July 22, 2014

Cavalier Film Room: The center of attention back for the winter?

When we last convened in the film room, we took a look at Matthew Dellavedova’s surprise big minutes that led to a much-needed victory. This week, we’re going to take a look at how Andrew Bynum has been playing of late, which has helped the Cavaliers win back to back games for the first time this season. As always, if you have suggestions for things you’d like to see my analyze, feel free to drop me a line at kirk@waitingfornextyear.com.

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In his last two games, Andrew Bynum has 34 points, 17 rebounds, and 6 blocks in just over 50 minutes. He had a favorable matchup against Denver on Wednesday night, but I’m most impressed with his showing against Chicago and Joakim Noah, so we’re going to focus on snapshots from that night. To me, there are three facets that Bynum can effect the game for the wine and gold: scoring in the low post, passing out of the low post, and defending the rim.

Let’s begin in the low post. Jarrett Jack passes the ball to Kyrie Irving on the right wing. Noah is covering Bynum.

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You’ll see that Bynum has already sealed off Noah with his right hip. All Kyrie has to do is lob it over Noah’s head or dribble down into the corner to make a clean post feed in a great position for Bynum to score. Carlos Boozer, not a particularly alert or strong defender, is in helpside underneath the hoop. The key here is spacing and how early in the set Bynum creates this action.

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Back to spacing for a moment, you see Gee all the way in the corner, Tristan Thompson outside of the key at the foul line, and Jarrett Jack opposite wing beyond the three point arc. You have no shot to beat fundamentally superior defensive units like Chicago without consistent spacing. Lazy effort in this facet allows helpside defenders to pack in the paint, chip at the ball, and force turnovers easier.

Kyrie dribbles to the corner. When he does this, Noah and Kirk Hinrich run into each other. Boozer shows to contest Irving.

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The space, the ball movement, and the determined post-up by Bynum has created a lane to the hoop. Mike Dunleavy Jr. rotates over, but he’s no contest for Bynum strolling down the lane for the slam. A Chicago cross-up and respect for Irving eventually forced the rotation that opened the lane, but that doesn’t happen without good ball movement.

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On another offensive possession, Boozer is covering Bynum in the right mid-post area.

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Bynum does a good job of fighting for position, whether he’s down on the block  or not. He’s confident enough to make a couple dribbles on a move to the bucket, he can shoot it over the top of his man, or he can back him down onto the block for a shot in or near the restricted area.

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Boozer is using all his strength to keep Bynum out of the paint, expecting Bynum to go with a power move and try to go through him to the hoop. Instead, Bynum sneaks around the edge and uses a large first step to make a baseline move.

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Bynum dribbles underneath the basket and uses the basket as a shield to get his shot off.

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Noah goes to block the shot, but Bynum sneaks it in high off the glass. This is a great display of Bynum’s touch around the rim. We’ve seen a lot of shots spin out for Bynum, and I really do think a lot of it can be attributed from the rust that comes from not playing basketball at the highest level for over a year and not having a preseason at all.

Let’s move to the passing aspect. This possession shows how the attention that Bynum gets in the post can create perimeter opportunities for his teammates. In this scenario, Bynum posts up on the left side of the floor against Noah. Let’s highlight the spacing again with Gee in the corner, C.J. Miles on the right wing, Kyrie Irving out at the top of the key, and Tristan Thompson vacating the paint once again. There’s plenty of space for Bynum to operate 1-on-1 and kick it if he meets resistance.

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The Cavalier big man turns and faces to shoot it, like he has shown to do several times. Instead, at the last second, he turns shot to pass and throws a two-hand over-the-head pass to Gee in the corner.

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Gee could have easily shot that corner three, an area on which he has focused this past offseason, but he passes up a good look for a great look. The quick kick to Miles allows C.J. to take his sweet time and gather, drilling the trifecta.

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Spacing, movement, and inside-out action make the Cleveland offense look not-so-pathetic. The Cavaliers’ offense will continue to very much be a product of how much effort they put into keeping the ball and bodies moving. Most of the Cavs’ best offensive moments have been with Bynum on the floor. He has also been responsible for some of the most hideous and inefficient looks on the season.

Bynum grades out at a 95 offensive rating (points per 100 possessions this season), which isn’t good, but he has a rating of 120+ in four of those games (vs. MIN, @ CHI, @ NO, and vs. CHI in this game with a drool-worthy 136).

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Let’s move on to the defensive end. Bynum’s blocking 1.4 shots per game in 17.9 minutes, and he had five blocks in this game against the Bulls. Joakim Noah gets the ball at the free throw line with Bynum defending.

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Bynum wisely will give Noah his ugly side-winding 15-foot shot all day long. He stays in the paint to defend against Noah’s drive, which he is surprisingly capable of as a somewhat unconventional center.

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Noah goes left, and Bynum is patient, picking him up on his path to the bucket, waiting for the shot attempt. Bynum times it up to perfection, staying between Noah and the hoop and catching the ball at its release point, sending it away to the corner.

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The Bulls get the rebound, and the ball gets thrown back down to Noah. He bodies up Bynum and tries to score over the top of him.

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This one doesn’t work out for the Cleveland hater either. Bynum is able to stay on the ground and reject Noah’s half hook attempt. By standing his ground, Andrew avoids the foul and prevents Noah from scoring.

Blocked shots don’t always tell the entire story though. The ability to alter shots or the threat to alter shots is enough to curb a team’s ability to effectively probe a defense. On this play, Carlos Boozer crosses up Tristan Thompson and heads towards the rim.

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Bynum rotates over, and Gee rotates down to cover Noah. Again, Bynum is rewarded for his verticality. We see Anderson Varejao do this quite often, jumping straight up in the air with his hands straight up to avoid a foul call and contest the shot.

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We saw glimpses of this in the matchup with Brook Lopez in the Brooklyn opener, but Bynum can go toe-to-toe with big-time centers in this league. At this point, it’s only a matter of shaking off those final bits of rust and the Cavaliers learning and committing to operating their offense out of the post. I’m hoping to see more of the offense run through Bynum in the fourth quarter, and if the Cavs do that, there should be less late offensive collapses.

Until next time, the film room is closed!