On the Trade, On the Draft

January 24th, 2013 by Kevin Hetrick

I used this picture recently, but it is appropriate today. All-Star weekend does not know what it hath wrought.

First, Kyrie made the All-Star game.  Yay!!

Second, recent discussions led me to briefly peruse the C:tB archives.  One article I looked at was my preseason predictions. Writing articles like these provides future humor, as even a great result probably nets half failure. So far, my tally doesn’t seem poor, but for a full re-visit I will wait until season end.  At the midway point of the season, the predictions proving most accurate relate to Tristan.  My 11 points, 9 rebounds, 47% fg and 57% ft are nearly spot-on with his 10.6, 9.3, 48.6 and 62.4.

Those lucky guesses are ironic considering this blog featured 100% of the writers being wrong about Tristan 100% of the time.  Anyways, I hope Tristan continues his recent play and blows my pre-season expectations out of the water.

Really, this article is barely one.  Here are some bullets on the Trade and the Draft.

On the trade

  • So, two NBA rotation players, a 21 year-old project and a future first rounder, all for Jon Leuer?  It’s a deal!  Cleveland gets immediately deeper and adds another draft pick.  I may quit proposing trade scenarios.  It’s fun, but they invariably never happen, and Chris Grant doesn’t need the help.
  • A couple of weeks ago, I noted the Cavs floor spacing woes. At that time, of the front-court, Walton paced the group with 37% efG from fifteen feet and out.  Well, Speights provides 48%.  The backcourt struggled with Waiters offering 43% and Gee, 42. Ellington is a three-point marksman; his 55% slides in behind Kyrie on that list.  This acquisition definitely makes it easier to keep two or three shooters on the court at all times.
  • Where do the minutes come from?  Luke Walton is averaging 18 minutes per game in January, Zeller is at 35, and Gee runs for 31.  Arguably, that is more than any needs to play in an NBA game.  Take thirty minutes between that group, and the shavings that Casspi gets, and suddenly Cleveland can goes nine or ten deep.
  • What the new guys offer in shooting, they lack in passing.  Speights ranks 67th of 75 power forwards in assist rate.  Ellington sits 60th of 66 shooting guards.  Shooting typically proves more important that assist rate, but it will be interesting to view the offense.  Most nights, the Cavs are already not a top-notch ball movement group; assisting on 55% of made field goals places them 27th in the NBA.
  • Both players are young, and based on available statistics, appear to have made strides on defense this year.  Neither is great, but they should not be liabilities at that end.
  • It also strikes me as slightly interesting that Cleveland now employs four of the top-25 players from the high school class of 2010.  How long has Josh Selby known Kyrie, Dion, and Tristan?  Does this aid his chance at success at all?
  • And now, the draft picks.  Cleveland has so many of them.  There have been times when I have advocated for trading some, because obviously the Cavs can not add 15 players in the next four drafts.  As noted above though, I may quit the trade machine…in Grant we trust.  The draft picks offer so many options, including facilitating a major trade for a star.  One aspect of having extra picks in distant seasons is the cheap role players that could be added through them.  Late first rounders are locked into contracts around 4 years and $5 million total.  Second rounders net 3 years and $2.5 million-ish.  For years, the Spurs have made great use of plugging in around their superstars with young, late picks.  When George Hill neared time for an extension, they traded him for Kawhi Leonard.  Dejuan Blair, Danny Green,  and Gary Neal have filled valuable roles on cheap, rookie contracts.  Essentially, it allowed the Spurs to compete forever and rarely sniff the luxury tax.  In 2015 – 2016, Kyrie and Tristan could begin extensions.  Dion and the 2013 lottery pick linger after that.  An expensive guy acquired through free agency or a trade may arrive.  If Cleveland can continue to parlay current assets into 2015 – 2017 draft picks, it enables multiple opportunities to add cheap role players on contracts from 2015 through 2020.  Ideally, this maintains a deep bench without splurging on overpaid mid-level veterans.

All-in-all, it is a hugely positive trade, even though we all have a small hole in our hearts where Jon Leuer once resided.

On the Draft

My draft writing will not be extensive this year.  Last year, I closely watched games from many players.  It was fun and informative, but also very time consuming.  Too time consuming.   This year, I will wait until April, and then dive in.    Obviously, the draft looms large though.  Even with their recent wins, the Cavs sit 3.5 games behind the 4th worst team in the League.  Despite the Lakers struggles, Cleveland readies to draft 3rd, 28th, 33rd and 36th, so there are lots of possibilities for late June.  Packaging picks to ensure two relatively high first-rounders is again an option, or maybe the team facilitates a big trade.  Let’s take a quick look at two guys projected near the top of the lottery.

Coming out of high school, Shabazz Muhammad ranked a unanimous #1 or #2 from the high school class of 2012.  Combining great length & strength for a shooting guard, and also a quick first step, he is a threat to score from anywhere on the court.  In high school, his defensive intensity was lauded.   Turning nineteen this past November, his early play at UCLA impresses, posting a proficient 110 offensive rating with primetime usage of 29.  He shoots exceptionally from three, drilling 46%, and also gets to the free throw line six times per game.  Downsides include leaving much of the box score blank: 0.8 assists & 0.5 steals per game, and 1 total block on the season.  Also, UCLA played only the NCAA’s 69th strongest schedule so far.  He is big, and a very talented scorer though, and if the Cavs were fortunate enough to pick in the top 3, he fits with the Kyrie / Dion backcourt.  For some stretches every game, the trio could play together.  Assuming Shabazz’s shooting stays strong, the combination of ball-handling and floor-spacing offered by a Kyrie, Dion, Shabazz line-up sounds awesome.  Otherwise, those three form a three man back-court rotation to rave about, possibly with Dion occupying the super sixth-man / crunch time role that appears as his forte.

Reading the Draft Express archives delivers interesting tidbits on Ben McLemore.  Old for a freshman, he turns 20 in February due to sitting out one season for academic eligibility reasons.  His original high school was shut down by the State, before he transferred  to Oak Hill where he was dismissed for rules violations.  Next, he was arrested for failing to show up to court for an underage alcohol offense.  Ok, a rough beginning to his basketball playing life, but I like players that rise up from hard starts.  He is an outstanding athlete, with decent size for a shooting guard, standing 6′ – 4.5″ tall.  His speed and leaping, combined with excellent shooting makes for an exciting package.  His 51 / 45 / 87 line  helps build a sterling 121 offensive rating on 23 usage.  He rebounds well for a guard and pitches in 2 assists, 1 block and 1 steal per game.  According to statsheet.com, Kansas has been +264 when he plays, and only +20 during the nine minutes per game when he sits.  Draftexpress describes his defense as having “excellent potential”, but with “positioning, focus, and awareness leaving a bit to be desired at times”.  This is probably reasonable from a twenty year old; his athleticism should be supplemented with some smarts and hopefully a stronger motor as he ages.   My early inclination is that he offers a worse fit with Kyrie & Dion than Shabazz does.  An athletic break-runner & finisher with deep-range is always cool though.

Cavs fans: Who do you like in the draft at the midpoint of the season?