July 24, 2014

Minutes And Doling Them Out For The Cavs

201211242214800433912-p2It seems like just yesterday that the Cavalier faithful only had the four-man core of recent first round picks in Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and Tyler Zeller to hitch their wagon to in terms of future pieces of a prospective competitive playoff team. The weapons were there to bolster the roster, but patience, foresight, and faith in Chris Grant and company was required. Suddenly, in the last month, the team has added Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev in the draft along with Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack, and now the big fish Andrew Bynum in free agency. Adding five players who all will receive rotation minutes and only subtracting those which the Cavaliers actively chose to let slip away (Shaun Livingston, Wayne Ellington, Marreese Speights, Omri Casspi, and probably Luke Walton and Daniel Gibson all qualify) gives the Cavaliers a lot of talent and some decisions for Coach Mike Brown to make. So, in light of that, I know some people are strongly against “minutes” breakdowns, but I think that used the right way as a framework only that it’s a good context to begin some discussion about some of the more intriguing storylines for this roster as it’s currently constructed.

Let’s start with my rough estimate on how I would do a 10-man rotation at this given time (minutes at each position shown in parentheses):

PG – Kyrie Irving (34), Jarrett Jack (14)

SG – Dion Waiters (32), Jarrett Jack (12), Sergey Karasev (4)

SF – Earl Clark (12), Anthony Bennett (12), Alonzo Gee (14), Sergey Karasev (10)

PF – Tristan Thompson (22), Anthony Bennett (14), Earl Clark (8), Anderson Varejao (4)

C – Andrew Bynum (25), Anderson Varejao (20), Tristan Thompson (3)

Adding those up, we get these minutes allotments (career minutes per game in parentheses):

Irving – 34 (32.8)
Waiters – 32 (28.8)
Jack – 26 (27.9)
Bennett – 26 (n/a)
Thompson – 25 (28.1)
Bynum – 25 (26.0)
Varejao – 24 (25.6)
Clark – 20 (14.1)
Karasev – 14 (n/a)
Gee – 14 (26.7)

Other players on roster not in rotation: Tyler Zeller, C.J. Miles, Carrick Felix, Kevin Jones, and Chris Quinn

The first thing you see right away is that the Cavaliers now have a cornucopia of big men. Any way you slice it, they have six NBA caliber, rotation big men. It’s going to present some problems at times, but with the injury rap sheet of both Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao, it’s a nice luxury to have. With the Bynum signing, when this team is healthy, Tyler Zeller’s going to have a hard time getting out on the floor. That shows just how far this roster has gone when a guy who was your primary starting center last year is now your third center and out of the rotation.

Because of the big man logjam, it’s possible (and in my case, probable) that we’ll see both Anthony Bennett and Earl Clark get some significant time at the small forward position. For Bennett, it’s not a question of offensive ability at the three. After all, he’s got range out to the three-point arc, can take his man off the dribble, and has a nice post game where he is experienced with drawing contact. Instead, the question is whether he can drop enough weight to man the position. Even then, is he quick enough to defend most NBA three men? For Clark, the defensive end won’t be a problem as the 6’10″ Louisville product played about one-third of his minutes with the Lakers last year at small forward and was praised for his defensive ability. However, with Clark, it’s more of an offensive question whether his turnover numbers and handle leave a little bit to be desired from your small forward. An interesting idea is that with Clark and Bennett on the floor together, one could in theory be your “three” on offense and the other your “three” on defense. I actually have both Alonzo Gee and Sergey Karasev getting minutes at the 3 as well. Chris Grant said post-draft that they saw Sergey as more of a 2 at this point, though he could play both positions. So, while Gee may remain the only true small forward on the roster, I see a fairly equal division of labor between four guys at the position. I still think it’s possible that we’ll see either Tristan Thompson or Anderson Varejao traded at some point. If Bennett has a really good rookie year primarily playing at the power forward, and Bynum proves he can play and stay relatively healthy, then one of these guys becomes expendable.

The flexibility is tremendous with this unit. Jack and Waiters can play both guard spots. Karasev can play both wing positions. Clark and Bennett can play both forward slots. Thompson, Varejao, and Zeller can play both big spots. The team now has some really intriguing defensive lineups (Jack, Gee, Clark, Thompson, and Varejao for example) to close out games and some offensive units (Kyrie, Jack, Dion, Bennett, Bynum is one that comes to mind) that will be matchup nightmares for an opposing defense to account for all scoring options. One of my biggest complaints the last time Mike Brown was here was trying to adapt too much to what the opposing team was doing in the playoffs rather than having his team impose their will with their matchup advantages. The Cavs can play incredibly big or incredibly small now. They have 10 guys (or more) to work with, and given that they were about an average team on offense last season (19th in offensive rating), I expect them to become a Top 10 offensive team this season.

Salary is a hot button topic heading into next summer, and even if the Cavaliers pick up Andrew Bynum’s option, there is still room for them to sign a max free agent next summer. Sure, it likely means that they’ll need to trade Anderson Varejao or not pick up his option, but that’s a small price to pay if the team is able to land the biggest free agent of them all next summer.  With Jarrett Jack’s (and soon Anthony Bennett’s) contract the only one guaranteed past this year right now (the young core all has team options that will be picked up), the flexibility remains for Chris Grant if he wants to try and pull off a major trade.

More than anything, I’m just excited for all of us Cavalier fans who have endured some rough basketball the last three seasons. I was bullish on this team sneaking into the playoffs without Bynum, but now I think they could go as high as the four or the five seed in the East if things play out according to plan. Mike Brown still has to teach A LOT of guys how to play at least average defense. Unlike the last go-around, though, Mike Brown has youth, depth, and versatility in his roster. Whether that results in a playoff trip and more in coming years remains to be seen.

(Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I expect the Cavaliers to use the Houston Yao Ming model when it comes to Bynum. That means no back to backs and an off day prior to a regularly scheduled team day off.

    Hopefully Bynum and Varejao can be codependent and each will allow the other a chance to take a break. Tyler Zeller should be a very pivotal player. Hopefully he doesn’t take the addition of Bynum as a reflection on his play and rather understands that he will have plenty of opportunities this season.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Brown meshes everyone but with Bynum, Zeller, Varejao, Thompson, Bennett and Clark the frontcourt is easily stocked the best it’s been in a very long time. You gotta love a good cornucopia!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    “Sure, it likely means that they’ll need to trade Anderson Varejao or not pick up his option, but that’s a small price to pay if the team is able to land the biggest free agent of them all next summer,” dats right big game huntin’ in 2014!

    Hi-ho-a-merry-o a huntin’ we will go!!!

    http://memecrunch.com/image/4fa857691861330f99006e2d.jpg

    In the immortal words of Dorothy, “There’s no place like home!”

  • Paul K

    cj will play and so will zeller…..

  • Bumsquare

    Gee will get more of the minutes at SF. I would be surprised if Karasev doesn’t get a healthy dose of Canton.

  • mgbode

    I love the versatility and the combinations that we can throw out there for offense and defense. We still need more 3pt shooting, but considering where we were just 2 weeks ago, Grant sure has done his job well.

  • Harv 21

    It’s appropriate to consider distribution of minutes because:

    - if memory serves, Mike Brown is quite the accountant when it comes to player minutes. And he uses them as a carrot/stick to get the guys (well, the non-untouchables) to play his way.

    - Players thinking about their contracts will be all about the minutes. When Bynum’s ready he’s going to be pushing to get out there and hit his contract escalators. And when Bynum’s ready Andy’s gonna be concerned he be given his first-unit quality time, to justify the team’s 9.8M option next year or be able to come close with another team.

    If Zeller has significantly improved, I can see Andy coming off the bench early in the season to play either center or PF for Tristan. When Bynum comes back things get tight. Bennett might have a rude awakening if Tristan has added to his offensive game. Sorry, I can’t picture Bennett at the 3 if he never even learned to guard PFs. I think Bennett might be in for some NBA minutes shock after being The Man everywhere, and we’ll see how he reacts.

    I know we all assume Tristan might be on the trade block, but then who does the dirty work for Mike Brown? The pick and shovel stuff has clearly worn Andy’s body down, Zeller’s too weak, Bennett stretches away from the hoop.

  • Dave

    My hope is that Bynum and Varejao make each other better at their respective specialities. Bynum is better than Varejao at scoring and blocking. Andy is better at rebounding, passing, and stealing. But overall, we now have 2 top-notch centers.

    The weakest point on the team is small forward, and that’s still not in bad shape. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were a very very good team at least early in the season when everyone’s healthy.

  • jaker

    I think your PG-SG rotation is accurate, however, I don’t think Bennett will get more time than Thompson early on. Maybe later in the year, but at least through January, I think Thompson will get more minutes than Bennett. Of course, this point is moot of AV or AB get hurt.

    Man, isn’t it awesome when your minute problem is “how are we gunna divide the minutes among our players?” instead of “how many minutes do we HAVE TO give to Donald Sloan/Manny Harris/Semih Erden?”… Pretty awesome huh?

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I think Zeller and Felix get some minutes, and can’t imagine Bennett getting quite that many that fast. Also, why would Clark play at PF if the person playing SF is Bennett? Wouldn’t make sense.

    Otherwise I think this is pretty on.

  • Jaker

    that picture is exactly what he’s afraid of if he comes come

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Not if mgbode’s body has anything to say about it.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Yes on paper Grant has done a fine job.

  • mgbode

    from the article:

    ” An interesting idea is that with Clark and Bennett on the floor
    together, one could in theory be your “three” on offense and the other
    your “three” on defense”

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Fair catch, though I don’t know that that makes him the actual 3… but fine. :P

  • mgbode

    I assume that he just split the 3 & 4 minute allotments for when they are sharing the court.

  • soccer7mp

    Trade idea that I think makes us a dangerous playoff team and better off going forward with cap and assets:

    Cavs get: Deng + Biyombo
    Bulls get: Henderson(S&T) + Varejao
    Bobcats get: Gee + Miles + Kings 1st from Cavs + Bulls 2014.

    Team that says no is probably Bobcats, but can add more picks or swap Miles for Karasev. Also, according to reports, they can’t get deal done with Henderson and are looking for S&T.
    For Bulls, Henderson could replace Deng’s scoring and let Butler take over at SF. Also, gives them another big they reportedly wanted.
    For Cavs, I know hurts to trade Varejao, especially to Bulls, but lets Cavs develop new additions, Biyombo and Bennett, and continue to develop Thompson and Zeller. If Bynum is healthy for playoffs, great. If not, still have viable rotation and don’t have to worry about Bynum and Varejao both being hurt.

    What do you guys think?

  • Steve

    The minutes game is always fun, but how useful is it exactly for this team?

    The number that really matters isn’t the minutes, but how many games that Irving, Varejao, and Bynum all dress. I’d guess that number is going to be have to close to 50 for them to make the playoffs. The ideal lineup, as presented above, seems fun, but could be easily see some significant changes within a week of the season starting.

  • Bourn, Michael Bourn

    I know this might be unrealistic since he just declined a $10.2 million player option, but if we could bring AK47 to Cleveland for our mid-level exception, I think this team would be realistic contenders next year. He would be addressing our major need at SF and is a perfect complimentary piece who can pass, rebound and score around the rim.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t know the Russian word for IF but if Kirilenko did that I’d would be most pleasantly surprised. I just don’t see him taking that significant a pay cut to come to the Cavaliers who are at best rebuilding. Had we been say a year along I think then maybe Kirilenko might be more amenable to your idea. I like it just don’t see it happening.