A week into the season and Kyrie is drawing chants of overrated, the Cavs rank 28th in the league in points scored, and Anthony Bennett looks like the grown up version of Jefferson Albert Tibbs from the movie Hardball. Still, the Wine and Gold are 2-3 and are one of ten teams within a game of .500 in the East. For as frustrating as this team has been to watch at times, they’re actually playing defense, Bynum has surprisingly been on the floor, and thankfully Sergey Karasev hasn’t had to enter a game and potentially ruin that immaculate hair of his.
1. On Wednesday the Cavs blew an opportunity against what should be an inferior Bucks team to record their third win of the year. Last season the Wine and Gold didn’t reach win number three until game eleven and at that point they were five games under .500. The team then went on to lose nine out of their next ten and the season was already a wash.
It’s early but the the Cavs need to nip this losing in the bud, and the sooner the better. It’s refreshing to see Mike Brown’s disgust in these losses, and also his refusal to make excuses for his young ball club. But for a team who have their coordinates set towards the playoffs it’s imperative they avoid a large dip below the .500 mark.
Last season the farthest below .500 any Eastern Conference playoff team fell was 7 games when Milwaukee went on a five game losing streak in the last two weeks of the season. At that point their playoff ticket was all but punched thanks to the inferiority of everyone else in the East. I don’t think the Cavs will have that luxury this year.2. Who is this C.J. Miles and how can we get more of him? Miles ranks 7th in the NBA in P.E.R. He’s shooting 50% from beyond the arc at the top three spots (top of the arc, and both wings), and providing some much needed long range bombing for the Cavs who rank in the bottom third in the league in 3P%.
We all knew C.J. could shoot, but this season he’s been extra efficient. 45 of his 55 field goal attempts have either been at the rim or from 3 point range. Teams are coming out to guard him on the perimeter and C.J. is making them pay this year. Time and again you expect to see the old C.J. who’s chucking the three no matter what, but this year he’s not hesitating to put the ball on the deck and attack the rim strong.
3. For all the knocks on Anthony Bennett and the Victor Oladipo talk that has already begun, it’s too early to freak out about the number one pick. His scoring, one thing we thought this guy would be able to do has been abysmal and there’s no denying that. A 1-20 start from the field is almost inexcusable, but I’m going to try and give Tony the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to make complete excuses for the player chosen as the best amateur player in the world last June, but in Mike Brown’s system he’s like Jared at a Quiznos. Bennett looks completely uncomfortable playing his role in Mike Brown’s offense. He’s used to having the ball in his hands, running iso’s and playing with freedom. Unlike Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams, Bennet is a secondary scoring option. He doesn’t have the luxury of having the ball in his hands and being allowed to turn the ball over. Instead he’s forced to set screens, play off his teammates, d up, or ride the pine.
While much has been made of Bennett’s weight and asthma, he’s playing the game at a decent pace. Bennett’s average speed of 4.4 miles per hour ranks him in the upper third of the league. For comparison’s sake, of players that have played at least 10 minutes per game Marc Gasol ranks last in the league with an average speed of 3.6 miles per hour and Patty Mills leads the league at 4.9.
4. I mentioned last week how I hated Mike Brown’s choice to run Earl Clark/Kyrie Irving pick and rolls in crunch time. When things got tight in Milwaukee Earl Clark was nowhere to be found, but once again the Cavs spread the floor, everyone stood around, and this time Varejao came to the top of the arc to run a two man game with Irving. The first time Varejao screened, then rescreened, allowing Kyrie to get into the lane, but not before three Bucks collapsed on him and he threw up a shot at the rim that never had a chance of falling. Andy and Kyrie are both great in the pick and roll, but if it’s blatantly obvious that it’s coming then it makes it that much easier to stop.
Down one, with the game on the line, the Cavs cleared the right side of the floor again, Varejao set the screen, but this time Kyrie dribbled off his foot. Would Kyrie have scored if he wasn’t doing his Clint Dempsey impression? Maybe. If you have the best player on the floor and are facing a defense like Milwaukee’s this may work, but against an Indiana, Chicago, or Miami you better give them a different look, some creativity, or prepare to be smothered and shut down.
It’s always been baffling to me how at the end of a quarter, half, or game teams abandon their offense completely, allow their star to dribble around until the clock winds down and then get going at the moment when everyone knows he’s going to attack. In a tie game this makes sense, because you have no chance at losing, but down one you need run your offense and find a way to score first and take your chances on defense if the time comes.
5. Rookie Update – Anthony Bennett continues to draw criticism both in Cleveland and around the league, while Michael Carter-Williams is earning nicknames like “The Hyphen” and “M C Dub”. Carter-Williams leads all rookies with 19.8 PPG and 7.6 APG, but most impressively the rookie is averaging an astounding 3 steals per contest thanks in large part to his 9 swipes in his debut against Miami.
Oladipo is next in the early running for Rookie of the Year honors, helping the Magic to three straight wins. The former Hoosier has scored in double figures in each of his first five games, but has been racking up turnovers at over 4 a game, ranking him 4th in the league.
With Andrew Bynum making his return to Philadelphia on Friday, I can only imagine how awful it feels to be a 76ers fan watching Bynum play game after game this season. Actually, being from Cleveland I’m pretty sure I know that feeling all too well — so let’s take a minute and go all nana-nana-boo-boo on Philly fans and enjoy our new center getting his flamenco on. Dance on big Drew.
Photo: Benny Sieu/USA Today