From Distance: Actual Progress

four point play….

1. The last two weeks of Cavaliers’ basketball has certainly been far more enjoyable than the previous two. With Larry Drew at the helm, the Cavs have slowly worked out some rotation questions and, gasp, even a blurry identity.

While Ty Lue simply babbled about pushing pace, Drew’s team has been for more selective in pushing the ball make or miss. The players aren’t blindly running into an “offense” just for the sake of moving. The players even seem to understand that one must still play defense half of the time, regardless of possession frequency!

Of course, George Hill’s injury, J.R. Smith’s imposed exodus, and now the trade of Kyle Korver have contributed to whatever lineup clarification we have seen from Drew. Limiting options can sometimes help decision making. That whole seven item menu and all. Still, the basic ideology has been the real factor.

Drew, whether it has been via necessity or not, has finally allowed Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. to play substantial minutes together. Both TT and Lance lobbied Lue about the possibility, but it was a complete no-go before Drew took over.

In a league that is going small, I suppose I can understand Lue’s reticence to lean on that lineup. I understand it. I just didn’t agree with it, especially when that meant limiting Nance’s minutes.

With both of the Cavs’ under-sized, but hyperactive “Centers” playing together, the Cavs have rebounded the ball much better, and even protected the rim from time to time.

Nance’s growth has as a facilitator has been the main factor in maintaining a viable offense with both centers on the floor. While Nance has been the best Cavalier defender since he arrived to Cleveland, Lue never trusted him over Tristan on either end.

Drew has solved that problem by simply playing them together. With Nance running the offense from the elbow via ball-screens and dribble hand-offs, his offensive rebounding numbers have taken a slight dip. Tristan has benefited, however, since one more opposing big is being pulled out of the paint as Nance handles.

Though it is true that opposing teams are content to let Nance fire from deep, the opposition can’t sink too far into the paint against Nance’s screen action without giving up wide open threes to guys like Rodney Hood, or until the trade, Kyle Korver.

That outside action, real basketball action!, has freed Tristan do kill it on the offensive glass like he has his whole life. A now healthy Tristan has rebounded at a highest clip of his career so far during this young season. Having another guy in Nance who is willing to boxout, and set things up from a big position on offense, helps Tristan in that regard.

2. Against smaller lineups, I am happy that Drew has freed David Nwaba from the pine. The Cavs have been desperate for his overall floor game all season, and yet he wasn’t given rotation minutes until only recently.

It is no coincidence that Nwaba’s increased workload has correlated with better overall team play. Nwaba plays tough, smart basketball, is a ball-mover with a good understanding of floor geometry, and has the physical tools to hang with the NBA’s elite wings.

If the Cavs were truly aiming for the playoffs earlier in the season, it was insane that Nwaba wasn’t playing rotation minutes. Ya know, similar to how it was completely irrational to sit Osman during the playoffs.

David’s shot has a tendency to get flat at times. He almost invariably misses short rather than left or right. Any shooting coach would much rather tackle arch issues than spin issues. I can see a clear path for David to become a consistent 40-plus percent three point shooter in the near future.

Add that to his decent handle and overall floor game and you have the player that we all wished Alonzo Gee could become. Here’s hoping Nwaba’s shoulder doesn’t set him too far back right as he was breaking out.

3. As perhaps the biggest Collin Sexton sceptic out there, I have to make sure I give the young man his props for some positive early developments.

Over the past two weeks, Sexton has essentially stuck to a left-handed dribble drive game that relies on a great hesitation dribble and subsequent explosion to the cup.

Collin’s footwork going left is currently much stronger than it is going right. Going to his right hand, Collin invariably picks up his dribble just outside of the paint before taking his predictably timed two steps. Defenders read it easily for the block or hard contest.

Going left, Sexton isn’t so locked into a normal pattern. His drive line is more direct, dribble more compact, and his stretch finish to the rim allows him to put the ball almost immediately on the glass limiting block opportunities.

What is even more noteworthy is that Collin has begun to “Nash it” with that left-handed drive, keeping his dribble alive to live another day.

It is easier for most right-handed players to crossover to the left before stepping back into a pull-up jumper. As we have talked about for years, it is the reason LeBron shoots a better percentage from the left wing than the right. Good shooters keep their shooting targets directed at the rim (great shooters find a way to get their shoulders there regardless). That is easier to do from the left side of the floor for righties.

For Collin, it has translated into more screen rejections when the Pick and Roll is initiated from the left side, and more snaking to the center of the floor post screen when initiated from the right side.

The kid is desperate to go left and/or pull-up. It has been far more effective than his self-sabotaged right-handed dribble drives, so we should breathe a sigh of relief.

Still, at some point soon, the league will have enough video on him to force him right. If I am an opposing coach, I take away his immediate pull-up opportunity by switching all PnR action that start on the right side. I make Collin try to drive all the way to the hoop with his right against length.

When the play starts on the left, I force him to use the pick going to the center of the floor without swtiching.

Sexton must be ready for these adjustments. The league learns quickly. Hopefully for Cavs fans, so will Collin.

4. Speaking of learning, it seems Rodney Hood has learned that one gets three points if one stays behind that arched line! It is a happy development for all.

It may be simply that Rodney Hood is a garbage time player incapable of playing well when there are any stakes. Is his improved play only the result of the Cavs already being nominally eliminated from the Playoff hunt?

I would love to think that that is not the case. In a happier, more hopeful world, Hood has gotten the green light to shoot whenever he wants from deep. I want to live in a world in which Hood’s unblockable pull-up jumper is launched from 24 feet instead of 18 finding twine with regularity.

I honestly don’t know. Like countless GMs, I see Hood’s skill-set and and feathery flashes with headshaking frustration. Dude, why can’t you play hard all the time? How do you forget how to play team ball half the time and then make perfect rotations and ball swings the other half. Oh Rodney, you are quite the tease.

Quickie:

Watching the Cavs and Browns has become less of a chore. It seems in spite of conventional wisdom, Haslam and Gilbert made the right decisions with their coaching firings.

Take that national media.

Count me as one who has absolutely no problem with how Baker Mayfield has handled himself as a Brown. Are the national media actually watching his full interviews or just cherry-picking sentences?

It seems clear to me that the majority of the team is pleased to be rid of Hue Jackson and his “I’m in this chair” stupidity. Todd Haley’s grumpy demeanor and archaic play calling certainly aren’t missed either.

Kitchins and Mayfield have tried their best to respect the departed coaches, but at some point they have to be honest. They are simply better now.

That Mayfield hasn’t truly detailed what happened internally is a sign of his maturity and leadership. Meanwhile, talking heads only want to talk about his crotch grab. Sigh. Look at facts to build an opinion, not the other way around.

The Browns finally have their franchise QB.

 

 

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Nate Smith
Admin
8 days 21 hours ago

Sexton settles way too often.

JRL
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JRL
9 days 30 seconds ago

Live Thread???

EvilGenius
Admin
8 days 23 hours ago

Up now… sorry… I’m not home yet

JRL
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JRL
9 days 1 hour ago

Great article Ben!

Zz needs to go down to Canton if he’s not going to get minutes here. I also don’t understand why Frye isn’t getting playing time, specially now with Sexton and Clarkson so willing to attack the basket, they need him to make space for them.

Regarding TT and Nance playing together, I like it. The two of them are active and have been playing smart basketball. Keep it going.

Harrison, to me, is one game away from getting sent packing. Kid just doesn’t seem to be growing with the opportunity.

NOMAD
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NOMAD
9 days 4 hours ago

GREAT JOB BEN / CONTINUING TO EDUCATE US ALL—–YES ( AS A HIGH SCHOOL COACH-30+ YRS )– COACHING ARC IS MUCH EASIER THAN / DIRECTION / REALLY ENJOY ” BREAKING ” DOWN THE SHOT / FINE TUNING THE MECHANICS /——–HAVE SAID MANY TIMES –(JASON ALSO MENTIONED IT )—VERY IMPORTANT THIS YEAR WITH ALL THE YOUNG GUYS TO—-EVALUATE / DEVELOP / DECIDE ——REASON DREW HAS TO GIVE MIN’S TO ALL THE PLAYERS IN ORDER TO FAIRLY / INTELLIGENTLY EVALUATE / ONE WEAKNESS FOR THE CAVS OVER THE YEARS IS TO DEVELOP YOUNG TALENT — NEED TO CHANGE THAT/ MAKE THAT A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF ORGANIZATION——–POSTED THIS RECENTLY ALSO—-VERY IMPRESSED SINCE DAY ONE —BAKERS MATURE / INTELLIGENT INTERVIEWS — ( LIGHT YEARS AHEAD OF OTHER PLAYERS HIS AGE / EXPERIENCE )—-SO YEAH BAKER KEEP ON “FEELING DANGEROUS “—HELL WITH THE MEDIA / HUE ——-GO CAVS —-GO COLLIN TAKE IT TO KYRIE !!!

Anonymous
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Anonymous
9 days 6 hours ago

I can’t help but to start feeling frustrated that we underachieved massively last year with Lue at the helm. Look at what Drew is doing with this team and also what he did during last years Lue hiatus. I was thinking this last year, but the team should have just given Lue the year off – I think the finals would have been a lot more competitive with Drew using Nance and Cedi correctly. And who knows, and this is a long shot, but perhaps Lebron might have stayed. Either way, Lue’s general incompetence is the biggest reason why 2017 was such a bust.

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
9 days 6 hours ago

I don’t think the end result would have changed. I think the writing was on the wall once Kryie was traded.

Jason
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Jason
9 days 5 hours ago

Drew > Lue. Not much doubt there. Perhaps we steal a game or two vs GSW in the Finals.

I think Bron was looking for the exit regardless. If Durant had stayed in OKC and we’d have won in 2017 AND 2018 and he is 1 back of MJ? Then maybe he stays.

Agree with Arch. Once we won in 2016 he was free to go. He delivered. Durant to GSW + Kyrie/Griffin exits killed our chance at a dynasty here.

ChrisKorvalier
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ChrisKorvalier
9 days 4 hours ago

We win three straight titles and LeBron MIGHT stay? Man, he must really hate Cleveland.

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
9 days 3 hours ago

He definitely doesn’t hate Cleveland. He may hate Dan Gilbert though.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
9 days 6 hours ago

I meant 2017/2018.

Nate Smith
Admin
9 days 7 hours ago

Sexton is so weird. I’ve never seen a right handed player who finished better with his left on the right side. I mean Kyrie great with either on either side and LeBron stole a bit of that, but its weird. The reason sexton probably fails to use the glass is as as you mention: he takes off too soon on the right hand dribble drive and doesn’t have the juice to get it to the glass. One thing he needs to do is get a “ready to shoot” posture in catch and shoot three situations and the coordination to consistently shoot the three when teams go under in P/R.

Great notes on Nwaba. Feel he’s a better defender than nance just because of Nance’s maddening penchant for dumb fouls. David’s fouls sre much more purposeful.

Jason
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Jason
9 days 8 hours ago

Really astute stuff, Ben. All of it. Drew vs Lue. The benefits & drawbacks of Larry + TT. Nwaba’s shot. Sexton’s game. Rodney being a tease.

Speaking of teases. I kind of put players into tiers. All-star level guys. B/B+ level (Covington, Adams, Ingles, Danny Green, etc). Winning rotation level (Jerebko, Smart). Rotation level. And developmental.

We have had a number of guys flash enough potential that they could move up a level or two. Can Sexton be a stud? Nwaba with a shot is a B+ guy. So is TT when offensively passable. Nance with a shot & a more focused Hood are winning rotational guys, possibly getting into B+ land.

That is the challenge for this year. Evaluate & develop. Seen enough flashes for some excitement. Seen enough from Drew in cooking this motley stew to think he could be a chef. Seen enough from Altman to think he could get us more pieces for Hill & JR & eating some bad contracts. Seen enough from Zion & Barrett to think a stud could be on the way.

JudeElysium
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JudeElysium
9 days 12 hours ago

Good write up. Just have to point out a nit pick:
While LeBron shoots like a right hander, he is actually left handed.

I do wholeheartedly agree on Hood. Ive been really hard on him this season, but occasionally he looks like the amazing shot creating, team basketball wonder people say he is…i just wish that version didn’t randomly disappear for long stretches without reason.

Also, Im a huge Cedi fan, but he has to work on controlling his confidence. When he plays strong he looks every bit the MIP future allstar we wanted to see in him, but when he missed a few he goes too quickly back to the Eurobasket deferring to teammates mode. I really want to see him taking about 5-7 more shots again, especially if that comes with more motion pull up 3s which he somehow seems to shoot better than his wide open catch and shoot 3s.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
9 days 6 hours ago

He’s probably still ball dominate with his right hand. I write with my left hand, but I’m dominate with my right hand, in sports/etc.

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