July 24, 2014

No, it’s not that difficult for the Cavs to have max contract space

david griffin

There appears to be quite a deal of confusion about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ salary cap situation. Let’s try to clear the air with some math, shall we?

Just last week, GM David Griffin said the team could clear space for a max contract “just by waving our hand and making it happen.” Seems simple enough, no?

And then today, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst grouped the Cavs with the Rockets and Bulls that would “need to execute significant shuffling and perhaps even offload star players to clear [the maximum] $22.2 million.” Well that’s a bit of a different picture. [Read more...]

Rumor: Tristan Thompson on the block this summer

David Griffin has not shied away from the fact that his roster is due for some significant retooling this offseason. One player that could be traded due to a lack of fit moving forward is fourth-year power forward Tristan Thompson. Joe Kotoch of Probasketballdraft.com reports that this is a very real possibility. His veteran post mentor going along with him could also happen.

The Cavaliers have a logjam in the post with Thompson, Varejao, Zeller, and Anthony Bennett all needing playing time. It’s also possible that the team could resign center Spencer Hawes. This frontcourt as currently constructed lacks size, shot-blocking presence, and defensive prowess. While Varejao is the team’s best low-post defender, he continues to struggle when guarding the more physical centers in the league. The Cavaliers likely need to get some more offensive skill and shot-blocking down low if they hope to become a more well-rounded team.

Thompson averaged 11.7 points and 9.2 rebounds this season in 31.6 minutes per contest while completing his second straight 82-game season. His only real improvement came at the foul line where he improved 61% to 69%. Aside from that, Thompson plateaued offensively as he adjusted to switching shooting hands in the offseason. It raised concerns about his long-term potential as a starter. It may be the case that Thompson’s ceiling is an energy first big off the bench. Thompson can be extended this offseason, but his current contract pays him $5.4 million this season with a qualifying offer of $7.2 million next season.  Varejao has struggled to stay healthy the past several years, but he has produced when on the floor. The 31-year-old Brazilian averaged 8.4 points and 9.7 rebounds on 49.5% shooting in 27.7 minutes in 65 games this season. He enters the final year of his contract set to earn $9.8 million, though there is a $4 million buyout on his deal that could serve as instant savings for a cap-strapped team.

Kotoch also added that the Cavaliers could be in on the Kevin Love sweepstakes in Minnesota as he is just one year from free agency. Any package the Cavaliers could put together would likely include both Thompson and Varejao along with draft picks and other assets. The Cavaliers currently have the 9th best odds heading into Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery and are most likely to end up with the 9th pick in a deeper draft than the past few years.

While Kotoch seems convinced the Cavaliers have enough ammunition, I’m not so sure. If a trade would take Waiters as well, it really strips down basically everything on this team not named “Kyrie Irving”. If the Cavs could pull off such a deal while holding onto their talented backcourt, it would be a huge success.

Related: History Repeating: Mike Brown takes the fall… again

Cavalier Offseason Wishlist: Frontcourt

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.

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Late Opening Night, Joe Banner’s Office, HIMYM, and Cloud Nothings: While We’re Waiting

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I had a dream last night that the Cavaliers got into the playoffs and beat the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. It was one of those ultra-realistic dreams, too. Like, the kind where even when you wake up and you know it was a dream, you still think it might have been real and you check your phone to see if was actually reality. Well, it wasn’t reality……yet? I guess it depends on what time the dream took place. If it was before midnight, it was still March 31st and I think it was a prophecy. If it came after midnight, though, it would have been April 1st and thus just a cruel April Fool’s prank my body and mind played on me. I guess in a couple weeks we’ll find out if I am a prophet or a fool.

Oh, hey, there was Indians baseball on last night! Too bad I missed most of it….

It’s completely ridiculous for MLB to make an EST team open the season at 10:00 pm – I am absolutely furious about this. I can’t remember the last time I missed an Indians’ opening day game, but I had to miss last night’s opener. My alarm goes off at 5:00 am and there’s just no way I can stay up after 1:00 am on a Monday night. I realize some people can and do, but it just seems like an absolute slap in the face from MLB to make the Indians play their first game at 10:00 on the east coast. If you’re going to make an east coast team open the season on the west coast, at least have the game played at 1:00 or 4:00 local time so all fans can enjoy the game.

Now, having said all that, there’s really nothing like opening day in baseball. Yeah, I love opening night in the NBA, and the first NFL games are always fun. But there’s just something special about the start of the baseball season. It announces the arrival of spring with authority and the romanticized nature of the sport lends itself perfectly to the pomp and circumstance of the moment. [Read more...]

Cavs vs Pistons Behind the Box Score: A game-winner for Dion

dion_winner

The Cavaliers were on the road, playing the second night of a back-to-back. For the first three quarters the team more or less played like it. The Cavaliers fell down by 16 points and it looked like that would pretty much be it.

But the Cavaliers got a surprise offensive explosion from Matthew Dellavedova, Anderson Varejao was his old rebounding-machine self, and Jarrett Jack had an enormous fourth quarter to lead the Cavaliers back to within striking distance.

The Cavs got a couple huge stops in the final minutes setting up the finale. With the Cavs down four, Jack converted an and-one to bring the Cavs within one with 53 seconds left. After tough defense forced a bad Josh Smith shot, the ball went out of bounds off Delly’s hands, giving the Pistons the ball with 28.5 seconds left. Rather than fouling, Mike Brown chose to trust his defense and Brandon Jennings missed an off balance jumper. Luol Deng grabbed the rebound and the Cavs called a timeout with 3.2 seconds remaining. That set up the real fun stuff.

Once again the Cavaliers found themselves in a critical inbound situation. After the initial Cavs timeout, the Pistons used two consecutive timeouts in a bit of gamesmanship. Then Luol Deng once again couldn’t find anyone open and had to use a timeout of his own to avoid the 5-second call. On their second try, Deng found Dion Waiters cutting to the corner. Dion took a quick dribble, stepped to his left and pulled up for a 19-foot jumper. And he drilled it. The Cavaliers erupted in joy and this team pulled off one of the more improbable victories of the season.

Now lets look at some numbers: [Read more...]

#CavsRank: No. 9 Anderson Varejao, the Wild Thing

varejao

The date was July 8, 2004. It was a Thursday night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were reeling. It seemed impossible, yet the outcome was simultaneously probable. Some would argue even likely. The Cavaliers took a major risk, and they were burned in a big way.

It was that Thursday night when restricted free agent Carlos Boozer informed the Cavaliers that despite their wink-wink arrangement, he had verbally agreed to an offer sheet with the Utah Jazz. To this day there remains plenty of blame to go around to everyone involved, but the simple fact is that Cavaliers GM Jim Paxson didn’t have to let it come to this.

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Your Post-Trade Deadline Cleveland Cavaliers Viewing Guide

Wut

Because masochism isn’t for everyone

I hate winter.

Seriously.

I woke up today at 7:00 a.m., barely able to breath for the fifth straight day. I spent the next two minutes trying to vacate my nasal cavity of what I suspect was approximately a fetrick muckton of the crustiest boogers known to man. I then turned towards the window directly adjacent to my bathroom sink and peeped through the closed blinds to see that once again it had snowed overnight.

[Insert barely coherent mumbled obscenities here]

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While We’re Waiting… Are the Cavs buyers or sellers?

Cleveland sports fans are waiting. Thus, while we’re all waiting, the WFNY editors thought you might enjoy reading. Because you never know how long we might be waiting. So here are assorted reading goodies for you to enjoy. Send more good links for tomorrow’s edition to tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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My good friend at FTS shares the usual options, then mentions this possibility too. “And what if the Cavs are actually buyers? Are they willing to put Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and Anthony Bennett in deals for star type players, even as they have put together really good games of late? You would think so. But what about short term deals for guys like Pau Gasol? The team already went out and added Luol Deng. If the team really is hoping to make the playoffs, doesn’t it make sense to give yourself every opportunity to get there?” [David Zavac/Fear The Sword] [Read more...]

Game Preview: Cavs finish first half with pivotal road game in Detroit

Cavaliers vs PistonsAfter yet another surprising victory, the Cleveland Cavaliers have just one game left before the All-Star Break. And it’s against a familiar and troublesome opponent.

Tonight, the Cavs (19-33) will look to achieve their first four-game winning streak since LeBron James played in Cleveland. They’ll attempt to do so in Detroit against the Pistons, who have won seven straight contests against their Central Division rivals.

Not to be out-done by last week’s firing of Cavs GM Chris Grant, the Pistons factually fired their head coach Maurice Cheeks on Monday. They’ve actually been playing better ball of late, however, and beat the San Antonio Spurs later Monday night.

Can the Cavaliers somehow pull off another surprise? What have the Pistons been up to this year? How do the two franchises compare overall? Let’s explore all that in a game preview. [Read more...]

Luol Deng unlikely to resign with Cavs this offseason per report

luol_deng_cavsThe last 24 hours have been very Cleveland Cavaliers-heavy at ESPN.com. While Brian Windhorst was second to confirm Chris Grant’s firing, there also was a detailed article on Anthony Bennett’s next steps for growth.

In a separate article focused on Bennett, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein also shared some rumblings about Luol Deng and the Cavs summer of 2014. Here is the entire paragraph midway through the Bennett article, with emphasis added by me:

That’s right: What was supposed to be a season exciting enough to make LeBron James think seriously about leaving Miami to come back to the Cavs has descended into such farce that sources close to the situation are already saying that there’s little-to-no chance Deng will agree to stay once he hits free agency.

Deng, who turns 29 in April, is an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. Previously, there had somewhat positive indications of Deng’s future in Cleveland. He had said he was fine with waiting until the summer to talk.

The Cavs, of course, do own Deng’s Bird Rights. That means they can offer him a more lucrative deal than any other team. Multiple sites previously reported that Deng turned down a three-year $30 million offer from the Bulls, perhaps leading to the eventual trade.

Given the unlikely nature of a resigning, GM David Griffin could look to move Deng this season. Since he was traded within the last two months, however, he cannot be combined with other assets by the Cavs in a theoretical subsequent trade. Cap expert Larry Coon has a great FAQ about this exact detail.

Another big part of the team’s offseason (and next 13 days leading up to the trade deadline) will be the status of Anderson Varejao. The 31-year-old big man has a $4 million guarantee out of his $9.8 million contract for the 2014-15 season. He could be an attractive trade piece for a contending team.

[Related: Dan Gilbert needs to abandon playoff goals for this season]

Photo: Mark Duncan, AP

Scott Raab discusses Chris Grant’s firing – WFNY Podcast – 2014-02-07

WFNY Podcast LogoIt’s always great to have Scott Raab’s perspective when big things happen. We spent about an hour talking about all the different dynamics surrounding the Cavaliers and their decision to dismiss Chris Grant from the team.

As always, it was a discussion that went beyond what is normally covered in the rapid-fire sports talk settings we’re normally used to.

Check out this episode

Things that annoy me about the Cavaliers right now

Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown, Chris Grant

The season from hell hath unleashed its versatile fury all over the Cleveland fan base during the past week. From last Sunday’s Suns meltdown to Saturday’s array of hoops-related excitement, these truly are dark days in Cavs world.

There are many, many things that annoy me about this Cavs franchise and its current dysfunctional state. Let’s breeze through some of the items that come to mind:

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NBA News: Carrick Felix out 6-8 weeks, Anderson Varejao questionable for Tuesday

DSC_0503Rookie guard Carrick Felix is out for 6-8 weeks and Anderson Varejao is questionable for Tuesday’s game against New Orleans, the Cavaliers announced this afternoon.

Felix, the No. 33 pick in this June’s draft, left his game with the Canton Charge on Saturday. An MRI revealed a left patellar stress fracture in his left knee. He is out from all basketball activity for the time being.

The 23-year-old guard out of North Carolina State received three guaranteed years from the Cavaliers this offseason. After a solid performance in the Las Vegas Summer League, he’s played 26 minutes with the Cavs and 259 with the Charge in the D-League.

Varejao, the team’s heart and soul, had a scary incident on Sunday in the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns. He rolled his left knee on another freak play, but the diagnosis is only a contusion and hyperextension. He will be fitted with a brace to hopefully play and is a 50-50 call for tonight’s contest.

The 30-year-old Brazilian stayed in the remainder of the terrible game on Sunday night. But he finished with just two points on 1-for-9 shooting. He’s averaging 10.4 points, 13.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists in the last 16 games since Andrew Bynum’s suspension. He already has far surpassed his most minutes played since the 2009-10 season.

In the event Varejao cannot play, head coach Mike Brown stated that Tyler Zeller, the team’s second-year big man, would “most likely” get the start. Other options include Henry Sims and Tristan Thompson—the latter of which would force Earl Clark or No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett into extended time at the power forward spot.

[Related: Cavs provide another one for the record books]

Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY

Cavs vs. Bucks Behind The Box Score: A sweet honest-to-goodness victory

BtBS Bucks

Don’t you wish the Cavs could play the Milwaukee Bucks every night? Friday night felt like a beautiful dream compared to the rest of this dreadful half of a season.

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The Diff: C.J. Miles, Cleveland Cavaliers difference-maker

The Diff is your (usually) weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sport statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Two weeks ago, I recapped all of the Cleveland Indians pitching moves this offseason. Today, I’m writing about an unheralded Cleveland Cavaliers hero.

The Diff

C.J. Miles is an inconsistent NBA player, generally regarded as a near-average shooting guard. He’s been around the block and has a decent amount of career minutes for only being 26 years old. This season, he played fairly miserably for a solid six-week stretch. The season is exactly halfway over so that’s a pretty large chunk of the total games played. But yet, somehow, he’s numerically been the Cavs’ biggest difference-maker on the court. This post will attempt to show how exactly that’s happened. [Read more...]

Cavs vs. Mavericks Behind The Box Score: Another inbound play failure dooms Cavaliers

Jose Calderon, Loul DengAfter a very positive five-game road trip, the Cavaliers started their opportunity-ridden five-game home stand with a disappointing performance on Monday. Despite a furious second-half rally, they couldn’t quite get close enough and lost 102-97 to the Dallas Mavericks.

Somehow, miraculously, after two missed Dallas free throws, the Cavs trailed by just three points with 2.8 seconds left. But for the second time this season – although not Earl Clark’s fault this time – the Cavs failed to inbound the basketball following a timeout. Jarrett Jack could not complete the pass above Mavs center Brandan Wright. The five-second violation sent Twitter into a meltdown and ended the game.

But the Mavericks absolutely dominated the first half. Considering how terrible the bench played, really, the Cavaliers didn’t deserve a victory on Monday. They played with much more tenacity in the final 24 minutes. But it was too little, too late. Again. Let’s get into the numbers. [Read more...]

Cavs vs. Nuggets Behind The Box Score: Road trip ends on a high note

brown nuggetsThere’s no denying that this was a monster victory, likely the best of the season.

To complete a five-game Western Conference road trip, the Cleveland Cavaliers just beat the West’s hottest team. A 42-point second quarter led the way for a 117-109 victory over in Denver against a Nuggets squad that was 6-1 in their last seven games.

Entering the road swing, the Cavs were just 2-15 on the road all season. They finished the trip with a 3-2 record, more than doubling their previous total of road wins.

Tristan Thompson had a very efficient offensive night while the Cavs bigs dominated again against the Nuggets. The guards led the way early on. Overall, it was a great performance as the team heads into the holiday weekend. [Read more...]

WFNY Stats & Info: Cavs frontcourt’s potential without Bynum

andy tristanIt’s no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers were not a good basketball team with since-departed Andrew Bynum on the court. Heck, they obviously haven’t been good overall with their 12-23 record, but it was particular awful with the current free agent.

In Bynum’s 480 minutes, the Cavs had a -11.3 net efficiency rating per 100 possessions. That’d easily be the worst team in the NBA. In the remaining 1,240 minutes this season, the efficiency differential is just -3.0, a mark resembling that of a 30-win team, which might just be enough for the playoffs in the year’s historically bad Eastern Conference.

But that alone wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to dig even further into the specific frontcourt combinations that the Cavaliers have used this season. I then looked at all of the iterations of playing time between Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. The data was parsed with an eye toward the corresponding plus-minus points and net rebounding data. It’s not easy to track possessions in this way, so I averaged them out per 48 minutes of playing time.

My goal: To look only at Cavs lineups with Thompson and/or Varejao on the court, but never with Bynum. These are the options the team will rely upon going forward in the second half. So their past success (or failures) could tell a sign for the future.

cavs frontcourt plus minus

Looking at only the highlighted combinations, they represent 63% of total minutes this season: 1,077 overall. And, to great fortune for the team’s future: They have exactly a zero plus-minus thus far. They’ve been perfectly average. That’s awesome. That should be music to Cavs’ fans ears.

Obviously, this excludes the lineups we’ve seen without Thompson, Varejao or Bynum on the court. Those will still be possible going forward, so their issues aren’t just immediately alleviated. The Cavs have been very bad during those minutes. Still, it’s pleasing to know of the positive results.

On the rebounding side, the combined Thompson/Varejao lineups — representing 39% of minutes — out-rebound opponents by 6.4 boards per 48 minutes. That’s elite and very impressive. It’s perhaps in line with Varejao’s recent eight-game rebounding hot streak. Although the Cavs are an average rebounding team overall, they’ve been below average in every other lineup iteration.

The biggest factor for the future could just be the health of the team’s best players stars, specifically Varejao. He personally has a -3.7 plus-minus per 48 minutes in the last four years in 3,708 minutes despite all of the franchise’s terrible struggles. If he can stay on the court — and Bynum gone — then this Cavs team could truly have a fighting chance with solid new addition Luol Deng.

[More Andrew Bynum thoughts from WFNY's Scott Sargent: The end of an era]

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cavalier Film Room: The D-Waiters Zone and Stale Inbound Plays

When we last gathered in the film room, we talked about the Cavaliers’ woes on the defensive glass. This week, we’re going to look no further than last night’s comeback effort that just fell short against the Indiana Pacers and the role Dion Waiters played in it. We’ll also look at that final failed inbound play. As always, if you have a player or recurring theme that you think I should take a more in-depth look at, feel free to contact me at kirk@waitingfornextyear.com.

WFNY Cavaliers Film Room The Cavaliers faced the Indiana Pacers last night without Kyrie Irving or Jarrett Jack, and as would be expected, they lost. What wasn’t expected, however, was the wine and gold rallying from 16 points down to briefly take the lead and lose a heart-breaker by 4 points, 82-78. Dion Waiters took over the game for a short stretch, scoring 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and dishing out a couple of key crunch-time assists. Let’s take a look at what the D-Waiters Zone looked like, and talk about how Dion can live in there more often. [Read more...]

The Diff: The Cavs and their terrible, horrible offense

The Diff is your (usually) weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Welcome to 2014. Two weeks ago, I wrote about Omer Asik trade rumors and the Cavaliers. Today, I’m writing about the Cavs’ no good, very bad offense.

The Diff

The Cleveland Cavaliers somehow won last night to improve to 11-21. Within this disappointing season, there have already been a number of issues on and off the court. The most troubling aspect of this year’s terrible start might just have to be the team’s abysmal offense. Overall, the Cavs now sport the NBA’s 27th-best offensive efficiency rating at 97.0 points per 100 possessions. That might surprise you a bit based on the presence of All-Star Kyrie Irving. But 2013-14 has proved to be a collective offensive mess of epic proportions. [Read more...]