Dan Gilbert was on hand to watch a match-up that featured two of the top rookies from the 2013 draft class (Delly and Antetokounmpo) and the top two rookies (so far) from the 2014 draft class. Cleveland started the fourth quarter on a 15-4 run in the first eight minutes and survived a Nate Wolters three point attempt as time expired to win an ugly game which featured 37 turnovers and sub 40-percent shooting. It was a reported 80+ degree on the floor and both teams had been going through two-a-day practices for the last several days. Fatigue showed for each squad, but still, there was a buzz in the sold out Cox Pavillion.
Matthew Dellavedova controlled this game from start to finish for the Cavs, and the Delly that surprised us all last season looked just as sharp as ever, running point for a game high 36 minutes and 34 seconds of the possible 40 minutes. Delly was completely in control: initiating the offense, pushing the pace, and setting up teammates. Blatt’s going to love having Matt as a floor general. Delly finished with 13 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. He also added six turnovers, but at least a couple of those were due to players not being ready for his his passes, or just not cutting to the basket when they should have. Delly also hit 6-8 from the charity line in the last two minutes, and was 3-3 shooting his sick little floater. The only hole in Matthew’s game came from his unwillingness to put up shots around the basket (he was driving for others more than himself), and his 1-6 outside shooting. But to be fair, no one shot well in this game, and the fatigue was evident. Cleveland went 4-25 from three, and Milwaukee went 2-20. When Delly gets to play with more potent offensive players this season, he’s going to be a dangerous set-up man.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to be a monster. His jumper looks light years better than last year. Giannis shot without hesitation from three, and went 2-5 there — the only decent percentage in the whole game. He also leveraged his huge length and wing span, showing an ability to catch passes far away from his body and to get into a scoring position with effective footwork. He looks all of 6’11 now. His dribble drives showed off his ever-improving handle and his ability to finish, and he flashed a couple of nice passes, too. The alphabet looked like an NBA athlete playing with college kids, and he showed the ability to harness his athleticism better than anyone in the gym. The Greek Freak could be the Greek K.D. some day. If Wiggins follows Giannis’ growth, the Cavs will be in good hands. G.A. finished with 17 points, six boards, and two dimes in just under 30 minutes, but added seven fouls (lots of moving screens were called this game) and five turnovers (it is still summer league).
Andrew Wiggins looked very nervous early (as did everyone), but settled in to have himself a nice night. Andrew had 17 points in 31 minutes to go along with three boards and only one turnover. He shot 7-18 and 1-8 from three. As Ben Werth noted last month, ‘Drew’s upper body shooting mechanics are close to perfect, especially for how long his arms are, but he needs to improve his footwork and his core strength to stabilize his shot. The farther he gets from the basket, the more he seems like he’s just flinging it. But Wiggins hit several mid-range pull-ups moving to his left and his right that looked very silky. He’s also added a particularly nasty six-foot stride step-back to his left. That’s a shot he’ll be able to get off any time he wants in the regular season.
Why? Because he’s unbelievably quick. Delly rifled a transition pass from just past half court on the right side to Andrew in the left corner, and Wiggins caught, power dribbled, and was at the basket and drew a foul in about a quarter of a second. On another play, He flushed a beautiful dunk (left) from the left baseline off a nice back-door pass from Alex Kirk. ‘Drew also showed the ability to get to the line and draw fouls, but his shots were a little strong, and he went 3-6 from there. He’s going to struggle a bit from the charity stripe until he gets a consistent lower body shooting form. Wiggins looked like everything he’s been advertised, and he’ll probably be able to fall out of bed and score 14 a night just in transition, cuts, and putbacks. His defense was solid, especially on this block but Parker’s strength was hard for Andrew to deal with when Jabari got into Wiggins’ body. Still, a tantalizing debut.
Speaking of Jabari Parker, WHOA. The talk that he’s the most NBA ready player in this draft is understated. Parker showed the ability to put the ball on the floor and score in transition and with a face-up game in the half-court. He finished with with both hands off drives, and spin-moves and his jumper looked solid. He also shot 11 free-throws and displayed the ability to pass out of double-teams. Parker finished with 17 points and nine boards on 7-11 shooting, including 0-3 from three, plus nine rebounds. Parker will be a strong NBA scorer for years to come.
Anthony Bennett spent a good bit of time guarding Parker, and the results weren’t pretty Bennett got regularly abused and finished with a whopping eight fouls, in 30 minutes. Bennett was also whistled for a couple moving screens. But on offense, ‘Tony’s improvement was palpable. Anthony scored 15 on 6-16 shooting, including two monster transition dunks where Bennett ran the floor, and Delly hit him as the trailer on the break. He also had a couple of nice steals, and seven rebounds. On the best play of the night, Tony caught the ball on the right wing on the break, rushed toward the basket, and then hit a confident little five foot floating hook next to three Bucks defenders in traffic. And let’s talk about the most obvious improvement: Bennet is noticeably thinner. He looks at least 30 pounds lighter than at times last year and wasn’t laboring in the heat. He looked to be one of the better Cavs players when it came to conditioning. He and his training staff deserve credit. I guess I will give up the “Canadian Bacon” nick-name for now.
On the negative side, Bennett is still a chucker. Bennett swished an early three-point pullup with a man in his face, and after that, thought he could hit everything. He was unafraid to shoot early in the shot clock, whether he was open or not. Tony’s dumb shot selection reached its zenith with the Cavs were up five with 2:29 to go. After Bennett missed a J, Delly snagged the rebound and kicked it out to Tony. Without hesitation, Bennett
bricked again with 20 seconds airballed with 23 seconds left on the shot clock. Delly, the announcers, and David Blatt were all incredulous about his lack of game awareness. Oh, Gum Drop Bear.
Carick Felix is not going to make the Cavs if he plays like this. Felix was invisible, outside of two steals and one rebound in seventeen minutes. I didn’t even realize he was out there most of the time.
Scotty Hopson and Will Cherry had some timely buckets for Cleveland, each notching seven points in 14 and 16 minutes of play. Cherry played backup point guard in the 3:30 that Delly sat, and he looked a little overwhelmed there. But as a scorer, his instincts are solid. Neither will make the Cavs.
Center, Alex Kirk had a quietly effective game, giving the Cavs some much needed interior presence. Kirk totaled 12 boards in a game where there were a lot of rebounds to be had, showed some decent range on his jumper, and had a couple nice passes.
David Blatt has obviously been running his players through the ringer in practice, and they all looked gassed at times during the game. Summer league games are pretty free-flowing, and there wasn’t a ton of structure to the offense, still, he ran some nice plays. Wiggins got a bucket coming of a double screen curl from the left baseline, and Bennett was setting pick and pop plays up all day with strong (and often illegal) screens. If Blatt can teach ‘Tony to roll hard there, it will help everyone. David also ran some unexpected double teams at Jabari Parker, and the Cavs ability to pick up the defense and use it to get into their offense was impressive when the Cavs made their fourth quarter run.
The Cavs play again Sunday night, and Robert will have the recap for you, Monday. Also, look for a podcast from the guys, tomorrow morning. Until then, Go Cavs.