Scouting the Playoffs: Round 1 — The East

May 6th, 2013 by Nate Smith

An entertaining first round of the NBA playoffs concluded this last weekend.  How does this concern the Cavs?  Uh…

…Oh.  Right.  There’s quite a few players in the playoffs right now who will be free agents in the offseason.  In addition there’s several players who played who’ll be tempting trade targets.  Let’s look at some.

Miami Vs. Milwaukee: Miami won this one handily.  Miami’s free agents are Ray Allen, Chris Anderson, Mario Chalmers, Juwan Howard, James Jones, and Rashard Lewis.  None of those guys are probably on the radar for the Cavs.  Mario Chalmers and James Jones might be interesting pickups, but James Jones played only 5 minutes.  Hailing from my home town of Anchorage, Alaska, Mario Chalmers would allow the Cavs to have employed every single Alaskan to play in the NBA, joining prestigious Cavs alums Trajan Langdon and Carlos Boozer.  However, he had a particularly meh first round averaging 6.5 points off of .517 true shooting and 4.5 assists per game.  Tough to grade anyone on Miami.  This series was like a butterfly hitting a Buick.  I admit, I didn’t watch a game.

In looking to fill the Anthony Parker/Luke Walton role of seasoned veteran who plays too many minutes, the Cavs could do a lot worse than Mike Dunleavy, who at least offensively acquitted himself well, scoring 19.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per 36 minutes, with shooting splits of .567/.438/.889.  Just don’t ask him to guard LeBron though.  And if you come to Cleveland, Mike, please rock the ‘stache.

Honorable mention: Samuel Dalembert who might be a decent 4th big, only got to play 9 minutes, continuing his career trend of massively underplaying his contract.  Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings got torched by Miami’s guards, but aren’t realistic options anyway.

New York Vs. Boston: For New York, J.R. Smith had a crazy series.  Never afraid to chuck, he threw up 6.2 three point attempts per 36 minutes, and had splits of .364/.333/.692.  He also sat out the famous funeral game because of a suspension for elbowing Jason Terry.  Without Mike Woodson around to keep him from going crazy(er), Smith would be tough to get on board for.  He’s insanely talented but can’t stop shooting.  29 year old rookie, Chris Copeland (restricted) who had a nice regular season, was awful in this series, posting a negative wins score, .375 TS%, and only 1 rebound in 32 minutes of first round action.

Ironically, JR Smith's neck says "swish."

Career underachiever Chris Wilcox is Boston’s only free agent this year, but long time Cavs nemesis, Paul Pierce might make an interesting addition to the team.  Yeah.  You read that right.  Just hear me out.  Cleveland would probably have to give up a draft pick or a young player to get him, and they’d have to eat a lot of 2013-2014 salary, and Boston would try to make them eat Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, or Brandon Bass’s contract (no thanks), but Pierce would be an intriguing one year option in the battle to get the Cavs back to playoff land.  Now would Pierce want to come to Cleveland?  I doubt it.  He’d probably be able to convince Ainge to send him to a playoff team if he gets traded, but who knows?  It can’t hurt to ask.

Pierce had a rough series.  He shot .368/.268/.897 and turned it over 4.5 times per 36.  16.2 points, 4.5 dimes, and 4.8 rebounds looked nice on paper, but those are rough percentages.  BUT… Pierce was playing a ridiculous 42.5 minutes per game on 35 year old legs (an impressive feat) and posting a startlingly high 30.1% usage.  If Pierce could play 28 minutes a night for the Cavs, his efficiency would certainly go up.  According to the Boston Globe, “Pierce’s contract is for $15.3 million next season, but the team can buy him out before June 30 for $5 million should they choose to do so. It’s a highly unlikely scenario, but Pierce could find his name on the trading block once again in the offseason as the Celtics look to remake their identity without a lot of financial flexibility. Trader Danny (Ainge) has a lot of work to do. ” He would eat most of Cleveland’s cap space this year, but would help with the goal of keeping cap room free for 2014.  How about this: the Cavs select this draft’s Paul Pierce, Shabazz Muhammad, and bring in #34 to mentor him for a year?

Bazz and the Truth

Indiana Vs. Atlanta: Lots of Atlantians looked ready to hit the free agent market in this one.  One of the most significant free agents out there, Josh Smith was his enigmatic self, scoring 18.5 per 36 with 8.1 boards, 3.8 dimes, 2 steals, 3.8 turnovers, and only a half a block per 36.  But his shooting splits were as inefficient as ever for a power forward, shooting .433/.250/.528 and jacking up 3.3 threes a game, with two 5-16 games in the series.  UGH.  There’s a reason they’re leaving you open, Josh.  With a career playoff TS% of .482, I wonder if a coach will ever get through to him.

David West was an efficient counter to Smith for Indiana, with 17.8, and 5.9 boards, with 2 dimes, .6 steals, and .9 blocks per 36.  More importantly, he didn’t jack up stupid threes, and finished with a TS% of .550.  He also closed out strong with 21 in a low scoring game to knock out the Hawks.  I said before that West would make a fine addition to the Cavs, but I doubt he leaves Indiana.  Also, I don’t know if there are enough minutes to go around between he and Tristan.  They both can really only play one position.  Still, I’d love to see his focus, professionalism, and intensity rub off on the Cavaliers.  If he does leave, overpaying West on a one year deal would bring solid returns for Cleveland.

Rounding out our tour of power forwards, Tyler Hansbrough (restricted)  played about 15 minutes a game, shot .419 and posted a solid rebound rate of 16.7%, including 22.6% on the o-boards.  He also averaged a mind boggling and comical 7.7 personal fouls per 36 minutes.  To say that I would be embarrassed to have psycho-T on the Cavs would be an understatement.  To say that it would be massively entertaining, and that the Cavs need an enforcer would also be understatements.  This could only work if the Cavs drafted Aaron Craft next year and Cleveland ran a murderous cherub lineup against other teams.

Ivan Johnson (restricted) had a decent series off the bench for Atlanta.  The 29 year old scored 12 points and 6.7 boards per 36, shooting .462/.0/.667.  He had a -7 +/- for the series, and matched Hansbrough’s foul rate of 7.7.  As an enforcer with a jump shot, Ivan probably matches Kevin Jones’s ceiling.  Ivan is a decent finisher at the rim at .658, he shoots .408 from 3-10 ft, and .400 from 16 feet to 3.  He could be a solid backup power forward for the Cavs.

Devin Harris had a rough one here.  The 30 year old 6’3″ former all-star shot .365/.200/.680 in 36 minutes per game starting at the 2-Guard spot for Atlanta.  George Hill and Lance Stephenson pretty much ate him for breakfast.  I think it’s safe to say Harris’ best days are probably behind him.

Kyle Korver had a nightmare matchup, playing 30 minutes a game off the bench.  For all intents and purposes, he was Atlanta’s starting small forward, and going against Paul George and Co. wasn’t easy.  Korver shot .388/.353/.917, scoring 12.4 and grabbing 4.1 boards per 36, with his patented “I’m shooting off this screen whether you like it or not” offense.  Korver’s never been a great playoff performer when the defense gets ratcheted up, with a career FG% of .408 in the second season but he has been there for the last six years.  He is a floor stretcher, plus he had a pretty nice regular season with an 82games simple rating of +4.  He could also take Walton’s place as the team’s former Tiger Beat pinup.

Jeff Teague (restricted) also didn’t fare well against the Pacers’ D, with splits of .333/.300/.821.  He was particularly bad in game 5 of the series shooting 3-16.  Still, he’s a solid passer at 5.1 dimes, and 2.4 turnovers.  The Cavs don’t need another 6’2″ point guard though.  It will be interesting to see what Teague makes this offseason.

Al Horford is a trade target that has been brought up in case Atlanta tries to tank for Wiggins.  Horford was one of the few bright spots for Atlanta in this series.  with 16.5 points, 8.8 boards, 3 dimes, a steal, and a block and only 1.5 turnovers per 36.  (He also played 36 mpg).  He shot .494/.0/.667 and posted a PER of 19.2.  He’s been in the playoffs every year since his rookie year and never won a thing.  His 16.8 rebound percentage could stand to be a little higher, but he was efficient on offense.  He was quick enough and a good enough jump shooter to score on Hibbert, and big enough to score over West.  He’s an excellent jump shooter shooting over .420 from everywhere on the floor, and .753 at the rim this season.  His post game is fantastic: he’s a .445 shooter from 3-10 feet.  Needless to say, if Atlanta makes him available (they won’t), the Cavs should consider parting with their first pick.

Brooklyn Vs. Chicago: Lots of prospects here.  For Brooklyn, Andre Blatche acquitted himself fairly well.  With 18.8 points, 8.9 boards, and 2.3 assists per 36 minutes, and .500 from the field and .824 from the line, Blatche posted by far his best playoff series.  +17 for the series, Blatche was Brooklyn’s best bench player, but his foul rate of 3.7 per 36 with only .8 blocks doesn’t exactly scream shutdown defender.  As much as it pains me to say it, the 6’10” 26 year old is an interesting prospect who posted a PER over 21 in the regular season.  The Cavs should do their due diligence on him, and then probably sign someone else.

For the Bulls, Nate Robinson had a monster of a series, including one of the more entertaining crunch time performances in recent memory, when he dropped 34 in 29 minutes across regulation and three overtimes.  17 Points, 3.6 assists, and a steal per 36, the 5’9″ Robinson played the most meaningful basketball of his career in this series, with a PER of 19.3, and was pretty stellar for a team that desperately needed the scoring punch.  He shot .505/.364/.818 and Thibs was able to mostly negate his disadvantages on defense.  But…  Nate Robinson doesn’t really fit the Cavs.

Marco Belinelli was another super sub in this series.  Pressed into service in his first two games, Marco scored 24 and 22 as a starter and logged over 40 minutes both games.  He finished the series with a 21.1 PER, and splits of .467/.350/.905: decent numbers, because he was forced to shoot a lot.  Chipping in 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per 36, Bellineli was a key reason the Bulls won.  At 6’5″ and 27 years old, Bellinelli would probably duplicate C.J. Miles’ role on the Cavs.  Marco was also uninspiring in the regular season with a PER of just over 10, but if the Cavs walked from C.J., Belinelli might be a more seasoned upgrade.

35 year old Nazr Mohammed provided a veteran big body, and played some key stretches when Bulls fouled out of certain games.  He had a pretty good series for being 15 year vet with a 21 PER in limited but effective minutes.  I don’t know if he has a reputation for it, but he is certainly someone who could come in and give the Cavs a solid veteran who could help their bigs develop and play spot minutes.  He’s been around winning programs in Charlotte (yes, Charlotte was a playoff team in ’09), OKC, and Chicago over the last 5 seasons.

Stay tuned for the West in the next couple days.