Cavalier Offseason Wishlist: Frontcourt

spencer hawes grizzlies

spencer hawes grizzliesThis will be the first in a few posts from me about my post-season Cavalier thoughts. Before I dive in, be sure to check out the great work from Ben, Andrew, and Jacob in their varying post-season thoughts and breakdowns.

It was only this past weekend that I sat down and watched the majority of a NBA playoff game. That’s truly a shame for many reasons. First and foremost, we’re having a crazy bonkers playoffs thus far in terms of road teams winning, eight seeds with series leads over one seeds, multiple overtime games in the same series, and thrilling game-winners. The second reason is because for as much as NBA regular season ball has its warts from critics, the playoffs are everything you could ask for in most cases. It had me thinking back to the way I watched the playoffs from 2006-2010. I lived and died with every playoff game, not just those involving my team, because it all meant so much with a team chasing a title.

Well, back down here on planet Earth, the Cavaliers are not doing any such thing. While they improved by nine wins over last year, we all know that so much more was expected with the major additions that transpired. So, with the disappointing season finally over and with nearly two weeks to digest it, I offer the first installment of my offseason wishlist (at least at this point), with the hopes that I’m back to living and dying with every playoff game come next April.

1) Spencer Hawes returns

There’s no secret this is how I’ve felt for quite some time as I said it quite frequently on Twitter. I really want Spencer Hawes to return in a wine and gold uniform next season. He may not have provided enough of a push to get the Cavaliers into the playoffs, but the way the offense was spaced with him on the floor was drastically different than earlier in the season.

In his 27 games in Cleveland, Hawes shot it at a nearly 45% clip from deep, and that was with popping nearly four of them per game. The Cavs had a 107.0 offensive rating with Hawes out there (3.2 above their output without him). It wasn’t just the floor spacing, but Hawes was comfortable using his outside shot to set up his in-between game of float shots and drives down the lane. Some fun facts about Hawes’ most efficient scoring scenarios: he scored 1.43 PPP (points per possession) on 21 cuts to the basket, 1.27 PPP on 42 transition looks, and 1.07 PPP on 95 plays as the roll man in the pick and roll.

In his short time in Cleveland, I was surprised to see how Hawes has the skill to hit the boards when he wants. He seemed to have a nice chemistry with Kyrie out on the floor, and Irving seemed to look for him, be willing to give the ball up to him, and trust that he’d get it back.

Obviously, when I say Hawes returns, I mean with a reasonable contract. He made $6.5 million this past season and $8.5 million the season before, so I guess I’d be willing to do something in the 3-year, $24 million neighborhood. For reference, Tiago Splitter signed a 4-year, $36 million deal last summer to stay in San Antonio, so maybe that’s a little low for Hawes.

The one drawback with the 25-year-old Hawes, of course, is his defense. Hawes isn’t particularly strong or athletic, so it’s no surprise to see that any advantage gained while Hawes was on the floor offensively was given right back defensively (112.9 opponent offensive rating with him on the floor). Which leads me into my next wishlist item…

 

2) Either Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller, or Tristan Thompson must go

I truly do like all of the three guys listed above. I think they can all be key bench pieces of a very good playoff team (and Varejao has of course proven this), and in some cases, depending on team makeup around them, a starter. However, coupled with the need to get Anthony Bennett an opportunity and bringing back Spencer Hawes as suggested above, AT LEAST one of Andy, Zeller, and Tristan must go this off-season.

We’ve long known that to borrow a Tommy Lee Jones line from “Men in Black”, Varejao hasn’t been training a partner in Thompson, he’s been training a replacement. Their skillsets are just too similar with the way that the rest of the Cavalier squad is configured at this time. Tristan played some of his best basketball with Varejao out last season, and even though Andy has become an effective mid-range shooter and smart passer, bringing Hawes back can replace some of that.

Depending on how radical the team decides to get this offseason, it’s very possible that two of these guys are gone. The Cavaliers (as @WayneEmbrysKids pointed out on Twitter last night) finished second to last in the league in blocked shots, and that included Andrew Bynum contributing 28 blocks early on in 24 games. More than blocked shots themselves, I’m more concerned about having a solid post defender that can guard the bigger post threats  in the league. Notice I say post threats as Hawes and Zeller could easily swap and guard a more mid-range or perimeter-oriented power forward.

Varejao is probably the best equipped to battle the Howard, Hibbert, Lopez types, but it’s a real problem in the Mike Brown scheme. While the Cavaliers did a fairly good job of keeping paint scoring down, it was often because of overzealous help-side defense that opened up uncontested looks on the three-point line, an Achilles’ heel of basically every Mike Brown defense in history. Instead, the Cavs need someone who (even if it’s off the bench) can come in and contain a post threat 1-on-1 on the block. It’s possible that could be had through the draft.

There’s also the matter of Tristan’s contract status, whereby he becomes a restricted free agent at season’s end like Irving. Is he a $10 million per year player? NBA teams have gotten more conscious of throwing big money deals around to bring role players in, but someone may see Tristan’s numbers and want to add a double-double machine.

 

3) Anthony Bennett gets to focus on being a power forward

I immediately loved this tweet when I saw it from Kevin Pelton:

It’s also important when talking about Anthony Bennett. Before the season, the team came right out and said Bennett would focus on only power forward with the possibility of small forward time in the future. Then, they changed their mind if only for a moment on the fly during the season.

Before Bennett was derailed by an injury that cost him 17 of the final 18 games of his rookie season, he had started to put things together and look like a capable young player. In his final 20 games of the season, Bennett averaged 7.0 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting .451/.360/.644 in 16.8 minutes. The Cavaliers drafted Bennett because of his ability to shoot from the outside, post up, and take defenders off the dribble and get to the line in the process. We saw only brief glimpses of that as Bennett battled weight issues and struggled to find consistent time in Mike Brown’s rotation. Next year, there is no option. Anthony Bennett MUST have a consistent spot in Brown’s 8 or 9 man rotation1

 

(Photo: Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

 

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Footnotes:

  1. Or, you know, the Cavaliers coach’s rotation next season. More on that later in the series. []
  • Steve

    Very worried about a possible lineup of Irving-Waiters-fill in the blank-Bennett-Hawes. As you said, they need a big man on the block. That almost certainly means Hawes is gone, as there would be neither the money nor minutes to keep him around with the guy we really need. Zeller has stepped up well enough to be an adequate backup at the 5.

  • Harv 21

    I was a big fan of Tristan’s future until about mid-season. Too often the “effort guy” wasn’t putting out effort, which makes him the anti-Andy. And after 3 full seasons still hasn’t developed a reliable offensive scoring move from anywhere on the court, just better FT shooting. Maybe he’s not a Mike Brown fan but taking blocks of games off shows a concerning immaturity for a player who will be demanding a lot of money soon.

    The lack of significant development by Tristan and Kyrie also confirms my thinking that Grant’s stocking the locker room with has-beens for leaders – Anthony Parker, Antawn Jamison – didn’t have the desired effect on much younger players. In the NBA, with just 5 guys on the court and one guy often able to affect the outcome, your best players are the alphas, for better or worse.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Absolutely 100% agree Kirk on the frontcourt being the primary area of interest this summer. I don’t forsee Hawes returning however. And I also probably agree that one of the three between Varejao, Zeller and Thompson need to go. I’m still torn on Anderson lets face it his health doesn’t equate to the next contract he most likely will seek. I personally would like to see him return to a sixth man role where he can come off the bench and play like a wild man. If Zeller stays fine, if he gets traded fine. Thompson I’m down on he fooled me last year. I know his statistics may say he improved (do they?) but I didn’t see it. He’s to soft a PF for my liking and needs an offensive center to play off IMO.

  • boomhauertjs

    If Hawes is re-signed, Zeller should be traded since they have very similar skill sets. They need to find a rim protector type as a compliment to Hawes/Zeller. Too bad they could’ve had one if they had drafted Nerlens Noel instead of Bennett.
    I wouldn’t mind dealing Thompson or Andy either. Tristan is what is he is and guys like that are not worth the contact he’ll probably be looking for. Andy would be better off playing less than 20 minutes a game for a contender than trying to play starters’ minutes on this team. I would deal Bennett too, but he’s got no value.

  • WFNYKirk

    Noel, however, would not have solved the low post defense problem. Too thin to guard power post threats without help. That makes the over help and three point coverage a problem still.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Agreed but Noel might be the perfect compliment to an offensive center at PF. IF he is ever healthy enough to play.

    This is the scenario I envision for Thompson. Forget a jump shot, forget which hand to use, rebound, play defense and maybe block a shot from time to time.

  • WFNYKirk

    Agreed. A more consistent motor and for people to stop asking him to be something that’s he’s not are all Tristan needs.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t know how much of having Mike Brown as his head coach as well as going from Bynum to Hawes effected his consistency but I just didn’t see it over 82 games. I started out not being a fan of his but he won me over the way he played last year. Now after this past season I’m back to mixed emotions at best on him.

  • Harv 21

    Who has asked him to do anything more? When he plays hard he’s a low double-double guy on effort and garbage points, a decent if very one-dimensional NBA player. His problem is only him – he’s entering his fourth year and still only does that in spurts.

    And expecting a NBA big man starter to develop just one single offensive move – a jump hook, drop step, up and under, turn-around bank shot, anything – ain’t exactly unreasonable. His offensive game is a lot closer to Manute Bol than, say, Greg Monroe.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I like Greg Monroe.

  • mgbode

    WS/48 went up, but PER went down. Factoring in some of his other stats, I would say he kept pace with past numbers. You want a young player to improve, obviously.

  • mgbode

    Hawes depends on the price. If he costs $10mil/year, then why not just bring in Greg Monroe who I feel Detroit will let walk?

    I think there are going to be some radical changes for the team this offseason though.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I don’t understand a word that came out of your mouth!!!!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I like Greg Monroe.

  • Steve

    We’ll see how much weight Noel puts on before next season, but he certainly would have helped clean up after Irving and Waiters. Drive and kicks by the opponent would have needed less a lot less help.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    but he certainly would have helped clean up after Irving and Waiters

    You mean if he had played a single minute?

  • mgbode
  • The_Real_Shamrock
  • Steve

    Changed the tense to make sure you can keep adding to the conversation. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I like your style Steven…never admit you made an error!

    http://microsofthelpnow.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/20884273_2.png

  • WFNYKirk

    That was more aimed at the fans, Harv, that keep drilling him for not being offensively diverse for the number 4 pick in a draft.

  • WFNYKirk

    I do too. I would give him slightly more than Hawes but I admittedly have not analyzed his D.

  • Harv 21

    Ok, I hear ya. But the fans are entitled to expect any front court starter to have one move, one. And if he won’t develop that, plus won’t consistently play hard, I suspect his draft position is as much in his head as a sense of entitlement as in the fans’ heads as a sense of expectation from #4 overall. Tristan can’t be blamed for lack of talent; he didn’t draft himself. But fans have a right to be furious at a high draft choice who has not played hard in strings of games for two coaches in consecutive seasons. Clevelanders are ridiculously easy and overrate local players who play hard. He’s brought any fan wrath upon himself.