Sit down Cavs fans, you need to hear this
“I cannot teach him, the boy has no patience”
– the wisest mofo in the galaxy, Yoda
Patience is never an easy message to sell to a fan base, particularly season ticket holders who have a monetary investment in the team and their performance. The Cavaliers are headed towards what is going to more than likely be the third year of a rebuilding process that is trying to resurrect this franchise from the ruin that “The Decision” left it in. The rebuilding process for a team that can’t simply obtain a franchise-altering player via trade or free agency, such as a LeBron James or Dwight Howard, is a twofold process. Youth and draft picks must be acquired while simultaneously shedding salary and veterans who though might still be solid NBA players are either overpaid or will probably be on the decline performance wise when the team is ready to compete in the playoffs again.
Chris Grant has clearly adopted this plan; the highlights of said plan being acquiring an unprotected lottery pick from the Clippers which turned into Kyrie Irving back in 2011. Rookie contracts are an NBA team’s best friend no matter where they are in the NBA food chain. There is little room for negotiation on these contracts and they allow NBA teams to keep hold of a rookie for at least four years often on a contract that can be said to be underpaying said athlete. Kyrie Irving will make around five million dollars in the 12-13 NBA season. Were Kyrie Irving a free agent this previous summer he would have commanded a contract that would probably pay him AT LEAST double that. As is though, the Cavaliers will have control of an underpaid Kyrie for the next three years.
This gives the Cavaliers the room they need to be patient going forward with the roster. The Cavaliers had a fair amount of cap space this offseason and will continue to have that cap space until used for the next two offseason as well. There is no reason for them to make a risky move such as trying to trade for Andrew Bynum and his 60 year old knees. They will have a roster of young players, including a potentially top 15 player in Kyrie Irving, to sell to any potential free agent acquisitions in these next two off seasons. Yes, it is actually possible Cleveland could become a desirable place for a superstar to play. It is hard to argue with this plan in the long run, but what it means for this season is somewhat discouraging for fans who’d like to see an upgrade to the number residing in the Cavalier’s win column.
This could get ugly, like a chimp ripping off your face with its bare hands ugly.
No one looks great fresh off of the table in any sort of cosmetic surgery.1. The Cavaliers Franchise essentially had its face mauled into oblivion by a lion2, and have then been forced to go through a series of facial reconstruction surgeries over the past three years. Only now are they getting off the operating table; finally able to enter the final stage of recovery. Besides Kyrie Irving, the two most important offensive players from this team a year ago were Antawn Jamison and Ramon Sessions. Neither of these players were particularly efficient on the offensive end, but they were both capable of having the offense go through them during different stages of the game and took some of the work load off of Kyrie.
They are now both gone, Jamison leaving us with a bunch of freed up cap space and Sessions, via the draft pick we acquired from the Lakers for him, turned into a tall white guy by the name of Tyler Zeller. Both of these moves were done to make the team better going forward, but the return on these investments will by no means be immediate. Though Zeller has a rather polished NBA game and should be able to make some sort of impact this season, he will still need to get used to playing against NBA centers who are much bigger, quicker, and stronger than most of the centers scattered throughout the NCAA. Zeller isn’t going to be able to have games in the NBA like he did against my Ohio Bobcats in the NCAA tournament where the tallest player on the opposition was 6’8 and he was able to put up a line of 20 points, 22 rebounds, and 4 blocks on almost 60% shooting3. The cap space Antawn left us is still patiently sitting in the Cavalier’s bank ready to be used in a future off season, but for now remains unutilized. So unless Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, and some of the minor acquisitions like CJ Miles can make up for the loss of those two players on the offensive end there is a good chance this team could be worse than last year, at least offensively.
It is hard to project how rookies will fair in the Association due to how different the NBA game is from college from both a rules stand point and talent stand point4. Furthermore predicting to what degree certain players, like Tristan and Kyrie, will improve can also be difficult until we see them consistently in action. It is possible that a combination of improvement from those players as well as an accelerated development of our rookies could help us out perform last season, but it seems unlikely at this point.
This roster is bereft of knock down shooters who can help space the floor and thus will allow teams to shade their defense towards the paint, clogging the lane for players like Kyrie and Waiters. Neither of the back up point guards, Donald Sloan and Jeremy Pargo, are as good as Sessions at running an NBA offense and it is too much to ask of a rookie such as Waiters to immediately produce at this level in the NBA. In addition to the lack of a back up point guard, the roster doesn’t have a big who can consistently be given the ball and be expected to get a decent shot off,5 which means that this offense could potentially look very plodding at times resulting in stretches of the game where the offense completely stagnates. Coach Scott has already cited his desire for the team to look to score earlier in the shot clock, which roughly translates to “our half court offense is going to be poop; we need to score in transition”. It is reasonable to assume that this change in style is to make up for the roster deficiencies cited above as well as to play to the strengths of having young mobile big men such as Zeller and Thompson who are very comfortable running the floor and it seems nice in theory, but I still need to see a defense that is capable of creating these fast break opportunities.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS! Too bad we can’t play it…yet.
I hate to continue being the harbinger of doom for this Cavalier season, but this team is going to struggle on defense. I’m assuming as the season goes on Dion and Kyrie will be sharing the back court together at times and opposing NBA backcourts will be rejoicing when they bring up the ball against this team with those two as their first line of defense. Dion Waiters looks like he needs a pillow and a blanket at times when defending off the ball and as much as I’d like to lay Kyrie’s defensive deficiencies on the fact that he is expected to carry this team offensively I can’t ignore the fact that it looks like he is using Apple Maps6 to tell him where to go on the defensive end. Both players are decent at playing the passing lanes and going for steals, but their on the ball defense must improve, Kyrie’s more so than Dion’s, and both of them need to improve their rotations on the defensive end.
Tristan has proven to be an active player defensively and made some big strides towards this area of his game towards the end of last year as his minutes increased without Andy around, but this team still lacks a big that can consistently defend players on the opposing team who can score the basketball, inside or out. Power forwards and centers feasted on this defense last year and when you can’t consistently defend opposing bigs one on one it forces you into doubling players opening up everyone else on the opposing offense. If you look back to even the first month of last year’s NBA season, January, you can see the following numbers from opposing bigs, Andre Bargnani 31 points, Kevin Love 29 points, LaMarcus Aldridge 28 points, Al Jefferson 30 points, Paul Milsap 19 pts(on 9-10 shooting), David Lee 29 points, and Chris Bosh 35 points. Granted those are all very solid players, but they are also all scoring a decent amount above their average against us. I concede that much of this could be down to the terrible defense of Antawn Jamison and hopefully an improvement on the defensive end will be seen due to his subtraction, but it definitely was not all down to him. One area where Zeller is going to help immediately is that he understands how to move off the ball on defense and his rotation is pretty solid. Hopefully he can keep up with the speed of the NBA and move into position quickly enough to transfer this facet of his game to the NBA. Having Zeller on the floor in combination with either Tristan or Andy should be effective as long as there isn’t a Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum to guard.
We need to crash the glass on both ends of the floor to maximize this current roster’s potential. Offensively because I’m sure there are going to be plenty of misses when we get into the half court which means second chances could become a key part of our offense and defensively because we’re going to need to capitalize on misses by initiating the fast break and getting some easy buckets in transition. It is going to take some tinkering by Byron Scott to figure out how to use this personnel to make this happen.
Embracing futility: How to enjoy the 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers
Despite the bleak outlook for this season in terms of wins and losses I am actually quite excited to watch this team play. There are quite a few players here that will hopefully make up a sizable portion the core of a playoff team in a year or two and watching these players develop together should make for enjoyable television. So what should we be looking for?
Here’s the list:
1) Can Kyrie Irving take his game to another level either via scoring or distributing the ball as well as raise his defensive game? Maybe make All NBA Third Team?7
2) Can Dion Waiters slot into the Ramon Sessions role and be our facilitator when Kyrie is not on the floor.
3) How will Dion and Kyrie play together considering Dion looks quite uncomfortable without the ball in his hands?
4) Will Alonzo Gee gain confidence in his jump shot/3 ball or will he continue to force the ball to the rim?
5) Will NBA defenders finally catch onto the fact that right now Tristan isn’t confident in his jump shot and that if he looks like he is going to shoot, it is probably a pump fake? Will he improve on offense in general?
6) Will Andy be one of the first players fined through the new anti-flopping rules?8
7) Can Tyler Zeller defend NBA bigs or will they steal his lunch money and make him piss his britches?
8) Will Zeller out score Tristan?
9) Will Dion Waiters, or his mother, whine his way into a starting role?
10) If he doesn’t whine his way into a starting role can fans petition to have his number changed to “6”? Will his mother then have to convince him not to quit the team?9
11) How many Dion/Scott clashes are we going to hear about as the year progresses and will they get their own sit com?
12) Will Samardo Samuels ever fulfill the promise that for some reason every journalist/beat reporter covering the Cavs seems to see? I hear he is in GREAT shape. I’m predicting he’ll be an all-star.
13) What the hell is CJ Miles going to contribute to this team? Not because I think he sucks, but I just have no clue. He reminds me of Larry Hughes, which isn’t actually a bad thing because he isn’t make the insane money that Larry Hughes was.
14) Will the Cavaliers finish better than any team in the East except the Bobcats?
15) Will I be allowed to punch anyone in the face that proposes a trade that involves Andy going to a non-playoff team for a lottery pick?
16) What hole will this team look to fill in the 2013 NBA Draft? I’m all for fielding the Brothers Zellers.
17) Does Boobie Gibson have any role to play on this team barring injuries? Has any player been paid so much for literally only one game?10
18) Who the hell is Kevin Jones?11
19) Who the hell is that other white big guy, is he European?12
20) How long before Cavs fans start calling for Byron Scott’s job even though he doesn’t have the talent on this team really to be expected to compete?
I know those questions set the bar low, but that is where it is. Even big market teams in the NBA can’t just quickly turn their teams around. Hasty decisions and impatience have been the bane of teams like the Knicks who have very little in terms of roster flexibility at this point and don’t look they can even be a 2nd round playoff team. So if you are at any point feeling inpatient while watching this young Cavaliers team I urge you to Google Amare Stoudemire’s contract and then watch Amare play defense or watch the four other Knicks playing with Melo look on bored as he winds down the shot clock pounding the ball only to jack up a jumper13. Your brain should at this point begin to tingle and hurt slightly as you realize that their roster doesn’t make any sense whatsoever and whoever put it together is a moron14 and you can be thankful that Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert aren’t looking for a quick fix and have an actual plan.
For this season though I’m predicting 26 wins and another high draft pick. Can’t see a playoff push beginning until next year, but what do I know?
Peace out Cleveland.
Listen to last Monday’s “The Defend Cleveland Show” in its entirety by clicking here.
The DC Show with host Mike James airs live every Monday morning from 9am-11:30am on WRUW-FM 91.1 Cleveland, and streams world wide here.
- NSFW: Bill Burr makes a compelling argument that it never does [↩]
- GET IT, LEBRONS THE KING, A LION IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE, JOKES!!!!!, jokes suck when you have to explain them [↩]
- Yes I’m a little bitter [↩]
- Please adopt pro rules college basketball [↩]
- I’m sure we’d like to think we could do this with Tristan eventually, but I remain skeptical [↩]
- Reference Explanation Incoming: The Amazing iOS6 Maps and Hitler + Apple Maps [↩]
- Doubtful, but it’d be cool [↩]
- I don’t think he flops nearly as much as he used too, but it doesn’t matter he has the reputation for it so there is a good chance he’ll be singled out. [↩]
- “I had a lot of talks with my mother,’’ Waiters said. “She told me she didn’t raise no quitter. Hearing that from your mom, you know you’ve got to do something about it. I used it as motivation.’’- in reference to not quitting Syracuse before his sophomore year [↩]
- I guess maybe two since there was that whole rookie/sophomore game, but seriously, what the hell [↩]
- Don’t e-mail about him, I know [↩]
- His name is Jon Leuer [↩]
- which to be fair he is pretty good at, but it isn’t exactly good team basketball [↩]
- In New York’s case is it actually kind of a long line of morons headed by the King of Morons, James Dolan [↩]
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