April 24, 2014

While We’re Waiting… Watching the young bloods

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

“There’s a Jewish deli about a mile and a half from my apartment that I can still walk to because the sidewalks are snowless, and the maple tree outside my kitchen window doesn’t quite yet resemble a cluster of black spider legs. It’s too early to worry about Tristan Thompson, but then I divide my activities into two discrete categories: Things I Do While Worrying About Tristan Thompson and Things I Do Before Going Back To Worrying About Tristan Thompson. I was hoping to allocate more time toward the latter category this year, but a mere four games into the season here I am collecting shed cat fur on the bottom of my bare feet as I wander circuitously through my apartment trying to make sense of the lanky Canadian with a broad smile and a flat jumper.

I’m not concerned that Tristan Thompson doesn’t look like a second-season phenom. If developing into a great player is indeed “putting it all together,” TT is is possession of too many disparate talents to assemble them all in one offseason. I didn’t expect him to show up this season with a Rasheed Wallace-like 15-footer and a coach’s understanding of defensive positioning. What concerns me is that it appears he hasn’t added anything but an additional fifteen pounds on his frame. He still rebounds well, defends just okay, and is intermittently painful to watch on the offensive end. There’s not a facet of his game that I can discern as markedly improved.” [McGowan/Cavs the Blog]

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“When it’s time for Kyrie to face-off against the guys whose names get thrown around in the “best point guard playing today” conversation, he rises to the challenge and more often than not, walks away the victor. Even when his supporting players are guys the likes of Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker and Ryan Hollins he’s managed to lead his team to victories over teams with guys like Kevin Durant, James Harden, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. And this is all before he can even buy his first alcoholic drink legally.

Kid gets buckets.

Now, I’m sure you’ve noticed a glaring omission to this list of All-Stars that have fallen to Kyrie upon their first encounter. And sadly, it looks like that matchup will have to wait another year because of injuries. But when it finally happens, and Kyrie Irving faces off for the first time against Derrick Rose in his third year in the NBA, we can be guaranteed a show. And maybe, just maybe, by that point in time, Kyrie Irving will be able to call himself an All-Star as well.” [Benedetti/Fear the Sword]

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“Finally, two notes. First, the popular opinion is that Weeden regressed yesterday. A case can be made for this argument, but I will again suggest that Weeden is not being put into positions to succeed. The third down play calling was much more regressive than anything Weeden did and the fact that the Browns couldn’t figure out that the Ravens were blitzing is inexcusable.

Once again, Weeden has never been given plays that suit his strengths. To his credit, he has worked hard at trying to become the 1990′s era quarterback that Shurmur is comfortable in coaching. Weeden’s mechanics are fine on most plays and if anything, his mobility and footwork have dramatically improved.” [Kolonich/The OBR]

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Looking at some potential head coaches- “Another round of head coaching hires will take place in January. Here’s a mid-season look at the candidates who could and should be preparing for interviews: Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator/interim head coach, Indianapolis Colts — A longtime position coach and coordinator at the NFL level, Arians was thrust into an interim head coaching role when Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. Whether or not the 60-year-old Arians wants to pursue a head coaching career is unknown — he did “retire” from the Pittsburgh Steelers — but the Colts are 4-1 under Arians, who at the midway point of the season has to be in the discussion for Coach of the Year.” [McIntyre/Shutdown Corner]

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“The Cavaliers’ exhilarating 108-101 road win against the Clippers on Monday night prompted lots of chatter about Cleveland’s “backcourt of the future,” Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. That label is fine to use for Waiters, who finished with 28 points, including seven three-pointers, the first time in his young career that he’s topped 20 points. The 2012 class’s out-of-nowhere pick still has plenty to prove. With Irving, though, it’s time that the discussion catches up: it’s time to can the “future” talk; his level of play in the present demands it.

Declaring that any player, even a No. 1 overall pick, has “arrived” at the age of 20 is a proposition fraught with downside. So many things can go wrong and so many outside influences can impact a career’s trajectory. But when Irving, who went one-and-done at Duke, finally turns 21 next month, he should toast himself because he is awesome. So awesome, in fact, that he’s got a legitimate claim to the title of best point guard in the Eastern Conference, at least until the Bulls’ Derrick Rose returns to form from his knee injury.” [Golliver/The Point Forward]

  • Harv 21

    I share McGowan’s angst about Tristan. So far his free throw form looks better, he looks way stronger but that’s all I see. Two main early-season concerns:
    1) One of the sportswriter’s pet story lines is the preseason “he busted it this off-season and is ready to break out.” (Mary Kay Cabot goes nuts with it, repeating it until the narrative is untenable. She did that 2 consecutive summers with Robiskie). But if the kid in fact busted it and there’s no visible improvement in games that’s a warning sign, maybe that he’s working on the wrong things or too many things.
    2) Sometimes GMs fall in love with a set of attributes like size, vertical jump, intelligence and motor and project a guy who can actually play that sport, the whole always being less than the sum of the parts. The guy turns out to be a tease. JJ Hickson is an easy, crude example (b/c he had no head and a sputtering motor).
    I’m pulling for Tristan. He’s awfully young, probably would have benefitted from another year in college and suspect he needs to work on one thing at a time rather than everything at once.

  • mgbode

    It depends on what you expect from Tristan. I am not expecting him to ever be anything more than an average offensive player. And, it’s going to take him work to get to that level.

    I agree that we drafted him on pure projections of his size/athleticism/motor/work-ethic. In most drafts that would have landed him outside the top10, but the only guys who can even be argued to be better choices so far are Klay, Faried, Knight and Kawhi. Considering the need for a big man on our team as well (and knowing we got Waiters), I’m still satisfied with the pick. Imagine the hand-wringing if we picked Vesely, Jimmer, or Kemba.

    But, I’m baffled that McGowan doesn’t see any improvement. He must not be watching closely on the defensive end? Way too early to offer definitives but I have seen:

    1. Last season he was easily backed into on the blocks. Guys would just back him down, get the ball and score. So far (and he’s not faced anyone elite down there yet), he’s improved on that spot.

    2. Last season, he was way too quick to offer help defense leaving his man too early and giving up easy passes/buckets. He has stuck to his man longer this season.

    3. He still looks lost at times in rotation defense. He doesn’t always take his steps correctly (which when on the floor with Andy is obvious as Andy always takes the correct first step) and leaves him trying to catchup the rest of the possession. I hope this improves.

    4. I’m fearing he’ll never be a great defensive big man against “active” guys. The Bulls ran their big men through picks and TT didn’t even know how to begin to handle it. He can learn and get better, but he hasn’t yet.

  • Chucky Brown

    Arians is intriguing to me due to his work with Big Ben, Peyton and now Luck. With the short window Weeden has a sa 28 yr old rookie, I think this has to be taken into account

  • Harv 21

    But I don’t consider what you’re describing as significant steps for a defensive-oriented player. Seems like stuff he could have mastered somewhat his rookie year. I didn’t yet watch last night’s game and my sample size is small, but last year he had moderate confidence in that baby hook/push shot from the lane and so far that still appears to be all he has. I’m holding out hope. If nothing else, andy has shown that size and a big motor can take you far in a league where size matters and half the guys don’t give full defensive effort half the night. My expectations will always have a program called “#4 overall” running in the background.

  • mgbode

    getting pushed off the block is directly tied to his strength.

    and for whatever reason, it does take some players a ton of time to get things right. Faried is actually a great example to compare TT since they are from the same draft class. He has MANY of the same defensive tendencies, inefficiencies that TT has as well.

    I don’t get why it takes so long, but sometimes it does. definitely agree that size+motor should be considered a NBA skill. please temper that “#4 overall” w/ who was available in that particular draft.

  • woofersus

    And it generally takes young bigs longer to put it together than it does guards. What they do is so often more technical and it’s tough to get by on talent and athletic ability alone. Also, I think it’s important to look at TT’s progression not just during the offseason, but since the beginning of last year.

    That said, I do worry about him. If he’s not going to become a real offensive threat, is he too small to be a really great post defender? Even to be a great rebounder? Can a 6-9, 225 guy get by in this league with no ability to shoot the ball? At least he’s showing an ability to move well with the ball and get within range if there’s a little spacing. Without Andy and Tyler the cavs were dominated in the paint last night, though.

  • mgbode

    he can if he’s Ben Wallace. so, TT better get to work on that defense.