I had the opportunity to attend a question and answer session yesterday evening with Cavaliers assistant general manager Lance Blanks. Blanks fielded a handful of questions regarding the big ticket items like LeBron James’ future as well as Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas beyond the 2009 season. When I was given the chance to ask a question, I focused primarily on the progress of recent first-round draft pick Christian Eyenga.
Blanks mentioned the team’s efforts overseas, so it was an ideal seague. The Cavaliers continue to tout Eyenga’s athleticism. In fact, Blanks said that they feel Eyenga’s athletic abilities would place him among the top 10 percent in the NBA. But when factoring in his age, strength and basketball knowledge, he just isn’t there yet.
When I specifically asked if the team has kept in touch with Eyenga, I was given an emphatic “yes.” Blanks commented on the difference between the European game – as Eyenga has been playing with DKV Joventut – and the game that he played over the summer with the Cavaliers in Las Vegas. Eyenga’s minutes overseas have been a bit of a question mark as he has started a few games and not others, averaging out to about 13 minutes per night.
Amazingly, Eyenga’s athleticism has not disappointed as he is averaging a full block per game in the limited minutes to go along with five points (on 64 percent shooting), three rebounds and almost a full steal. Eyenga recently had one of his best games for Joventut where he tallied 12 points, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal…in 10 minutes of play.
But when will Eyenga suit up for the Cavaliers? That remains an unknown. He just turned 20 years of age and plays a wing position that is currently occupied by several more experienced Cavalier players. The Cavs would obviously love to have him here sooner than later, but are in no hurry to rush his development.
The same goes for power forward Leon Powe. Blanks discussed that there are in fact two deadlines for Powe’s return to the floor. The much-discussed deadline of February is the one that the team has put on paper. However, the team has more of their focus on making sure that Powe is ready for the postseason run.
“There is a difference between being ready physically,” Blanks said, “and being ready mentally.”
He continued by explaining that once the knee is healthy, Powe will then have to get used to the Cavaliers style of play as well as where he will fit amongst the rest of the frontcourt bodies. While the second year of Powe’s contract is not guaranteed, the Cavs still have motivation to ensure that he is not rushed back following his third ACL surgery. The progress of JJ Hickson has definitely allowed more leeway with the frontcourt rotation. As Rick mentioned yesterday, Mike Brown will have a lot of options come the spring, but will also have a lot of decisions to make.