April 25, 2014

2011-12 NBA Blogger Previews: Cleveland Cavaliers

For the last several years, we have participated in the NBA Blogger Previews, hosted by CelticsBlog. It’s always been a fun exercise and a great way to keep up with what’s going on with all the other teams in the league. So why should this year be any different?

Well, because, this year is different. There is no NBA season as of right now. I do not share in any slight optimism that there will be one. I think this is heading for a lost season. Never the less, Jeff Clark from CelticsBlog felt we should proceed anyway, and I agree. Just because the season may be lost doesn’t mean we can’t think about where our teams are and how the lockout might affect them.

So it may be a little different this year, but without further ado, here is the preview for your Cleveland Cavaliers:

Team Name: Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Year’s Record: 19-63
Key Free Agents: Anthony Parker
Team Needs: Scoring and playmaking. Preferably in the form of a SG, although a dynamic SF is certainly needed. A defensive identity would be nice as well, as it’s astounding how quickly Mike Brown’s defensive principles followed him out the door.

1. What are the Cavaliers’ biggest needs this offseason?

Definitely a shooting guard. Anthony Parker’s second season in Cleveland was a little better than his first, but still, the Cavaliers had to have the worst SG rotation in the NBA last season. An old and slow Anthony Parker with an undrafted free agent behind him in Manny Harris. When the Cavaliers needed to go deeper at SG, they usually moved a PG over, generally Daniel Gibson. In general, though, the Cavaliers just need some reliable scorers. This is still a roster generally shaped to support LeBron James, something they excelled at for the most part. But remove LeBron James from the equation and you’re left with a bunch of parts. It’s like having solid brakes and tires on a car but taking out the engine. Suddenly the brakes and tires aren’t doing you a lick of good. So the Cavaliers need an engine. If that engine can be a SG, it would fill a huge positional need as well, lest the Cavaliers waste another season with Anthony Parker as their starting SG.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths & weaknesses? (so far)

The Cavaliers actually do have a couple strengths. They are absolutely loaded at Point Guard right now and they have some decent depth at PF as well. At PG, the Cavaliers definitely need to figure out how they want to play this out, but right now they have Kyrie Irving, Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions, and Daniel Gibson. Now, Gibson has been working on transitioning to more of a true SG,  but that’s still a work in progress. But in general, the Cavaliers have four guys who can handle the PG job. If there’s an amnesty clause to the CBA, there’s a chance Baron Davis will be the casualty in Cleveland, but for now he is saying the right things about the opportunity to mentor Irving. In a perfect world, Baron Davis would mentor Irving (I can’t believe I just wrote that, but it’s kinda true) for this year and then next year the Cavaliers could use his expiring contract in a trade. That would leave Irving and Sessions as a very capable PG duo. It’s unlikely Sessions would accept that role, though, and one of these PGs will be gone. For right now, though, PG is a strength of the Cavaliers.

They also have some decent depth at PF. Anderson Varejao will continue to fill the role at center, but he’s really a PF. Antawn Jamison is another amnesty possibility and the Cavaliers will be active in trying to trade him, but buyers will be tough to find. Tristan Thompson will be expected to step up with the departure of JJ Hickson. The Cavaliers also still have Samardo Samuels who showed some promise at times last season. The ability to play Ryan Hollins and Semih Erden at center also frees up the Cavaliers’ ability to play minutes with Varejao at the PF. Again, none of these players are by any means elite, but it’s a solid enough rotation. When it comes to naming the strengths of the Cavaliers, this is about the best we can do.

As for weaknesses, as mentioned previously, the Cavaliers still have issues at SG and SF. This leads to a real lack of offensive creativity. The Cavaliers don’t have anyone who really creates their own offense other than Baron Davis. Obviously with having the #1 pick the hope is that Kyrie Irving will be exactly the kind of facilitator the team needs, but he still will have to have some help.

In general, the Cavaliers just don’t have any kind of identity on either side of the ball. They spent so many years bending to the will of LeBron James that this roster is still reeling from his absence to this day. They need leadership and they need to learn how to take on scoring responsibilities themselves. Baron Davis was an enormous help in both of those aspects last season, but this is still a roster with nowhere near enough talent to compete night in and night out in the NBA.

3. If there is no season in 2011-12, how is your team set up for 2012?

I suppose that kind of depends on how they do the draft. If they just run the lottery again with the same odds, the Cavaliers will still be sitting pretty with no worse than the 5th pick in the draft. In fact, maybe that’s the ideal situation for the Cavaliers, as it would allow them to infuse more top-5 talent onto the roster without forcing Irving and Thompson to go through the strain that goes with that kind of losing season.

In all seriousness, though, the Cavaliers will not be players in free agency. They still have a high payroll and their only real recourse is most likely to just be patient and wait from some of the contracts to roll off the books. In the meantime, keep developing Irving and Thompson and keep adding young talent to the roster. Not having a season may help that, but either way, the Cavaliers will not be a factor in 2012.

4. If you could make one change the NBA’s new CBA, what would it be?

I would like a hard cap. I think the league has catered to the superstars enough and it is starting to hurt the overall appeal of the league. We heard last year how great the Miami Heat were for the NBA, except I bet if you ask fans in Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Utah, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Memphis, Washington, Charlotte, etc they don’t see it that way. The league is morphing into something resembling the English Premier League where you have 5 or 6 teams that have all the elite talent and who the media care about. The rest of the league is viewed as irrelevant and rarely discussed in the media. The best way to combat this, in my opinion, and to make every team matter in a way similar to the way they do in the NFL is to implement a hard cap.

5. Will the loss of a season hurt the NBA’s fan appeal? And will it hurt the Cavaliers’ fan following?

Of course it will. But you know what, that damage is already done. Reading any comment section or check out any fan poll…the fans mostly do not care about losing an NBA season. The NBA had a horrible image problem. More so than any other sport, fans viewed NBA players are rich, greedy, selfish people. I’m not sure the players realize this, but right or wrong, this lockout has only made that view more steadfast.

I think that perception of the NBA player is not generally accurate. I think the NBA has come a long way from the “Latrell Sprewell days”, if you will. Today’s NBA player envisions himself as a business man. They may be image conscious, but not in a “look at me” way, but more in a “present myself well to the public” kind of way. Most NBA players are really good people who do a lot for the community and are thoughtful about things like marketing, business, and their future. So it’s a shame they let this happen, but maybe they didn’t have a choice. Whatever the case, the NBA’s image problem is a serious problem that just got a lot worse. Most sports fans simply don’t care about the NBA any more.

As for the Cavaliers, many fans are actually pulling for a lost season. With no realistic chance of contending this season anyway, most fans are ok with giving up a season to get a system in place that levels the playing field and would allow the Cavaliers to have another good chance in the draft lottery. We live in a what have you done for me lately society, and so any time off would still hurt the Cavs’ local following. But not as much as some other places. In Cleveland, many fans just want to see the team get back to contending, and if losing a season is the best way to get there, it’s viewed as a necessary evil.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    Not an Omri Casspi fan, Rock?

  • mgbode

    I think a large part of the NBA player image is built around the fact that their superstars make the most $$$. Both from the NBA and from their marketing deals.

    Of course, you sprinkle in a Vegas party as detailed (and removed) by Adande from time to time and it’s going to just add fuel to that fire.

    ——-

    great write-up on the Cavs and the outlook. nothing really more to add as you hit all the major points. hoping Harrison Barnes shows that the 2nd half of last season is the real Barnes and the Cavs draft him with confidence to fix one of their wing positions.

  • mgbode

    @Scott – good catch. I’ve been avoiding the NBA stuff and I didn’t realize he skipped over him. Even so, Casspi isn’t a creator at either wing spot, so I would say the description is still accurate. Casspi is at his best as a scorer from a catch-n-shoot perspective (particularly the corners).

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    He’s not going to be a 25/10 guy, but I figured he at least deserved a head nod.

    And I never jumped off the Barnes bandwagon last season; sticking to my guns this time around as well.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    I like Casspi a lot. But I don’t think he solves many of the Cavs problems. I guess I don’t view him as either a strength or a weakness of the team. Just another solid young player.

  • mgbode

    yeah, with Barnes I heard all these good things before the season so I made it a point to watch a couple UNC games. Early-on, I did not understand what all the fuss was about and didn’t see another Tarheel game until late. By that point, he was on, and it was obvious what all that fuss was about.

  • mgbode

    Oh, I remembered something I had thought awhile back about the SG spot. namely, playing Baron there (even if just as a change-up). it’s backed by some statistical evidence that he played better at SG than PG last year:

    Ok, now that we traded for Omri Casspi to be our starting SF, the biggest question left is what happens to our SG spot (w/ Anthony Parker thankfully leaving). On the roster, at first glance, we have only Gee, Harris or Eyenga to fill that void. None is a viable starting option. However, we have another possibility for the 2-slot on the roster that will also open up playing time for our prize rookie. Yes, I am talking about Baron Davis at SG.

    Not only does this remove our current glut at PG (Davis, Irving, Sessions), but it also gives us 2 playmaking guards on the court at the same time. And, Baron has shown a propensity to be able to guard SGs in this past season (and he’s never really been a good defender of PGs as they are too fast for him to keep in front of).

    10/11 w/ Clips: http://www.82games.com/1011/10LAC3.HTM (vs. PER ~6pts better at SG)

    The next question is if he is a good enough jump shooter to stay at the SG. While not a longterm answer there, he wouldn’t be terrible.

  • mgbode

    10/11 w/ Cavs: http://www.82games.com/1011/10LAC3.HTM (vs. PER ~6pts better at SG)

    ’2nd link moved here so comments don’t have to wait moderation’

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    I’m all for letting Baron play SG. I think having him on the court at the same time as Kyrie would be huge because it lets Kyrie have the team’s best offensive player on the court with him. This will open things up a bit more for him.

  • R

    @mgbode Be careful with PER as it favors volume production versus actual efficiency. I still use it but when you notice Mo Williams’ PER only dropped from 16 to 14 from 09-10 to 10-11… LeBron Factor was worth only 2 PER points?! Too good to be true. Switch to his offensive efficiency between those two years you see 112 w/Lebron to 100 without– That is the difference between a solid starter and a 12th man.

    The jury is still out but so far I don’t want Boom Deezy eating all the minutes at 2-guard. From a non-stats perspective, having Irving and B. Diddy at PG, SG would be like having two pilots flying one plane at the same time.

    Weighting 5-man units by minutes played with Cavs at PG vs SG:

    Baron Davis at PG = 112 Team Offensive Efficiency (in 160 Minutes)
    Baron Davis at SG = 105 Team Offensive Efficiency (in 108 Minutes)

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Bomb Dizzle for Thrizzle, but I don’t want him and Irving on the floor at the same time unless it’s situational.

  • Mike

    @10 – I’d much rather rely on PER than Offensive Efficiency numbers. Mo’s PER in 09-10 was a much better indicator of his actual offensive impact than that OE number.

    I believe the Cavs would be best served by putting Baron at the 2 for extended stretches next season, particularly next to Irving. That would allow Irving to focus on getting the team into sets, without worrying about carrying the scoring load as well while he’s out there. And with Baron at the shooting guard spot, you don’t have to worry about him blowing up the offensive sets when he thinks it’s his turn to shoot. A creative player at the 2 should also open up more action off the ball.

    Baron would be pretty bad on the defensive end, but given what the Cavs are going to be running out there, they are going to be giving up 110 points per night regardless of who plays where.

  • James

    BOOM DEEZY for THREEZY!!!

    I think he would shoot even more threes at the 2

  • mgbode

    @10 – 2 counterpoints (I do agree on PER not being perfect but used it as a statistical tool to show it’s not a completely outlandish suggestion)

    #1 – when Baron played SG last year, he did not have Irving at PG. the OE could have dropped because of dropoff of PG play (since everything runs through the PG w/ Scott)

    #2 – unless we find someone through FA or trade, our other SG options are lacking quite a bit. I know it is not ideal to play Baron at SG, but is it really worse than playing Manny Harris? Christian Eyenga?

  • mgbode

    also, any reference (even metaphorically) to Baron Davis ‘eating’ during this lockout makes me nervous. we got ‘good’ Baron after the trade. I hope we don’t get ‘Clippers Baron’ when the lockout ends.

  • Mark

    @Mgbode – the question was asked on twitter, “who will be this years Shawn Kemp” after the lockout is done? My answer – Baron Davs. No doubt in my mind he’ll report as a huge fat load. Sigh…