It’s tough to be a Cavalier fan these days. Real tough. They could very well be the worst team in all of the Association. Sure, their 4-8 record puts them only a half game behind Detroit for the 8 seed, but as I sat in The Q and looked up to see The Diff read -26 against a 3-7 Wizards team coming off a back to back while the Cavs had just enjoyed three days off I found it hard to imagine things could get much worse. Honestly they really can’t. Either the team gets better and creeps back in the playoff race or they tank and earn themselves a shot at landing a franchise changing lottery pick.
The Wizards were leaps and bounds better than the Cavaliers on Wednesday, but a few days prior it was the Wine and Gold who had the upper hand. Both teams came into the season with playoff ambitions and both have fallen flat in the early going. Cleveland and Washington are traveling the same path towards rebuilding a contender with each team boasting a number one pick at point guard, another high pick at shooting guard, and a Brazilian anchoring their front court.
This brings us to the age old game of “would you rather?” The same game that has brought questions such as LeBron or Kobe? Kelly Kopowski or Topanga Lawrence? and my favorite “would you rather go your whole life with a lisp or spend all of your days with a horrible case of Cheeto fingers that you can never wash off?
Instead of those mind boggling questions let’s take a look at the cores of the Cavs and Wizards.
1. Would you rather have Kyrie Irving or John Wall?
The 23 year old Wall inked a 5 year extension this off season that will make him a max level contract player beginning in the 2014-15 season. While not the scoring threat that Kyrie has been over the last two years, Wall ranked 7th in the league in assists and 2nd in assist percentage last season. This season his scoring is down just a little, but the former Kentucky Wildcat is dishing out just a shade under 10 assists per game and is in the league’s top 10 in steals. Wall’s ability to create turnovers and set up his teammates are everything you’d want out of a point guard.
Wall is more of pure point, but Kyrie fits more combo guard mold and is often better served playing the two. The Cavs have Kyrie under contract through the 2014-15 season after which they’re all but certain to offer him a max deal. The Wizards drew some criticism by giving Wall the max contract extension as he’s never been an all-star and they did so a year earlier than they had to. Although he’s just one of four players in league history to average at least 16.5 points, 7.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals through his first three seasons Wall hasn’t shown the ability to consistently dominate offensively. Kyrie on the other hand has shown that ability. He puts together stretches where no one on the court can stop him. Even his bad games like Milwaukee a few weeks ago and Washington on Wednesday he often features double digit scoring runs where the defense is helpless.
Because Kyrie is the more dominant scorer I’d rather have Kyrie than the man who inspired one of my favorite dances that’s easy for a white guy to do.
2. Would you rather have Dion Waiters or Bradley Beal?
Washington selected Beal one pick before the Cavs were on the clock, forcing Chris Grant to get creative and reach for the Big East 6th man of the year in Waiters. There’s little doubt the Cavs would have taken Beal or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist if either would have been available, but both were gone and the Cavs had to go with plan B.
Dion was a pleasant surprise in his rookie season, showing the ability to create his own shot and shoulder the offensive load. Both Waiters and Beal had little trouble filling it up during their freshman campaigns, each posting scoring nights in the 20’s on 13 different occasions, with Waiters scoring a career high 33 against Sacramento on a whopping 66% shooting. Over the course of the 2012-13 season it was Waiters who had the higher shooting percentage, but because of Beal’s long range bombing he had the higher effective field goal percentage.
There wasn’t a whole lot to separate these two last season besides Beal being someone who operates off the ball and Dion someone who dominates the ball. The two guards each missed stretches of time because of injury during their rookie season, but seem to have no injury concerns this year outside of Dion’s mystery “illness”. This season though, Beal has emerged as one of the sharpest shooters in the NBA, living up to the Ray Allen comparisons he drew back in high school and college. You can’t leave Bradley Beal an inch of room, because as we saw on Wednesday the dude is WET. Beal was 6 of 7 from downtown on Wednesday and was a clear reminder that the Cavs have no one on their roster that’s anywhere close the deep threat that Beal is. During the same game that Beal went off, Dion had more turnovers than field goals.
Beal is taking the next step you’d hope for out of a top lottery pick, scoring 25+ points in five out of his last seven games while Dion is centered in controversy and regressing both offensively and defensively. The verdict on these two contemporaries is far from determined, but right now because of his play this season and the Cavs’ desperate need for shooting I’d rather have Beal.
3. Would you rather have Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao or Nene and Marcin Gortat?
The Cavs have both Varejao and Thompson under contract through 2014-15 while the Wizards have Gortat’s contract expiring after this season and Nene at 13 million a year through 2015-16. Nobody in this group is a dominant inside scorer, but Nene is extremely efficient and as we’ve seen in the last two match ups he can be a handful in the post. Gortat is also efficient on the offensive end, having shot over 50% from the field in each of his last seven seasons. Andy has dramatically improved over the course of his career on the offensive side of the ball, but he’s still not someone you can’t dump the ball into and let go to work.
Tristan’s switch to becoming a righty has shown mixed results. His free throw shooting has drastically increased to a respectable 75% but his field goal percentage is down in the low forties. His defense has also been a mixed bag so far this season. The former Longhorn gave Kevin Love fits in their first meeting of the year but got hit for 33 the second time around, and then was just overpowered by Nene in back to back contests.
Nobody in this group has as much upside as Tristan, but the question is just how high is that upside really? Gortat can protect the rim, and Nene is dependable scoring inside which is why I’d rather have Nene and Gortat than Tristan and Andy.
4. Would you rather have Matthew Dellavedova or anyone in the league?
Who knew Matthew Dellavedova was the Australian pronunciation of Jesus Christ?
As Dellavedova busted his ass all over the court on Wednesday he looked like a guy playing for his livelihood, and what a refreshing thing that was a to watch.
When Delly buried his corner three to cut the Wizards lead to 13 at the start of the fourth quarter it was the first time all night the team as well as the crowd showed any signs of life. After Kyrie got bucket after bucket and made the once blowout into an exciting finish it was Dellavedova’s work on the defensive end of the floor that really started to propel him into the heart’s of Clevelanders.
With four minutes left, the red hot Bradley Beal recognized he had drawn a match up with the undrafted rookie, Dellavedova. Beal signaled for a clear out for what he thought would be a jog in the park against the Australian and instead entered himself into trip through hell with the Tasmanian Devil. With Delly up in his chest Beal was unable to create any space whatsoever, and forced to chuck up a contested airball as the shot clock expired.
The next time down the floor the Wizards tried to go through Beal once again only to have the pesky Dellavedova deflect a Beal pass, leading to an Irving steal. But Delly wasn’t done yet. On the Wizards next trip, the ball was stopped with the shot clock winding down and it was Dellavedova’s all out ball denial of Beal that led to a Wizards shot clock violation.
He fought over screens, attached himself in Beal’s hip pocket going around screens, and chested Beal up on the ball. These are things you’re taught in Defense 101 but are so rarely practiced. These are the things you expect to see out of a Thad Matta led squad, not something you see on a Wednesday in November in the NBA.
Mike Brown said it best, “We didn’t compete. We had one guy compete the entire time he was on the floor —Matthew Dellavedova”. While that quote and these last few paragraphs indicate high praise for Delly, it also indicates just how bad of shape the Cavaliers are in.
5. Rookie Update
Fans booed Anthony Bennett as he air balled a shot midway through the third. Whether the booing was warranted is up for debate, but Anthony Bennett’s staggering lack of production is a fact. The same can be said of Sergey Karasev who is barely managing to get on the floor in the season’s early going, but luckily for Cavs fans they have the emergence of the Tasmanian Devil Matthew Dellavedova to quench their rookie thirst.
Like Bennett, the rest of this year’s rookie class continues to be unassuming. Neither Oladipo or Carter-Williams are exactly setting the world on fire. Carter Williams missed three games due to injury and managed just 10 points on 10 shots and 6 turnovers in his return to action on Wednesday. Oladipo had a career high 20 points against Miami on Wednesday, along with 5 steals, but also gave the ball away 8 times after turning it over 9 times i his last outing.
In case you thought there was just three dynamite prospects for next year’s draft, take a look at numbers 4 and 5. Both Marcus Smart and Aaron Gordon have big time pro potential. It’s getting real close to #TankStrong time.