August 27, 2014

Good riddance, Cavs season: While We’re Waiting

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Yet another uninspired crawl to the finish. We shouldn’t be surprised. This isn’t unique to the Cavaliers, necessarily. Teams in April playoff chases who get eliminated often coast to the end of the season. But just because it’s not surprising, it doesn’t make the end of this Cavaliers season any less disappointing. Above all else, that’s the word that defines this season more than any other. Disappointing. With a little frustration on the side.

This season couldn’t have been set up any better for the Cavaliers. For the first time in NBA history, the Lakers, Celtics, and Knicks all missed the playoffs. The Eastern Conference was historically bad. And yet even in this environment the Cavaliers couldn’t make the playoffs. They weren’t even all that close. With one game left to play the Cavaliers are 5.5 games out of the 8 seed. An 8 seed with a losing record. Six games under .500, to be exact. It demonstrates just how firmly entrenched at the kids’ table this team really is.

In theory the Cavaliers are close to being a playoff team. But that’s only because of how bad the Conference is. The 8 seed in the West is 48-32, or 16 games above .500. Lets be honest…the Cavaliers are nowhere near contending for anything meaningful. And this is 4 years after LeBron left. Two #1 overall picks and a pair of #4 overall picks, and this is what we have to show for it.

So I don’t know where the Cavaliers go from here. If I were the GM, I have absolutely no clue where I would even start. Whoever the GM is will obviously start by trying to lock up Kyrie Irving, but my gut feels kind of similar to how it felt about LeBron after the 2010 season ended (not that Kyrie is anywhere near LeBron’s level). I think Kyrie is completely frustrated with this franchise and for the first time, I’m not very confident that he’s going to agree to stay with the Cavaliers.

If I was in Kyrie’s shoes, I wouldn’t want to stay. It kills me to say that, but it’s the honest truth. Sure, this season overall, as disappointing as it turned out to be, was still much better than the previous three seasons. But it’s baby steps. I don’t feel a strong forward momentum. Kyrie’s not without fault, either. Once again he is completely disappearing down the stretch. His slow start to the season contributed to the team digging the deep hole they found themselves in.

But he’s still the team’s best player by a mile, and the only player you can say you definitely can build around. Rather than giving him shooters to space the floor and an offensive presence in the frontcourt, though, the franchise instead keeps pairing him with other ball dominant guards and offensively challenged frontcourt players. The SF position might be the most important position in today’s NBA, and prior to trading for Luol Deng midway through Kyrie’s 3rd season, he had never played with anything close to resembling a legit NBA small forward.

There are serious issues with how this rebuild has been handled. Some of that was bad luck and/or bad timing. It’s an excuse, sure, but it doesn’t make the mediocre talent of these last few drafts any less real. There have been moves I liked at the time they were made, only to watch them fall apart in real time right in front of us. There fingers to point and blame to be spread all around. Nobody is immune.

For the Cavaliers to be successful going forward, I think two things need to happen. One, Kyrie needs to commit long term. Two, he and Dion Waiters to need to spend a lot of time together in the offseason working on their chemistry. It will be tough, as Kyrie will have Team USA obligations to take up plenty of his time. But that’s the one way for them to salvage their future together and to make something of next season. It’s not impossible, but it’s an uphill climb that’s going to require a lot of work. We’ll see what happens.

***

The NFL draft is getting closer, and I’m no closer to knowing who the Browns should take. Usually as the draft gets closer, I have my mind made up on what I want to see happen. But for whatever reason, this year I have no clue. I’m as lost as ever about the potential of the QBs at the top of the draft. I really have no clue what the teams in front of the Browns are going to do, either. I’m about as lost as ever.

Not that it matters what I think, of course. And that might be my mindset with this draft. I’m not going to worry about what I want, and instead just be patient and see what Ray Farmer does in his first draft as GM. I’m willing to just sit back and let whatever happens, happen. Unless the Browns go completely off script and take a player projected much later in the draft, I’m generally ok with pretty much any of the players who will be available to them.

***

A little Game of Thrones talk? *******SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!********* With Breaking Bad gone, Game of Thrones might be my favorite show on TV right now. And last Sunday’s episode was my favorite episode of the series so far. Never in all of my life as a television observer has there been a more satisfying death than that of King Joffrey. That’s a morbid thing to say, but it’s a testament to the writers, directors, and the supreme acting ability of Jack Gleeson. I’ve heard some rumors that Gleeson might quit acting, and that would be a shame. His portrayal of Joffrey was brilliant. They literally could not have found a better actor for the part. The way he blended petulance and indignation, with his head-cocking swagger and malevolence was unparalleled. And this episode did an amazing job of juxtaposing the worst of Joffrey and the best of Tyrion. The whole wedding scene was executed so well, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, with no clue whatsoever as to what was about to happen.

Having said that, though, I think I’m going to miss King Joffrey. He was just so much fun to hate and root against. He was a pure evil character, one of the worst in TV history. But you tuned in every week just hoping for his demise. And now that’s come, it was every bit as satisfying as I hoped it would be. But I’m definitely going to miss rooting against him.

So who killed Joffrey? I haven’t read the books, and I BEG of you guys to PLEASE not spoil it in the comments. I have five prime suspects as to who it could be:

  1. Sansa – This is certainly who I hope it was, but I’m not optimistic she’s brave or strong enough to have pulled it off. But she had more reason to do it than anyone. The look on her face as she had to sit there and watch as Joffrey mocked her family and took pure jubilation in the deaths of them all was heartbreaking.
  2. Lady Olenna – In retrospect, her comments to Sansa about deaths at weddings now looking pretty suspicious. And she clearly was no fan of Joffrey and found the wedding display to be completely distasteful. She seems cunning enough to pull something like this off, too. But I question the timing of it. If Joffrey died before the wedding was consummated, then Margaery isn’t yet Queen, right? This seems to create a power vacuum at the throne. If she was going to poison Joffrey, wouldn’t she have waited until after the wedding night?
  3. Oberyn Martell – He obviously has a serious axe to grind with the Lannisters. He seems hell bent on revenge for his sister’s brutal death at the hands of the Mountain. Could he have made his first strike this quickly? It’s possible, but not likely.
  4. Littlefinger – This is probably a stretch, as we haven’t seen Littlefinger for quite some time. But we know how much he loved Cat Stark. We know he was also quite fond of Sansa. Could this be his retribution for the Lannister’s role in the Red Wedding? We also know he has his eyes fixated on the iron throne. Killing Joffrey before Margaery was formally made Queen creates a lot of questions about who holds the rightful claim to the throne. This could be exactly what he wants.
  5. Tywin Lannister – We know how much he loves power. As Hand of the King, he’s been playing the part, but Joffrey has been a petulant thorn in his side. Joffrey’s decision to behead Ned Stark started the costly war with the North. At every turn Joffrey’s indifference for politics has made Tywin’s job much harder. Now that Joffrey is gone, the Hand of the King will serve in his place until the rightful heir is named. This means Tywin can rule unchecked by anyone.

Another outside possibility is the drunken fool who told Sansa to go with him. I find it hard to believe he could be capable of pulling off something like this, but he certainly seemed to know right away what was going on. He may not have been the mastermind, but it seems like he might have at least known it was going to happen and have been in on it to some degree.

Either way, I love that something this monumental happened in just the second episode of the season. And it’s even more surprising because it happened so close to the Red Wedding. I never imagined Joffrey would meet his inevitable doom so soon after Robb Stark’s death. Just some really great writing by George RR Martin and adaptation by the show runners. I can’t wait to see what else Season 4 has in store for us!

  • Pat Leonard

    Even with the Cavs lofting a stinkbomb this season, I am still looking forward to the NBA playoffs. I always enjoy rooting against the Heat, and I think there are some potentially fun matchups both in the East and the West. Optimally I’d love to see:
    1st round: Heat/Wizards, Mavs/Spurs, Warriors/Clippers, okay any of the west matchups are great, Pacers/Hawks (just how bad are the Pacers right now… could they really be worse than the Hawks?)

    2nd Round: Heat/Bulls or Heat/Nets, Thunder/Clippers or Thunder/Warriors, Rockets/Spurs or Blazers/Spurs.

  • Dave

    I’ll go even further. In my opinion, Kyrie Irving is not the best player on the Cavs.

    He’s certainly the flashiest player. He does really spectacular things with the ball in his hands. But his game wasn’t actually that effective this year at winning games:
    - If you go by 3PT%, Hawes, Miles, Delladova, and Waiters were better.
    - If you go by 2PT%, Zeller, Varejao, Miles, Thompson, Hawes, and Delladova were better.

    - If you go by TS%, Zeller, Miles, Hawes, and Delladova were better.
    - If you go by Turnovers/48, Irving was actually the worst player on the entire team.
    - If you go by Steals/48, Miles was better.
    - If you go by personal fouls/48, Deng, Bynum, and Jack were better.- The advanced stats guys think Varejao, even with his injuries, is by far the best player on the Cavs. They put Thompson as second-best, and Irving a distant third.

    The only reason that you might think Irving is best is that he scores the most points per 48 minutes. However, that’s just because he takes the most shots per 48 minutes. He may have the talent to be an exceptional NBA player, but right now he isn’t one, at least when he’s playing for the Cavs.

  • Woods aka Holdenbeach1

    Gary Owen – you are correct. The books are excellent. I feel no need to reveal any spoilers for the TV only viewers. The only advice I could provide to you is “watch the first episode of GoT” instead of a random 15 minutes in Season 4. The first episode is an excellent start to the series. The opening sequence inspired my wife and I to read the books. The behind the scenes pieces that show how and where they film that are available on demand are very interesting as well.

    Andrew – excellent work. Enjoy the show. The AV club has recaps of GoT episodes for experts (those that have read the books) as well as newbies (TV only viewers) if you are interested.

    George R.R. Martin asked the show runners this question – “who is Jon Snow’s mother?” They anticipated this question and had an answer but will not reveal it.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    I think the Cavs need a dynamic offensive frontcourt player. CP3 has had the luxury of playing with David West and Blake Griffin his whole career. I think Kyrie looks a LOT different playing alongside someone like that. It would help a lot more than having the 2nd best player being another undersized ball dominant guard.

    Also, having that frontcourt scorer would make Dion a lot better, too. It’s not just a Kyrie thing.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    LOL, cherry picking stats is fun! So who is the best player on the Cavs? By your method it could be Hawes, Zeller, Miles, or Deng. Probably Zeller, because he was best in two of the stats you used, right?

    How about this….Kyrie leads the team in minutes, scoring, assists, Efficiency Rating, AST%, Win Shares, and steals.

    Also, could you please cite the “advanced stats guys” who think Kyrie is the 3rd best player and Tristan is the 2nd best player on the team?

  • mgbode

    see: Golden State Warriors w/ Curry.

    if we are building around Kyrie, then they are the team we should be emulating. I also agree with Andrew that we need a frontcourt scoring presence. Currently, Tristan Thompson is (by far in %) our best shooter inside 10ft. That is not going to cut it.

    For recent example of how a frontcourt scorer helps change team dynamics see: Charlotte Bobcats (soon to be Hornets again).

  • Steve

    So we need another ho-hum all-star, or maybe even a MVP candidate. And being that Irving is nowhere near Paul defensively, well, we’re going to need someone to clean up on that end. That’s a lot, maybe even more than a lot.

  • Steve

    So we need to add a Bogut, Lee, Iguodala, and Thompson. More ho-hum roster moves. If we’ve got these moves in even a long-term pipeline, great. And I won’t put it on Irving that Grant never put the right pieces around him.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Andrew Schnitkey

    Of course it’s a lot. Who said putting good basketball teams together was easy? There’s a reason it is so extremely rare for an NBA team to win a title with just one All-Star.

  • Steve

    Again with moving the bar. I’m talking about your run of the mill 50 win team. Good, but certainly on the outside when looking at teams you actually expect to win the title. We’re still an all-star plus quite a bit more from even that.