1 through 5

December 10th, 2012 by Tom Pestak

Five Cavs questions for the writers – all in one place.

What these young bloods have to understand, that this game has always been....and will always be....about STAYING HEALTHY.

Question 1: Have you noticed any silver linings for the Cavs with both Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters injured?

Tom: The silver lining is that the Cavs may get another top-5 draft pick and not necessarily deserve it.  Before the season started I thought there was a very low probability the Cavs could make the playoffs – so many things had to go right on a team with so little experience and depth.  Injuries have already piled up and they’ve lost a lot of close games.  If you’re not going to make the playoffs, ideally, you want to get as many ping pong balls as possible and still have a decent roster.  That’s an entirely possible outcome of this season and probably more ideal in the long run.  I’m not suggesting they punt on the season – plenty of losing is happening organically.

Dani: I’ve been very pleased with Jeremy Pargo’s play. He’s a much better point guard then Donald Sloan, and actually capable of the penetration that this Cleveland offense needs. He’s definitely won the backup PG minutes, and here’s to hoping he can be as successful off the bench. Also: while it saddens me to say this, Pargo was the first starting point guard to try on defense this year.

Kevin: The biggest ‘silver lining’ is the uptick in Tyler Zeller’s production.  In November, he averaged 6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.4 blocks on 45% true shooting.  In December, those have risen to 10 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 49% in similar minutes.  He is acclimating to the NBA well, and this is despite shattering his face during the season’s first week and wearing a mask ever since.  He receives warranted grief for his man-defense, but I think he shows relatively nuanced rotations for a rookie, and his rebounding is improving.  Through December 3rd games, only two centers drew more charges (as per hoopdata).  The Cavs defensive rebounding rate sits at exactly 74.3% when T-Zell is on and off-court, and their defensive rating worsens by less than 1 point per 100 possessions when he plays.  At the least, Cleveland is just a miserable defensive team, and it’s not all Tyler’s fault.

Nate: The silver linings for the Cavs with both Kyrie and Dion?  Um… No.  Maybe there’s one in that Gee can be more aggressive, and that we’re seeing that we obviously need to develop a deeper bench, but these are revelations of long confirmed suspicions, not silver linings.  I am tempted to say that we might be gaining the knowledge that Scott isn’t a great coach before it could really hurt us, but he does seem to get guys to play hard.

Mallory: Two obvious ones: Pargo might actually be an NBA player.  He seems to have SOME game; the question is whether or not he can keep it going consistently from the bench.  Also, Casspi has come alive.  We always knew he could play D, drive to the rim, and shoot the three – it’s just that, for the first time since he joined this team, he’s doing all of that at the same time.  As we’ve all said a million times, he just needed some more consistent playing time.

Question 2: Which Cavalier role player has exceeded expectations the most?

Tom: Jeremy Pargo.  I never would have guessed this output. His college stats projected him to be a 9 to 5er like the rest of us, or at best an export to the trapezoid leagues.  He’s 26 and played poorly last year in his rookie season.  Honestly I’m amazed the Cavs gave him a tryout – even if he displayed some goods in workouts, I would think a younger or bigger guy would get the nod for the upside stuff.  Pargo seemed to have zero upside, and yet, there have been times this season where he’s stood out among all-stars.   He’s working hard at both ends and the crazy thing is that he can’t really shoot at all so defenses are clogging the lanes and he’s still making plays.  He might be the biggest reason the Cavs have 2 wins since Kyrie injured himself.  I’ll wait till after the all-star break to declare him the “backup pg of the future!” but you gotta give the guy credit for taking advantage of this opportunity.  He’s fun to watch too.

Dani: I didn’t expect much out of Omri Casspi this year, given his horrendous play the previous season. But he’s performed fairly well as a 3-and-D guy so far, and seems to be returning to the form of his rookie season.

Kevin: Considering his worse performance across-the-board compared to last year; Alonzo Gee may be a surprising answer.  Fifteen months ago, I did not think he was an NBA player.  Two months ago, after last season’s crazy, condensed schedule, where Gee spent the first two-thirds of the season playing well, and the last-third completely derailing, I was still on the fence about Gee.  After the first twenty games of this season, I am content that AG serves as a completely fine rotation player at a reasonable cost.

Nate: Tyler Zeller.  With a very smart offensive game, he seems to pass well, finish well with both hands around the basket and flash a jumper that’s rounding into form.  I think he’ll be a fine offensive player.  Now he does need to add about 20 pounds as he gets abused in the post, as has often been said here.  But what’s also been said is that he takes charges, rebounds well in spurts, and will block the occasional shot.  I think he can grow as a player and is professional enough to see the areas he needs to improve and do the work needed to realize those improvements.

Mallory: See above.  Really, expectations were so low for Casspi this year that he’s far exceeding what we all expected from him this year.  His D has been VERY good at times, showing physicality and using his size.  Also, dude can seriously rebound.

Question 3:  During the upcoming off-season, should the Cavaliers sign a household name with a max or near-max offer or take a flier on someone for around the mid-level amount?

Tom: I’ll have a better answer after reading Nate’s next piece, but my suspicion is that this FA class is toxic.  There are a whole bunch of guys that are about to get max or near max deals that would not be the 6th best player in a Heat/Thunder series.  The fact that we seem willing to explore Tyreke Evans kinda sums everything up for me.  I’m envious Danny Ferry nabbed Sweet Lou Williams for such an affordable deal.  I’d like to see Chris Grant get that kind of value.  If they do offer a ton of money to someone I hope it’s Millsap.  Of course if they get Millsap then [Swings hammer at fingers so as not to mention baffling choice of Tr…fk0p[ajds;]

Dani: It depends on whether or not we trade Anderson Varejao. If we keep him, then we have to go after a max contract type of guy; in that scenario, we’re gunning for a decent seed in the playoffs. If we trade him, then our team is much further removed from the playoffs, and I would say we just use the mid-level.

Kevin: This is a loaded question, as Cleveland needs to bring on-board about $20 million of salary next season, and that must constitute a near-max player.  There are enough role players and draft picks around to keep those cupboards full.  The non-Howard / Paul / Bynum, near-max free agents are Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Josh Smith.  For four years and $45 million, Millsap looks appealing.  Of course, he plays the same position as Tristan Thompson.   Ultimately, I really hope that Luke Walton’s expiring contract and maybe a draft pick or two can help facilitate a three team trade and bring Cleveland a strong new piece for 2013 – 2014.  If Utah falls out of playoff contention, maybe a trade for Millsap can be arranged. The second-best bet to spend those dollars may be something like when the Pacers added David West for 2 years and $20 million in 2011.

Nate: See Monday’s article.  With 20 million in cap room, the Cavs should be looking at one max guy, one or two mid tier guys and a vet minimum free agent that can help provide some leadership.  With their cap situation, I’m hoping they can front load the contracts to lessen the impact when Kyrie is due for an extension.

Mallory: Both.  We need to get deeper and older.  More consistency from a guy who has 3-4 good years on his resume is a necessity.  We also need spot-up shooters.  A lot of them.  At this point the Cavs have more than enough cap room to pay someone.  The thing is, we don’t need a home run hitter, just someone who can do their thing at an exceptional level (a great defender, a shooter, etc. etc.)  I haven’t even spent a ton of time looking at the FA list (it’s too early for that) but I know we HAVE to be active, no matter what.

Question 4: Is there another NBA team besides the Cavaliers that you enjoy following?

Tom: [using voice recognition] Who’s playing the Heat tonight?  That team.  Also, with the exception of a few years (mainly 2007) I have always loved the Spurs.  I grew up a David Robinson fan and Manu Ginobili is my favorite player to watch today.  The only thing I love more than Greg Popovich interviews are the way the Spurs play offense.  If it weren’t for the Thunder channeling magic – as in, the 2009-Orlando-variety, the Spurs would have embarrassed the Heatles in the Finals and the ‘LeBron chokes’ narrative would be stronger than ever!  ARGGHHH.

Dani: I love watching the Knicks play basketball, and I have since Carmelo Anthony was traded there. While he’s taken a lot of heat for his play the last year or so, his clock-eating offense has always seemed sort of beautiful to me. The silky midrange jumper, the elegant finishes around the rim…I’ve been quite the ‘Melo apologist over the last 12-15 months, so his role in reviving the Knicks franchise has held my attention- I think I’ve watched 12 out of 19 Knicks games, or something like that.

Kevin: Not a team; I try to watch one NBA game every day.  I tape a game and fast-forward through free-throws, dead-balls, timeouts, etc.  I like knowing what is going on around the league.

Nate: I enjoy all the other teams when they’re on.  Most of them have something compelling to offer.  I generally stick to the contenders in the East.  But really, it’s anyone playing the Heat: so I enjoy the Knicks, Celtics, Bulls, etc. when they’ve got the axis of ego on the docket.  There’s nothing I enjoy more than LeBron James’ loser face.  Ticked off Kobe comes a close second.  Yep.  Yep.  I’m a H8er 4 Ever.

Mallory: I’ve loved the Blazers for a while – dates back to the early Brandon Roy years.  But they’re still fun to watch.  It’s fun watching the Lakers just to see the circus.  Who doesn’t love watching the Knicks?  They’re unavoidable, especially in NYC.  I’m SURE I’m forgetting teams (Houston, OKC, etc etc) but who has time for that?

Question 5: Has the poor start made you more supportive of keeping or trading Varejao?

Tom: Keeping.  When healthy, the Cavs backcourt isn’t bad, and with Pargo in tow, depth is less of an issue.  The frontcourt is a nightmare.  The Cavs are undersized, have no above-the-rim finishers, paint protectors, or post players.  If Varejao is traded, now you lose the league’s best rebounder (the Cavs only strength as a team right now), the only player on the team that has a prayer against the big bruisers of the league, and one of the game’s best pick and roll bigs.  The Cavs would be an unmitigated disaster.  Anderson Varejao plugs so many holes – and is the main reason the Cavs have been competitive in a lot of these games – he wins possessions.  He should stay unless someone offers the Cavs something they can’t refuse, and if that something isn’t an all-star big, it should probably be refused.

Dani: I’ve taken a lot of flak for this already, and made my position clear in a rather elaborate manner, so I’ll keep it short. The Cavs are nowhere near playoff contention. Anderson Varejao is playing amazingly well, but he can’t keep it up forever. By the time the Cavs should be hitting 3-4 seed territory, he will be 33. Trade him now, and reap the benefits. Especially if those benefits are Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter.

Kevin: For the right deal, anyone is tradeable, but…Keeping, because of Varejao’s strong start.  At the beginning of the season, I ran through his place on Cavalier “All-Time” lists.  Since the season started, he has passed Jim Brewer to move to 7th for defensive rebounds and Terrell Brandon to climb to 7th in Win Shares.  He eclipsed two players to ascend to 9th in blocks, and this past weekend moved to 10th for career steals.  I hope Varejao plays fifteen seasons for the Cavs, makes the playoffs again, and gets his jersey retired (also, next playoff appearance moves him into sole possession of first place all-time for that category).

Nate: The poor start has not changed my stance on Andy.  In fact it’s reinforced the simple fact for me that this team has 2 very good players (Andy and Kyrie), 2 young players with upside (Waiters and Gee), and 3 players who can be good, but who we may have to wait for a while to develop (Zeller, Casspi, and TT).  The rest of the players are end of the bench guys or strictly role players on a good team.  When Kyrie and Waiters went down, the lack of guard play killed the team, and it’s been killing it since.  But I’m confident the depth issues will be fixed next year (though not necessarily the defense).  With my plan for the Cavs to be competitive next year and the colossal number of draft picks we have coming in the next few years, I’m not trading Andy unless we get a proven commodity in return, and I doubt there’s any player in the league with more value than Andy as a proven commodity.

Mallory: Like I said above, we do NOT need youth.  How many draft picks can you use?  Drafting players high up keeps you in perpetual rebuild.  By this time next year we’ll have five guys from the top 20 on this team and potentially four taken in the top 5.  That should be enough to build a young “core.”  Andy is a leader and an all star caliber player.  Getting rid of him, in my mind, would set us back years.  For more on that check the debate that Dani, Nate, and I had.

4-1 looks like I'm staying where I belong. Vote me for All-Star Please.

33 Responses to “1 through 5”

  1. WitmI says:

    Kevin: ” Millsap looks appealing. Of course, he plays the same position as Tristan Thompson. ”

    I have a question for you Kevin. Is this meant as “Well, we don’t need another player at that position because we have TT” comment, or is it a “We desperately need to get someone to move TT to the bench” comment?

  2. Jonathan says:

    Can Milsap play SF effectively in spurts? I haven’t looked at the data. If he can, then TT could still get a fair amount of minutes.

  3. I don’t think Milsap could defend the 3.

  4. KyrieSwIrving says:

    I think TT could actually defend the 3 fairly decently. As much as I don’t love the kid, he is definitely pretty quick and athletic on defense, and his length will help make up for any speed he might be giving up, which I don’t think is a ton.

    Either way, I’m fine with taking milsap and sticking TT on the bench. Maybe that will put some urgency in him to flush quickly the next time he gets an entrance pass, and use the off arm to block out defenders, not redundantly grab the ball.

  5. Cory Hughey says:

    I was asked tonight by a coworker “What do you guys need in the draft?” I answered with best available non-point guard player….Ideally a small forward…Or a perhaps a power forward. It wasn’t intended for TT hate (I never liked the nickname Tigger, it could get you into a fight if they don’t understand the context), but Grant should take the best player available in the draft…Even if it is fellow Canadian and power forward Anthony Bennett (if you haven’t check him out…Oh yeah and there’s a pipeline coming out of our neighbor to the North-They might give Spain a run for the silver in the next Olympics).

    I’m practicing patience with Thompson but I dig the fear. Bigs do develop slowly. Maybe it’s the mask (I’m just making excuses). It took Chandler like 8 years and 4 teams to start getting his shit together. Some big never develop. Most never do. Bigs are kind of crap shoots (if I knew how to underline crap on here I would have). The allure of Bennett to me is that he seems to be everything I want Tristan to be except that he’s younger/bigger and better at it. He has a mid range game and can still hit the glass. He can shoot free throws.

    My favorite response above goes to Tom on Question Uno. This team could easily be looking at the 10th pick in the draft if they were healthy/didn’t have the toughest schedule thus far/didn’t have a d league All-Stars bench bench. They will have a top 5 pick…Right now I want Bennett. I think he’ll be a better pro than Zeller/Noel/Muhammad.

  6. WitmI says:

    We don’t want a defensive PF in the starting lineup, we want him coming off the bench.

  7. Nate Smith says:

    Millsap plays the 3 fairly regularly, actually.

  8. Tom Pestak says:

    According to 82games.com Millsap played about 5% of the team’s minutes at SF last year. 6% so far this year.

    So he’s capable, but it’s not like he splits time there.

  9. Nathan says:

    I’ll be in the minority here, but I like TT just fine in the starting lineup. We don’t need to start 5 guys who can create on offense…I’d rather keep some D in the starting lineup and use a Millsap type player as a dangerous weapon for the second unit, who would possibly finish out games as well.

  10. OK guys, who’s psyched for tonight?

  11. Nathan says:

    Of course it’s at the same time as a mandatory review session for my final…decisions, decisions…

  12. KyrieSwIrving says:

    I agree we don’t need 5 guys who can create on offense, but unless you are ben wallace good on defense, you can’t be a complete whole on offense and be comfortable starting for a contending team. Also, I don’t want to be bad at offense at 2 starting positions, and right now SF is not a strong suite for our offense either.

    Mallory, I’m real excited to see Kyrie play tonight! And very excited to watch the lakers in depth and see why they are struggling first hand. Hopefully Kyrie looked at pargo and realized that maybe if he played that same kind of middle of the road defense, and could reproduce nightly on offense what pargo did in his two wins, maybe the wins would come a lot more often. Yes, I realize I just told Kyrie to look up to Pargo, but watch Kyrie play defense. He needs the humbling, to realize such an assertion is entirely justified.

  13. Skip it Nathan. I don’t remember a thing from college. But Kyrie comes back from an injury once in a generation. You’ll never forget this night!

    Wait a second…

  14. Dave says:

    My answers on these:
    1. Pargo was a nice discovery. Just make sure he never feels too comfortable.
    2. Casspi being a plus to the team was definitely a surprise.
    3. I’d be fine with taking on a demonstrably good FA at the 2, 3, or 4. And we need to do everything we can to keep Andy.
    4. I second the Spurs love. They’ve always done what the Cavs are trying to do, namely build up a tradition of winning with drafted players.
    5. As mentioned above, Andy’s a keeper. The main reason is that there’s no team that will give us anything close to what he’s worth in exchange. Trading him would be like selling a late-model Ferrari for $1000.

  15. Tom Pestak says:

    Dave – nice list my friend. I agree Pargo needs to stay hungry.

  16. Cols714 says:

    1. Pargo
    2. Gee
    3. No max player, but they need to sign some good FAs
    4. I enjoy following LeBron James. I hate the Lakers and Celtics
    5. Andy’s great start makes me want to keep him, however I’m aware that this is also probably his peak value in a trade. The team’s start should not matter in this discussion.

  17. Dave is actually me under a different name.

    Just kidding, but yeah, Dave with the killer answers.

  18. WitmI says:

    You don’t want defense at the PF position Nate, that means you need a Center that can create bhis own shot. Andy cannot create his own shot and neither can TT.

  19. Mike says:

    I think this article pertains strongly to question three. It clears things up about the cap floor.


  20. Tom Pestak says:

    I think the Cavs are in dire need of a back to the basket player. I’m not saying it has to be a center, but someone that can back down an opponent or make a move in the post. Basically, you need a way to create offense from the inside out, not always outside in. That’s part of the reason the Cavs get blocked at such an alarming rate – all their guys just put their heads down and drive to the hole. That’s why I like Millsap – he can back down smaller players and he can put moves on bigger guys. His offensive flexibility would open some things up for the Cavs. I agree with Swirving that you have to be careful about having too many offensively limited players on the court at one time – makes defending too easy for the other team.

  21. Tom Pestak says:

    Mike – wow, great article by Jason Lloyd – can’t believe I missed that one. Thanks for sharing!

  22. WitmI says:

    I think trading Andy for Leonard and Splitter is the best possible scenario for the Cavs.

    It allows us to draft a C in a C rich draft and we have our starting lineup set moving forward.

  23. Dani Socher says:

    WitmI – same as witml? Regardless, I adore you.

  24. Peter says:

    I’d like to see us go after four guys in particular in the upcoming FA; Nate Robinson, Leandro Barbosa, DeJuan Blair, and Josh Smith. All four will become UFA’s at the end of the season. Barbosa, Robinson, and Blair’s combined salary for this season is 3.43 million. Smith who’s currently playing out his last year at 13 mil would obviously come at a much steeper cost but would improve this team drastically. I say we go after a SF in the draft (wouldn’t Shabazz be great) keep our young core (KI, DW, TT, and TZ), Andy, Gee, and let Omri or Boobie hang around. Its nice to dream.

  25. Tom Pestak says:

    Peter – just curious – seems like you are trying to shore up the bench. Those moves would probably make the Cavs competitive – but I have a hard time seeing Barbosa or Robinson as part of the future. Those moves seem like something you do after you’ve really rounded out your core. Seems kinda premature to me. I haven’t checked in DeJuan Blair in a while….how’s he looking these days? He couldn’t get onto the court in the playoffs last year if memory serves me right.

  26. Peter says:

    I see Barbosa, Robinson, and Blair as cheap proven veterans who can come off the bench and contribute. I’m not looking at them as keystone pieces but more as guys that can come in and like you said shore up the bench for a couple years. Blair is averaging about 17 mpg for the Spurs, he does what is asked of him (score efficiently and box out). He would, hypothetically, get the lesser of backup mins at the 4 and 5 behind TT and TZ while Smith could cover either the 4 or the 3.

  27. Cory Hughey says:

    1. Silver lining-Dan Gilberts patience. The Cavs are sticking to the plan of rebuilding properly and not panicking. There are no rumors of a coach or GM firing while they are swirling in Washington and Toronto. Patience is one of the most important aspects of building a team.
    2. ANDY! He’s been a career role player and I never in a million years thought he would be doing what he’s been doing this year. He’s actually out performed being just a role player with fun hair.
    3. Nay. I’d window shop and check the sales racks first. Be careful in free agency. Do not overpay. It can set you back for years. This isn’t the Lebron-era WE MUST WIN NOW Cavs. Cap room is more valuable now than ever before and it will become even more important in the future. I still think Grant will use his cap room via trade and not free agency.
    4. I’m reveling in the polluted Lakers. I didn’t buy them being the favorite out of the West, but I never thought they would be this bad. I love that Phil Jackson played Jim Buss and turned the fan base against ownership…And he’s already banging the guys sister! Who wouldn’t LOVE to watch the Buss Thanksgiving this year!? Hey Jim, smell my fingers…Stone cold zen master.
    5. I’ve always had the mindset that if they get the right offer Grant should trade him. It’s going to be really hard to get the right offer for him. Until this year I never understood Cavs fans irrational love of Andy. When I’d criticize Andy’s shortcomings, his supporters would react like I just dropped their baby because I was drunk…Again. They’d be maintaining an asset for over a decade from a guy who was a throw in on the Drew Good deal. That’s some asset management. I’d also be okay with them keeping him too because he’s not replaceable in the near future and I really do think that next year is the leap year and they will be worse in the short term without him.

  28. Cory Hughey says:

    The monster is hungry.

  29. Nathan says:

    I was surprised to hear people lauding Pargo’s defensive effort because he never looked like a competent defender to me, and according to basketball reference his defensive rating ranks 392nd in the league. Granted, Kyrie wasn’t much better at 355th, but I don’t think there’s anything he can learn from Pargo.

    To clarify, I know Pargo tries harder at defense than Kyrie, so i guess you could say Kyrie could learn to put more effort in. In terms of actual defensive skill, though, Pargo is one of the worst in the league…he’s bafflingly ineffective in spite of an ideal PG body.

  30. Tom Pestak says:

    Corey Hughey – do you mean the Buss Christmas? Yes – that sounds like the best idea ever for reality tv.

  31. Cory Hughey says:

    The coaching change happened like a week before Thanksgiving. That video would have been gold baby, gold! The haphazard coaching fiasco was still fresh.

    I actually think Jerry Buss is Jewish so they could have already had a few awkward get togethers over latkas. I’d love to see Jerry distributing the gelt and Jim being pissed off that Jeanie got more of the white chocolate coins. It would be even more entertaining than “Khloe and Lamar” (original title was “The Fat One and Another Mediocre Black Athlete”).

  32. Nate Smith says:

    Wow. Corey. On an absolute roll.