The 10-32 Cleveland Cavaliers are one game past halfway through their second season of the Kyrie Irving era, and not a whole heck of a lot has gone right on the court in terms of generating wins and sustaining success. Let’s dig into some of the advanced metrics that might give us a clue as to what ails the Cavaliers. As I further researched the finer statistics, it became clear to me that the problems for the Cavs right now are both simple and correctable.
- How much do the Cavaliers miss Anderson Varejao? Well, just wrap your minds around this statistic. Varejao leads the team in PER (22.0) with a slight edge over Kyrie Irving (21.9). However, those two are the only ones that make it over the generally accepted “league average” mark of 15.0 right now. Tristan Thompson’s PER is rapidly increasing and he is up to 14.9, while Dion Waiters and Omri Casspi come in at 12.6. Some shockingly low PERs include Alonzo Gee’s (11.0), Tyler Zeller’s (10.6), and Luke Walton 1 (8.1).
- To further pile on Andy’s value to the team, he is first on the team in both offensive rating (117) and defensive rating (104), which measure points scored per 100 possessions that the player is on the floor. He leads the team in win shares (3.4), followed by Kyrie Irving’s 3.0 share (remember, there’s not a whole lot of win shares to go around when you have, ahem, ten of them). We all know the rebounding prowess, but Andy was leading the league in total rebound percentage, snagging approximately 23.08% of all the rebounds when he’s on the floor.
- So, who’s the team’s best five man unit? That would be Irving-Gibson-Gee-Zeller-Varejao with a +15.8 in points per 100 possessions. Granted, that lineup has only been on the floor for 38 minutes together all season. The most successful lineup that’s been heavily used is the previous starting lineup of Irving-Waiters-Gee-Thompson-Varejao with a +13.9 in nearly 190 minutes together this season. It should come as no surprise that this unit is tops, given the mighty, mighty struggles of the team’s bench in the early going of the season.((Not that it’s really that much better right now, but it just goes to show how the bench gave away at least a handful of games early.)) That same lineup with subbing Zeller in for Varejao? They are -7.3 points per 100 possessions in nearly 160 minutes this season. That’s the impact of Anderson Varejao, folks. It’s why the Cavaliers probably need to hold onto him. With yet another injury, I just don’t see the return being what they envision when they think of letting this franchise pillar go.
- When you’re talking about reasons that a team is unsuccessful, field goal percentage is a pretty key factor. The Cavaliers rank 29th with a 41.9% percentage and dead last in defensive field goal percentage at 47.2%. It’s where the teams are getting the shots that really causes things to get out of hand. They are dead last in opponents field goal percentage at the rim (67.7%). With the defensive rebounding troubles I outlined in film room, plus these statistics, it’s easy to see that the Cavaliers are in desperate need of a stronger backup center, considering the fact that they don’t even HAVE a backup center at this point.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the individual stats.
- I mentioned field goal percentage on offense as a big issue, and the Cavaliers have two sub-40% shooters in Dion Waiters (38.1%) and C.J. Miles (39.1%) with Alonzo Gee not far behind (40.6%). In fact, only Irving and Varejao have respectable field goal percentages (45.9% and 47.8% respectively). I say that Andy’s percentage is respectable compared to Tristan’s 48.5% given their shot charts. But, Waiters is much better of late, and so is Miles after that dreadful start.
- Back to Waiters, in the 10 games in 2013, Dion has five games with a offensive rating of 117 or higher and five games with a 121 defensive rating or higher. In the last ten, Waiters is up to 16.3 points per game and shooting 43.1% from the field and 9-of-27 from beyond the arc. Notice the 2.7 three attempts per game, down from 4.1 attempts on the season. He’s also getting to the line 4.7 times per contest in the last ten, up from 3.3 on the season. I’ve discussed this on Twitter and privately with the guys, but there has been absolutely nothing that tells me that Dion Waiters can’t be a legitimate third scoring option on a contending basketball team going forward. He may always be someone (think Russell Westbrook) that needs to be constantly coached on shot selection, but if we see the Waiters from the majority of this West Coast swing, the Cavs will be a much better team and morale on the Waiters pick should start to improve.
- C.J. Miles’s per-36 stats, which help normalize based on playing time of course, show that he’d be the second leading scorer with a 18.0 points per 36. He also takes an eye-popping 8.3 threes per-36, which is even more than Daniel Gibson’s 6.9 per-36. Just remember that Miles was a 30% shooter through the team’s first 12 games. He’s come a long way and proved to be a shot-chucker when the Cavaliers sometimes need it most.
- I have to finish with Tristan Thompson, who’s been on a roll. Since Andy went down, Tristan’s posted 11 double doubles in 16 games and averaged 13.6 points and 12.1 rebounds. He’s also shooting 68% from the line and 51% from the field. He’s getting legitimate post feeds early in the game to get him started, and he’s finding ways to finish around the basket. His setback is still getting stuffed at the rim (57 times on the season and 12 times in the last five games).
I hope you guys enjoyed the trip into the advanced stats and recent trends a bit to show that while the results certainly aren’t there right now, and it’s getting irritating as the losses pile up, the Cavaliers do appear to have several pieces to keep when they inevitably discard the rest and move on to their next hand next season.
(Photo: Phil Long/AP)
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