So today, basketball dork Mecca 82games.com came out with its initial reports for this season. All of the following comes from a very small sample size, and almost all of it is likely to normalize as the season goes on, but there are still a few interesting things that we can glean from these early results. Without further ado:
-First off, the first unit. Williams/Parker/LeBron/Varejao/O’Neal have played 88 minutes together, and the results have not been all that good. The starting unit is at +0 after all those minutes together, which isn’t promising for a team that has played this unit far more than any other and sees itself as being much better than a .500 team.
-The 2nd-most played unit is Williams/West/LeBron/Varejao/Ilgauskas. You may recognize this unit from such campaigns as “The team that won 66 games last season” or “The starting unit throughout the playoffs.” And wouldn’t you know it, this unit has been +18 in 19 minutes, with an offensive rating of 1.31 (as compared to the starting unit’s rating of 0.98) and a defensive rating of 0.87 (as compared to the starting unit’s rating of 0.99).
Simply put, this unit has been killing it, while the starters have struggled mightily. And it’s not like this is some unit that’s played 15 minutes in garbage time and looked amazing for some random reason: THIS IS THE STARTING UNIT OF AN ELITE TEAM LAST SEASON. So we’ve got a mediocre team starting and not doing all that well while an elite team watches them from the bench. This is one of the most frustrating things I have ever experienced as a sports fan. Period.
-When Delonte West is on the floor, the Cavs are a +15.9 per 100 possessions. That’s the highest mark of any player on the team, including LeBron. Delonte needs more minutes. I get the off-court issues, but I still fail to see how bringing Delonte off the bench is worse for his mental health than starting him. However, I can definitely see how starting Delonte would make the Cavaliers play better basketball.
-When Shaq is on the floor, the Cavaliers are -0.5 points per 100 possessions. When Shaq is off the floor, the Cavaliers are +10.3 points per 100 possessions. This has become ridiculous. Shaq is not working in his current role. It’s that simple.
-JJ Hickson, whose potential I love, has been a gigantic bundle of fail thus far. His PER is -0.6. Yes, that’s possible. His opponent PER is 27.5, which is right around MVP level. Even worse, the Cavaliers are -29.7 points per 100 possessions with Hickson on the floor and +11.0 points per 100 with Hickson off the floor. Hickson has a lot of talent, but this season he’s done everything but burn down the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the court. Of course, his move into the starting lineup is what’s going to fix the starting unit. I’m skeptical.
-Onto good news: Anderson Varejao is a freaking beast. His +/- is 31.0 right now, which is freaking ridiculous. And that’s with him being a part of the grand quagmire that is the O’Neal/Varejao starting frontcourt. When Varejao and someone who can shoot are on the court together, tremendously good things happen. He’s definitely the Cavaliers’ best big man right now.
-Good news with LeBron: his jumper has been pure thus far, with an amazingly high 48.8% eFG on jump shots, which means he’s picking up right where he left off in last year’s playoffs. Considering he’s been around 40% eFG on jumpers throughout his career, that’s impressive stuff. Caveat: his amazing jump shooting in MSG is probably skewing that right now.
The bad news: LBJ is relying much more on his jumper much more than he did last season, with a full 68% of his field goal attempts being jumpers. Hopefully he’ll get more aggressive soon. Also, LeBron is only averaging 2.8 assists per bad pass, which is very bad for him. He’s trying way too many home run passes, and his turnover rate is suffering noticeably.
Good news for Z: the Cavs are +3.6 points better with Z on the floor. The bd news: his jumper’s been way off, with Z only making 31.4% of his jumpers. A lot of that is because Z’s been taking deeper jumpers coming off the bench, but he’s gotta settle in a bit.
-Jamario: -27 points per 100 possessions so far. Yipes.
-From the “oddity” files: Boobie’s eFG% is 66.3% on jumpers and 25.0% from “inside.” And Anthony Parker has a 50.9% eFG on jumpers and a 28.6% eFG on “inside” shots. Even early in the season, I can’t remember ever seeing a split like that in the NBA; now there are two players on one team almost twice as efficient shooting jumpers as they are trying to take it to the hole. Crazy.
-From the “I’m glad I’m wrong” file: The Gigantic Lineup of Doom has actually worked thus far, with the Z/Shaq frontcourt going +4 overall in 10 minutes with excellent offensive and defensive ratings, due in no small part to the fact that lineup takes 65% of their shots from inside. We’ll see if this continues.
-Alright, that’s all I have for tonight. Crunch the numbers and see if you see anything different. Until tomorrow, campers.