not something to worry about if it’s truly just knee soreness combined with tanking. If it requires surgery, it becomes more worrisome. Keep your fingers crossed, Cavaliers Nation.Also: I now would like to formally request that Luke Walton play 45-48 minutes against the Heat. Save us, Luke.

Cavs 90, Pacers 111 – Recap

Monday, March 18th, 2013

For those of you that grew up with console video games, you may recall a gameplay mechanism that became popular in multiplayer games in the late-90s.  In an attempt to give overwhelmed novices [pwned n00bs] a handicap (and a reason to keep coming back for more) many games introduced what I call “Rage Mode”.  In the fighting game Tekken, this gameplay was actually referred to as “rage”. Rage Mode activated after a player suffered a relentless and humbling beat down and was in need of serious help.  For the non-gamers, Rage Mode is no different than Popeye poppin’ produce, Rocky flashing his Tiger Eye, or Son Goku getting angry enough to become engulfed in a holy and invincible glow. Tonight, the Indiana Pacers activated Rage Mode.  The Pacers came into tonight’s game having lost 3 of 4 games – including notable losses to the Heat on National TV and the Kobe/Pau-less Lakers in Indianapolis.  Most people probably expected the Pacers to activate Rage Mode against the lowly 76ers, but that game only added to the damage meter.  So tonight, the Cavs got burned by a team engulfed in an invincible flame of rage, which as you see, is different than NBA Jam flames.

* * * * *

The Cavs started off pretty well, which was a welcome sign.  After Tyler Zeller’s second straight jumper, however, the Cavs went almost 4 minutes without a point.  Paul George drained a bunch of deep twos and an 18-11 lead turned into a 22-18 deficit.   With the exception of a 3.J. Miles explosion midway through the 2nd quarter, the Cavs started to unravel.  Dion Waiters never checked back into the game, and after some twitter speculation, it was confirmed that he would sit out the remainder of the game with left-knee soreness.  The Pacers created significant separation near the end of the second quarter.  At halftime, the Cavs trailed 60-45.

Right about here is when the Pacer’s activated Rage Mode.  In the NBA, teams often go on runs with hot outside shooting and/or lock-down defense.  (NBA Jam flames) In the 3rd quarter, the Pacers decided to simply throw the ball in the post, send a rag doll wearing a Tyler Zeller jersey to the deck, and finish with minimal resistance.  It was a nightmare for Tyler Zeller.  Imagine Tyler Hansbrough’s deepest basketball fantasy: characteristic two-handed dunks, elbows, thrashing, stolen rebounds, puppies punted off a bridge…  This quarter had it all.  There was even an ejection – although it was issued to Mo Speights for horse-collar tackling Paul George on a breakaway dunk attempt.  (I was actually shocked Hansbrough didn’t “come at me bro” towards Speights after the blatant flagrant).

When the Pacers front-line wasn’t shedding interior defenders like Neo sheds Smiths, Paul George and Lance Stephenson decided tonight was the night to rack up some youtube hits. [Highlights] And that was the game – for all intents and purposes.  Garbage time started the second Speights got tossed and the Pacers cruised to a 111-90 victory.

Omri, you're looking kinda green.

Scribbles:

-Tyler Hansbrough was +21 in 23 minutes with 11 rebounds (5 were offensive – and they should have offended the Cavs front line) and earned 7 free throws on an assortment of thrashing moves around the basket after securing stealing said rebounds.

-Roy Hibbert had 5 blocks including a comical one where Wayne Ellington tried desperately to generate some offense, spun awkwardly off one leg to attempt a scoop shot near the right block, and basically served a softball into Hibbert’s torso.  Hibbert still found a way to swat it into the floor with his hand for effect.

-Gerald Green splashed 4 triples off the bench en route to 20 points in 23 minutes.  All his other baskets were highlight dunks.

-On the good guys’ bench, the Cavs just fell apart defensively.  The loss was looking a bit methodical as the 2nd quarter wound down, but the Cavs were still playing with some composure.  A few dunks into the 3rd quarter, everything went wrong.  The Cavs turned it over 5 times in the first 5 minutes, exacerbating the beat down.  The possessions that didn’t end in turnovers seemed to end with shots that were rejected by the side of the backboard.  Tristan popped in a few of his patented mid-range floaters, but other than that, it was all Pacers.

-For all the fanfare about his improved play without Anderson Varejao, I get the sense that Tristan Thompson would donate each and every one of his non-essential and redundant organs if it’d help Andy get back on the court more quickly.  At this point it’s hard to tell if Thompson is a poor interior defender or if opposing bigs just decimate the Cavs because of the other 4 guys on the court.  I honestly can’t tell. Tonight, Roy Hibbert (understandably) and Tyler Hansbrough (puzzlingly) dominated the Cavs front line – at both ends.  The one welcome sight with Tristan was that he never got down on himself.  He kept on fighting an uphill battle even when the outcome had been decided, and actually finished 9-16 from the floor and led all players in offensive rebounds with 6.  He’s a fighter, and he has an insane motor.  I think he will be much more effective with an above-average post defender on his wing.  With Dion and Kyrie sidelined, the Cavs should look for him more on offense.

-If you check out the box score, you will find that Tyler Zeller shot above 60% from the field, had 4 assists and only 1 turnover, and grabbed 6 boards in 27 minutes.  And you might think he had a nice game.  If someone offers you footage of the third quarter, you must refuse it.  If the NBA kept stats for number of times a player unwillingly landed on his back, then Tyler set a personal best tonight.  My hope is that this game will serve as motivation for Zeller, and not discouragement.  He fought hard and kept getting back up for more haymakers.  He had a nice first half and his 4 assists led all Cavaliers.  He can hang his hat on that.

-C.J. Miles had a throwback game harking to earlier this year when he’d get crazy hot.  He finished with 21 points in 27 minutes and the Cavs still lost by over 20.  Yikes.  Part of the problem was that the Cavs couldn’t generate any offense going to the basket (no Dion or Kyrie) and beside C.J., no one could hit a 3.  Miles finished 4 of 8 and the rest of the Cavs were 2 of 18 from downtown.  Boobie Gibson was 0-6.

Final Thoughts:

The Cavs lack toughness.  Mary Schmitt Boyer brought this up in her podcast and it’s been apparent all season.  When teams start getting rough with the Cavs – they generally fall apart.  Obviously, the roster isn’t rife with feisty players much less enforcers.  The Cavs don’t need to be trotting the Incredible Hulk out there to set the tone, but maybe a little more Superman and a little less “mild-mannered Clark Kent” when the ball goes up.  Tonight the Cavs got bullied – by an enraged team trying to recapture some of their mojo.  Let’s all hope the Cavs activate Rage Mode when the Heatles ride into town on their their unholy noxious fumes of pure narcissistic evil.

Links to the !!Present!!

Monday, March 18th, 2013

The Cavaliers will be without Kyrie Irving against the Pacers.

-The Cavs host the Pacers tonight. The Pacers haven’t exactly been on a tear lately, so a pre-March Madness upset special is a real possibility.

-On the other hand, an upset might be tougher without Kyrie Irving’s late game exploits, as Jodie Valade reports. One aspect of Kyrie’s game that I particularly appreciate is his steals on help defense. He’s become quite proficient at sneaking up behing small forwards and big men for steals, leading to some timely fastbreaks.

-The Cavs are in the 50% of the leage that use the SportVU camera tracking system, and it’s pretty cool. Jodie Valade, AGAIN!

-Is Byron Scott the coach of the future for this team? Jim Ingraham, writing for the New-Herald, thinks the Cavaliers’ issues with consistent effort all come back to Coach Scott. I happen to agree with him, although I think Scott’s rotations are a larger issue. His insistence on allowing the Cavs to hemorrhage points for half of the fourth quarter before bring back the starters has cost the team quite a few wins.  It leads to ten-point deficits, and that leads to Kyrie Irving hero-ball, which works about one in four tries.

-Mary Schmitt Boyer is intelligent and opinionated, and she podcasts. It’s your lucky day.

Cavs 113, Spurs 119 – Recap

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

1st Quarter

After back to back Danny Green Dunks (The Cavs drafted Danny Green) the Cavs called timeout.  Byron Scott inserted Wayne and Luke and the Cavs promptly cut the Spurs lead to 4 after 1 quarter.  Wayne Ellington nailed two 3s and had a layup off a Luke Walton assist.

2nd Quarter

Cavs go straight back to the Wellington.  Instead of Luke feeding the hot hand, this time it’s Boobie finding Ellington for a sweet J and another triple.  Boobie played the role of point guard pretty well in this quarter.  Couple of dimes to Ellington then to 3.J.  Then Dion drained a 3, Luke Walton drew a charge, and Greg Popovich had had enough.  He got himself tossed, probably half incensed with the charge call and half trying to motivate his team to play some defense – as Dion Waiters was getting into the paint at will.  It seemed to work, as the Spurs outscored the Cavs 22-11 after the ejection.  They clamped down on D and forced the Cavs into some tough contested shots at the rim.  Cavs attacked the basket pretty well against the Spurs, and earned 22 free throws in the process.  They went into the half down 5 in high-octane scoring fest.  66-61 Spurs at the half.

3rd Quarter

Apparently the message at half-time from both coaches was – score quicker!  Both teams came out pushing the tempo.  Alonzo Gee scored on 3 straight possessions.  On the last one, he pump faked a Spur defender into the 4th row and stepped through to hit a baseline J.  Then the Cavs went cold – 2 minute dry spell and the Spurs pushed their lead to 8 before Mo Speights hit 2 free throws after grabbing an offensive board on a sweet Dion Waiters drive that just wouldn’t go down.  Spurs announcers made mention of Tim Duncan abusing Tristan Thompson.  Tristan seemed flustered all game – his free throws were flat, his touch around the rim abandoned him, and he had a tough assignment against the Spurs bigs.  He was very active, in a chicken minus head sort of way.  He threw himself into the action and rewarded the Cavs with some steals and crucial offensive rebounds.  The pace of the game seemed to get quicker and quicker.  After TT forced Splitter to jump pass before falling out of bounds, Gee picked off the pass and found Dr. Livingston for a fast break layup.  Livingston runs and finishes so well on the break.  Another facet of the Cavs offense that was non-existent until after the new year.  Out of the timeout, the Cavs played some stellar D forcing Duncan to unwillingly give it up and then blocking Leonard’s layup attempt.  Unfortunately, Leonard found Nando de Colo for a 3 off a twice broken play.  Duncan just continued to dominate the Cavs interior D with an assortment of shots from a variety of angles.  After Duncan banked one in off one leg, TT came back and tried a hook shot over Duncan but air-balled it.  But give the Cavs credit – despite the Spurs seemingly always ready to blow the game open, the Cavs very quietly just kept on scoring.  Mo Speights continued to bail the Cavs out with his usual deep jumpers.  He played with a chip on his shoulder all game.  Alonzo Gee went coast to coast through the entire Spurs team for an and-1 and then Luke Walton entertained with an OLD SCHOOL give and go with Livingston for a layup.  Luke Walton and Shaun Livingston out-Spurred the Spurs!  If Greg Popovich continued to watch the game from the locker room I have a hunch he got on the phone with R.C. Buford and told him to make Livingston an offer this summer.

4th Quarter

Cavs came out in the 4th quarter, and went…BACK TO THE WELLINGTON – simple 2-man game with Luke Walton.  The Spurs answered right back.  The Spurs prefer to break down the D with interior passing and perimeter guys coming off curls.  On defense they run everyone off the 3 point line, and the Cavs exploited it by putting the ball on the floor after a pump fake.  Mo Speights really lit up the Spurs in this half.  He bailed out the Cavs on a broken possession by bullying his way to the elbow, clearing his defender with the ball, and calmly dropping in the jumper.  After the Cavs forced a steal on an out of control Ginobili euro-step, Boobie Gibson found himself alone on an island for 3 – but he either didn’t want to shoot it or didn’t have the handle.  So he pump-faked the trailing defender, drove into the lane, and just when I thought he blew it, he found Speights with a behind the back pass and Speights dropped it in to tie the game at 98.  Then Boobie hit an off-balance deep jumper as he was getting undercut by Stephen Jackson.  Dangerous play, and ironic in light of Boobie’s comments about Dahntay Jones.  When was the last time Boobie Gibson had a 3-point-play the hard way?  Well, not today either, as he missed the free throw, but Ellington made up for it by hitting the technical free throw.  (Stephen Jackson did not like the call).  The Cavs took their first lead since the middle of the 2nd quarter.  After Tim Duncan reminded everyone why his nickname is “The Big Fundamental”, Wayne Ellington drove from the top of the key, picked up his dribble around the foul line, and took two huge steps before laying in a crazy scoop.  This guy can do everything!  Of course the Spurs answered with a Kawhi Leonard 3: 105-103 Spurs and normally Uncle Drew time.  But Uncle Drew was nowhere to be found.  The Spurs tightened up the D and forced the Cavs into 3 straight bad jumpers, before Livingston and Ellington were able to stop the bleeding.  Things started to unravel at the other end, too.  After a few Tim Duncan buckets and assists, Boris Diaw took off from the 3 point line and threw down a 2 handed dunk.  Boris Diaw. But just when it looked like the Cavs were going to fall, Shaun Livingston caught a pass under the hoop, made a nice spin to give himself an angle, and popped one in.  And then, the Cavs played awesome D to get the ball back.  The next possession featured a Walton backdoor feed to Livingston who threaded a behind the back pass (!) to Tristan who was fouled but there was no call.  Maybe the difference maker right there.  The Cavs fouled Tim Duncan at the other end and he drained both free throws.  Spurs +6 with under 40 seconds.  Livingston hit an impossible shot and then Walton was called for a blocking foul on Ginobili right after he crossed the timeline.  It worked out though, as Ginobili only made 1 of 2.  Dion came down and tried to be the hero – he ignored his teammates and drove the left side, before getting swatted by Duncan.  Thirty points (on 13-19 shooting), 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and the 5th block for Duncan.  After Livingston blew by his defender and dropped in a layup, the Cavs tried to trap in the backcourt and the Spurs cut right through it and Leonard got an uncontested dunk.  The was the game – 119-113.

Final Thoughts

The Cavs played some pretty high level basketball for most of this game: lots of tight cuts, backdoor passes, enjoyable unselfish basketball, and active, if-not-quite-effective, defense.  I really enjoyed watching this game.  [It’s funny, the Spurs are by far my second favorite team in the NBA, and yet, I absolutely despise them when they go against the Cavs.] It’s hard to complain too much about the effort.  After all, the Spurs are fighting for a number 1 seed and are almost unbeatable at home. And as much as it pains me to say, it might be better for the Cavs to lose close games. There are now 7 teams with 22 or 23 wins.  Even if this draft is weak at the top, that is a cluster worth being at the bottom of.  I really only have one problem with this game, and it’s a concern I’ve been voicing for some time now.  The Cavs’ bench is the main reason for their success – and that bench is gone in its entirety after next season.  In tonight’s game, the Cavs’ bench outscored the Spurs’ (rather formidable) bench: 53-40.  And that’s the tip of the iceberg.  Mo Speights kept the offense afloat by himself for a few stretches of the 2nd half.  He finished 7-13 for the game and had 4 blocks and 4 offensive rebounds.  Wayne Ellington had an incredible game, finishing 8-13 for 21 points and +11 in a (not nearly enough) 23 minutes.  And, in what is becoming more the norm than the exception, Luke Walton finished the game +19 in 22 minutes.  PLUS NINETEEN in TWENTY TWO MINUTES.  Plus nineteen in a game the Cavs lost.  He had 6 assists, 3 steals, only 2 turnovers, and he actually played pretty good D against the Spurs’ big men.  (Even when he went up against Duncan).  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how effective Boobie Gibson was tonight.  He only took two shots but had 5 assists and a steal in 15 minutes (+7).  You could see he wasn’t quite used to playing with the Herculoids, as there was some mis-communication a few times, but he was pretty effective dishing to his teammates.

There’s no sense getting overly down on the Cavs’ starters. Thompson and Zeller were abused repeatedly but Gee had a really nice game, Waiters was pretty effective at least in the 1st half, and Shaun Livingston impressed all night – especially at the end when it looked like the Cavs would fold.  He had 16 points and 5 assists.  The problem is that the Cavalier starters just bled points.  Here’s the box score – check out those negative double-digit differentials.  It’s easy to look at this game and say, “the Cavs are really looking solid these days”.  And maybe that’s true – or maybe the Herculoids are somehow the epitome of guys being better than the sum of their parts and the starters (the core that all our hopes and dreams hinge on) are struggling to put it together.

-VERSUS-

Recap: Dallas 96, Cleveland 86 (or it’s hard to get too upset about this one)

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Running diary tonight as we visit Dallas.  At the tipoff, they look like a pretty scary team, and  most of that is because Chris Kaman resembles a casting reject from the Hills Have Eyes…

1st Quarter: The Cavs start out slow, getting dominated on the boards, at one point giving up three straight offensive rebounds on a possession.  Fortunately, Dallas is pretty cold.  Less fortunately, Tyler Zeller has been blocked twice with some pretty weak attempts around the basket.  He then gives up a rebound over his back to… Darren Collison?  Oy.  At least this this is a good opportunity to watch CtB 2012 draft favorite Jae Crowder, who  is starting tonight, and 2013 free agent prospect Brandan Wright who’s checked in early.  Speaking of checking in early, we’ve got a Boobie Gibson sighting in the first quarter.  Even though it’s due to an Ellington injury, it warms my heart to see Daniel get some run.

Luke Walton starts throwing dimes right away with a sweet alley oop to Livingston, a no look to Gee under the bucket, and an easy kickout to Shaun.  Three possessions, three dimes; that’s efficiency.  The Cavs defense is looking stout: with good rotations, and two players around the ball every time it goes inside.  Holding Dallas to 33% shooting, they end the quarter up 24-16.

2nd Quarter: A Luke Walton three and a quick pair at the line by Miles starts the quarter stretching the lead out to double digits.  But Dallas pushes back early as Nowitzki starts hitting, and the Cavs start settling for jumpers.  Ronnie Beaubois sparks a nice run, orchestrating the offense for the Mavs, playing solid defense on Waiters, and cutting the Cavs’ lead to one.  The Cavs are ice cold.  Finally, Tristan finally breaks the spell with a nice post drive on Elton Brand, and Tyler follows it up with an and-1 on a good pick and roll finish with Nowitzki hanging on his back.  Shaun Livingston chips in with a couple plays around the basket against Collison, who simply can’t guard him there.  Waiters continues his string of maddening long jumpers with a 27 foot brick, but he totally redeems himself on the next two plays as he glides to the bucket with a silky right hand finger roll from the left lane, and follows that up with a steal and sailing layup twelve seconds later, leaving him 3-8 for the quarter, and the Cavs up 46-38.

3rd Quarter: TT scores the first bucket with a running one-hander against Wright who starts the second for Kaman.  TT looks so much better when he gets into his post moves quickly rather than pounding and holding the ball — when the defense doesn’t have a chance to settle.  The next play, Dion realizes that he has Mike James on him who I think played with Uncle Drew back in the seventies, and blows by him for an easy two.  He then settles for two straight contested jumpers against the aged one, which unsurprisingly do not go in.  The third quarter doldrums are kicking in for the Cavs and Dallas starts making a run off of some lousy Cleveland offense and lousier transition defense, cutting the lead to two…  Dion respons with an and-1!  Maybe he realized that he can get by James at will…  Of course James counters with drive that leads to three point play for Brand… Livingston brick… Collison layup…  Walton turnover… Crowder jumper, Ugh.  That lead evaporated quickly.  Luke Walton!  Bailout three with Vince Carter in his grill as the shot clock expires to re-tie it. I’ve been saying all year that he needs to shoot more…

Gee scores four straight to counter a Collison three as the lead keeps changing.  Luke Walton decides that Dirk Diggler can’t guard him, pump fakes three times and drills a left wing three in Nowitzki’s face.  Was Luke ever a character in NBA Jam?  Because “he’s on fire! ” Collison drains a fallaway three with 2.6 seconds left off the the glass.  The crowd erupts.  Somehow, Cleveland finds Livingston on the left block.  He coolly drills the fadeaway silencer as the buzzer expires.  68-67, Cleveland.

4th Quarter: Wright takes Speights to the post to start the period, to take the lead yet again, and Speights subsequently bricks a turnaround.  He’s struggling tonight.  Dion with a nasty stepback J off the drive from the left baseline.  Ronnie Beaubois abuses Daniel Gibson for four straight points. My heart is no longer warm, Boobie.  Walton bricks a heat check J, and Collison feeds Wright on the break to stretch the Dallas lead to 5.  Timeout, Cavs.  The Herculoids are struggling tonight.

Waiters hits a no-no-no, yes! jumper out of the TO.  Brandan Wright scores on the P&R and then blocks Waiters next time down.  Beaubois swishes a falling out of bounds three from the right corner.  Dallas up eight.  Out of another TO, Cleveland turns it over, and then Collison scores again.  Cleveland is missing Kyrie right now… badly.  Another turnover on the rebound for the Cavs, and then Brandan Wright makes Tyler Zeller look incompetent with an offensive rebound and dunk… 12 point lead.  The Collison/Beaubois back court is gelling for the Mavs, and the Cavs can’t seem to answer with Livingston and Waiters in the post…  And Crowder forces another turnover in transition.  Gee clanks a J, but, thankfully, TT soft slams the putback.  Time out Mavs, who lead 84-74.

Crunch Time: Well Dion gets a touch foul that he’d never have gotten in 2012, and the deficit is nine.  Nowitzki misses.  He’s 4-14 tonight, and just doesn’t look like the guy who won the 2011 NBA Championship.  But he follows that up with a patented left elbow net ripper.  C.J. counters with a three, and Beaubois and Dirk run a give and go for a dunk on Saint Weirdo.  That was some atrocious defense.   Dion attacks on offense, splits a pair at the line, and then Nowitzki reads my diary, drains a three from the left wing, and stares me down as he jogs down the court.  12 point lead, Dallas — Cavs time out.  Dion with a step-into-it iso-three out of the timeout.  Vincsanity answers with a 28 footer like its 2003.  I think Dallas has this one in the bag.  Miss, Cavs.  Dirk gets a no call, then Dion gets a no call.  The refs want to go home.  Final Score, 96-86 Dallas.

Conclusions: Dion really was a mixed bag this game.  He was abused on defense, and even though he shot 9-19, he settled for way too many jumpers on offense.  His passes were all over the place too, and even when the weren’t all adding up to his five turnovers, they were just off the mark enough to take the offense out of rhythm — I mean more than it already was.  Zeller almost had a double double in the first half, and ended the game with 10 and 10 — so pretty ineffective in the second.  His 2013 replacement — if I have my way — Brandan Wright completely outplayed him in the second half for 13 points and 5 boards in 26 minutes.  Other CtB favorite, Jae Crowder finished 1-6 but with 14 boards and a game leading +21.  Would I rather the Cavs have him than Zeller?  Uh…

Cleveland got out-Herculoided tonight.  The starters outscored Dallas’ 67-36, but the Hercouloids were pounded 60 to 19.  Cleveland missed KI on offense and Ellington on defense.  Proving that nostalgia is no substitute for competence, Boobie was a rough -17 with only 4 dimes to his box score in replacement.  Starting fourth quarter guards, Gibson and Waiters could not handle Beaubois and Collison who scored a combined 31 points and notched 10 assists in 55 minutes.

Tristan had a nice game with 12 and 7 in 30 minutes, but if winning is the goal, he did not play enough or touch the ball enough.  He also didn’t close out on Dirk as well as he should have late, confirming his problems with shooters as Diggler threw in a couple back breakers. Livingston looked solid stepping in for Kyrie with 13, 5, and 6, but his 38 minutes took their toll as he looked like he had less spring in his step and lift in his jumper in the fourth.

You can beat bad teams in the NBA with a good bench. And without Kyrie and Ellighton, that’s what the Cavs are. Dallas proved that tonight.  But given all the jockeying for position at the bottom of the league standings, I doubt the brain trust at the Q is calling for Byron’s head. So the Cavs drive the tank to San Antonio tomorrow to take on the Spurs.  Have a good weekend, everyone.  Enjoy the Cavs, and all the possible future Cavs who will be on TV.

Five Questions: NCAA Conference Tourney Weekend

Friday, March 15th, 2013

It’s March Madness, and the Cavaliers are lottery bound.  So other than a tough Texas two-step, with games at Dallas and San Antonio, what’s the big story of the weekend?  NCAA Conference Tourneys!  Who are the Cavs:the Bloggers keeping a particularly close eye on?

Question 1: Who ya’ watching in the Big Ten Tourney?  IU, Ohio State, Michigan…there are alot of powerhouses there.

Dani loves Victor Oladipo. The fact that he picked the other guy in this picture is the odds-on upset of the season.

Dani: Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan) is a player whom I could see as being very effective in the NBA, especially if he can get a little better at creating his  own shot. At 6’6″ Hardaway has ideal size for a shooting guard in the NBA today. Also, his jumper is pretty. The main fear with Hardaway is that a lot of his effectiveness seems to stem from playing with maybe the best point guard in college hoops, Trey Burke. But then again, the NBA is in the midst of a sort of point guard Pax Romana. Keep an eye on him for the Cavs.

Tom: Aaron Craft (Ohio State).  He shuts down the elite offensive players in college, why not in the pros?  According to draft folks he’s one of the most polarizing players – that means he’s going to play in the NBA.  He’s 6’2”, 190, and is just tenacious on defense.  Every time I watch him play, he seems to get a “clutch steal” when his team needs it most.  He can’t shoot at all outside 15 feet –  if he could he’d probably be a 1st round pick.  His profile bears a striking resemblance to Eric Snow – he of almost 1000 NBA games.  Snow was better around the rim but abjectly horrible outside of 3 feet.  Snow was also a better pure point guard but did not rack up the insane amount of steals that Craft does.

Nate: No, I’m not picking Aaron Craft, the Chris Dudley of point guards; rather, Victor Oladipo (Indiana).  Is there any doubt that Tom Crean is one of the best coaches at any level in basketball?  The guy simply turns good athletes into great basketball players: Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder…  Victor Oladipo is another in a long line of very athletic players whose skill level Crean has helped hone.  Shooting a ridiculous .614/.745/.464 from the field for 13.7 points, Oladipo is currently #3 in the country in effective field goal % at .66.  Additionally he’s one of the nation’s best defenders.  He posts a stellar 2.2 steals per game, and though he doesn’t have the handles of Shabazz, or the length of Otto Porter, he could be the best two way wing in the draft. Oladipo has a chance to sneak into the top three if he has a good run the rest of the season, and could be a better shooting Andre Iguodala in the pros.

Kevin: Glenn Robinson (Michigan) – He could be interesting with the Lakers pick.  Although low usage, his offensive rating is an obscenely high 128.  He is a great athlete with size to play small forward, that gets to the line frequently and shows potential as a shooter.  Just turning 19 in January, he needs to bulk up.  He struggled yesterday against Penn State, but his 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 0 turnovers and 0 fouls helped compensate for a rough shooting night.  With a few big games in March, the middle portion of the first round appears to be in play.

Mallory: I know it’s already been said, but the guy I’m watching is Aaron Craft from Ohio State.  I’ve had the privildge of watching this guy play live many, many times, including his freshman year, and I’ve got to say, he’s one of the most exciting players to watch in person.  Even as a frosh Craft showed a tenacity on D that few guys ever match.  If he can continue his hot scoring, he’s a sure-fire pro.

Question 2: What about the SEC?  Lacking Nerlens Noel limits the luster, but what about the other guys?

Dani: Alex Poythress (Kentucky) is one of the most fascinating NBA prospects in quite a while.  He’s 6’8″, an explosive athlete with a 7’1″ wingspan, and is perhaps the most up and down player in college basketball. He started the season as a top-five pick, but a prolonged slump and positional concerns (where the hell is he going to play on offense?) have dropped him all the way to anywhere from middle of the first round to out of the first round entirely. He reminds me a lot of Perry Jones III, who was absolutely stolen by OKC as the 28th pick. A big tournament from Poythress could do wonders for him.

Alex Poythress dunks against someone not worth watching this weekend.

Nate: This is really a down year for the SEC, with few first round prospects outside of underachieving Kentucky (from which I like no one).  I’m interested in seeing the best prospect on the best team,  Patric Young (Florida).  Young is an enigma, a former McDonalds all American with a chiseled 250 pound, 6’8″ frame, and a 7’1″ wingspan.  An impressive athlete who throws down thunderous dunks, Young is a pedestrian rebounder, but a solid shot blocker and steals man.  He is also trapped on a perimeter oriented team that infrequently sends the ball inside.  As a rare guy who could be a second round pick with upside this summer or next, I’d like to see if he can pick up his game in the next two weeks.

Tom: Nerlens Noel (Kentucky).  I’m interested in his fashion sense.  And if he’s not even on the bench, I’ll watch Kentucky in his absence and compare to how they looked with him.  It’s Nerlens or bust for the Cavs this draft.

Kevin: I’ll say Alex Poythress (Kentucky).  ESPN and Draftexpress currently show him around where the Lakers pick would be.  He’s big, athletic, and potentially a solid set-shooter.  With tantalizing defensive abilities, he could serve as a solid consolation prize if Porter isn’t available in the lottery.  We will see if he can put together a run of high-level March performances.

Mallory: It’s been well documented how badly the Cavs need a center.  Yet I’d contend it’s not really size that’s missing, but more toughness, explosiveness, focus.  These are attributes that Florida’s Patric Young has, particular on the defensive side.  Despite his momentary passiveness in some games, Young continues to be a standout prospect.  He’s long (7’1 wingspan on a 6’9 body!), he’s tough, and he’s great in the post.  He’s the sort of undervalued center who could end up being the gem of the draft.

Question 3: Duke!  North Carolina!  North Carolina State!  Maryland?  Which of these guys should be on Cavs’ fans radar?

At least Tom didn't out-clever himself and actually picked the guy that everyone wants to see

Dani: Erick Green (Virginia Tech) is far from a complete prospect. He’s too skinny, and doesn’t do pretty much anything but score. And score he does. 25.4 points a game, and Green is electrifying when his jumper is falling. Is his ceiling Nick Young? Possibly. But there’s always room for scorers in the NBA, and Erick Green can score.

Nate: Kenny Kadji (Miami).  Who needs Mo Speights?  At 24 years old, Kadji probably has limited upside, but he’s a potent weapon on one of the most surprising teams in college basketball this year.  He’s a true stretch 4/5 who can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court.  He’s an adequate rebounder — though he’s improved from last year — and has good length and will block some shots.  Still, he’s older than Kevin Durant.  But this is another guy who might be a good second round prospect.  Lord knows the Cavs could use a stretch 4 who can actually shoot.

Tom: Alex Len (Maryland).  Cavs are bereft of centers.  Len is 7’1”.  Needs to go on the same training regimen that Kevin Hetrick prescribed for Tyler Zeller.

Kevin: I will give a shout-out to James McAdoo (North Carolina), a player that Scout.com ranked top-five in his high school class, in the rarefied air of Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Austin Rivers, and MKG.  Last year, he popped up in top-ten discussions.  Now, after a sophomore season when he struggled to a 92 offensive rating (27 usage), and woeful rebounding rates, can he salvage the previously elite expectations following him?

Mallory: Looking at the Cavs roster, what’s the biggest hole?  That’d be a resounding SF!  If the front office decides to go big with the top pick, that’ll mean a need to find a SF in the middle or end of the draft.  Enter Reggie Bullock from North Carolina.  A crazy good three point shooter, this Tar Heel would be a PERFECT late-draft compliment to Kyrie and Dion.  In addition, Bullock has a reputation as a great defender.  That’s definitely something I can get on board with.

Question 4: Does anyone else play in the Big East besides Otto Porter?  What is there to see at Madison Square Garden this weekend?

Dani: Who else but Otto Porter (Georgetown)? He’s the all-around, ultra-skilled type of player that general managers everywhere should be drooling over. He’s also shown a propensity for coming up in the clutch (game-winners galore), and is a great defender. I do think Porter’s athleticism (or lack thereof) issues cap his NBA potential somewhat, but not everyone is a superstar. He can and will be a contributor from day one in the NBA.

Cavs fans are really into Otto Porter, probably because he comments frequently at Cavs:the Blog (this has not been verified)

Nate: Another conference with a down year in terms of prospects… Who else am I going to pick?  The only option besides Otto Porter is Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), but he’s a lousy shooter.  So I want to check out Porter, just like everyone else on this blog.  He could be playing himself into a top three pick as well.  Last year’s #1 pick, MKG is a very similar comparison: a lock-down defender who can run the floor and who is developing on offense.  Well Porter’s offensive efficiency far surpasses MKG’s, especially behind the three point line.  Porter’s better at getting points, steals, assists, and at limiting turnovers and fouls.  He could be the number one pick in the draft if he leads Georgetown far, especially in the last Big East tournament as we know it.

Tom: Otto Porter would be a good consolation prize if Nerlens cannot be had.  He’s super long and steady – he seems to have an instinctive feel for the game.  Knock on him is he’s not wired to “take over” or whatever.  That’s fine – Cavs have that role filled.

Kevin: I’ll say that the Cavs actually pick a second-rounder, and that we should keep an eye on Gorgui Deng of Louisville.  His defensive rebound rate ranks second in the Big East, with a block rate sitting 51st in the entire NCAA.  He’s already 23, but as a second-round flier for a formidable defensive presence, it’s worth looking out for.

Mallory: I could say the obvious ones here, but I’m going to go with Gorgui Dieng out of Louisville – depending on how things play out with the Lakers/whatever the top pick is, this may be in play for the Cavs.  And really, they could do a lot worse than Dieng.  Huge wingspan?  Check.  Good rebounder?  Check!  Great off the PnR?  CHECK!  Awesome defender?  SIGN ME UP!!!!  Sounds like we have a fit for Kyrie and the Cavs.

Question 5: Last, but not least (well, depending on your East Coast bias), tell me about players you like in the Big Twelve?

Dani: I’m going to avoid talking about Ben McLemore (Kansas). Everyone already knows he’s a stud. Instead, let’s take a look at Jeff Withey (Kansas). He’s unspectacular in most areas of the game: 13.6 points, 8.6 rebounds….eh. And then you spot the block totals, and your eyes widen. Withey is averaging a full four blocks per game. Watch a Kansas game some time, and Withey’s defensive ability jumps out at you. His positioning and timing are flawless. Four blocks a game is nothing to sneeze at, especially from a center without the boundless athleticism of someone like Nerlens Noel.

Ben McLemore, forever altering an opponent's concept of himself.

Nate: Remember when the Big 12 was falling apart?  They’re loaded with basketball talent this year.  Everyone loves McLemore, and why not?  He’s probably the top pick in the draft, and one of the few players with superstar potential.  But I want to see Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), who is supposedly the best point guard in the country and who inhabits an NFL free safety’s body.  #3 in the country at three steals a game, and a top prospect, Smart is rumored to have wisdom and muscles beyond his years and an ability to control the flow of the game from the point guard spot.  I want to see if he’s quick enough to play in the NBA or whether he gets by on strength alone.

Tom: Isaiah Austin (Baylor).  Dyslexic AI makes Tyler Zeller and Alex Len look like Magnus Samuelsson and The Incredible Hulk, respectively.  Still, if the same guy has been described as “a poor man’s Kevin Durant” on offense and “a poor man’s Kevin Garnett” on defense??  I can glass-half-full the living daylights outta that dude.  And so will NBA GM’s.  He’s gonna be picked sneaky high methinks.  Maybe the Lakers’ pick that the Cavs are gonna get (wooo!).

Kevin: Ben McLemore.  Rightfully, people are excited about the electric, efficient Kansas freshman.  His blistering 51 / 44 / 87 shooting, combined with Kansas being +359 when he plays, compared to -20 when he sits, make for an enticing package.  He is twenty years old though, due to sitting out one year.  Has there ever been a good rationalization for his academic ineligibility, arrest for failing to show up in court, or his dismissal from Oak Hill?  I haven’t been paying enough attention.  This month, he gets an opportunity to put those questions even further behind.

Mallory: I could settle with watching Baylor’s stud center.  But I won’t.  Instead, I’ll keep my eye on Oklahoma State’s SF, LeBryan Nash.  With a crazy upside, Nash is the sort of project a coach dreams about.  Absurdly athletic, Nash hasn’t really been all that efficient in college, but is noted as a guy with the tools to put it all together.  If the Cavs elected to draft a project in the late first or early second, this would probably be the guy.

Mailing it in

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

No major content this morning, and so far it’s a slow news day for the Cavs.  So we’re mailing it in.  Open lines today, Cavalier fans.  We could talk about unheralded gems in the draft, Shaun Livingston and his thoughts that there will be a bidding war for his services, your favorite Boobie Gibson memory, or the symbiosis between narrative and narrative structure in literature and blog posts.  Carpe diem, my friends.

Recap: Cavaliers 95, Wizards 90

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013


1st Quarter

Wizards came out firing. They made their first 4 shots, including 3 Martell Webster bombs. In a surprise move, Byron Scott yanked all the starters (sans Livingston) barely 2 minutes into the game! I’ll take it as an anti-tanking statement. This team is going to fight through injury – and Byron is not afraid to keep players on a short leash.

His power play worked, sort of. After falling 11 points in the hole, the Cavs answered with an 11-2 run of their own, trimming the Wizards lead to 2. And then they fell in love with the deep ball, and went stone cold for another 3 minutes. The Wizards ended the quarter with all the momentum, and at the end of 1, it was: Wizards 33, C.J., Wayne, and Shaun: 20.

2nd Quarter

Tristan Thompson got the Cavs started off right in the second quarter. After a feisty o-rebound and put-back dunk, he found Boobie for 3 before dropping in another 2 points in the paint. Dion blew by his defender and threw down a vicious tomahawk hammer, and the crowd finally woke up.  And then the Cavs put the Wizards to sleep and performed inception on them.  The Wizards endured a 5 minute spell without a point while the Cavs scored at will with an assortment of baskets – mostly easy looks in the paint. Dion and Tristan really made amends for the first 3 minutes of lackluster play that got them benched. Dion attacked the rack, (presumably he asked them “How can I go back!?” [in the game] and they made him watch the Spirit of Mufasa scene while on the pine) while Tristan just bullied his way into free throws (which he made) and his usual arsenal of paint buckets. Tyler Zeller started grabbing boards and knocking down short jumpers. Alonzo Gee threw some icing on the 2nd quarter cake and the Cavaliers, after spotting the Wizards 11 points and being down 13 at the end of the 1st, went into the locker room with a 1 point lead: 50-49. Well done Byron, getting the young guys to respond to the initial deficit.

3rd Quarter

Since the initial benching, Tristan played like a man possessed. He finished a super strong move in traffic to start the 3rd quarter. And then it was time for Alonzo Gee button mashing from beyond the arc – it’s Super Effective! x2! The rest of the quarter featured some high-level basketball from the Cavs. Tristan was a beast on the boards – stealing a bunch of would-be Wizards rebounds, and the Cavs moved the ball very well throughout. They started jumping passing lanes on defense, and it led to some fast breaks. Turns out, Wayne Ellington is pretty good at running the break too! I love that guy.

Luke Walton is a very self-aware man. Midway through the 3rd he stole a pass in the open court and was still ahead of a trailing pack by the time he dribbled into the key. And the he turned around and looked for help because he worried someone would chase down his layup attempt. It looked ugly but it led to 2 made Ellington FTs – so no harm no foul. Well done, Luke, sorry there’s no assist for you there. Later, near the end of the quarter, Walton received a pass at the elbow – wide open. Naturally, he still looked to find a better shot for one of his teammates. His pump-fake pass got the already sagging Wizards to flinch even more – getting a rise out of AC and the fans. At that point, Luke had to shoot it, I’m not even sure the Wizards were still in bounds. He netted it. Prediction: Luke Walton will be the greatest over-60 basketball player on the planet. In 8 years or whenever that happens. Daniel Gibson hit a nice jumper after curling around a Walton pick – and the Cavs finished one of their best 3rd quarters in recent memory. 76-65 at the end of 3.

4th Quarter

The Wizards came out with an extra edge to start the 4th. The Cavs only basket in the first 4 minutes was off a sweet Luke Walton interior pass to Wayne Ellington after Luke faked an up-and-under with the shot clock about to expire. It was a great defensive possession by the Wizards and better offense by Luke Walton. The Wizards trimmed the lead to 5 before C.J. Miles closed his eyes and threw what looked like a basketball into the hoop. Yep, it was the ball – someone let C.J. know. The Cavs have 2 of the most feast or famine players in the NBA in C.J. Miles and Mo Speights. Speights is even more unusually scalding xor freezing than Miles. Tonight, he was cold – at both ends of the court. Fortunately for the Cavs, the Wizards couldn’t hit any shot – no matter how open the look. Waiters hit a smooth jab-step jumper from the elbow and followed it up with a silky spin move through 2 defenders and a finger roll finish. Alonzo Gee hit another 3, and followed it up by barely grazing the rim on the elusive (for him) corner 3. Nine attempted 3s tonight for Gee, and almost all of them were wide open. And he’s been cashing in. The Cavs continued their habit of running out on steals and rebounds, and Waiters got a nice transition dunk off a screwball pass from Shaun Livingston. Waiters followed that up with another trip to the line after a late whistle that looked like he just lost the ball. I noticed about 3 calls tonight that Waiters “earned”. They could have gone either way, but a few months ago, they were most certainly not going Dion’s way.

I know it’s almost impossible for bball junkies to say anything nice about John Wall without pointing out some glaring weaknesses. So I’ll just say he played a very effective game tonight – relentlessly pushing the tempo at every opportunity and making plays in the open court. The Wizards chipped away the entire fourth quarter and cut the deficit to 3 with 45 seconds left in the game. Livingston made a poor decision to feed Dion in the high post as the Wizards immediately trapped him. Livingston got the ball back and had to make something happen with the clock winding down. He threw up a hard runner that rimmed out but was able to get his hand in the rebound and force a jump ball. More importantly, he WON the jump ball (out-jumping Nene!) and the Wizards were forced to foul. That’s a revenge jump ball right there. Freon sank both freebies to give the Cavs a 5 point edge with 13 seconds remaining. Out of the timeout, Waiters lost Chris Singleton on a quick backdoor cut and fouled him on the bucket. Singleton missed the free throw and for a second it looked like the ball might bounce to the Wizards, but the Cavs secured it and Dion got fouled. Freon sank another 2, making amends for his rookie mistake on defense, and the Wizards had 6 seconds to score at least 5 points. They didn’t and the Cavs won.

Final Thoughts

-Before the Waiters dunk in the 2nd quarter, about 100% of the Cavalier fans I follow on twitter made some gleeful tanking comment. And then the Cavs methodically dismantled the Wizards. It’s really fun to be a Cavs fan these days. I remember the LeBron years, where a victory like this would leave me depressed that the Cavs didn’t beat a crap team by 30 and sit all their starters in the 4th quarter. For this Cavs team, if they lose – it’s not too hard to think #tankstrong or copious buckets of pingpong balls or imagining the FA class of 2014 or whatever you want, really. But I’m glad the Cavs won the game. I’d like to see most of these players in the future and I want to watch them grow together.

-I think Chris Grant should sign Shaun Livingston to a 4-year deal and be done with it. (Grant’s not going to eschew flexibility with a big-name FA, so why not lock up Livingston – he can be had for a bargain) He’s a winner, he fills a void, and they should reward him – he’s saved this season in my opinion. Tonight, he iced the game with a jump-ball. The rebound careened to two Wizards and Livingston used the tiny moment of confusion to throw his fingers in there and earn a call. And then he out-jumped a center to seal the victory. He, much like Ellington, plays within himself and provides steady offensive execution and some decent defense with his length.

-Much respect to Byron Scott. He got his young team to respond tonight. He yanked Thompson and Waiters way before their normal exit routine and they responded with a vengeance. Dion got to the line 14 times, and assumed the role of primary scorer in the 4th quarter. Tristan was in full beast mode during the 2nd and 3rd quarters. He finished with 13 and 14 on only 8 shots and grabbed 6 offensive boards. At least 3 of those he had no business getting – they were essentially steals. Gotta give Byron credit for that ballsy move. His starters could have sulked – and they did the opposite.

-Boobie Gibson played pretty well tonight. He only got 16 minutes but he was active. He got his hands on some loose balls and finished +11 in 16 minutes – much like the Herculoids, he fights through screens very well.

-Tyler Zeller had a few moments in the 2nd quarter but didn’t seem to be on the court much in the 2nd half. Mo Speights had a very poor game. Hopefully he’ll bounce back quickly.

-Alonzo Gee led the Cavs with 15 shots. Not a great recipe for success but he had 4 bars of 3G service tonight – I’m sure the Cavs’ll take it.

-Nice balanced attack on offensive for the Cavs. The ball didn’t stick tonight. There weren’t any dribbling fests either. Six Cavaliers dished out at least 3 assists. That’s really awesome.

-Nice game for Dion. He only made 5 of 13 shots and took a couple head-scratchers but he was very active after the initial benching and finished with 6 boards, 3 assists, a steal, and 20 points. Ten of those were from free throws. Well done, Dion – you remembered. It seems like he’s starting to get a little more respect from the refs – which is a welcome sign. Hopefully it incentivizes him to attack even more. In the post-game interview, Dion seemed kinda pissed that the Cavs started off so poorly. He said he respected what Coach Scott did (the benching) and that he knew how he had to respond. I really loved when he said this with a scowl on his face: “We can’t come out and play nonchalant. We’re not good enough to get away with that.” Good attitude, Dion.  And good win.