From Distance: Watching the Unwatchable

 

four point play….

1. The Cavaliers have been particularly difficult to watch thus far. It’s not as though the previous two regular seasons were a joy. LeBron played with little to no effort on the defensive end. Rotations varied from “huh?” to “you gotta be kidding me”. The offense cratered anytime James wasn’t on the court and the defense bled points regardless.

It was frustrating to watch a team play with such marginal effort and intelligence. And yet with LeBron, fans knew that the proverbial switch was, in fact, a literal one.

Sure, the media would continually ask whether the Cavs could turn it on when it mattered, but even they only seemed to question the inevitable simply to promote narrative. Few people outside of Boston truly believed that LeBron wouldn’t carry his flawed Cavs teams to the Finals.

Still, it was a slog. There was little point in analyzing a team that didn’t try. The Cavs  wouldn’t even pretend to turn on the jets until April. LeBron knew his body. We were left with a transcendent offensive player and a rather miserable defensive one for most of the last three seasons.

For that reason alone, many of us almost welcomed this new era in Cavalier basketball. Instead of waiting seven months to see what kind of squad Cleveland has, we were excited to watch a full 82 games of relevant effort.

Oops.

Unfortunately, this team makes last season’s all misery squad almost look fun. Well, almost. Derrick Rose was a form of basketball torture I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

Sadly for fans, the Cavs replaced one tragically inefficient player obsessed with the mid-range jumper with three such players.

2. If you thought Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson were bad in the playoffs, this season’s heavy minute variety only confirms your disdain.

It is easy to watch both Jordan’s and Rodney’s ability to get a shot off and conclude that they are valuable players. Easy and sadly incorrect.

Jordan has been almost the best version of himself this season hitting on 50 percent of his 13 plus shots per game. That is all well and good, but Jordan, always a poor defender, has taken his defense to a new low, consistently getting lost in an effort to jump passing lanes and/or leak out early in transition.

Offensively, any good that one might see in his decent shooting percentage from two is heavily mitigated by his complete lack of passing and accuracy from deep. Jordan is averaging 13.4 shots per game and 1.2 assists. That is absurd.

And still, Clarkson has a running mate in suckitude with the name of Rodney Hood. Hood’s garbage play is somehow even more frustrating to me at the moment, perhaps because I had maintained a modicum of faith in his potential. I have long given up on Clarkson. He is a run-of-the-mill chucker, a great player in China with no future of being a winning NBA player.

Hood, however, has proven my limited remaining post playoff hope to have been foolish.

Rodney, like Jordan, has completely abandoned the pass. Like Jordan, Rodney loves to chuck up mid-range hope shots that occasionally find success.

Unlike Jordan, Hood refuses to pull the trigger on wide open three attempts, thrawting countless otherwise solid offensive possessions. I can’t tell whether he has lost all confidence in his three ball, whether he falsely concludes he isn’t open, or whether this inept coaching staff has actively encouraged this awful decision making.

3. Collin Sexton has been emboldened by this miserable strategy to launch 20 footers off the bounce as though they are worth four points. Collin finally made a quick drive all the way to the cup against Ish Smith. I yelled “it is about time” to myself before he missed his and-1 free throw attempt. Baby steps.

Also midly encouraging was his first “Nashing it” job. It didn’t net any points, but it was the first time Collin actually kept a live dribble in the paint. It is a thing even sub-par point guards like Ish Smith do with regularity. It is an absolute necessity and I will keep harping on it until Sexton stops picking up the bounce too early.

In general, the Cavaliers backcourt has been a disaster on both ends. Only the occasionally aggressive possession from George Hill resembles winning process and strategy in 2018 basketball.

If this seems doom and gloom to you, trust me, I am not being negative for the sake of being negative. I am only pointing out what most of us already know. Two point 20-footers off the bounce are the worst attempts in basketball. The Cavs’ entire backcourt prefers that shot to all others.

4. If Lue were a good coach, he would sub out Hood immediately any time Rodney passes up an open three for a contested two. Hood needs to be broken of this offense killing habit. Instead, Lue asks his players to be aggressive, detailing nothing of how they can go about being smartly aggressive. It is coaching malpractice. Even if you believe that those players cannot be cured, one must allow that a competent coach might at least be able to harness a player’s negative compulsions.

I mean really. Even Rudy Gay has turned into a somewhat positive player in San Antonio. I don’t think there is hope for Clarkson. Perhaps there is still a tiny glimmer of hope for Hood if given proper coaching. (Quinn Synder may have already maximized his potential)

Regardless, Lue is clearly not doing anything but applauding this crude effort with Austin Carr’s antiquated basketball acumen’s support. It is anti-Morey ball.

The focus on pace and switching does nothing to cure the team of its faults. Look, the entire league is playing with pace. That isn’t a basketball strategy. At this point, it is analogous to saying “do better!”. It is empty nonsense that has no second part. Push tempo for layups and threes. If there is no good early shot, run an offensive for layups and threes. Do NOT settle for the first open 20 footer! That is hardly an offensive strategy either and it still has more steps than Lue’s current directive.

Austin Carr frequently says “play what is in front of you.” While I understand the idea of taking what the defense gives you, it is not a great plan. Any solid defense will give you exactly the shots that the Cavs’ dysfunctional backcourt sadly wants to take. It is just stupid, impatient basketball and anyone who understands the game is currently being driven up the wall trying to watch this team as it barfs out lazy offensive possessions.

What is the easiest way to turn the team into a watchable unit?

Run the guys who naturally play modern basketball.

Right now, poor Kyle Korver is forced to play his limited minutes with guys who don’t know how to pass him the rock on time and on target.

With more experience, Collin will hopefully learn how to anticipate when Kyle will be open off flare screens, but thus far he has routinely passed Korver the ball a tick too late. It is not that Kyle has lost a step. He he simply receiving the ball late enough that the defender has had time to turn the corner in lock and trail technique. By the time Korver receives the pass, the defense has recovered.

Instead of playing Korver with the backcourt of self-inflicted death, Sexton and Clarkson, Lue should start Kyle to maximize effectiveness. Cedi Osman is a smart enough passer to feed the Love and Korver two man game that continues to be excruciatingly underused.

Love and Korver are masters of the off ball screen dance. Lue either doesn’t understand that, or he is trying to lose. It is likely the former, though I don’t know which would be worse.

Hill, Korver, Osman, Love, and Nance. That is a winning group of guys full of smart off-ball offensive and defensive play. Their collective high basketball IQ and solid floor-spacing would give the Cavs a chance.

Sexton, David Nwaba, Ante Zizic, Channing Frye and Sam Dekker would be my other rotation players. Dekker can be effective in limited minutes when he plays with players who pass.

Ante Zizic misses a shot as often as Hood takes an open three. AKA, rarely. Frye spaces the floor and plays smart defensive angles.

David Nwaba. For the love of basketball, play the man. He moves the ball, has an underrated PnR game, and he defends across the perimeter. This isn’t complicated. Play the guys who understand that NBA basketball isn’t one-on-one, that three is greater than two, and dribbling doesn’t earn the team points.

This team does have playoff talent. But they won’t sniff 25 wins unless Lue has a eureka moment. It will have to come soon, or many folks will tune out before December.

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Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
2 months 26 days ago

Yes Nwaba!!!

Nate Smith
Admin
2 months 26 days ago

Warmup observations: Kyle, Fellow Creighton alum Doug McDermott, and Alize Johndon out before anyone else, 90 minutes before the game getting shots up.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 months 26 days ago

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
2 months 26 days ago

That’s the dumbest giveaway I’ve ever seen. It’s an insult to giveaways.

JOHN B
Guest
JOHN B
2 months 26 days ago

Agree 100% on starting Korver, which I have been advocating for since game 2. Just makes the most sense.

The issue with Clarkson is that all of his shots come outside of the flow of the offense. If a guy hits 50 percent from the field your TS won’t be too bad. However, he disrupts everything and the other player’s rhythm every time he is inserted. Guys end up just standing around, and getting cold or out of the flow of the game.

Hood is a lost cause and I thought that after the playoffs. His whole career shows he is a bad defensive player and inefficient on offense. Beyond that he literally does nothing else besides volume scoring, which he isn’t even good at. Look at his career Drpm, assist and rebounding stats. Just was not going to be a good player for us.

My other major issues are that the offense has been in no way tailored to Love’s strengths, and the defensive scheme is just not suited for our personnel. It was better in Detroit without switching the 5, but I still think a switching defense is not optimal for the cavs.

believeLAND
Guest
believeLAND
2 months 26 days ago

It always starts with ownership investing in front office, Cavs have been the most mismanaged team in the league for years. Cleveland is a great sports town with a tremendous fan-base in each major sport. There’s no reason why if ownership invested in management, you couldn’t build a spurs-like organization in Cleveland.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
2 months 26 days ago

I completely agree with everything in this article, I would just add that I have no hope for Hood. He’s trash!

NOMAD
Guest
NOMAD
2 months 26 days ago

HA-HA GOOD ONE NATE —SO SAD —SOOOOO TRUE ——-THINK BACK —WADE AND EVEN THE ‘DRAINO” KNEW THIS ABOUT LUE BEING SO ‘CLUELESS”—–THE “CLOCK” HAS TO BE TICKING ON BOTH HIM / LONGO

Nate Smith
Admin
2 months 26 days ago

Give the Cavs a break, guys. They lost their head coach and their best player in the same summer.

JOHN B
Guest
JOHN B
2 months 26 days ago

Oof. Funny, but pretty brutal.

Ten ThOsman Maniacs
Guest
Ten ThOsman Maniacs
2 months 26 days ago

The mid range shots are insanely maddening. It HAS to be coaching, right? I can definitely hear Lue just saying “Be aggressive” to anybody who can dribble a basketball. It seems like any time a guard doesn’t have a clear path to the hoop he pulls up for a 19 foot J.

MikeO
Guest
MikeO
2 months 26 days ago

If Hood were absolute money from 12-18′, he’d be okay. Since he’s about as far from money as you can get from that range, he’s worthless. I would have been okay with a three year deal at $9 million per for him over the summer, but thank god he thought he was worth more than that. Cavs should absolutely let him walk after the season.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 months 26 days ago

If Hood was money theyd have never moved him

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

no one is “money” from anywhere on the court with this group.. although zizic is pretty close near the basket, but of course, he doesn’t play.. TT likely has trouble getting his no.2s into the porcelain basket..

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

as to “sniffing 25 wins”.. sorry, these boys are 3-40 at feb 1.. and 7-75 at the end of the season

JRL
Guest
JRL
2 months 26 days ago

7-75?

Wow…

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

who can they realistically beat.. no team in their division, and the current laggards in the other divisions are all much better than this team.. finally, they will not win a single game against the west.. presto.. 7-75

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

go to the scedule, and tell me what they realistically win between now and feb1st.. looks pretty bad to me.. heck, the whole season looks like a nightmare.. hence 7-75

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

sadly, the memories of 2016 will fade very rapidly as we pay the mortgage bill for the next 10 yrs

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

i will proffer that were LBJ still here, this team would likely be 4-2 or 5-1.. he is truly without peer.. but without big daddy around to clean up their messes every night, it’s evident that this cast of players is sub-par in every respect, including the coaches.. as warren buffet so aptly stated, “you don’t know who is swimming naked until the tide goes out”.. well, folks, these boys are skinny-dipping in the children’s pool

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

and the “shrinkage” is evident

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

just as negative interest rates exist (i am sure big dan knows about those) we will soon have negative ticket prices.. c’mon down to the q to watch your cav-nots.. free food, free parking, and we’ll pay you $20/seat..

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

even then, they will be unable to fill the place

buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

although the losers from the casino would likely take dan up on that offer

Nate Smith
Admin
2 months 26 days ago

Actually, even i the dark years the Cavs were respectable in attendance. The issue here is they conned a lot of folks into season tix to get playoff preferences last season.

NOMAD
Guest
NOMAD
2 months 26 days ago

GOOD RIGHT UP AS USUAL BEN——YEAH SAW ON LOCAL CLEVELAND NEWS STATION—TICKETS ARE BEING SOLD FOR $3.00 / IF TREND CONTINUES THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO GIVE AWAY—-SURE THE VETERANS CAN SENSE THE DIFFERENCE IN THE ARENA FROM THE LAST4 YRS—–STILL DISAGREE WITH YOU ON CLARKSON —–BELIEVE THERE IS STILL POTENTIAL TO BE A GOOD ROLE PLAYER –(YES THERE ARE SOME HABITS THAT NEED TO BE BROKEN / SKILL IMPROVED ON )—-POSTED RECENTLY —UNFORTUNATELY WE ARE NOT GOING TO SEE “UTAH HOOD “—-WAS HOPING SO—BUT BELIEVE “WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU HAVE “–NOT GOING TO CHANGE ————AND DUE TO DNP BY TY DECISIONS –REALLY DON’T KNOW WHAT NWABA CAN BRING / DO FOR US ……………….WE GOT A GLIPMSE LAST YEAR WHEN DREW COACHED WHAT ANTE CAN DO —–“DREW INSTEAD OF LUE ” !!!

Nate Smith
Admin
2 months 26 days ago
This team’s ineptitude is really amazing. The team would have to try to make front office and coaching decisions as ill fated as they have. They’ve entered the George Costanza zone where they they should start doing the opposite of their natural impulses. If the cavs’ front office or coaching staff comes up with an idea like trading for a player, for example Hood and/or Clarkson, the rest of the league ought to immediately lower that player’s value (see:Dekker, Sam). If they start shopping Kevin Love, the rest of the league ought to think, “the Cavs don’t want him, he must be good.” if they cut a player, the league should look at him (see: Colson, Bonzi). The penchant for long twos is so insane. The funniest Rodney Hood moment was when he got red hot against the Hawks and TY DIDN’T PLAY HIM IN THE FOURTH QUARTER. The guy has given you next to nothing as a starter, and the one time he got hot, he got benched. If I thought Ty Lue could accomplish something, I’d swear he was trying to lose and get fired. He’d fail at that though and start winning. Great piece as always Ben.… Read more »
buck turgidson
Guest
buck turgidson
2 months 26 days ago

we are indeed in seinfeld-larry david territory with this group..

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