The Cavaliers summer league team played two games over the weekend in Las Vegas. On Friday night, they beat the Milwaukee Bucks 70-68 in a one-versus-two matchup of the 2014 NBA Draft. Yesterday, they topped the Spurs by a 82-70 count. There was plenty to be pleased with for wine and gold fans. For years, the summer league has given us a window into what to expect from key contributors, and this season is no different. In addition to No. 1 overall picks Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, there are multiple other players that will either be on the roster or have a very real chance at making it somewhere if not in Cleveland. Here are some of my thoughts from the weekend that was.
Slim Good-Bennett: Let’s start with Anthony Bennett, who looks like a completely different player. He’s no longer playing timid, and he’s lost a noticeable amount of weight. The first thing to mention is that he’s been attacking the glass with authority. In the two games over the weekend, Bennett hauled in 21 rebounds (17 defensive), including eight in rapid succession to start off the game against San Antonio. We saw Bennett run and fill the lanes for fastbreaking thunderous dunks. Probably the most promising development overall, however, is his better form and comfort on the perimeter. Last season, just about every shot he took from long range looked rushed and panicked. In his home away from home in Las Vegas, he’s used the dribble to crossover a couple of defenders and either open space for a long jumper or a driving lane to shoot or dump off to a teammate. AB has also rediscovered his ability to draw fouls and get to the line (4-of-7 in two games, but several non-shooting fouls called while posting up). In all, Bennett shot 11-of-24 (2-for-8 from three) for 28 points to go with 21 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and just three turnovers in 62 minutes. Bennett still has a way to go with consistent defensive burn1, offensive shot selection, and conditioning, but I’m expecting him to be a key contributor this coming season.
Gettin’ Wiggy with it: For Andrew Wiggins, I’m seeing a lot of the same things I discovered while doing film study on him leading up to the draft. His offense at this point can still be quite deliberate. There are only a few different elements that Wiggins is totally comfortable with at this level. His left hand handle is still incredibly loose, and it caused him to turn the ball over or lose possession at least on a few occasions. He also airballed a couple of perimeter shots in the Milwaukee game on Friday. Overall, shooting just 10-for-29 is a little discouraging, but there are certainly substantially positive takeaways from both games. First, Andrew did manage to take 14 trips to the line in 60 minutes over the weekend (making nine) as his right-hand attack of the basket worked like a charm. Wiggins can use his left for short bursts from mid-range and in, but he still prefers to shoot it with his right hand, lending himself to getting blocked. While I didn’t see this that much at Kansas, Wiggins’ step-back game is actually much more polished than most of his offensive repertoire. Most of the mid-range and three-point shots that he looked good on were of this variety. Wiggins totaled 31 points, six rebounds, two steals, and three blocks for the pair of games. Once again, however, he failed to notch even a single assist. His play-making ability remains limited to this point. He’s a finisher. On the defensive end, he bothered both fellow draft picks Jabari Parker and Kyle Anderson. Parker was 5-for-11 with 17 points with four turnovers, while Anderson was only 1-for-7 in 25 minutes of play, clearly frustrated by the lack of space that Wiggins allowed him to work. Wiggins got into the passing lanes quite a bit for deflections. Overall, I’m satisfied with what I’ve seen out of him so far.
Eagle-eye Cherry: The star of the show on Sunday was neither Bennett nor Wiggins for the Cavs. It was Will Cherry, a 23-year-old, 6-foot-1-inch point guard out of Montana. Last season, Cherry after going undrafted went to the D-League. Playing on a broken foot in 18 games for the Canton Charge, he averaged 11.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.4 steals in just over 30 minutes per night while shooting nearly 45% from the field. On Sunday, Cherry was active and up-tempo, slashing through the Spurs’ D for several opportunities at the rim. He also took a few outside shots near the end of the shot clock and knocked them in. Cherry had a stretch in the fourth quarter where he rattled off 14 straight points for the Cavs. Long story short, this guy belongs on somebody’s NBA roster. On Sunday, Cherry posted 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting (3-of-5 from deep) along with seven rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes. On Friday, he was 3-of-5 shooting for seven points and four rebounds. Somebody just found themselves a third-string point guard. It may not be the Cavaliers, depending on how the roster shakes out, but I wouldn’t fault them for giving him a shot. Tomorrow may come to take him away, but I wish that he, that he could stay.2
Don’t believe me about Will Cherry? Fellow Oakland guard Damian Lillard is convinced.3
My brother @willcherry5 was seeeerrrrrvin today. Get that man a contract! Somebody! Anybody!
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 13, 2014
- Joe Harris didn’t play at all on Friday, but on Sunday, he shot 2-of-6, missing all three outside shots that he took in 21 minutes.
- Matthew Dellavedova gave us more of the same, and that’s not a bad thing. With this roster, he’s trying to do a little too much (as evidenced by his 8 turnovers), but overall he’s doing a nice job in making some plays setting up his teammates. Delly shot just 4-of-14 on the weekend, but he went to the free throw line eight times on Friday. He also pulled down 10 rebounds and handed out 13 assists in his 67 out of a possible 80 minutes on the floor. I have no concerns about Delly being the team’s backup point guard this season with the roster as is.
- The two big men for the Cavaliers, Alex Kirk of New Mexico and Jack Cooley of Notre Dame, each had their moments. Kirk played better on Friday, scoring 6 points and grabbing 12 boards and 2 steals. Cooley dropped in 15 on Sunday to go with 5 boards. Overall, Kirk had 12 points and 14 boards on 5-of-9 shooting, and Cooley had 19 and 10 on 8-of-13 shooting. Cooley (23) is undersized at 6’9″ and played last season in Turkey. Kirk (22) is a rookie after four years (he redshirted one year) at New Mexico. As a 7-footer and an award-winning defender in the Mountain West, I think Kirk has the better shot to make a NBA roster. It won’t likely be the Cavs, unless they are unable to grab one of the free agent centers remaining. The wine and gold, however, do need someone with a large frame to hammer with the likes of Hibbert, Lopez, and Howard besides Anderson Varejao and Brendan Haywood now that Tyler Zeller is no longer in the picture.
- David Blatt isn’t just sitting back and relaxing at summer league. Lots of standing as opposed to sitting, a foul at the end of the game when his team was up three on Friday, and the emphasis on ball movement is obvious.
Next up for the Cavs summer league squad is a matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers tonight at 8pm EST.
(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)