Five Questions

February 8th, 2013 by Kevin Hetrick
  1. The addition of Speights, Ellington, and Livingston has bolstered the bench and helped the team enjoy some recent success.  How many of these players will play for the 2013 – 2014 Cavaliers?

Tyler, we are patiently waiting for you to do more things better. Work on that in the off-season.

At least Ellington.  They will extend him the 3 million dollar qualifying offer.  I assume Boobie will sign with a contender if he’s not traded before then and they will not extend a qualifying to Casspi.  So it would seem they could use Livingston but he might want not want to play for 1 season which I am assuming is the only contract the Cavs would offer him to maintain the 2014 flexibility.  Speights is under contract and is more valuable right now than his contract so he could actually be moved to a cash strapped team looking to win next year.  I secretly hope Chris Grant makes a long-term offer to Speights similar to the deal Ferry gave Varejao.  But I think Speights is gonna get paid.  So I’ll go with at least 1, and probably not all 3.

Dani: Three. Speights has shown that he really enjoys playing with the Cavs, and playing with Kyrie Irving. He’ll cost around $6 million, but a big man with his offensive skills is well worth it. Ellington has a quick trigger from deep and solid defensive instincts, and he’s cheap as hell. Livingston has been a revelation off the bench. He can defend three positions, and facilitates intelligently from the point. I’m probably his biggest fan. The Cavs should do whatever necessary to hold onto Livingston for the next couple of years, within reason.

Mallory: My hope?  All of them.  My guess?  Livingston for SURE – Livingston has become the leader of the second unit and one of our best defenders.  While he can’t really shoot from long range, he’s great at attacking the rim from both sides and has excellent court vision for pushing the ball.,  (again, well documented that I’m obsessed with him, so I’m biased)  Speights should also almost definitely be resigned – it’s pretty clear he has skills none of our other bigs have, plus an tougher attitude that this team BADLY needs.  I’m not quite as sold on Ellington – spot up shooters are easier to find – but he comes cheap, so why not?

Nate: Speights will exercise his opt out and test the free agency waters.  I’m not sure that he is a player that the Cavaliers should invest a lot of money in.  If they can get him at $4-7 million per year, then he might be a good 3rd big, but if it’s more than that, it’s worth looking at some better players who can play center, like Tiago Splitter, Nikola Pekovic, Zaza Pachulia,  or Al Jefferson.  The advantage of Speights (and also Splitter) is that he can play both big man positions.  If Speights’ price tag goes up around $8+ Mil, he’s not worth the money unless he can prove that his effort will remain consistent from night to night (always his biggest problem) and that he will post a decent field goal percentage.  He ends up somewhere else, IMO – maybe by next week.

Livingston would be a nice fit as a veteran glue guy.  He’s actually the Cavs best small forward right now, but it all comes down to salary.  With his injury history and inability to shoot consistently, he’s a player who shouldn’t make more than $2 million a year.  Given that he got waived twice this year, I think he’ll stick with the Cavs for a couple years.

Ellington is certainly worth a qualifying offer, and seems like a very solid rotation player on a good team due to his high three point shooting percentage and above average defense.  I think he’ll be in Cleveland next year, possibly in lieu of Miles.

Kevin: I think Livingston is around for one more year.  He is cheap, seems to be having fun, is playing well and makes the second unit look much more cohesive…I don’t know how many other teams he makes more sense for than the Cavs.  Ellington and Speights are harder; the former is a restricted free agent, and the latter has a player option.  What is their market value and is it worth it to the Cavs? (Side Bar: I get NBA salary data from hoopshype.  They show Speights as not an option next year.  Any ideas on this?  Website error?)

2.  Any more trades before the deadline?  If not for the Cavs, who else is moving around the League?

Tom: If they can flip Speights into a 2014 top 15 pick they will do it.  I imagine there will be at least 1 more trade where the Cavs are not the primary team, but that 3rd team that helps get the deal done.  Basically playing middleman and reaping a small reward for the price of a bloated contract with 1 more year.

Dani: I think the Cavs already completed their big trade for the year. I know a Speights-for-pick deal has been floated as a possibility, but I’m not a proponent of the idea. Speights is a good fit in Cleveland, and the Cavs own plenty of draft picks this year. As for the rest of the league…Timofey Mozgov is on the way out. Andrea Bargnani is a possibility as well, but I doubt anyone will take him off of Colangelo’s hands. Every contender in the league should be trying to get their hands on J.J. Redick. I think he would make the Grizzlies in particular a serious threat to any team in the playoffs. The Bulls as well, for that matter.

Mallory: I don’t really like to go bonkers thinking about potential trades because it almost NEVER happens the way you’d expect.  That being said, I’d be VERY surprised if the Cavs didn’t make a move.  They have far too many picks/expiring contracts to sit, particularly in a year when a lot of teams seem to be in transition.

Nate: Speights will possibly be moved for a draft pick/young player to a team that needs help in the front court.  Look for Grant to ask for 2014 draft picks for Speights.  Boston, Dallas, Portland, and the Clippers could all use him for a playoff push.  Of course, if they trade him to Portland and  the Blazers beat out the Lakers for the 8th seed , it’s a counterproductive trade. Miles would be an intriguing option for a team that needs shooting.

The big question is, “will Ainge blow up Boston?”  I think no.  KG’s no trade clause will make it tough, and the Clippers or Houston will be the only options.  I’d LOVE to see KG in Houston, and Houston upset the power structure in the West.

There will be a few more minor moves, and there will be more sellers than buyers.  Bad teams with bloated contracts are going to float those players.  Guys like Bargnani will be available for a song.  Also, everyone on Phoenix will be available.  Minnesota will be trying to dump contracts too.

Kevin: Between Boobie’s expiring contract and current non-rotation status and Walton’s big final-year deal, the Cavs could certainly still be players.  I don’t want to prognosticate too much on that though…in Grant I trust.  I still think that Philly and Portland should consider trades, even if they don’t.  Both are outside-looking-in for the playoffs, have large future payroll commitments, have jettisoned upcoming draft picks, etc…a slight change of course seems reasonable.

3.  Cleveland won 6 of their last 9 and has five straight home games.  How many more victories this season, and how many ping-pong balls?

Tom: Start with 32 wins (no significant injuries) and start walking backwards.  I’ll just guess 26 wins good for 5th worst = 88 ping pong balls.

Dani: As many as are needed to make the playoffs. Just kidding, of course. I’m not going to predict exact win totals, but I think the Cavaliers will win enough to land in the 3-5 range.

Mallory: I’m not sure how many games The Cavs have left and against who (alright, they have 34 left).  My guess is they win another 10-12 games.  I’d like to think higher than that, but my gut keeps telling me to check myself, so I’ll go ahead and trust it.  I bet the Cavs end up with the 7th pick in this draft (with one or two teams jumping higher than us in the lottery.)

Nate: 15 more wins to get to 29 for the season, if Speights isn’t traded.  11 more wins if he is traded.  Cleveland will get out of the cellar and finish with a better record than Sacramento, Phoenix, New Orleans, Charlotte, Washington, and Orlando in the lottery just to lower the qualifying offers down the line.  We’ll end up picking 3rd in the draft.

Kevin: I’ll say 18 more wins and 33 for the season.  While likely a best-case scenario, I guessed that many at the beginning of the season – might as well roll with consistency.  Cleveland picks 9th in the draft.

4.  Pick any player on the team and make some random predictions about the rest of their season.

Tom: Tristan Thompson will have a 20-15 game this season.  It will be awesome.  And people will take to twitter and the blogs to ensure that one day he could average 20-15.

Dani: From here on out, Kyrie Irving averages 27 points and 6 assists a game on 50% shooting. He hits two more game-winners and breaks seventeen pairs of ankles. Kyrie ends the season with a PER over 25.00, and the pundits declare him a no-question top-10 player in the NBA.

Mallory: I think Speights ends up averaging 15/8 for the rest of the year, off the bench.  The guy is clearly a baller who was criminally misused on his previous teams – now he’s being given more playing time on a team where he doesn’t really have to worry about sharing shots or minutes.  That’ll bode well for a guy whose career MPG is well under 20.

Nate: Tristan Thompson pushes keeps his FG% up over .500 by till the end of the year, and raises his Free Throw percentage up to 66% (a shocking 11% improvement over last year).  13 and 10 will end up being his final totals.  He’ll push his assists up past his turnovers, too. (Editors Note: After this was written, the Charlotte Game pushed TT up over .500.  Let’s hope he keeps it there).

Kevin: Jon Leuer averages a double-double.

Just kidding.  Dion raises his seasonal PER to 13.3 and his offensive rating to 100 while maintaining 25 usage.

5.  The Cavs recent top-five picks receive a lot of press; what do you think about Tyler Zeller?  What does his future hold?

Tom: I’m underwhelmed by Zeller.  He doesn’t shoot as well as I anticipated and he doesn’t play like a “legit” 7 footer.  If he wants to be a solid rotation player he’s going to have to become a load in the post or automatic from 18 feet.  Right now he’s neither.  He fires lots of long 2s and only makes about a 1/3 of them.

Dani: I’m a little disappointed in Tyler Zeller. The skinny frame and weak defense were expected. But the poor shooting and ridiculous frequency of traveling violations were not. In a few games he has shown real tenacity rebounding the ball, but he shouldn’t be playing as much as he does. Of course, that’s by necessity so I can’t complain much. But do you remember Jae Crowder? He was one of the picks we traded away. Think the Cavs could use him? I do.

Mallory: Zeller is difficult to read.  So far he hasn’t really delivered on any of the skills he was billed as having – he hasn’t run the floor particularly well, he can’t really shoot the midrange, and he hasn’t played with the smarts we’ve really expected.  In addition, he’s generally a liability against bigger, stronger centers (especially since he can’t really stretch the floor on O) and hasn’t really rebounded well.  Still, I actually like a lot of what I’ve seen.  His shot may not be falling, but eventually it will – he was too consistent in college to continue missing wide open jumpers.  He’s never going to be a big time defender, but he’s already shown a penchant for being pesky and getting into opposing centers heads.  Furthermore, he’s a good O rebounder who’s shown flashes of the smarts we’ve expected.  As he continues to adjust to the NBA game I expect to see him greatly improve.  Maybe not to the extent of a great starter, but definitely enough to be considered a good rotation player.

Nate: Zeller has hit the rookie wall.  He can’t get his legs into his shot, and he can’t keep weight on. Developing and using upper and lower body strength, and maintaining that muscle mass will be his biggest NBA challenges.  He’s a smart enough player that he’ll figure this stuff out, but I’m not sure he’ll ever be an NBA starter.  He needs to do a lot of work in the off season, both with a trainer and nutritionist, and with shooting and defensive coaches.  By the second half of next year, I am hopeful his field goal percentage goes over 46% and that he’s a more confident one on one defender.  I hope he can be a quality big man who can play both positions off the bench.

Kevin: I liked Zeller this summer.  Some of the skills that I liked, he has shown; his team defense occasionally shines, exhibited by fairly prodigious charge drawing and a decent blocked shot rate.  Don’t get me wrong, his defense still needs plenty of work, both from a team perspective, but certainly as a man-to-man defender.  He just turned 23 and is a rookie, so I am maintaining hope.

On offense, almost everything needs to go better.  Last year, he posted the fourth-best offensive rebound rate in the ACC; in the NBA, he is well below average for a center and only makes 46% of his field goal attempts once he grabs a board.  Touted for soft touch, he shoots below average inside of ten feet.  Buoyed at North Carolina by frequent and successful transition opportunities, he only has 26 chances this year, and converted only twelve (the team needs to get stops to get transition opportunities).  He’s only had 13 post-up attempts, but hasn’t deserved more anyways, as he made only three.  He misses two-thirds of his jumpers…at least there’s the 77% free throws?

Keep you head up, Tyler.  I know you have some skills to show.