Let Antawn shoot! I’m pretty sure that’s the crux of what John’s been trying to write for the past year and a half.
Okay, so things won’t go this way every night for our beloved Cavaliers (New Jersey may be the only team in the league employing our 2010-11 defensive strategy of not closing out on three-point shooters), but I suppose we should take them as they come and try not to overanalyze.
The Cavs hit 16 3-pointers Sunday night (the team record is 17) to blow open what was a five point game halfway through the fourth quarter, and their 16-point margin of victory was four points greater than any achieved last season.
The following are my pertinent thoughts:
- Credit where credit is due… Really good game for Antawn Jamison tonight. 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, while visibly contributing on the defensive end (he somehow blocked two shots). The biggest criticism of Jamison offensively is that he’s a volume shooter, but when he’s on, well…see the next bullet.
- Here’s a good Jamison-related stat from the Cavs’ new beat writer, Tom Reed: “In the Cavs’ two losses, Jamison is 10-of-34 from the field. In the two wins, he’s 16-of-24.” Small sample size, but I’d argue two things – One, regardless of the size (that’s how most of my arguments start), this stat does indicate something very relevant, and two, that something has not so much to do with Jamison, but more so with the function Jamison serves. The Cavs desperately need an efficient scorer capable of demanding defensive attention. Even with a fully developed Kyrie, they’ll need that. Ideally, this would be a guy who could create on his own. At this point, I’m just looking for someone for Kyrie to pass the ball to. When Jamison is hitting, we have a guy at the very least comfortable functioning in that role. When he’s not…we just don’t have that guy (with the possible exception of Luke Harangody).
- Exceedingly steady game from Kyrie, but nothing spectacular tonight. On the plus side, it was nice to see his jumper start to make an appearance. He’d been doing most of his damage thus far around the basket, but against New Jersey he finally looked to be settling down from midrange and finding a comfort level behind the 3-point line (3-4 tonight after going 1-7 in the first four games). Only real negatives — Kyrie wasn’t quite as aggressive pushing the ball up the floor, and he spent more time on Sundiata Gaines than he did against Deron Williams. I guess there are worse things in the world than not getting a baptism by fire. In closing, I love Kyrie.
- And the other rook? Austin Carr reiterated this quite fervently, but we really haven’t had a 4 that long and athletic since Larry Nance. His work from the weak-side is fast becoming as fun to watch as LeBron’s chase down blocks were, and his offense is at times quite encouraging (as long as he makes a decisive move and doesn’t have to improvise, he’s able to get quality looks purely via his quickness). In each game, I’ve thought he’s played better than his stats suggested. Same thing tonight. I think I love Tristan too. I’m a basketball polygamist.
- Daniel Gibson is so solid, and I continue to be impressed by his development as a player. 19 points, 5 of 7 from 3. Other than Andy, he might be the most reliable player on the team right now.
- Alonzo Gee is winning me over with his toughness. His game (right now) is reminiscent of a Laker-era Shannon Brown.
- The Cavs bench is currently averaging just under 47% of the Cavalier points. I think that means that we have both a deep bench, and a mediocre starting lineup.
- That Mehmet Okur trade has failed to save the Nets thus far.
- 3-Gee is a great nickname.
- Sundiata’s game has expanded past the heave.
- Deron Williams is really good…and there is nothing around him.
- MarShon Brooks, who at 15.3 ppg was leading all rookies in scoring entering the game, didn’t score a point tonight. He also wore socks that made him look like the Aluminum Monster.
- I bet Kris Humphries matches his point and rebound total more frequently than any other player in the league.
- And lastly…for draft pick watchers, there are at least three teams in the East clearly worse than the Cavs — New Jersey, Detroit, and the Wizards. I’d put Toronto on that list too had they not, ya know, beat us in the first game of the season.
Kevin, our resident stat guru, found some great stuff for me to include in the recap tonight in the event that Kyrie found himself driving to the rim consistently. Sure enough, most of Kyrie’s 11 shots were jumpers. It’s still worth reading.
According to hoopdata.com, through the 12/30 games, there have been 113 NBA guards who played at least 3 games + 10 minutes per game.
Of them, Kyrie Irving has ranked 5th for shots at the rim per 40 minutes (he’s getting off 8 shots at the rim per 40), 7th for assists at the rim per 40 minutes (4.5), and 1st (tied with Andre Miller) in sum of his shots + assists at the rim per 40 minutes (12.5).
And, slightly less encouraging:
Kyrie’s been a below average finisher at the rim. His 50% shooting is below the NBA average of 61.5% for guards (both in 2010 – 2011 and so far this year), though the sum of his made shots plus assists at the rim (8.5) is third behind Andre Miller (9.4) and Monta Ellis (8.8).
Catch all that? It’s basically hard evidence that Kyrie is getting to the rim (awesome), but not finishing at an astonishingly high rate (less awesome).
Here’s my take: The finishing thing is something I’ve noticed from game one — once Kyrie gets to the basket, he’s often just tossing the ball weakly at he rim. Now Kyrie, at Duke, was actually able to finish pretty effectively via a hopefully transferable combination of size and craftiness. He’ll never float over everyone like Derrick Rose, or explode through a defender a la Russell Westbrook…but that 50% shooting at the rim is something I’m crossing my fingers will improve as Kyrie adjusts to the speed and length of the guys defending at the NBA level. The most important thing he could do? I think would be to take off more on balance and on occasion, more under control. When he’s getting blocked, it’s because he’s already on his way down and just has to get the ball up before he hits the ground. He needs to go up from a position of power. His worst game in this regard was, by far, game one… So I’m hopeful he’s getting better here already. Definitely something to keep an eye on. Think positive.
See you next Sunday everyone!