Archive for March, 2013

Explicating the CBA

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Today I begin my first attempt to study the NBA Collective bargaining agreement like it’s Revelations, Hamlett, Invisible Man, or a Lena Dunham telenovela.  So let us open up the book of (Larry) Coon, and get into our Socratic circle.

The Small Market Dilemma

The 2011 lockout of NBA players was ostensibly about three things.

  1. Preventing NBA teams from signing idiotic long term contracts, like Gilbert Arenas at six years $124 million, seven years $127 million for Jermaine O’Neal, and five years $70 million for Larry Hughes.
  2. Preventing players from “forming super teams like the Heat.”
  3. Allowing “small market” teams to compete with “big market” teams.

By limiting most contracts to four years and by providing harsh disincentives to overpaying multiple players in the form of a a tiered salary cap system the NBA has gone a long way towards accomplishing the first two goals.  But when it comes the big market, small market disparity, the new NBA labor agreement may actually make things worse for small market teams.

Let’s take a look at specific examples of recent note.  First, Brandon Jennings recent comments on his impending free agency from this article by Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports.

“If I take the qualifying offer and become an [unrestricted] free agent there is no way I am coming back,” Jennings told Yahoo! Sports on Friday after practice. “There is no way.”

Jennings considers Milwaukee a “great sports town” and has enjoyed his time there, but in order to keep him long term, Jennings said the Bucks’ offer must be lucrative and there needs to be changes in the roster and the organization to make it championship caliber.

Brandon Jennings wants a lucrative contract to stay in Milwaukee, and he wants the roster to be championship caliber.  What is perplexing is that he and many NBA players don’t seem to realize that these are somewhat mutually exclusive things.  The more money the Bucks pay Jennings, the less money they have to pay other players.

The recent Josh Smith trade drama is another example.  According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Smith feels he is a max player.  The max in the NBA comes from the fact that a team can re-sign its own free agent for more than what other teams could pay them.  Smith could sign a four year $70 million contract with another team, or he could sign a five year $94 million contract with the Hawks.  The Hawks, unwilling to pay that much after massively overpaying Joe Johnson, are naturally skeptical of doling out that much money.

The James Harden situation from before the season started, is another example of where a team was unable to find common ground with a player.  In this case, Harden turned down a four year, $54 million dollar extension from the Thunder.  At that point, the Thunder felt that Harden had priced himself out of their range.  Houston, after the trade, gave Harden the “Max” a five year, $80 million dollar extension.

If the Harden situation is any indication, there is no “home team discount” in the NBA.  Teams can sign their own Bird Free Agents for five year deals instead of four year deals with 7.5% annual raises as opposed to the 4.5% annual raises other teams can offer.  What is happening in all three cases is that the CBA, while designed to help small market teams, is actually hurting them.  Since they can overpay, the players’ and their agents can try to force the team that has the players Bird Rights to pay more or threaten to leave the home team with nothing when the player leaves via free agency.  The home team has no recourse in this situation but to overpay the player or play chicken and dare the player to take less money to leave.  So far, general managers have been blinking first.  Teams have been leveraged to pay free agents more, or trade them for lesser assets.  There is no “home team discount.”  There is only a home surcharge.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues for Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, and what this will mean for the Cavaliers in the future.  Goal #2 is butting up against goal #3 hard core.  Teams like Oklahoma City will have a very hard time keeping more than a couple very good NBA players.  The harder luxury tax penalties will force them to move players like Harden.  It will be hard enough to keep “super” teams together, but for small market teams that can’t (or won’t) pay the stiff fines, it may preclude them from fielding consistently competitive teams entirely.  (Though this is part of the reason that people conjecture that LeHeWhoShallNotBeNamed will end up back in Cleveland — because his current team can’t afford to pay all their superstars what they’re worth).

Signing Bonuses and Extensions

Earlier this week, Cavs the Blog commenter Corey Hughey had an interesting thought on Marreese Speights.

Does anyone recall the extension that the Thunder gave to Nick Collison? Basically they had cap room so when he signed the extension he got a signing bonus the first year when they still had cap room so Collison got the entire signing bonus the first year instead of it being prorated throughout the contact….  Grant would theoretically be able to give Speights a $4 million signing bonus this year and a little on top of his 2013-2014 salary.

http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/22025/inside-collisons-unique-contract-extension

After a good bit of research, I discovered that the Cavaliers can not do this.  The Collison contract was an extremely rare case that can only be done if a player extends and renegotiates his contract at the same time, and if the GM is a giant nerd.

What OKC did in this case was renegotiate the last year of Collison’s current contract to give him a  10.5% raise payable in a lump sum signing bonus, plus 20% of his contract extension payable in a lump sum signing bonus.  (in the new CBA those amounts have been dropped to 7.5% and 15% respectively).  Those bonuses only affected the cap for that year.  But, only players on the third or fourth year of a four year contract can re-negotiate, so Speights is out of the running on this, since he only signed a one year deal in 2012 with a player option for a second year that can be exercised this summer.

An interesting tidbit from the salary cap FAQ though, “In the special case of a multi-year contract that is entirely non-guaranteed, the entire signing bonus is applied to the first season of the contract.” Could the Cavs sign players to non-guaranteed contracts next year and apply large guaranteed signing bonuses in order to do it?

So what if the Cavs offered Speights 4 year, 24 million dollar contract, with an average salary of 6 million, but completely non-guaranteed base salaries except for the $3.6 million dollar signing bonus (which is a maximum of 15% of the contract) and a guaranteed first year salary. Speights gets $8.95 million to play next year and the contract is structured so that the most money dips in 2014 (to leave max room for you know who), goes up in 2015 and 2016 (more assuring the Cavs dump him by then),   This would be in 4.5% jumps, so the first year would be $5.1 million in 2013 (plus the bonus), $4.87 in 2014, $5.1 in 2014, and $5.33 in 2015.  Damn.  This is more exciting than booze, porn, and Yahtzee mixed together.

An even more interesting scenario might be if they convince him NOT to opt out, but to sign an extension instead (I believe if he doesn’t opt out his bird rights re-set next year, correct?)  Then the decreases/increases per year are around %7.5 (because he’s on a bird contract).

If the team is under the cap when the extension is signed, then the signing bonus may be paid before the first season of the extension (i.e., it can be paid right away). When this happens, the extension is treated as a renegotiation (see question number 59). The signing bonus is charged to team salary in all remaining years of the current contract and the extension, in proportion to the percentage of salary in each season that is guaranteed (as described in the previous paragraph). If all remaining years of the contract and the extension are entirely non-guaranteed, then the entire signing bonus is charged to the season in which the extension is signed. The signing bonus cannot exceed 15% of the total salary in the extension, and the portion of the signing bonus charged to the year in which the extension is signed also can’t exceed the team’s cap room.

So let’s say the Cavs did a three year extension to Mo Speights contract next year at 3 years, $20 million (extension), and gave him a $3 million dollar bonus, with each season giving Speights 7.5% escalators to his base pay. In this case, the contract would be escalators so that the lowest salary would be in 2014 of the extension, thus helping keep Speights in 2014 and sign a free agent.  In this scenario, Speights makes $7.5 million in 2013 (his $4.5 million base salary, plus his $3 million dollar bonus), which is guaranteed, then in 2014, his cap # is an un-guaranteed (or team option) 5.26 million, which is still palatable but can be waved to make room for you know who.  This might take a lot of convincing to get Speights to sign.  The advantage with the non-guaranteed contract is that the Cavs can waive him at any time if they need the money to sign someone else, and also that the the signing bonus money gets assigned to 2013-2014 instead of the length of the contract.  The Cavs could even give Speights an early termination option in 2015 so that he can leave if he outplays his contract, and so that he can can hit free agency when teams have the most money to spend.

Your head spinning yet?  Would you like to go into 2014 tax code changes?  The crux of the idea is that the Cavs would overpay free agents in 2013-2014 in order to have the contracts be non-guaranteed in future years, giving them the option to dump those players if the right free agent comes along, or keep those players if free agency doesn’t work out.  Livingston and Walton could be signed this way too.  Thoughts?

Links to the Present, “here we go again” edition.

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Kyrie Irving’s shoulder injury against Toronto is expected to put him on the bench for 3-4 weeks with a left acromioclavicular sprain.  ESPN’s coverage is here.

Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Plaindealer / Cleveland.com covers the press conference where Byron Scott is not concerned about Kyrie’s durability.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated notes the silver lining to this moment of Déjà Vu.

If the season ended today, the Cavaliers would select fourth, but there are eight teams clustered between 20 and 23 wins. Something as simple as a three-game winning streak could drop them as far as ninth in the draft order. If Cleveland continues to win at its .286 pace without Irving, the team will go 5-14 down the stretch to finish with 26 wins. That would seem to be enough to help them hold on to the No. 4 position, if not even improve to the No. 3. Within the context of the team’s youth movement, ensuring a top-five lottery pick in June’s draft isn’t the worst consolation prize for a month of ugly basketball without their franchise guy.

Basically?  I’d be shocked if we saw Kyrie Irving in a Cavaliers uniform again this season.  Now I’m not one to question someone’s injuries.  Lord knows I’ve been accused of falling down in a heap during a winter football game and screaming “my meniscus!!!” and then getting up and sprinting to the end zone three plays later.  But the Cavs brass has to have been looking for an excuse to shut down their winning ways before they cost themselves a prime draft spot, and this is just the opportunity.  Don’t be surprised if Dion Waiters develops a ruptured scowling muscle, Marreese Speights has to be put on season ending Demoxinil treatment, and the Cavs surreptitiously import the entire Canton Charge roster to finish out the season.

So while you’re firing up Photoshop to make me a nice picture of a one armed Kyrie Irving driving a Sherman tank, you can think of this summer.  Nbadraft.net has a 2013 mock draft update cataloging the risers and sinkers in college basketball.  Who might be there for the Cavs at 4-11 in June?  At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.

And speaking of Waiters, James Herbert of SB Nation has a nice interview with him, here.  Highlights include the Philly style, being a Momma’s boy, and advice from the Cavs veterans.  Keep ballin’, Saint Weirdo, but don’t ball too well.  You’ve got to steer this Abrams into the top bottom five.

Recap: Cleveland 96, Toronto 100

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Hopefully the flu-bug finally exited Cleveland, as the Cavs bring a full-squad to Toronto, trying to initiate a new winning streak against a Raptors team lacking Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani.

Dion, as long as half of your shots look like this, you will be in good shape.

The team again started in a hole, this time 6 to 9, as Zeller and Gee used the first seven plays.  Eventually, Waiters found a rhythm and drained three jumpers, one of which involved a lovely corner spot-up off a Kyrie drive & kick.  As the starters trickled to the bench, the lead sat at 19 to 15.  In a sequence becoming very common, Livingston found Speights with a no-look pass, followed soon thereafter by a blind-dime from Luke to Mo.  The quarter ended with Cleveland extending the margin to 27 – 20.

Ellington posted-up and faded-away for two quick buckets over 5′ – 11″ John Lucas III, then snagged a steal to unfurl a fast-break dunk, and CJ Miles splashed an open three.  Using a successful set from last night, the Livingston to Walton pick-and-roll got Luke the ball with the defense moving, allowing a cutting Speights an up-close look at he basket.  His made-free throw extended the Herculoidian reign of terror to an eleven point margin.  The first-string plus Miles continued the run, as CJ drilled 4 threes on the quarter, and a devastating Kyrie isolation spin-move rose the lead to seventeen, at 50 to 33.  Things descended from there though; Toronto dominated the boards, grabbing five offensive rebounds in the closing minutes of the quarter.  Combined with a few other defensive breakdowns, the Raptors narrowed the gap to 55 – 46 at the break.

The second half started ugly; ten fouls in the first five minutes, including a defensive three-seconds and a tech.  It was disjointed, unpleasant basketball, though the Cavs maintained solid scoreboard separation.  Then, play really unravelled.  Waiters missed two free throws and four jumpers, the bench could not generate much, and uhhhh…Kyrie hurt his shoulder.  Jonas Valanciunas body-checked him, sending the young Cav sprawling.  After rolling around for a while, he lumbered up, shot his free throws one-handed, and wasn’t seen again for the evening.  Following the injury, the Raptors closed the quarter 1o to 1, finishing a thirty-three point period, leading by five.

Unfortunately, the cast-offs forming the bench can’t beat everyone all the time.  The early portion of the fourth quarter matched the end of the third, as a Landry Fields basket forced a Cavalier timeout, trailing by eight.  Then, Dion Waiters recovered from his flu.  He netted a layup off a drive, and followed that with another paint-foray resulting in free throws for Tristan.  Next time down, two free throws for himself, then a high-arching three when his man went under a pick.  Eventually, a tough finish where he utilized his body to fend off Valanciunas.  Finally, a sweet, euro-stepping attack netted his eleventh point in four minutes, and tied the game at 94.  On the ensuing possession, Toronto turned it over, giving Cleveland a chance to regain the lead.  With eighty seconds remaining, Dion again drove and got fouled, making one of two.  The teams traded misses, until Toronto scored, again wrestling the advantage away.  On the next possession, with the stakes high, Livingston pulled-up for a twelve-footer.  It looked good, hitting the rim once, twice, three, four, five times…and rattling out!  Then Kyle Lowry drains a ridiculous fadeaway eighteen-footer.  Curse-words!!!  Facing a three point deficit, and after wasting six-seconds with an errant pass, Waiters was intentionally fouled with five-seconds to go.  Circumstances were dire, needing Waiters to hit both, or if not, Cleveland grabs the board.  The team did neither, and the Raptors win by four.

Well, that’s a tough road loss.  Everything was clicking for the first 21 minutes, until a 53 to 28 Toronto run over the next 19 minutes, when nothing was clicking.  Waiters-fueled heroics nearly earned victory, but his missed free throws hurt the cause.  Kyrie’s shoulder is probably the biggest news from the game; reports say, “shoulder contusion, to be re-evaluated on Monday”.  Hopefully, his wing is OK.  Seven injuries in three seasons does get nerve-racking.  We will see how much Kyrie plays over the final nineteen games.

Onto some bullets:

  • Waiters hit three early jumpers, then decided to return to his style of play from December.  He shot 0 for 6 in quarters two and three, consisting of five errant jump shots.  Suddenly, in the fourth quarter, the switc flipped, and his resurgent aggressiveness provided thirteen points and almost spurred a come-from-behind victory.  Keep attacking, Dion!  And next time hit those freebies!!  He finished with team-leading 21 points on 50% true shooting, with 2 assists and only 1 turnover.
  • Tristan was home in Canada, and his mother attended the game.  He provided a highlight with a monstrous left-handed slam in the first quarter, and also hit a sweet, face-up, sixteen foot, right-handed, push-shot off the dribble.  Posting a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards, he didn’t get many calls and netted only 43% true shooting.
  • Tyler Zeller flashed some redeeming moments; a pump-fake and drive for a layup; a swished 14-footer; a help-side block swatted into the stands; another drawn charge; and a couple of tough, physical rebounds.  Two turnovers early in the fourth quarter killed burgeoning momentum, but his 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists in 25 minutes provided generally positive play.  He finished as one of three Cavs that were +.
  • Are Shaun Livingston and Luke Walton brothers from different mothers?  Do they play pick-up ball at the Y together in the summer?  Maybe their off-season is spent touring the country impersonating old people, hiding their identities while they destroy all-comers at local playgrounds…maybe no makeup is needed.  They are fun to watch, with tonight including a swooping, underhand windmill assist from Shaun to Luke.  Walton returned the favor a few possessions later, setting the table for an easy Livingston finish.  Since playing together in Cleveland, the two combine for 192 assists and 60 turnovers.
  • How was Wayne Ellington never anyone before the trade to the Cavs?  I know Tom loves Ellington’s play and has certainly talked along these lines before, but in four seasons, Ellington never reached double-digit PER.  Now, in 20 games in Cleveland, he sports a nifty 16.  In addition to the post fade-aways, he blasted into the paint in isolation to find Speights for a dunk.  In 19 minutes, his line totaled 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 0 turnovers and 54% true shooting.  Is his fairy-tale going to end, or has he finally found the right opportunity?
  • Six Raptors scored between eleven and seventeen points.  Amir Johnson finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds.  Terrence Ross scored 14, thanks to twice evading a meandering Cavalier defender to hit widen open threes.  He also finished his own tip-in after missing a crazy, 360 lay-up.  Valanciunas looked strong, posting 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 0 turnovers on 60% true shooting.  And of course, Alan Anderson followed the 17 he scored against Cleveland in January, with 18 tonight.
  • And the Lakers won!!!  Did you think those words would ever be followed by exclamation points on a non-Lakers blog?  With the victory, and Utah’s loss last night, LA currently sits as the West’s 8th seed.  As of today, Cleveland stands positioned to own the 4th, 15th, 32nd and 34th picks in the 2013 draft.  With Luke Walton’s resurgence, and hopefully a decent first rounder in 2013 added to the 2012 pick, the Sessions trade is looking pretty nice.

Speights Likely Gone

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Mo Speights, baller extraordinaire!

-The Morning-Journal thinks Marreese Speights is gone after this season, which is probably the case. For more evidence, note that Byron Scott is still starting Tyler Zeller over the former Grizzly. Too bad. I like Speights a lot, and his propensity to fall in love with his jump shot is offset a little by his mean streak and gritty offensive rebounding.

-Greg Oden actually sat in Dan Gilbert’s seats at the Memphis game, which is probably a good sign if you’re one of those people that wants the Cavs to sign him, and a bad sign if you’re not.

-Is Tristan Thompson an MIP candidate? Probably not; that award is a joke if it doesn’t go to Paul George or Larry Sanders.

-In case you missed it, WFNY has some great-as-usual draft analysis for your perusal. Come on, Otto Porter!

Recap: Cleveland 92, Memphis 103 (Or, I didn’t want Jon Leuer’s return to end this way)

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Game ball goes to CJ Miles tonight, because, ummm...why not?

After an afternoon wondering whether a stomach bug claimed Kyrie’s evening, it served as a pleasant surprise for him to trot-out with the starters.  The next seven minutes were less pleasant, as the offense looked stagnant, with neither Irving or Waiters looking to attack.  While the Cavs plumeted to a thirteen to six deficit, Gee and Zeller combined to use eight of the team’s first fourteen possessions, while the young starters tallied one assist; this is probably not the recipe for winning basketball.  The subs checked in, and the offense stabilized; Walton found a cutting Kyrie for his fourth dunk of the season, as the squads played evenly for several minutes.  Then, with time expiring, Gee nailed a sixty-footer; 19 to 23 Cavs at the end of the quarter…easy stuff.  Tristan performed solidly, with a couple of buckets and two nice passes, and I really liked the Kyrie back-door cut; Dion needs to take some pointers.  Memphis piled-up ten assists though, as scoring was a little too easy.

The second quarter opened with the Cavs announcers discussing Greg Oden’s attendance at the game.  Was he there visiting high school teammate Mike Conley…or were the Cavs’ brass wining & dining him?  I think we know the answer to that question.   The bench unit repeated a fairly regular routine of sweet ball and player movement resulting in easy buckets: a driving Livingston floater, a Miles and-one off the give & go with Luke, Walton from deep thanks to an Ellington dime, and finally the deadly Livingston fadeaway.  Memphis kept answering though, and the score sat at 33 to 38 when the first-unit started checking in.  Inspired by their bench brethren, the starters gained a lead and pushed to a 51 to 48 half-time margin.  Overall, the first half effort was very well rounded, with nine Cavaliers scoring, and seven players dishing an assist.  A-Gee lead the way with 10 points, while Tristan posted 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks.  Dion Waiters had neither a point or an assist.

Then, everything unravelled.  The offense atrophied, the defense wilted, and the Grizzlies sprinted out on a 14-to-2 run.  Dribble penetration by Conley could not be contained and Marc Gasol unleashed a torrent of uncontested jump shots.  Memphis registered nine assists, with Conley distributing six.  Combining only one turnover and 64% field goal shooting pushed the Grizz to a 32-point quarter, and an eleven point lead heading to the fourth.  The offensive display was pretty miserable, and we shall never speak of it again.

But then, it was time for the Herculoids, right?  Well, um, only sort of.  The first two possessions of the quarter were a perfect microcosm of what this group brings to the table.  First, Walton tossed a sweet bounce-pass to a cutting Livingston on the baseline, who continued towards the basket, before kicking out to Miles for a wide open-three.  Next time down, Ellington and Walton ran the pick & roll, with Walton catching a pass in the paint, before quick-touching it to Speights for a lay-up.  One minute, two offensive sets, three players per play, at least four passes, all five guys involved, and a Memphis lead cut to six.  The Cavs never managed to get closer though.  Kyrie checked in and drove for a layup, briefly carving the deficit to four, but Cleveland couldn’t find enough stops or buckets from there out.  Memphis cruised 15 to 8 over the final five minutes, eventually closing out their double-digit victory.

Tough loss, with all five starters finishing MINUS, and all five subs ending PLUS.  Memphis has the NBA’s second-best defense though, and is on a roll, winning 11 of 12, with the only loss coming at Miami.  It’s time to dust off the passports and head to Canada.  We’ll be back on Sunday, hopefully covering a bounce-back game against the Raptors.

Onto a few bullets:

  • Earlier today, Tom ascribed much of the team’s recent success to the bench.  I claimed that a bit of an over-simplification, but tonight it was definitely true.  The starting unit couldn’t generate anything, allowing Memphis runs at the start of the game and third quarter.  The athleticism and individual skill level of the young guys exceeds their veteran cohorts, but hopefully while watching the bench, they perform ample note-taking about how to run a fluid NBA offense.  This definitely applies to…
  • Dion Waiters didn’t see the court in the fourth quarter, and that was deserved.  In a two minute span during the third, he shot four free throws and threaded a nifty assist to Tristan.  In his other eighteen minutes?  Three field goal attempts with zero assists, with two of the shots being jumpers and the other an isolation drive to close the first half.  He wasn’t bad so much as he was invisible; not sure what was up with that.  Was he intimidated by Tony Allen? Is he sick? Does he need to figure out additional means to generate offense when paired against a vicious on-ball defender? Is it hopeless to think he will ever be able to play effectively with Kyrie (this last one is tongue-in-cheek)?
  • The starters combined for 9 assists and 10 turnovers.  The bench…10 assists and 5 turnovers.  Kyrie flexed his muscles with 24 points on 55% true shooting, but unfortunately it was paired with three dimes and four give-aways.
  • Not many members of the Wine & Gold played outstanding games.  CJ Miles played impressively, with 13 points and 3 steals, including two and-ones, and a SUPER-MEGA Drive & Dunk. Tristan finished with an efficient, yet bare-minimum double-double; 10 points and 10 rebounds.  His interior passing is much improved this season, and in addition to his two assists, nice interior passing earned a few trips to the free throw line for teammates.
  • Alonzo Gee had some nice moments, but was trying (or forced) to create waaay too much offense, finishing with 12 points on 13 field goal attempts and a couple of fumbled possessions.
  • Mo Speights dropped 9 points on his former teammates, but struggled to 1 of 5 shooting and grabbed only one rebound in 24 minutes.  Wayne Ellington hit some big shots, scoring 7 points on three of five from the field.
  • Zach Randolph and Darrell Arthur sat with injuries, which opened up some playing-time in the Grizzly front-court.  Who took advantage?  Jon Leuer had 4 points and 3 rebounds on 2 for 2 shooting in 12 minutes.  That would have been his best game as a Cavalier, right?  Revenge is a dish best served cold, like the ice-water in Leuer’s veins.
  • Mike Conley and Marc Gasol combined for 39 points, 16 assists, and 4 turnovers on 69% true shooting.  They had their way with the Cavs defense all evening.

Links to the Present

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Kyrie Irving is out doubtful tonight with the flu “flu like symptoms” that have been sweeping through the team.  In the mean time, enjoy the GIF.  Get well, soon, Kyrie.

If Waiters reaches his potential, he is someone who will be dynamic off the dribble, attacking relentlessly and earning six-plus free throws a game, at minimum. His explosion step is impressive and his body can play through contact on his way to the rim, like Wade.

Kirk, from WFNY breaks down the Cavs’ improving crunch time defense that led to a win the other night over the Jazz.  Link, here.

Tom Sunnergren of TrueHoop explores how NBA teams are using a new software called, Krossover to train players’ brains for pattern recognition…

How do you imbue a young player with years of experience, and the consequent judgment, without ruining his legs in the process? How do you fine-tune the head while sparing the body? How do you train a brain to be like Mike’s?

Kyrie Irving is the Guinea pig in this article, as the Cavs certainly seem to be believers…

Yesterday, we neglected to comment on the ongoing worries over Kyrie Irving’s knee.  The Plain Dealer’s Jodie Valade has the article that hints at the apparent lack of communication on the issue between coach Scott and trainer, Max Benton.  Someone find me an image database for tanks, please.

Cavs: the Duel, Number Five

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Since the New Year, Tristan is averaging a double-double, with Dion Waiters pitching in 15 points per game on above-average true shooting; the Cavaliers are very watchable again. Let's continue seeing where it goes.

Today, Tom and I square off in a duel loosely titled as, “The Cavs need to stay the course and be patient this summer”, vs “I could envision the benefit of making a big move this summer”.

Kevin: Tom, I’ve noticed an alarming trend recently. Now, on the brink of the “tank and draft” storm having been weathered, people are proposing big moves this off-season: signing Iguodala for 3 years, $40 million; packaging four first-round picks for 30-year old role players; trading the #1 pick in the ENTIRE draft for Danilo Gallinari.  I think this is silly.

Don’t get me wrong, last season, I devoted ten-thousand words essentially to the effect of: “there is ZERO reason to consider miserable basketball and lottery picks as the holy grail of building a team”.  Basically, OKC is the only elite team of the last twenty-five years built through a successful binge on their top-five draft picks. And all it took for them was to draft a top-two NBA player, two top-ten NBA players, and a guy that combined a 113 offensive rating with league-leading shot-blocking at age 22.  Easy to replicate, right?  Much more success has been found through nailing one high lottery pick & supplementing that well, making several prudent selections outside the top-eight, or making a really smart free agent acquisition (Billups, Nash, or to an extreme, Shaq).  Basically, saying “Damn it, we won”, didn’t need to be the modus operandi for Cleveland Cavalier fandom.

(more…)

Lessons from the Sloan Sports Conference

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Stan van Gundy was the hero of the MIT Sloan Sports Conference.

The Sloan Sports Conference was a sports-nerd frenzy. It is perhaps the only place and time during the year where you can tap just about anyone on the shoulder and kickstart a conversation about PER vs. WAR. Just about every single person there was extremely knowledgeable about one sport or another. The conference is commonly believed to be all about the NBA, maybe due to Daryl Morey’s complete control over the proceedings- and the fact that his wide, beaming smile is stamped front and center on all of the promotional material. But there was quite a lot of MLB, NFL and NHL talk to be heard, and hockey and baseball research papers took home awards at the closing ceremonies. Still, though, basketball was the main event, and the preeminent speakers were all from the NBA. R.C. Buford, Kevin Pritchard and Adam Silver all impressed. But the real star of the sports conference was a certain mustachioed man, the former coach of the Orlando Magic, the one and only Stan Van Gundy.

ESPN should absolutely give a show to Stan Van Gundy. And I’m not talking about a radio show between the hours of 2 and 4 PM. Stan deserves primetime TV attention on the primary ESPN channel. He simply showers the world with wisdom. Van Gundy spoke tenderly on the subject of our perception of young players, saying about a young Lamar Odom: “When he came into the league, people said he was a bad guy because he smoked marijuana and skipped class. If not going to class and smoking pot made you a bad person, half of you (the audience) wouldn’t be here.” Later he very effectively explained why coaches are often suspicious of analytics, focusing on the fact that most players respond poorly (or not at all) to data charts and offensive efficiency ratings. That moment, in fact, was probably the most salient of the conference: a former coach describing the limitations of current advanced statistics as applicable solutions to a team’s problems. Because the most innovative presentation of the weekend focused not just on the numbers, but on how the numbers could be broken down into a palatable format for players and coaches. That was Kirk Goldsberry’s The Dwight Effect: A New Ensemble of Interior Defense Analytics for the NBA.

In Goldsberry’s research paper, he examined individual interior defenders in the NBA, discovering who was the best, who was the worst, and who fell in between. His findings were not particularly shocking (Dwight’s the best, David Lee is the worst), with a caveat for Cavs fans: Anderson Varejao is one of the worst interior defenders in the NBA, allowing over 50% shooting on plays around the rim which he defends. What was truly amazing, though, was the way in which he presented the information to the audience. Check this out. Goldsberry’s shooting charts, which you may be familiar with if you frequent Grantland, are exactly the type of visuals that could really help a coach impart to his players what they are doing wrong. (I would love to see Byron Scott sit down with Kyrie Irving and slap a printout in his face that shows anyone with a brain that he is an awful defender.) If I ran an NBA team, I would hire Van Gundy and Goldsberry, and then lock them in a room with a laptop, food, water and a hamster wheel for three months. Dan Gilbert could afford that, right? I hope so. (Also watch this for more info. And this for more laughs.)

P.S.

Zach Lowe was very nice about telling a never-ending line of Columbia and Harvard students that they (a) would not be offered a job by Grantland anytime soon, and (b) should not pursue journalism because it is a soul-crushing profession. He also chatted with me about the Cavs for a few minutes, and says that Cleveland fans should be very pleased with and excited by Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters’ recent play. Lowe also mentioned that he thinks Kyrie Irving’s defense is a serious concern going forward- not an unfixable problem, but one that clouds his bright future considerably.

Not a Recap: Cavs 104, Jazz 101

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

That's a winning team, right there.

Due to a scheduling snafu, you may not be receiving much of a recap here tonight.

The Cavs continued their winning ways though, picking up victory #21.  Trailing by thirteen late in the third, Cleveland’s offense blistered Utah for 36 fourth quarter points.  Miles tossed in all 12 of his during the final stanza, while Kyrie tallied 11 points and an assist in the last four minutes.  What did you expect though?

Other highlights included Kyrie piling up 10 assists, his third double-digit effort of the season.  Tristan pitched in 16 points on 55% true shooting, with 12 rebounds and 3 blocks, in one of his stronger offensive efforts in several weeks.  He looked particularly polished in the first quarter, with 7 points scored through various means, and also a quick-thinking dime to Gee.  Livingston and Walton added a few sweet-passing highlights, Speights pitched in 14 & 7, and Tyler, well, he didn’t do much; three points and four rebounds in 23 minutes.

Anyways, Go Cavs!  And fill in the blanks, commenters!  None of us was working on anything substantive.

Links to the Present: March 6, 2013

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Yeah..."whoops".

“Six weeks ago, Cleveland was 9-31, staring at a half-season without Anderson Varejao, their second-best player, and facing questions about whether they’d fatally blown two straight top-five picks on Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. They looked like a lock to make a serious run at “earning” the most Ping-Pong balls in the draft lottery.

Whoops.” [Zach Lowe – Grantland]

“Assuming the first pick will fall somewhere in the top five and the second around Nos. 16-20, we can start to take a look at the most likely draft prospects for the Cavs at each selection.” [Greg Swartz – B/R Slideshow]

“On Monday, he made it out of bed. “That’s a victory for me,” he said. “It was a rough day.” He said teammate Dion Waiters has the same ailment he had. Waiters also missed Monday’s game and wasn’t at practice on Tuesday. He’s listed as questionable for the Utah Jazz at 7 Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.” [Bob Finnan – The Morning Journal]

[Update] Waiters and Gibson out with flu tonight.

“The Cavs development path often gets compared to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Whether this makes sense is another question entirely, but for the record, I don’t think it does. Kevin Durant’s and Russell Westbrook’s and James Harden’s don’t grow on trees. But because this is Kyrie Irving’s second year, let’s take a look a look at the jump OKC made from year two of Durant, to year three.” [David Zavac – FeartheSword]

“When the Cavs execute Scott’s strategy, they’re an exciting team with a big upside. Perhaps even more important than that is the fact individual players have made strides under Scott. Just compare Thompson and Waiters now to what they were at the beginning of the year.  Cavs fans who have issues with Scott need to ask themselves a question. Namely, will Kyrie get along with another coach as well as he does with his current one? Irving really likes being a Cavalier, and Scott is a big reason why.” [Sam Amico – FoxSportsOhio]