Summer League Recap: Chicago 86, Cleveland 81 (or, Sin City Fatigue)

Editor’s Note: Thanks for CLF for scouting this one again. I was only able to stay away for the first half. I have to “watch the film” to see what happened in the second.

The summer Cavs fell to the Bulls 86-81 in a highly competitive game. With Cedi Osman (rest) and Billy Preston (thigh contusion) receiving the night off, the Cavs were obviously at a disadvantage coming off a back-to-back along with missing two offensive weapons, while Chicago was playing in its first action of the summer. The defense wasn’t as good, and while the shooting was better, it was still abysmal from 3-point range and from the free throw stripe.

Cleveland could not stop Antonio Blakeney in the first half, and trailed by as much as 15 in the second quarter. Blakeny dropped 25 on 19 shots on the night, getting to the rim and mid-range early, but Cleveland rallied in the fourth, retaking the lead briefly at the 6:58 mark. Wendell Carter Jr. retook the lead at the free throw line, and the Bulls never trailed again.

Here’s the report card for the Cavs:

Player of the game: Ante Zizic

Zizic put in a dominating performance with 25 points (11-14 FGs), 11 rebounds, and two assists. He was efficient in scoring, from the post, on putbacks, dump offs, and post feeds.  Zizic was really the primary offensive weapon and the Cavs could’ve done a better job of feeding him in the 4th quarter. There were few negatives to his game: he was a little slow guarding the pick-and-roll and had a team-high five turnovers. At this point, the Cavs’ brain trust is brain dead if Zizic doesn’t see regular minutes off the bench this year, especially against any traditional big men.

Best rookie performance: Collin Sexton

Sexton turned in a decent, if a bit uneven, performance tonight, with 14 points, two rebounds, two assists, and only one turnover in 29 minutes.  Sexton had a fantastic sequence in the 3rd quarter, with a highlight assist on a fast break as well as a highlight layup on a fast break in consecutive possessions.  His burst spearheaded the comeback for the Cavs before they eventually fell short. But those two plays were the first plays that I saw from him that were “WOW” plays.

He looked a bit fatigued: he didn’t move the ball as well and his free throw shooting was poor, going 2-6, although two misses came right after a slight injury to his shooting elbow. One thing he did do better was look for his shot, especially in the midrange… he hit two beautiful off the dribble midrange jumpers.  I do believe his somewhat awkward shooting mechanics is showing up on his misses from 3-point range. He’s going to need to develop more upper body strength if he doesn’t change his mechanics. As built as he already is up top, that could be hard to do.

Déjà vu performance: Dakota Mathias

Mathias went 1-5 from 3-point range, missing 4 shots in a row after a beautiful off the dribble three to start. He did make a beautiful assist pass to Zizic for an easy dunk, showing off his vision and anticipation.  His shot looks good, his release is very quick, and he doesn’t pass up good looks… but he needs to focus and take his time when he gets his looks. One thing he does well is move off the ball well and floats to space on the perimeter.  Another good sign is that he was a +4 plus/minus and generally looks like he’s not a negative when he’s on the court. He was one of only two players with a positive plus/minus. I still haven’t bailed the bandwagon… yet.

Best bench performance: Marcus Lee

Marcus Lee had a bad turnover and wasn’t perfect from the field, going 2-4, but he contributed 6 rebounds and was a +6 plus/minus in 11 minutes.  He had a nice dunk as well off an offensive rebound. He’ll at least get a camp invite if he keeps up this level of play.

Worst Starter: John Holland

Holland scored 11 on 14 shots, going 3-10 from downtown, and tying Jamel Artis for a game low -9 in the p/m department.. You’d think he’d be playing better after getting NBA fringe minutes last summer. He seems a big lackadaisical.

Obligatory CLF Duke plug: Wendell Carter, Jr.

I have to acknowledge his debut… he scored 16 points, including 2-3 from 3-point range, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 steals, and 1 assist.  He looked great on both ends of the floor… I think concerns about his lateral speed and shot-making ability were overblown. Even though Zizic was the best big in this game, Carter was a worthy adversary. At the very least, teams won’t finish lazily around him. Ante tried that early and got stuffed.

Clearly, this is the year of the big man if the 2018 draft is any indication… (Ayton, Giles, Jackson, and Bagley were pretty good in their games). 2017 big man, Atlanta’s John Collins had a big night too, dropping 30, including four triples. Someone hire that Atlanta shooting coach.

Another guy the Cavs should look at: Trevon Bluiett, New Orleans Pelicans

From NBA.com:

Bluiett, a non-roster rookie from Xavier, followed up his 24-point performance on Friday with 26 on Saturday. The Pelicans are 2-0, having outscored their opponents by 39 total points (despite losing Frank Jackson to an ankle injury on Friday), and Bluiett is now 12-for-18 from 3-point range over the two wins, perhaps earning himself a training camp invite with New Orleans or some other team.

The next game for the Cavs will be Monday afternoon against the Pacers, be sure to tune in because we should get to see a face-off between first rounders Collin Sexton and Aaron Holiday. Go Cavs!

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MikeO
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MikeO
9 days 21 hours ago

I do hope Kings extend an offer to Marcus Smart. Force Danny to make a tough decision for once, NBA. Stop spoon feeding that putz.

MikeO
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MikeO
9 days 23 hours ago

Lakers better get their act together if they don’t want CP3 to steal Melo from them. He’d be jabstep Nirvana in Lalaland.

CLF
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CLF
10 days 1 hour ago

Nate…. I didn’t want to agree with you because I was biased, but you’re right… I think the Cavs drafted the wrong guard.

CLF
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CLF
10 days 2 hours ago

Harry Giles! Coming alive!

CLF
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CLF
10 days 3 hours ago

George Niang and Tony Bradley dominating out here. Knox is balling out there too for a rookie. He can finish, shoot the 3, not a ball hog… sky is the limit for him.

Slammin Sam
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Slammin Sam
10 days 3 hours ago

Just looked at combine measurements, Carter was measured at 6’ 8”. 7’4” wingspan though.

Slammin Sam
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Slammin Sam
9 days 16 hours ago

Smaller hands than Tristan…..

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
10 days 4 hours ago

Twitter: Would you do (something really simple and not breaking the law) for 100 million dollars?

Lakers Twitter: pic.twitter.com/XSORrXDYKs

— Jonathan Danilich (@jdanilich) July 9, 2018

CLF
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CLF
10 days 9 hours ago

My comments are getting blocked: This is for you, Arch.

He showed off his athleticism big time. Shot looks good, but struggled with the adjustment to the NBA line. He’s legit though.

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
10 days 9 hours ago

Sounds like Kevin Knox has played really well for the Knicks.

Jack
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Jack
10 days 5 hours ago

Looks like he has the highest ceiling besides Jaren Jackson, based on what he’s showed.

John B
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John B
10 days 4 hours ago

Ayton would be legit if they stopped nudering big men via officiating/the rule changes. He is cut like Howard/D Robinson but has a j, not that Robinson didn’t.

Jack
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Jack
9 days 20 hours ago

David Robinson would still be legit now because he was a plus defender and passer. I prefer the rule changes over watching big men plug away in the post for 15 seconds every possession.

The only players that the rules have neutered are one-dimensional players. Big men can still be successful if they can put together any combination of protecting the rim at a high level, switching 1-5 on defense effectively, finishing on the roll at an elite level, shooting the 3, making high level reads and passes out of the post and being able to get deep position and make quick moves to score in the low post.

John B
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John B
9 days 17 hours ago

Tradtional post play for the most part is gone. Too easy to double unless you are LBJ with the zone rule changes and the increased sophistication of a lot of defensive schemes.

Jack
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Jack
9 days 16 hours ago

Agree for the most part. Your traditional black-hole, Kevin Mchale types don’t have much utility. But the reason why Lebron can basically back a guy down from the 3 pt line to the rim and still have time for multiple moves is because he’s such a skilled passer and the Cavs surrounded him with shooters. So really, any big man who can pass at an elite level and has the shooters should be able to accomplish the same. Prime Tim Duncan would still be dominating from the post today, for instance.

I also think that big men don’t put in enough work to establish deep enough position that they can get to the rim with just one move, or a fake and a quick counter (why Lebron doesn’t dominate as a post player). And a lot of point guards aren’t well versed enough in the art of the entry pass to deliver it in the right spot on time.

John B
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John B
9 days 15 hours ago

Yeah. Very few players in history especially bigs are as skilled as LBJ at passing though, even out of the post.

But yeah I think a lot of fundamentals around post play have been severely diminished, especially with regards to entries and sealing off for deep post position.

I think the thing that has been hampered the most by current officiating is rim protection. Big guys just get fewer calls on d these days in my opinion. I think this has changed really in the last five years. There are still exceptions but those tend to be in the case of elite defensive players. Even then I don’t think guys like Gobert get as many calls as they would have 5-10 years ago.

Jack
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Jack
9 days 13 hours ago

There is definitely a higher bar for big men than there used to be as far as even being effective in a traditional role — e.g. being the focal point of the offense and anchor of the defense. Regarding defense, though, I feel like the increased focus on the rule of verticality has more or less offset any increase in general foul calls, but it requires more discipline, so again, higher bar.

Shaq, Duncan, Russel, Walton and the like would all be fine. It’s not even clear Hakeem could be very successful in this era because of his reliance on multiple moves and counters, but then again, he could also just rise up and hit you with a deadly midrange if he wanted. Mchale and all those old school blackhole post players would be lost.

In general, I’m ok with it. It’s just the way the league is. You need to be multidimensional if you want to be a star in the league, and that’s the way it should be.

CLF
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CLF
10 days 9 hours ago

He showed off his athleticism big time. Shot looks good, but struggled with the adjustment to the NBA line. He’s legit though.

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
10 days 9 hours ago

NBA exec thinks Knicks found a stud in Kevin Knox — “He’s really f–king good," per @MikeVorkunov https://t.co/tSnjwgpMy7 pic.twitter.com/sXW67Pwkr8

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 8, 2018

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
10 days 10 hours ago

Zaza Pachulia headed to #Pistons. #NBA https://t.co/DuQfhAYMfd

— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) July 8, 2018

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
10 days 11 hours ago

Yeah I think Carter is gonna be really good.

CLF
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CLF
10 days 12 hours ago

I think a pattern has emerged with respect to how the Cavs scout players. It appears that they prioritize athleticism over basketball skill. I think emblematic of that philosophy is guys like Holland, White, Artis, Blake, and going back, Pointer and Christmas off the top of my head. I’m hoping that picking up guys like Colson and Mathias represent a change in philosophy. One caveat to my guess is that the Cavs have been perpetually hamstrung acquiring talent due to LeBron and the team success they’ve had.

believeLAND
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believeLAND
10 days 1 hour ago

Don’t believe this talk of Lebron hamstringing the organization in regards to scouting, drafting, acquiring talent. How has he done that? In the years without Lebron, the Cavs didn’t do well to find and acquire talent. In the years with him, they didn’t do well either. Organizations such as Spurs, Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, Celtics, Heat have all done really well in regular season wins and still continued to find talent late in the draft. Cavs front office, outside of drafting Lebron in ’03 (congrats on not screwing that up) hasn’t done well since late ’80s.

CLF
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CLF
10 days 48 minutes ago

Because they aren’t drafting in the lottery???

Jason
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Jason
10 days 13 hours ago

Pretty disappointed in White so far. And Holland. Was hoping for more from both.

Good: Sexton
Better: Cedi
Best: Zizic
Potential needing development: Preston
Not giving up on: Mathias

Top 4 are signed. Hope Colson is still an option.

Jack
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Jack
10 days 5 hours ago

Holland is not an NBA player. White could be a fringe energy guy. Mathias could find a shooting niche in a few years, a la Reddick.

CLF
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CLF
10 days 12 hours ago

Yup…. I’d agree with the assessment on Holland and White. Thought Blake and Artis were marginally better… not that that’s saying much.

MikeO
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MikeO
10 days 13 hours ago

White was mostly invisible. Holland just is bad, but you have to fill out a summer league roster, I guess.

Jason
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Jason
10 days 13 hours ago

Oops, put Lee in there beside Mathias.

Jack
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Jack
9 days 16 hours ago

Preston has soooo much potential by the way. He has such great footwork attacking closeouts, and he can get to the rim in 2 steps from the 3 pt line in 2 steps. To come in with that skill naturally at his position is a huge asset, and I think he has 3 pt range, but isn’t 100% confident in it yet. He also seems to have a solid grasp of how to use his length on defense. He could easily be another Otto Porter type, souped Harrison Barnes, poor man’s T-Mac or something along those lines if he puts in the work.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
10 days 14 hours ago

Good recap again. I think calling Zizic “slow” in the pick and roll D is an insult to slow players though. His defense is kind of atrocious. I do like what I’ve seen from Sexton. I just think he’s probably a couple years away from being a good NBA player; he has a lot of adjustments to make. But there is no doubt he has the athleticism, shooting touch, drive, and handles to be a starting combo guard. Carter was great but he was much much smaller than I thought. I wonder if he’ll be able to stay on the floor when the season starts.

CLF
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CLF
10 days 12 hours ago

Interesting point about Carter… I actually like him at that size, I think he retains some quickness that way. I’d be afraid that if he were to gain weight, he’d lose his mobility to be an adequate switch defender.

Slammin Sam
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Slammin Sam
10 days 6 hours ago

Yeah he’s definitely mobile. Just kind of seemed like he wasn’t much bigger than some of the wings.

Jack
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Jack
10 days 5 hours ago

All the scouting reports say that he’s deceptively strong. Pretty sure he can add a little weight and not lose much quickiness or lift. He’s a legit 6-11 with 7-2 wingspan.

MikeO
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MikeO
10 days 14 hours ago

I like Lee as a bench guy. Sexton is probably going to always be banged up if he goes to the floor that much. He needs to protect himself a bit more. I thought Carter looked great for his first summer league game. Bulls are going to love him. I bet Cavs would have taken him if he was on the board and Young and Sexton were gone. Might have taken him if he was available regardless.

I wonder if Blakeney last year and this year would be a better NBA player than JR Smith.

CLF
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CLF
10 days 12 hours ago

I wonder if they would’ve taken Carter over Sexton…. I think the Cavs really got stuck in no-man’s land at 8. They had to take Sexton because he was the most athletic, highest upside guard left at that point… but he’s so raw that it’s going to take a couple of years for him to really blossom IMO… I think there might be a legitimate argument that they should’ve traded either up or down.

MikeO
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MikeO
10 days 11 hours ago

Rumor was they really liked Carter early, but as the draft approached it seemed like they were going to take a ‘playmaker’, i.e., Young or Sexton, if one of them was still around.

Jason
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Jason
10 days 6 hours ago

We needed a ‘playmaker’ on the off chance Bron stayed.

JMay
Member
10 days 15 hours ago

Thanks again CLF! Picking up our summer slack. Good to hear Zizic is coming along. Sexton will come along. I’m going to withhold judgement on Wendell Carter until he’s playing against NBA talent.

CLF
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CLF
10 days 12 hours ago

You got it JMay! Happy to contribute.

Jason
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Jason
10 days 15 hours ago

Thanks for the recap.

If Colson was in uniform, this team would be really something.

CLF
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CLF
10 days 12 hours ago

You’re welcome, Jason! I wish we could’ve seen Colson too.

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