After the buildup from an exciting NBA Draft and a plethora of trade rumors surrounding the Cavaliers, there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the wine and gold heading into the Las Vegas Summer League. With Kyrie Irving missing the festivities thanks to his mishap, it took a little wind out of the sails. However, with their two first round draft picks from this year and Tristan Thompson on the squad, there was plenty to keep the average fan entertained. Here’s a recap of some of what went down in the Bobcats 65-64 victory in the Summer League opener for the Cavs.
Let’s start with Dion Waiters, who didn’t have the best of showings for a debut. We saw flashes of the traits that made him the #4 selection, but we also saw some less than desirable results. In the first half, Waiters was nice and aggressive from the outset, but his shot selection was questionable. While Waiters is an above average three-point shooter, it’s far from his greatest offensive strength. He settled for a lot of outside shots in this one, with 4 of his 11 shot attempts coming from behind the arc. Waiters also looked completely lost on the defensive end against no one special from Charlotte. He had several occasions where his defender completely blew by him 1 and marched to the bucket. Dion also was called for a couple of offensive fouls, though I felt one of them was a tough call to go against the rookie. With these negatives from this performance noted, it’s probably a good time to point out that it doesn’t make much sense to overreact to a summer league game. The rookies have been thrown in with little knowledge of offensive or defensive team philosophy. They haven’t played with any of these guys. Byron Scott hasn’t been able to get his hands on the new guys that much. I could go on and on, but know this, one subpar performance shouldn’t cause Cavalier fans to be down on Waiters.
There was, after all, some positives. Waiters showed the knack of drawing fouls and getting to the line, where he was 3-of-4. He split a double team as he zig-zagged his way to the hoop on a fourth quarter bucket. Waiters also had the ball in his hands at the end of the game and hit a go-ahead bucket with 15 seconds remaining on a long two pointer from the left wing with a defender locked on. After a Kemba Walker bucket in the middle of the lane 2 , Waiters had the ball inbounded to him and called a timeout. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers had none remaining and the resulting turnover wrapped up the game’s outcome. After the game, Jamahl Mosley, the Cavs Summer League head coach, took blame for not informing the team of the situation. Waiters finished 3-of-11 shooting for 10 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers in 31 minutes. Meanwhile, second pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a late scratch for Charlotte with left knee soreness.
The biggest bright spot for Cleveland was definitely center Tyler Zeller. The North Carolina big man flashed his ability to run the floor and finish as well as a perimeter jumpshot. Zeller led the team with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and 2 blocks 3 Zeller looked comfortable in all facets of the game, and one of his strengths is clearly his passing. The Cavs seemed to make a consistent effort with post-to-post passing between Zeller and Thompson in that first unit. 4 It’s really refreshing to see Zeller’s type of hustle from the five spot. On one play of note, Zeller missed the back end of a pair of free throws, after which he sprinted down the floor to block a shot. In doing so, he picked up his teammate Waiters who got blown by in the open court. If Zeller can stretch the floor a little bit, he’ll be the perfect compliment at center to Andy and Tristan’s interior based game from the power forward position.
One final item of note was the new look Samardo Samuels. The third-year Cavalier has dropped nearly 20 pounds this offseason, and put in 10 points and 4 rebounds in 16 minutes. There’s certainly an opportunity for Samuels to fit into the rotation this season, same as last year, but he’ll need to show more consistent play. Out of the revolving door of big men from last season after the Varejao injury 5 , I always thought Samuels was the one who showed the most potential. We’ll see if that can translate into the season.
The Cavalier squad takes on the D-League Select team tomorrow night at 8:00 PM.
- This happened both in the open court and halfcourt. [back]
- The eventual game-winner [back]
- Plus, 7 personal fouls. You’ve got to love Summer League. [back]
- Thompson, meanwhile, added 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks while flashing a few new post moves. [back]
- Hollins, Erden, and Samuels [back]