Cavaliers Continue Fitting Puzzle Pieces Together in New Jersey

Alonzo Gee, Shelden Williams

As hard as it may be to believe, there are only 6 weeks left in the NBA regular season. It feels like this season just started a month or so ago, but here we are hitting the home stretch. Some have said that the Ramon Sessions trade killed the Cavaliers’ playoff chances, but in all honesty, those chances were dead with the way the team opened the 2nd half of the season.

The fact is, the Cavaliers were not a good enough team to make the playoffs. So rather than wasting energy over these final 6 weeks talking about how far out of the playoffs the team is, let’s focus instead on development.

Tonight, the Cavaliers (16-26, 10th in the East) travel to New Jersey to face the Nets (15-31, 13th in the East) in the road finale of a back-to-back. The Cavaliers and Nets have split the first two matchups this year, both in Cleveland. Now the Cavaliers will try to earn at least a split of the two remaining games in New Jersey.

This has to be an uneasy time for Nets fans. After being certain all year they were going to eventually wind up with Dwight Howard on the team, either via trade or free agency, Howard has since decided to waive his early termination option and play out his contract in Orlando. This has significant ramifications for New Jersey because now if Deron Williams declines his player option for next season, he will become a free agent without Dwight Howard on the roster to anchor him to the team.

With the threat of a tumultuous off season, the Nets got desperate and traded for Gerald Wallace. Time will tell what ultimately happens with the Nets, but for now, these last 6 weeks are a trial period to see how Wallace fits with Williams before the Nets look to see with the fairly significant cap space they should/could have in the offseason. Desperation is an ugly thing and it leads to bad contracts (think back to Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Damon Jones in Cleveland). If you’re trying to build a Championship team, I would think you’d almost prefer to be in Cleveland’s shoes right now, with a rookie PG who looks like a blossoming star, and a bunch of draft picks and salary flexibility for the future.

Speaking of the Cavaliers, as Scott mentioned earlier today, the Cavaliers are going with Tristan Thompson as starting center for now. This is yet another move that is all about development. Of course, if Varejao were healthy or if the Cavaliers had another viable option at center, this wouldn’t be happening, so it’s a product of convenience as well, but this should be a good opportunity for Thompson to learn some valuable lessons going up against guys much bigger than himself.

We’ve spent so much time this season talking about Kyrie Irving’s development, that I feel sometimes Tristan’s development is being overlooked. Tristan is a guy who often gets by on his raw athleticism. Playing center should force him to focus more on technique, especially on offense.

The Cavaliers’ bench has been one of their biggest strengths all year. That’s not the case anymore. Ramon Sessions is gone, and Alonzo Gee and Tristan are both starting. That leaves Daniel Gibson as the only really dependable bench player. This is going to put more strain on the Cavaliers’ starters to produce.

One of the side effects of trading Sessions is the pressure has now shifted onto Kyrie even more. Kyrie will be asked to play more minutes and to make even more of an impact on the game. Gee has really stepped his game up recently, and Jamison continues to do his thing. Beyond those three, however, there’s not a lot of offense on this team. It will be interesting to see if Manny Harris begins to get more time. For all his weaknesses, the one thing he provides is offensive aggressiveness and energy, something this team will need more of.

The Cavaliers are 0-1 post-Sessions. But the Hawks weren’t really a fair test. The Nets are more the Cavs’ level, and despite being a road finale of a back-to-back, this is a winnable game for the Cavaliers, and a game that will serve as more of a true test of how this team adapts to this new lineup.


Image Credit: AP Photo/Tony Dejak

  • DontbringLBJback

    Andrew, totally in agreement.  10 games under .500 and the Bucks and Knicks are both playing at a far higher level than the Cavs.  I wonder if Manny Harris should be getting 20 mins a game just to see if he can earn a spot for next year?  I have 2 questions that I want your opinion on… 1) Will the Cavs bring Jamison back next year at a much more reasonable cap figure?  2) Luke Walton played some solid basketball once upon a time, and he’s only 31.  Does he figure in the Cavs plan for next year, or will he be traded, cut, amnestied?

  • Andrew Schnitkey

    1) I sincerely doubt it. Jamison will either look to sign for near min for a championship contender or else he will sign with Charlotte to finish his career near his kids.

    2) He can’t be amnestied because the Cavs already used theirs on Baron Davis. I don’t see a buyout as likely because Walton is set to earn $6 million and won’t get near that on the market. A trade seems unlikely, but he could be used as an expiring contract as part of some package deal, likely in a 3 team trade. But I think the Cavs are also content just eating the $6 mil and getting whatever they can out of him. He was the price of getting both the 1st rounder and right to swap Miami’s pick with LA’s next year. The Cavs will exhaust all their options with Walton.

  • DontbringLBJback

    Interesting.  I hate to see Jamison go, but I think you’re right.  As much as he has enjoyed playing here, it doesn’t make much sense to stick around for a 2-3 year rebuild when you’ve only got 2 more years in the tank.

    I guess I’m holding out hope that Walton is Stackhouse or Grant Hill, i.e. everyone has given up on the guy, and then all the sudden he resurrects his career as a solid 12 point 8 rebound guy.  But, I’m prolly dreaming.

  • Aaron Julien

    Going to game tonight.  Sitting courtside for $50.  Anyone else in NYC going?  Tickets for $.01 on StubHub.  Wanted to make a sign with the sentiment of FU Lebron, Go Kyrie!  But I probably won’t… Looking forward to seeing T2 and Kyrie.  Also like Gee alot I have since I saw his athleticism and improvements.  Last thing I probably try to heckle Mr. Kardashian but thats just my style.  Anyways Hope to see you there Cavs fans, we are out there! 

  • mgbode

    his best attribute was his passing ability.  he could help facilitate some passing as our current frontcourt is quite terrible at this aspect of the game.

  • porkchopexpress

    Slightly off topic, but not.  That just got me remembering what a stud Grant Hill was before the injuries, and it took a while but he’s had some real productive years since.  I know this is dreamy Cavs fan but I couldn’t help but notice Portland recently released an injury prone big man who could use a fresh start.  I’m as wedded to the Hydra monster that is Samerdellins as all of you are, but a part of me thinks Oden is going to pay the same later career divdends as Hill/Walton (Bill not Luke).  Sorry just a passing fancy, gotta turn that game on can’t wait for HOLLINS TIME!!!!

  • Ezzie Goldish

    In retrospect, I should have gone. Dammit!!