April 19, 2014

Can the Cavs erase all the doubt and fear?

Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown, Chris GrantI’m really concerned about the Cleveland Cavaliers. This isn’t a reaction to the loss against the Bulls or any other singular game for that matter. My problem right now is that I just don’t see it, and I think at this point in their franchise rebuild I’m supposed to be able to without this much trouble. Even squinting as hard as I can at the roster and how many of the pieces fit prototypical roles with some of their height and weight measurables, I can’t squint hard enough to see a team with playoff-level ability. When I see this team play actual games it’s even more difficult.

This isn’t pointed at Mike Brown. He’s only been here a minute and he’s one of the most qualified head coaches in the entire NBA. We all know he has his limitations, but the way this Cavs team is playing couldn’t have much to do with his coaching, and that’s why I’m so scared. I’m afraid this team simply doesn’t have the level of talent and ability required to compete at a high level in the NBA. My fears are that it’s not the result of lackluster coaching or a team that just needs time. My fear is that this rebuild has failed.

I know some of you are with me. This isn’t a hate-filled, rage orgy aimed at the mortgage monster and his tall, nerdy asset collector. I think regardless of what you think about the entire package that is Dan Gilbert, he is a prototypically good sports team owner with deep pockets. I also think Chris Grant’s strategies have largely been sound in terms of trading for value. It’s the result of the execution that has me scratching my head. This season is supposed to be a culmination of taking Kyrie Irving and the two subsequent drafts. It’s Kyrie and this iteration of the Cavs’ third season.

I don’t remember specifically, but I don’t think this looks like the LeBron Cavaliers that won 50 games in his third season. The Durant Thunder that also won 50 games in their third season started 3-4, but right now I’m having a hard time believing this Cavaliers team is as far along as that team was with Durant.

Maybe I’m making that up though. Maybe you never see it until it’s already here. Maybe it really does just take more time for players to mature individually and as a team with chemistry to compete at a high level. Maybe maybe maybe.

Again, this isn’t a hate-fueled post of negativity. This is a fearful post that patience might not be the missing ingredient. This is the concern that three wasted years of being a Cavs fan was squandered so that they could build a team incapable of doing better than Alonzo Gee as starting three. Sorry to pick on one guy because I like Alonzo Gee, but if that’s the culmination of three years of work rebuilding the franchise, I don’t know what to say. It’s the concern that this team also failed to land any kind of real star with their high picks after Kyrie Irving. I admit it might be irrational. I admit that it might be impatient.

I just can’t believe that right now watching this team and that I’m alone in these fears. I have confidence that Mike Brown can get as much or more out of this team than almost any other coach in the NBA. I’m scared what sum total “more” will add up to by the end of the season and moving forward.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    I agree here…the development of Dion is critical to our future sustainable success…and he needs a progression arc similar to Thompson’s.

  • Nicholee

    In Chris’s defense with Alonzo Gee I think the SF spot has a certain player’s name on it. Even if you only have a 10% of landing the best player in the game, you don’t erase that possibility entirely.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Could have Kemba Walker, Derrick Williams, Thomas Robinson, Victor Olapido and Bynum as our starting 5 also. Just saying.

    Personally, I like the current combination better than this grouping. But you get the Downtick anyways.

  • Scott Vasko

    Spot on Craig – I am just hoping the sauce needs a little more time…

  • mgbode

    if that’s the case on defense, then we’re doing a poor job. I’m trying to figure out what Mike Brown wants to do. but, we are not having our wings hang outside and trusting the bigs to handle the paint (like the Grizz do – watch Tony Allen, he’ll gamble for alot of steals because he trusts if the guy blows by him that Marc will clean it up). from what I can gather, we have some type of complicated cover rotation scheme. not sure we have it all figured out yet, but we switch alot underneath (except when Bynum is in).

    on offense, we can have different sets, but it should be a singular identity. what is our goto set that the defense knows is coming and cannot stop effectively. last year, it was “give Kyrie the ball” and he’d either pop-a-3 or drive and make magic. this year, I haven’t seen anything yet. still time though.

  • mgbode

    Mike Brown has significant flaws. But, I don’t lay too much of that Laker mess on him. Dwight + Kobe was not going to equal the comfy, happy success that they were expecting. He doesn’t get absolved of all of it, but he also doesn’t absorb all of it either.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    The defense is similar to the Griz, but more complicated. The “5 guys on a string” method I think is what was specifically mentioned…but Mike Brown has said several times that he wants to protect the paint and run guys off of the 3 point line. It does involve a lot of rotations.

    Offensively, I think, with the current talents that we are likely to have long term, we might be well served with a pick and roll heavy offense, including setting picks for non-ball handlers (something close to what the Spurs run.) This way, everyone is used to playing the pick position…whether it’s with the ball (or for the ball handler) or without the ball. I look at Dion, Kyrie, TT and Bennett as our core moving forward…and the TT/Bennett combo can form a devastating set of pick setters with their mobility and range on their shots. (Yes, Bennett needs to hit shots, but that’s something that should come in time.)

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    It’s too quick for me to point it at Mike Brown. He’s still installing the team philosophies with this young group. My issue is that I don’t see star players past Kyrie. You need star players to win in the NBA and I’m afraid the Cavs didn’t get them. We’ll see about Mike Brown 2.0, but unless he has a team of legit NBA players it won’t matter much.

  • mgbode

    i’ll keep watching on the defense. haven’t read much of what Mike Brown has been saying yet, but if that’s what he wants, then we’re not quite doing it yet.

    i’d love to run the SA offense. Kyrie/Waiters could fill the Parker/Ginobli double-side set roles. We’re obviously missing a Duncan, but, hey, who isn’t? (perhaps that’s why we picked Bennett. if he could hit those outside shots and drive to the rim, then we’d something of a Duncan on offense in those sets – yeah, he really needs to start hitting shots when he’s healthy again).

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    the same problem of no offensive direction and thus deferring to superstar free-lancing is present.

    i don’t think his players start out by not respecting him; but ultimately a coach has to add value. rolling the ball on the court and telling kyrie to do whatever looks like brown’s thing so far and it looks familiar. it’s just that the result of all other players mailing it in with a wtf attitude is happening earlier.

    i also don’t know that he’s a coach in the pure sense — nurturing when needed, instlling discipline, promoting growth in young players. it’s all well and good to say anthony bennett is getting paid a lot of dough and so should be in shape and working harder at his craft. but he’s also 20 years old. the best _coaches_ are molders of men. i can’t think of any player who’s game has shown marked improvement or whose work habits have matured under brown.

    (whereas, i look at TT and think byron scott had something to do with it.)

    i think it’s perfectly valid to take note. he looks like the same mike brown to me. it’s not too early to say so.

    it would be nice if the jason lloyds of the world would challenge brown to demonstrate how he’s changed instead of covering browns ass when fans take note and criticize him. (lloyd often seems to forget his job description doesn’t he?)

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    name one other coach with multiple 60 win seasons who gets canned that early in a season.

    it’s prima facie evidence that brown’s resume was fluffed by lebron and doesn’t represent his capability.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Yeah, I think it was something I read over at FTS where there was discussion regarding when he would actually start implementing offense…and he wasn’t going to do that until he felt he was comfortable with the guys playing his brand of defense on a nightly basis. They’re getting closer (overall), but certainly aren’t there yet. To be honest, I’m quite impressed with where they are at this point. They’ve made far more progress than I thought they would.
    I’ll try to do some more research on the style of offense that Igor ran both when he was at Detroit and when he was with Phoenix. I imagine that’ll be something close to what we’ll be running here. I didn’t pay that close attention to styles of offense when he was with Detroit (I was really only just starting to get back into basketball during his tenure there) but I imagine something close to what Phoenix ran during the Steve Nash heyday is something that we’ll be seeing here. I know there was a lot of PnR there.

  • mgbode

    yes, his resume looks better because of LeBron & Kobe. whose coaching resume wouldn’t?

    Kobe didn’t like his style, Dwight’s addition wasn’t going smoothly. So, they changed what they could and it didn’t work out after the change either.

    I think you are trying to reach too far on this one kanick. There’s plenty of ammo on Brown that is laid more directly at his feet.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    How many 60-win coaches get canned after winning 60+ games in a season? C’mon…you’re stretching hard on this one.
    The Lakers were 10th/13th in Offensive/Defensive efficiency under Mike Brown his full year there. The next season, they were 9th/20th in Offensive/Defensive efficiency. Personally, I’ll take the former over the latter in any season.
    Andrew Bynum had a career year with Mike Brown. Dwight Howard hated being in LA with Kobe.
    I don’t think anyone is saying that Mike Brown is as good a coach as Phil Jackson or Greg Popovich…but he’s still a very good coach.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Mike Brown called a play for Kyrie that Kyrie waved off. We’ve already seen Mike Brown discussing (loudly) stuff with Kyrie. It’s not quite the same thing as it was the last time that Mike Brown was here. It’s almost like you are highlighting his every flaw when you discuss him.
    You can’t think of one player that improved under Mike Brown? Ever hear of a guy named Lebron James? I mean, for real. He credits Mike Brown with a lot of his growth, particularly his defensive growth. How many 20 year olds did Mike Brown get to actually coach again? JJ Hickson, who still doesn’t defend well…and that’s the only way you get to play Mike Brown basketball. Christian Eyenga? There was a serious lack of legit NBA young players to develop on this team because Danny Ferry kept trading away draft picks to pick up veterans, so that we could try to win when Lebron was here.
    Is Mike Brown a perfect coach? No. He’s not in the tier of a Greg Popovich or Phil Jackson. But he’s still a damned good coach.

  • Backwoods

    I would think that would involve a lot of high 1-4 pick & roll action with shooters on the wings and a big staying home near the block/baseline. Problem is, I don’t see enough athleticism with TT for it to work. Bennett athletically would be a perfect fit (think stoudemire with range) and rotating our guards would work. When using TT, you’d move the motion more towards the elbow and look more pick & pop.

    All this being said, we don’t have the shooters to create the spacing we need and Bennett isn’t ready for that type of load yet.

  • Backwoods

    Actually, My sarcasm was that they never won anything as a team. Yes, 57 games in a terrible conference then got beat in the playoffs.

  • mgbode

    HOW DARE THEY NOT BEAT JORDAN!!! EVERYONE WAS KILLING THE BULLS, WHY NOT US?!!?!!?!

    also, the East was the stronger conference in the late 80s.

  • Backwoods

    Stronger than the west, yes. But the conferences were very uneven. The bottom half was VERY bad. They won a total of 3 playoff series and made the conference finals once.

  • mgbode

    so, you fault them for being a good team in a stronger conference in the wrong era?

    I shudder to see your evaluation of the 90s Tribe in that AL Central.

    :)

  • Backwoods

    Indians made the series! I attended hundreds of indians games in the 90s. When they lost, it always felt like an upset. Cavs never felt like that. I never felt that they were the superior team in the playoffs. A good team? Sure, but never with real title aspirations. In fact, every cavs playoff game I attended, was the closeout games watching them get knocked out.

  • mgbode

    well, you could have said the same thing about the Tribe every year as they got closed out each time. if it’s championship or bust, they both failed.

    Cavs had a real good stretch with Price/Nance/Daugherty. Injuries stunk and limited the ceiling, but they played really well when not playing the Bulls.

    88: Lost to Bulls
    89: Lost to Bulls
    90: Lost to 76ers
    91: Price hurt = no playoffs
    92: Beat NJ, Beat Boston, Lost to Bulls
    93: Beat NJ, Lost to Bulls
    94: Lost to Bulls

    0-5 vs. Chicago
    3-1 vs. Everyone Else

    And, I hear that Chicago had a pretty good player in those years, so I’m not going to fault them all that much for being MJ’s whipping boy.

  • Backwoods

    Obviously, we are just arguing semantics at that point. Indians won the AL. They got within an out of a title. Cavs never sniffed one. To me, that is a big difference. Plus, the bulls were vulnerable till 92. I liked the cavs teams, full of genuinely nice guys (for the most part). They were often around town doing signings and were very approachable people.

    Price was amazing, wasn’t he? He was the superstar on that team. Very underappreciated on the “greatest” lists.

  • mgbode

    agreed it’s semantics. I think it’s just that I think the 3 best Cavs teams were ’92-’94, which happened to be the absolute height of MJ’s greatness. we were building our team at the same time as Chicago but they had the GOAT and we didn’t.

    The ’93 playoffs, the Cavs had the 3rd best offense for the season, the 6th best defense, and Chicago swatted us away like they barely noticed us. Ugh.

    And, completely agree on Price. He was much better than he was given credit at the time due to Magic, Isiah, and Stockton garnering all the PG headlines.

  • hutch058

    I think that there are 74 games left in this season and the team has a new coach…let’s at least give them ’till the all-star break before declaring the rebuild a failure

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Varejao and TT are very mobile for their respective positions (5 and 4). They are both good enough to set picks and move to specific locations on the floor (whether it is in PnP action or PnR). Their shot is (so far) respectable at a range that makes the PnP a viable play. Bennett should have the mobility (as well) once he is in game shape.

    For shooters, it really mostly depends on who we have at the 3 to make this work. Kyrie is a legit 3-point threat…Dion is showing improvement (and can also attack the rim in a way that most shooters can’t). CJ Miles (at the 3) can provide additional spacing.

    There is also hope that Karasev (with his sweet looking shooting motion) can also help fill that role.

  • Integritydev

    This article is nearly on point. My observation from the beginning of training camp was that Mike Brown has NO concept of NBA offense. I gave him a slight break when everyone was talking about the defensive strategy that he would bring – we had heard that before.
    Tonight we lost by 30 points – what defense. We have lost at least three (3) games because there was no defense with players totally out of position leaving the basket unprotected. Tonight the basket was open all night long- ALL Night long! absolutely NO defense.
    We have NEVER displayed that there is an offensive play being run. People are just throwing the ball up and hoping they can win. Kyrie is a great talent but he has changed his game to compensate for the lack of offense and is now playing like the Dion Waiter that seldom or never passes the ball but takes it upon himself to force the issue.
    All of this comes down to a lack of coaching. How many coaches with experience do we have? They should all be let go now. someone is wasting a lot of money on four coaches that should be purchasing a ticket.
    Yes, Bynum is the BIG ticket and I’m excited that he is on the team. But a continuation of this madness will have him regaining his form and looking for a new home. Remember LeBron James. Remember that he won games on his back and now Brown’s record says that he won games – it has never happened and will not happen this time around.
    Please save the team and find a competent coach immediately if not sooner.
    Losing by 30 points is pathetic and embarrassing to the players and fans of Cleveland.

  • Backwoods

    That is all a real stretch. Dion does not scare anyone from the 3 point line. So far this year, they want the same from Kyrie as well. Spy the guards and plug the lanes. TT and Andy are mobile enough to move and decent at a 15-18′ jumper, but do not scare anyone rolling into the lane, or facing up their defenders from the elbow.

    Basically, we have a team that all needs to play within 15′ of the rim to be efficient. That is not a hard offense to stop. It also leads to lots of transition baskets for the other team as your guards end up to close to the oppositions basket on change of possessions.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    I said that Dion is improving (and can drive), I did not say that he was a 3 point threat. That being said, (small sample size alert) he’s actually been pretty good in spot up situations. His catch and shoot percentages are good. It’s the drive and shoot (and finishing at the rim) that has hurt him the most.
    Andy has great hands and did well last year (before injury…so another small sampe size alert) as a roll man. TT has improved. He’s a threat to catch and dunk. As for facing up from the elbow, TT has shown remarkable improvement in that area as anyone that guards him too close (and with his improving shot, he is becoming respectable) he can blow by. His handle is good enough for his position that he can get by most 4′s if they come out to him.

    Nothing I said is a stretch…we are progressing towards something that can be good. We (clearly) are not quite there yet. But hey, 7 new players from last years injury riddled team plus a new coaching staff. Why shouldn’t we expect immediate dividends on the 2nd youngest team in the NBA that is expected to be a roughly .500 team?

  • Backwoods

    I think you and I are having two different discussions. My reference was the current construction of the roster in relation to our current offensive scheme. Not what it could become and who the team might be someday. That is what I am referencing as a stretch, all the “coulda woulda shouldas.”

    If we want to talk hypotheticals, sure, there is definitely a chance that someday this team could be good. Even really good. Title contenders? No, not even if they all hit their ceiling. But, definitely good. Similar to the current pacers.

  • mgbode

    the Pacer’s aren’t title contenders?

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Then let’s go back and look at what was specifically said (by you) and replied to (by me.)

    YOU “I would think that would involve a lot of high 1-4 pick & roll action with shooters on the wings and a big staying home near the block/baseline. Problem is, I don’t see enough athleticism with TT for it to work.”

    ME “Varejao and TT are very mobile for their respective positions (5 and 4). They are both good enough to set picks and move to specific locations on the floor (whether it is in PnP action or PnR). Their shot is (so far) respectable at a range that makes the PnP a viable play.”

    YOU “TT and Andy are mobile enough to move and decent at a 15-18′ jumper,”

    So…what’s the stretch so far? You initally said that TT wasn’t mobile enough. Now you are saying he is. I said he has a decent enough jumper (right now). You agree. Not the hypothetical how good we could be business…but your actual copy and pasted words here.

    ****************

    YOU “All this being said, we don’t have the shooters to create the spacing we need and Bennett isn’t ready for that type of load yet.”

    ME “For shooters, it really mostly depends on who we have at the 3 to make this work. Kyrie is a legit 3-point threat…Dion is showing improvement (and can also attack the rim in a way that most shooters can’t). CJ Miles (at the 3) can provide additional spacing.”
    CJ Miles can legit hit the open 3. Kyrie can legit hit the open three. Dion is athletic enough to get to the hoop. He is good in catch and shoot situations. 2nd best on the team this year (behind only CJ Miles and above average compared to the rest of the NBA.)

    Nothing I said was a stretch. The closest you can say is a stretch is the last line when I was talking about the kind of shooter that Karasev looks like he can be.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Absolutely. The team that took Miami 7 games is not really a contender. Miami just didn’t take them seriously until they absolutely had to. David Stern wanted revenue so he gave them extra money if they could make it look competitive. Now that he’s gone, Silver will have to find a different slant on things.

  • Backwoods

    No, they aren’t. Show me the last team void of a true superstar to win a title. Best argument is the ’04 pistons, and that was purely a result of a bad east and an implosion by the Lakers

    Ben,

    Yes, those are my words, but it is taken partly out of context, which very well may be my fault. To clarify, Yes, Andy AND TT are both mobile. That is not the problem. Problem is, I am not convinced those two are reliable finishers. Even with a good shooting percentage from 18′, most teams are going to allow that action over and over. It is still a lower percentage play and the 3rd option in pick scenarios. The stretches are expecting those two to be dynamic Pick & roll players. I’ll admit that they can be serviceable, but not dominant. And there is still no shooting.

    I’m not clear on what you are trying to argue or prove? That the cavs do have shooting and Andy & TT are legitimate threats in a pick situation? This cavs team is great offensively right now? I’m confused.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    The Cavs team has potential to be a very good offensive team THIS year. They’re not there yet…which should surprise exactly nobody…because they haven’t worked on their offense. Your arguments make it seem like you feel they are devoid of offensive talent. I’m not saying (nor implying) that Andy and TT are going to be dominant PnP/PnR players, but that they are good enough that we can run an offense similar to (but not exactly like) what the Spurs run. They have the talent that Andy can set a pick for Kyrie on one side of the floor, TT can set a pick for Dion on another side of the floor and CJ Miles can move to the appropriate vacant spot behind the 3 to make for an effective offense. If Andy Rolls, TT pops. If TT rolls, Andy pops. The versatility is there. The threat is there. They just haven’t worked on it. When Dion gets screened, Kyrie can attack and kick to him (or vice versa). Kyrie is the better attacker/finisher/shooter between the two, but Dion is serviceable as a shooter (especially as a spot up shooter) and has the talent to get to the rim at will. CJ can shoot. We have the talent on this team to run this type of offense.

    Yes, we have guys on our team (a la Clark/Gee) that aren’t a perfect fit for this. I don’t see them as having a long term place on this team anyways. But we can run that type of offense with this team, if we just worked on it more. As it is, we’re not playing defense the way that Mike Brown wants…and that is his goal. So that is his focus. It hurts now…but long term, I like his plan.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    And while Kyrie Irving is NOT in the stratosphere of Lebron/Durant/Kobe (yet)…he is a legit star (particularly an offensively gifted scorer.) If TT continues to develop the way he has, we have the makings of a dynamic team. We do need more pieces (or for our pieces to develop much further than they are)…but I don’t think anyone is suggesting the Cavs are a complete team…in fact, most people seem to assume we’re going to make one more major move (either at the trade deadline, or in the upcoming free agency) to bring in the last piece that we hope will be enough to put us over the top.

  • Jaker

    Yup. This is 100% what I’m thinking