Archive for May, 2013

A look at the Combine Results

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Shane Larkin is poised to make noise in the NBA.

(This is Part 14, the final in the series that I published at Hardwood Paroxysm throughout the year.)

The 2013 NBA combine is behind us.  After thirteen parts attempting to quantify what it all means, now it is time to declare winners & losers.  Let’s start with the crew deserving a bump in their draft status.

Winners

Shane Larkin – If his NCAA-leading points produced through pick & rolls (scores plus assists) didn’t impress you, or his 24 points per game during Miami’s ACC Tourney run, then how about his joining this crew: Derrick Rose, Russ Westbrook, Mike Conley Jr, John Wall, Nate Robinson, and Jerryd Bayless?  Those were the drafted underclassmen point guards with sprint speed below 3.15 seconds and no-step vert of 30” or more.  Ignore concerns about his tiny stature; this Hurricane is primed to do big things.

Otto Porter – Tall small forwards rate as the NBA’s most-productive two-way players.  Who stood  tallest of the 2013 small forward class?  Of course, Otto Porter, also the draft’s most productive 19-year old.  I see a strong NBA career, despite middling athleticism tests…which aren’t consistently reflective of NBA success or failure for a small forward, anyways (actually, most of those correlations were negative).

Phil Pressey – He surpassed 3.2 seconds in the sprint and 11 seconds in the agility drill as a draft-worthy upperclassmen point guard.  That’s been a can’t-miss combination over the last thirteen years and a great source of late value.  Peyton Siva also bested these thresholds, but currently ESPN and Draftexpress include him outside the likely draftees*; at nearly 23, he has never been a particularly effective collegiate offensive player.  This serves as opportunity to say, don’t overrate players that otherwise may not warrant drafting, just because of favorable combine results (obviously an Olympic track athlete isn’t likely to find NBA success).

Nerlens Noel – Did I bump my head?  I am giving Noel the benefit of the doubt here.  The small group of very long, very speedy prodigy centers is fairly glamourous.  Nerlens’ 110” reach meets one criteria, and I have faith that his sprint speed bests 3.3 seconds.

Victor Oladipo – The complete list of underclassmen (Oladipo is still 21 as of February 1st, 2014) shooting guards with first-round talent and a 6’ – 9” wingspan, 31” no-step vert and 35” max vert in the last fourteen drafts is: James Harden, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Eric Gordon, Ronnie Brewer and Jeremy Lamb.  I expect the young Hoosier will fit nicely into this list.  Ben McLemore also leapt over 31″ from a stand-still, exhibiting a trait often portending success for first-round, underclass shooting-guard talent.  Allen Crabbe barely missed the combination of qualifiers that Oladipo met.

Cody Zeller - His sprint speed ties the third best of the centers evaluated by this study.   His no-step vert rose the highest of the entire 2013 Combine.  Given the precedent of these traits predicting success in underclassmen centers, this helps solidify Zeller in the top-ten. Norvel Pelle flashed an exciting blend of speed and length…who is he?  I don’t know, but as a late second round project, he may be worth a look.

Losers

Rudy Gobert – Here’s the shocker; my big, contrarian view.  Also, this may not be fair, because this project focused solely on NCAA players.  But heading into May 16th, reports of his wingspan were 7’ – 9”…now it’s a confirmed 7’ – 8.25”.  Why would this bump his draft stock?  As an anecdotal case, the players in the draftexpress.com database with wingspan greater than 7’ – 8” include: Mamadou N’Diaye, John Riek, Alexis Ajinca, Saer Sene, Michael Olowokandi, Chris Marcus, and Boban Majanovic.  Is this a list that inspires confidence?  Detailed here and here, as a general rule, increased size did not correlate to improved offensive or defensive success for centers; instead, elite athleticism generally corresponded to raised performance.

Follow me on this gross simplification, as I attempt to illustrate a point.  Of the players investigated in this study:

  • Gobert’s reach of 9’ – 7” exceeds the 70th percentile of centers by 3.5”.
  • His max vert of 29” falls below the 70th percentile by 4”.
  • OK.   Ignore the second bullet point.  Based on his sprint speed of 19.7 ft / sec, compared to 70th percentile speed of 21.2 ft / sec, it takes 1/5 of a second for the faster player to gain 3.5″.

While I’m not sure that solved anything, athleticism provided much more reliable prediction of NBA success for Centers.  Gobert’s sprint speed was third-worst of the 2013 combine, his agility second from the bottom, with max-vert tied for last.  He failed at the more important stuff.  I don’t think the events of May 16 and 17 did anything to positively differentiate from May 15th .

Shabazz Muhammad – At the one position where size rated as consistently beneficial, the UCLA freshman comes up short.  Turning 21 at the start of next season, combined with non-elite NCAA production, he is probably a reach in the top ten.

Late draft shooting guards – Snagging a “two” in the final quarter of the draft is a longstanding popular decision amongst NBA front offices; following that pattern, a recent draftexpress.com mock shows five coming off the board between picks 46 and 60.  Invariably, these picks have not worked out…potentially bad news for Ricky Ledo, BJ Young, Vander Blue, Brandon Paul, or Michael Snaer.  Rolling the dice on a fast point guard is historically smarter.

Myck Kabongo – In addition to the facts that he was not particularly productive at Texas, and that he technically qualifies as an upperclassmen (22 years old by February 1st), his athleticism results were gross.  Not a good combination for a prospective point guard.

Upperclassmen Centers – Over the last 13 drafts, this has typically been the domain of marginally performing players.  The exceptions are Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Emeka Okafor, and Brendan Haywood.  Accounting solely for defense, Jason Collins can be added to the list.  Disappointing speed and leaping results from Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Withey do not help their case towards breaking into this tiny group of  successes.  Gorgui Dieng skipped the athleticism testing.

Neutral

Any sub-six foot point guard – Size showed zero inclination towards predicting offensive success for point guards, so if you like Trey Burke, Shane Larkin, Phil Pressey, Pierre Jackson or Isaiah Cannon, don’t be scared-off that they’re shorter than you.

Undersized big men – Richard Howell, Andre Roberson, DeShaun Thomas; if you liked these guys before the combine…carry on.

Anyone not listed here – Basically regardless of how amazing or disappointing the thing they did was…you shouldn’t let it dramatically change your perception of their draft stock.

*Casper Ware did not possess the necessary skill-set to get him drafted, hence he would not qualify in a re-do of this study in five years.  As a small, fast point guard though, I featured him with a picture in the second part of this series.  Due to that, I will always feel a small interest in his career.  This year, in his rookie professional season in Europe, he sits as the second leading scorer (20.4 ppg) and fourth-best assist person in Italian Lega2.  Despite struggling around the basket, he posted respectable true shooting of 55% to go with his bulk scoring.  His team currently battles in their playoffs, clinching a first round series yesterday, behind Ware’s 20 points on 59% true shooting.  Good luck in the semifinals, Casper.  Come on, NBA cellar-dwellars and higher-level Euro teams…next year, we can do better than the Italian second-division for Mr. Ware!!

Cavs: The Podcast 0031 – 2013 Playoffs, Or The Last One Without The Cavs For A While (hopefully)

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

After a massive delay due to computer issues, I present you all with our 2013 Playoff discussion.  Unfortunately it’s all moot at this point – all the teams have passed the 2nd round.  Still, Robert, Colin and I touch on some pretty great topcs about the four second round match ups.  It’s definitely worth a listen!

As always, we can be found on SoundCloud at: https://soundcloud.com/cavstheblog/0031-2013-playoffs-or-the-last

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

Enjoy!

Links to the Present: Draft Combine Edition

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

More draft combine news out.  The agility, speed, and leaping measurements are out, at least for those who participated.  Here is the link.  One of the best bloggers in the business, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, does a good job pondering what it all does and doesn’t mean, here.

The big winners?  Shane Larkin of Miami bested the vertical (44″), the 3/4 court sprint (3.08 seconds), was tied for second in no step vertical (34.5″), and was 5th in agility drills.  At 5’10″, Larkin can jump and touch four inches above the rim from a standstill.  I’m 5’10″, Shane Larkin, and I hate you.

Other winners include N.C. State’s C.J. Leslie (pictured above) who had a 40″ vertical, a 10.19 agility drill (#1), and a 3.10 second 3/4 court sprint (#2).  At 6’7″ with a 7’2″ wingspan, expect this showing to push Leslie into the first round, where he would be a good backup plan to Otto Porter.  Cody Zeller had a very nice showing as well, with a 37’5″ standing vertical, a sprint time of 3.14 (#6), and an agility time of 10.4.  Those are extremely good numbers for a guy who measured over 7 feet in shoes.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the 6’6″ shooting Guard from Georgia also posted very nice speed and agility numbers, likely increasing his draft stock after a season where he posted good numbers, but his team played poorly.

Players who didn’t fare so well included Deshaun Thomas who posted the worst agility drill at 12.94, the fifth worst sprint at 3.53 and a 32″ vertical.  My boys Rudy Gobert and Kelly Olynyk were the slowest of the bunch at 3.59 and 3.57 seconds respectively.  Olynyk at least posted a decent agility drill, but Gobert trailed only Thomas at that too.  DraftExpress has been tracking these things for a while now, and their results weren’t good historically, either.  In Gobert’s defense, players of his size rarely compete in these events, and I give him his props for trying.  His numbers compare favorably with a guy not quite his size, Brook Lopez.

In other news, Mary Schmitt Boyer of Cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer explores whether the Cavs should acquire Paul Pierce and many other topics in her “Hey Mary” Q&A.

In the big man round-up, Terry Pluto drops the intel that the Cavs are interested in Greg Oden still, and the News Herald’s Bob Finnan notes that the Cavs could be a landing spot for Pau Gasol, as well as conjecturing on multiple topics like whether Andrew Bynum will get a max contract.

Links to the Present: The Draft Is Coming — Updated

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Due to massive computer issues on my part, a podcast with Robert and Colin has been delayed.  Fortunately, there’s lots to discuss on the draft front.

To start, both Mary Schmitt Boyer from the Plain Dealer and Bob Finnan from the Morning Journal note how the Cavaliers are doing their best to find an underrated, special player during this week’s combine.

Jason Lloyd over at the Akron Beacon Journal covers how, surprisingly, the Cavaliers will not meet with Otto Porter at the combine.  Thankfully, he notes, Porter has made it clear he’d like to play for the Cavaliers.

On Bleacher Report, Greg Swartz details how Mike Brown will improve the current Cavs squad’s D.  Suffice to say it will be a challenge.

Finally, Rant Sports’ Cody Williams touches on Shaun Livingston’s season with the Cavaliers, and speculates about his future.

–Update–

DraftExpress just published the NBA Draft combine measurements.  Notables include Rudy Gobert with the third biggest wingspan, (7’8.5″), and the second tallest standing reach (9’7″) in combine history.  Also, Otto Porter ranks among the lightest players for his size in combine history at 6’7.5″ and 198 pounds.  The entire sortable historical database is posted here.

Trends, Ranks, and Outliers: Final Exam

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

No Cheating.  Take the Final Exam and see (honestly) how well you know the Trends, Ranks, and Outliers of our beloved wine and gold.

1.) The Cavaliers ended the season with a block differential of:

a.) -82 (or, 1 less block per game)

b.) -167

c.) -226

d.) +30 (Stop being so negative!)

2.) The Cavaliers finished last in the NBA in accumulating what basic box score stat:

a.) Blocks

b.) Forcing Turnovers

c.) Defensive Rebounds

d.) Free Throw Attempts

3.) The Cavaliers finished 1st in the NBA in differential for what basic box score stat:

a.) Turnovers (“Take what you can!  Give nothing back!”)

b.) Blocks (they see me trolling)

c.) Technical Fouls (ain’t misbehavin’)

d.) Field Goal Attempts (Keep on chuckin’)

4.) The Cavaliers’ leader(s) in technical fouls was(were):

a.) Marreese Speights and Anderson Varejao with 4 each

b.) Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Boobie Gibson, with 3 each

c.) Moondog with OVER 9000?!?

d.) Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Marreese Speights with 2 each

5.) Rank the following players by # of Double-Doubles in 2012-2013: Tristan Thompson, Blake Griffin, J.J. Hickson, and Greg Monroe

a.) 1 Griffin, 2 Thompson, 3 Hickson, 4 Monroe

b.) 1 Griffin, 2 Monroe, 3 Thompson, 4 Hickson

c.) 1 Hickson, 2 Monroe, 3 Thompson, 4 Griffin

d.) 1 Thompson, 2 Griffin, 3 Monroe, 4 Hickson

6.) How many players did the Cavaliers have with a PER over 15 and how does that compare with the 2008-2009 team that won 66 games.

a.) 3 Players, and thus 3 less than the 6 on the 09 team

b.) 4 Players, and only 1 less than the 5 on the 09 team

c.) 5 players, and as it turns out, 2 more than the 3 on the 09 team

d.) 6 Players, which gave them 2 more than the 4 on the 09 team

7.) Choose the correct order of these Cavaliers by number of tweets: C.J. Miles, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Daniel Gibson, Tristan Thompson

a.) Gibson, Waiters, Irving, Miles, Thompson

b.) Irving, Gibson, Waiters, Thompson, Miles

c.) Miles, Irving, Gibson, Waiters, Thompson

d.) Waiters, Gibson, Thompson, Irving, Miles

8.) Dion Waiters shot 100 more free throws than he committed personal fouls.  (+100)  How did Tyler Zeller fare at this made up stat?

a.) +21

b.) +7

c.) 0

d.) -4

e.) -94

9.) (Of players that played more than 500 minutes) Luke Walton led the Cavaliers in a number of dichotomous statistical categories.  Which ones?

a.) First in assist rate, last in Usage%

b.) First in assist/turnover ratio, last in ORtg

c.)  First in steal rate, last in % of points coming from fast breaks

d.) All of these.

10.) Rank these Cavaliers by improved WS/48 from last season: Irving, Thompson, Varejao, Gee, Livingston, Miles.

a.) Thompson, Livingston, Varejao, Miles,  Irving, Gee

b.) Thompson, Varejao, Irving, Livingston, Miles, Gee

c.) Varejao, Thompson, Livingston, Miles, Irving, Gee

d.) Livingston, Varejao, Thompson, Irving, Miles, Gee

11.) Rank these in order of how expensive (amount/salary) they were this season:

a.) TT shots outside 15 feet

b.) Kyrie Irving All-Star Points

c.) Anderson Varejao Double-Doubles

d.) Luke Walton Free Throws

12.) Apply the following rankings (based on +/-‘s) to the below lineups: Great = +53 in 190m, Good = +13 in 153m, Good =+7 in 99m, Awful = -62 in 421m, Putrid = -66 in 185m

a.) Irving – Waiters – Gee – Thompson – Varejao

b.) Irving – Waiters – Gee – Thompson – Zeller

c.) Pargo – Waiters – Gee – Thompson – Varejao

d.) Irving – Gee – Miles – Thompson – Zeller

e.) Irving – Ellington – Gee – Thompson – Zeller

13.) Of opponent shooting splits, the Cavaliers placed in the top 6 at defending what?

a.) Field Goals

b.) Corner 3s

c.) The Paint

d.) Free Throws

14.) The Cavaliers were 4th in the NBA in point differential against this team:

a.) Thunder

b.) Heat

c.) Clippers

d.) Hawks

e.) Rockets

15.) What percentage of Shaun Livingston’s assisted baskets resulted from Luke Walton?

a.) 18%

b.) 28%

c.) 44%

d.) 63%

16.) The Cavalier players with the best Adjusted Plus Minus numbers this season were:

a.) Thompson, Irving, Varejao

b.) Jones, Livingston, Varejao

c.) Waiters, Ellington, Speights

d.) Irving, Ellington, Livingston (more…)

Who Are They Now?

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

It began with a sandwich.

The sandwich had bacon and cheddar upon it and the sandwich, when teamed with inevitable add-ons Large Fries and Cool, Refreshing Coke, begat a package of basketball player cards. And it was those cards, one of which featured a certain young man whose name having been given to the sandwich, that along with said sandwich made a certain young man feel, in his words, “seven feet tall.”

What do you mean you need context? Oh, okay..

And with that, Brad Daugherty was seven feet tall and he was teamed with inevitable add-ons like Craig Ehlo and “Leaping” Larry Nance, and they begat a team of basketball players named the Cleveland Cavaliers. And, in the 1991-92 NBA season, it was those Cleveland Cavaliers, who featured not just Daugherty, Ehlo and Nance, but also Mark Price and … um … that other guy … Mike something, and this team reached the Eastern Conference finals after going 57-25 to tie the eventual Finalist Portland Trailblazers for the second best record in the NBA (though, both of them a full 10 games behind the eventual champion Chicago Bulls) only to lose to those Bulls in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals that made this certain young (at the time) man feel, in his words, “well, you know, kinda bummed?”

The playoffs can be tough. No, I’m not talking about the nail-biting games or the physical pounding endured by players facing suddenly ratcheted-up intensity. I’m talking about having to watch other teams’ players enduring this and not those players on the Cavs. I’m talking about foaming at the mouth and chewing on my draft tether for another six weeks and hearing rumors about the summer of 2014 and about keeping Kyrie happy and about defense, defense, defense.

So, allow me, if you will, to escape to a simpler time — to the “time we were really good” before the most recent “time we were really good,” to the year and the playoff run where I cut my teeth on the Cavs, the NBA and Cleveland’s just-come-up-shortness. Ladies and Gentlemen, if you please, let us remember and consider…

Your 1991-1992 Cleveland Cavaliers*: (more…)

Whither Kyrie?

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I’ve been of two minds lately.  My inner pessimist keeps spouting off: Kyrie Irving’s not good enough. He’ll never play defense. He likes making commercials more than making improvements. The half empty glass whispers, The Cavaliers would be better off trading Kyrie Irving. It’s a dialogue between doubt and faith.

Faith knows that Irving is as good a young offensive talent as has ever played in the league.  His rookie numbers were up there with the all-time greats.  But his sophomore season?  He regressed in a couple of areas.  His shooting splits dropped from .469/.399/.872 to .452/.391/.855 with his usage going up from 28.7 to 30.2, these are still fantastic numbers, and fairly minor fluctuations.  His assist rate dropped from 36.5 percent to 32.7 percent, but his turnover percentage also went down from 16.1 percent to 13.8 percent.  Irving passed a little bit less and shot a little bit more.  Most of these changes were fairly unremarkable.  And Kyrie once again led the NBA in  crunch time scoring per 48 minutes.

2012-2013 NBA Season Crunch-Time Stats

Production per 48 Minutes of Clutch Time
Team Player Gm Min +/- +/- Fga Fg% 3pA 3p% Fta Ft% Pts Ast’d Reb Ast T/o Blk Stl
CLE Irving 35 130 -20 -7 38.8 .467 11.1 .300 17.4 80% 53.6 10% 5.5 6.7 10.0 0.4 2.2

2011-2012 NBA Season Crunch-Time Stats

Production per 48 Minutes of Clutch Time
Team Player Gm Min +/- +/- Fga Fg% 3pA 3p% Fta Ft% Pts Ast’d Reb Ast T/o Blk Stl
CLE Irving 24 78 -18 -11 34.9 .544 3.7 .667 17.8 89% 56.4 19% 8.6 3.7 4.3 0.0 0.6

But  his efficiency dipped considerably.  Irving was ridiculously good in 2011 and clearly expected the same success this season.  But he was much better at shooting, rebounding, and not turning the ball over in crunch-time during his rookie season.

He was a turnover machine at the ends of games his year.  10 turnovers per 48 is awful, and a .67 assist to turnover ratio is Drew Gooden territory.  Much of this was due to the fact teams figured out how to defend Irving: trap him high, and force him to give up the ball or try to make a hero play.  If Byron Scott deserved to be fired, one of the key reasons was that he let Kyrie develop some very poor late-game habits. Kyrie is not good at passing out of high double teams.  He doesn’t get any zip on the ball: he loops it or jumps to pass, and the ball gets picked off a lot.  He also overdribbles, and more than once dribbled off his foot in a key moment, or stumbled and threw up a weak shot as time expired. He hasn’t yet adjusted to the defenses teams throw at him when the Cavs absolutely need a bucket.

These are the sorts of scenarios Irving will encounter with increasing frequency if the Cavs grow over the next few seasons into a perennial playoff team. Which brings me to another troubling fact: the NBA playoffs historically belong to big men.  The ability to get a shot up over the defense is key to winning and winning consistently, and being inordinately tall just helps.  Of the last 23 NBA champs, only one team has featured a point guard as its best player: the 1989-90 Detroit Pistons, who featured Isaiah Thomas. The 2004 version of Chauncey Billups might have some claim to that mantle as well, and Tony Parker nabbed a Finals MVP in ’07, but neither player was head and shoulders above everyone else on their team the way Thomas was, or the way Kyrie is. (Plus, Chauncey had Sheed, Parker had Duncan, and Isaiah… well, prime Isaiah was a transcendent player.)  If Chris Paul’s brief Clippers tenure proves anything, it’s that it’s hard to dominate in the NBA playoffs if your best offensive player is a point guard.

And we all know and bemoan Irving’s defense, as late as April 5th, Kyrie was guilty of inexplicably lazy defense.  Those games didn’t matter in any tangible sense—the Cavs were firmly in the hunt for lottery balls by the time April rolled around—but in a game the Cavs eventually won, Kyrie docilely stared at a Jason Terry fourth quarter three from the left block.  I said in November that, “Kyrie’s sins aren’t sins of execution or understanding, they are failures of effort, focus, attention, and accountability. If he doesn’t fix the way he plays defense, he will not win. It’s as simple as that.”

But, Kyrie did get better since I penned these two pieces (part 1, part 2).  Take Kyrie’s Synergy stats in comparison to a player whose defense I respect a lot, Eric Bledsoe. (Irving’s numbers are on top, in the white rows.)

Here, Kyrie is comparable to Bledsoe.  He has much better numbers against isolation, but I’m betting a lot of this is because Irving consistently gets put on the worst isolation offensive player and is often helped with double teams (which would explain Kyrie’s 19 percent defensive turnover rate against isolations), whereas Bledsoe is consistently put on above-average isolation players.  If we compare some other numbers, we see that Bledsoe holds opposing point guards to 14.9 PER, while holding opposing shooting guards to 22.7 PER.  He also helps his team defend 4.9 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the floor.  Irving, by comparison, holds opposing point guards to an 18.1 PER, and his team defense is 2.1 points per 100 possessions worse when he’s on the floor.  But the difference isn’t as stark as you might think, and .87 points per possession by Kyrie is a lot better than I thought he’d be before I looked at the numbers.  It has been clear in limited stretches that Kyrie can play defense when he wants to, with focus and effort.

It’s also clear that, at times, he sticks to screens like they’re made of fly paper, makes horrible defensive pick and roll decisions, and gives up on plays.  What frustrates people is that Kyrie doesn’t seem nearly as focused on improving as a player as some of his peers.  Damian Lillard is rumored to be locking himself in the gym with Gary Payton this summer to learn defense.  Steph Curry is currently leading the Warriors on an extended playoff run.  Meanwhile?  Kyrie Irving is doing clinics, making a paid appearance at Interop for Cisco, and has plans to teach Kangaroos how to dunk down under.  My worry is Kyrie is satisfied with where he is as a player and doesn’t seem to be willing to put in the work to be anything more than a friendlier and better shooting version of Allen Iverson—that Kyrie thinks it’s all about gettin’ buckets, not preventing them…

OK, That’s an unfair criticism.  Kyrie’s not stupid — far from it.  Kyrie has to know that the key to being a great player, is learning to play defense, and learning to be an elite point guard — not just an elite scorer.   Knowing what one needs to do in order to improve, and having the will, desire, and the ability to accurately self-evaluate in order to make those changes, are very different things, and those things take time.  Kyrie has a reverence for Malcolm Gladwell and his theory that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.  According to Kyrie, he put 10,000 hours into basketball by the age of 19.  If he has that kind of dedication to being a great basketball player, he’ll put in the next 10,000 hours to be a winner.

But I fret, because that’s what fans do: what if Kyrie has peaked?  What if he has put in his 10,000 hours, and he’s done growing as a player?  What if he’s happy where he’s at: all star, ankle breaker, commercial maker…?  Of course my expectations are immense, and completely unfair.  Look, Kyrie’s going to be a very good player. it’s just that he needs to be really freaking great if  the Cavs are going to win a title with him. and even then, he’ll need help.

If the Cavs are smart, they will realize that Irving’s preternatural abilities come with preternatural weaknesses.  He’ll never get to be a good defender.  He’ll never be able to get his shot off consistently in crunch-time.  He’ll never learn how to pass hard out of the double team.”

You’re a 37-year-old blogger from Alaska who hacks everything that moves in pickup games.  What do you know about being a 21-year-old millionaire basketball prodigy?  Damian Lillard is a year older.  Steph Curry is 25. Give Kyrie time.  He’ll learn.  Just because he’s not giving interviews to Spin Magazine about summer training with Gerald, ‘The Jordan Buster’ Wilkins, doesn’t mean that he’s not working on defense.  KI logged 10,000 hours in the gym before he went pro.  That’s dedication, Holmes.

What if the Cavs’ best option is to trade him now, and build the team around a lesser point guard and an all-star big man?  Could they flip Kyrie and the #19 pick into Al Horford and Eric Bledsoe, then try to trade for Gasol or Pierce?  Will they some day be settling for the four quarters for a dollar trade that Oklahoma City got for Harden, the hodge podge of young assets Orlando got for Dwight Howard, or the near-nothing Cleveland got for LeBron James…?  What they really ought to do is trade Kyrie for a shot or two at Wiggins or Jabari Parker…

You’ve been spoiled.  Even if everything works out perfectly, it’s going to be a long climb.  The Cavaliers aren’t taking the Heat to game six of the conference finals in two years.  Do you know what kind of effort that is going to take?  Look at what the greats had to do to to get to the finals: LeBron in 2007: 25 points, 8 boards, and 8 assists.  He was 23.  Dwyane Wade in ’06?  28.4/5.9/5.7 and 2.2 steals.  He was 24, and he had Shaq at the end of his prime.   How about Tim Duncan?  In his first finals, ’99? 23.2/11.5/2.8 with 2.6 blocks, and the Admiral playing on his team.  In 2003?  27.6/14.4/5.0 plus 4.3 blocks.  Duncan was 23 and 27.  Holy pantheon.  It’s obvious that this kind of greatness doesn’t even start till 23.  The lone exception to this?  Magic Johnson, who was 21 in his first finals team, but that Lakers team was loaded, and Magic is 6’9″.  Kyrie’s development has been matched only by the all time greats.  He’ll do his part.  The rest of his game will get there, and everything else is up to his teammates and the organization.  If there’s anything Mike Brown can teach young players, it’s how to guard the pick and roll.  Don’t let Mike’s fart-whiff face get you down.  No one ever succeeded without failing first.

ARGH we’re all guilty of irrational optimism.  We’re going to be spending the next few years waiting for some other shoe to drop.  But despite my well reasoned malaise, there’s no way the Cavs are trading Kyrie any time soon.  Still, I can play with the trade machine to get multiple all-stars for Irving. Meanwhile, the wallabies better be helping Kyrie channel his inner Mookie Blaylock.

Links to the Present: Mid May Round-up Edition — Now Updated with All-Rookie Team Links!

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Not a lot of Cavs news lately, but there have been a couple stray bits of information that filtered out over the last few days.  Let’s round ‘em up.

In not so shocking news, another mock draft, this time at nbadraft.net, has the Cavs taking Otto Porter at number three.

Saturday, Bob Finnan of the News-Herald told us not to expect the Cavs to “spend like summer of 2005.”  He also reported that the Cavs are expected to “kick the tires” on O.J. Mayo in free agency this summer.

Bill Simmons over at Grantland finally completed his annual NBA trade value series which stretched over three weeks this year.  He ranks Kyrie Irving at #7, one spot ahead of Chris Paul. He sums Kyrie up nicely and ominously with a comparison to current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson.

So we’ll see about Irving, an electric offensive player who is already one of the league’s best clutch scorers.15 He’s only two years into a favorable rookie contract. And he’s also just 21 years old, a baby for God’s sake. There’s a lot to love. Ironically, I think he’s Kevin Johnson 2.0 as a basketball player — just as devastating off the dribble, just as unstoppable getting to the rim. Let’s hope that comparison doesn’t stretch to his durability, too.

Oh, and the footnote?  “15. He’s a weak defensive player right now. Has to be mentioned. Not good at all.”

In the best news of the weekend, Mary Schmitt Boyer of Cleveland.com / The Plain Dealer dropped this pleasant bit in her “Hey Mary” Q&A column: Anderson Varejao is off blood thinners and should be ready for training camp.

Finally — and the connection to the Cavs is tenuous at best — Grantland’s Zach Lowe profiles Buckeye alum, Mike Conley.  I’ve been saying all year that Conley is the most underrated player in the NBA, and one of the best two way players out there.  If there’s one player that Kyrie Irving should be emulating when it  comes to development, it’s Conley.  Similarly ambidextrous, Conley has gone from being a “frail” defender to one of the top five in the league, and has become a pick and roll savant.  Irving could do a heck of a lot worse than becoming a better version of Mike Conley.

Self indulgently, I’ll leave you with this gem from Simmons on pick-up basketball, just cause I liked it so much.

I love playing basketball — even now, with my body breaking down and my game decaying to alarming degrees — if only because it’s one of the few places left on earth where you can connect with total strangers like that. Age doesn’t matter, backgrounds don’t matter, nothing matters. You have four teammates, they can be anybody, and you either know how to click with them or you don’t.

–Update–

Well, speaking of teams of five random guys, nba.com posted the all-rookie squads this afternoon, and Dion Waiters made the first team, along with Anthony Davis, Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, and rookie of the year, Damian Lillard.  Tyler Zeller represented the Cavaliers on the second team, but was the lowest vote getter on the two teams.  Still, the fact that Zeller beat out the likes of Moe Harkless and Andrew Nicholson when voted on by a panel of 30 NBA head coaches bodes well for him.  Congratulations, Dion and Tyler.

Hoping the Roulette Wheel Stops on #19

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

An athletic big with a history of strong production, but attitude issues? Take him at #19 and see if a glimpse of D-League life brings him to his full potential.

All credit for stats and much information goes to draftexpress.com, statsheet.com and eurobasket.com; three unique and awesome websites.  Certainly I worked in an original opinion somewhere though.

Regarding the first round of the 2013 draft, I still think the Cavs benefit best by bringing aboard one player to the active roster next year.  Kyrie, Tristan, Dion, 2013 lottery pick, and Zeller need to be surrounded by veteran talent: players to share lessons learned, teach them how to be pros, etc.  Based on that thought, the nineteenth pick would be traded, Euro-stashed, or invested in a young player destined for a year of D-League time.

The latter scenarios present interesting opportunities to swing for the fences.  The Cavaliers employ the aforementioned crew of youngsters, plus possess a multitude of future draft picks to acquire role players.  Why not shoot for the moon with this year’s other first-rounder?

Here are some options.

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Links to the Present: May 9th, 2013

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Breaking conjecture: Chad Ford—in his pre-lottery mock draft that, while interesting, is the hypotheticalest article because we have no idea where the Cavs will be selecting come June—has the Cavs taking Otto Porter with the third pick. We’re probably going to be beating each other over the head with chairs by the time the draft rolls around while debating the merits of Porter, Victor Oladipo, Alex Len, et al., so I advise that, for your mental health, you not worry too much about what the mocks say until at least after the lottery. Otto Porter, though, huh? He has very long arms, a great motor, and intangibles so strong they threaten to become actual things. I give it an A-minus. (I have almost no idea what I’m talking about.)

Oh, and Kyrie Irving is going to hold some coaching clinics in his native Australia this summer. No word yet on whether or not, during downtime, he plans to shoot a commercial in which he dribbles through a pack of dingos, crosses up a koala, then finds a kangaroo—which basically has the same catching and leaping ability as Tristan Thompson—for the slam, but that would be super cool. (Get at me Nike’s marketing department! I have tons of great ideas!) Maybe the kangaroo could wear a Thompson jersey? (See what I mean?)