April 19, 2014

Cavs vs Pelicans Behind The Box Score: Are We There Yet?

BtBS PelicansAre we there yet? Have we hit rock bottom? Are we at the point of inevitable change? Is this season over yet?

The Cavaliers scored 29 points in the first quarter for the second straight game….and for the second straight game they followed that up with a whole lot of nothing. The Cavaliers offense is an absolute nightmare. And when things go bad on offense, they stop playing defense. And when you don’t play offense or defense you get crushed at home in consecutive games.

The Cavaliers went 1-4 on their homestretch after their successful west coast road trip, which is really the most Cavaliers thing ever. I’m not sure what else there really is to say, other than this is a really, really, really bad basketball team and we’re stuck with them for 3 more months. Buckle up! [Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: Final Season Rankings

Lillard

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor. [Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: Harkless, Valanciunas, Leonard add depth to rookie class

WFNYhoopslogoWith the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

Six losses in a row have buried Lillard and the Blazers. Portland now sits 6 games back of the 8 seed Lakers, and is for all purposes out of the playoff hunt. Injuries to LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum have put more pressure on the rookie point guard to carry the load for the struggling Blazers. [Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: Harkless emerging, Valanciunas showing signs of life

Moe-Harkless-MagicWith the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

After winning two in a row and climbing back in the hunt for the West’s 8 seed, Lillard and the Blazers have stumbled to two losses in a row, keeping them three games back of the Lakers for the final playoff spot1.

Lillard hasn’t been quite his usual phenomenal self of late, but is clearly still the top rookie. While there haven’t been many games of late that “wow”, the Portland point guard is still averaging 17.6 points and 6.2 assists in his last five games. But for Portland to make the playoffs they’re going to need to lean more on Lillard.

Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge are two exceptional options for Portland, but the fact of the matter is Lillard is heartbeat of that team, and if he isn’t on top of his game the Blazers will struggle. In Portland’s latest loss to Brooklyn, Lillard struggled shooting from the floor (despite being 3-5 from downtown), and turned the ball over four times.

In the Blazers last five wins, Lillard is averaging just 2 turnovers a game compared to the nearly 4 he is averaging in their last five losses. For as dynamic as he is, Lillard must also be efficient to keep Portland out of the lottery and move them into the playoffs.

2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2)

Look out — the New Orleans Hornets have won 3 out of their last 4 thanks in large part to play of last year’s top pick. Last week I mentioned how a signature win over a premier team can ignite a team and it’s fan base, and boy does that seem to be happening right now in NOLA.

After Anthony Davis’ game winning tip in over Boston, the future Pelicans have won 3 out of 4 with the other wins coming in hard fought game against Memphis and a 24 point beat down of Denver to snap the Nugs’ 15 game winning streak.

Davis has been everything you would expect he’d be over that stretch. He’s been nothing flashy, but he is averaging just under 14 points and 10 rebounds a game during this favorable run for the Hornets and is doing so on over 60% shooting. It’s efficiency like that and hysterical talking unibrow commercials like this that is making me come around on the Hornets’ young star.

3. Maurice Harkless (Last Week: 3)

Harkless was a straight monster last Friday against the Thunder. Not only did he have a career high 25 points, but how about 9 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4 blocks as well? Moe Harkless was the best small forward on the court that night, and that includes Kevin Durant.

Harkless has become far and away the best scoring small forward of this draft class and this last week he was thrown into an Advanced Placement NBA Defense class having to run up against LeBron and Durant. The St. John’s product kept the league’s two biggest stars from going off but each still managed 25 plus points on over 50 percent from the field.

As each game passes Harkless is looking more and more like the real deal. Scoring from the wing is vital in the NBA and Orlando seems to be on the right track filling that void with Harkless.

4. Harrison Barnes (Last Week: NR)

Barnes continues to chip in for the playoff bound Warriors. He’s not scoring 20 a night or single handedly influencing games, but he’s scoring efficiently when called upon and playing strong defense for Marc Jackson and company.

Barnes is very reminiscent of Kawhi Leonard last season for the Spurs. Both are dependable to knock down open shots, play good defense on the wing, rebound, and have the athleticism to make the big play. Neither is called on to do too much, and simply is called on to just play within the system.

The Warriors have won 6 of their last 9, a stretch that has seen the steady Barnes average 10.4 points on 54% shooting. Barnes has Warriors fans very stable at the moment, not too many highs and not too many lows from the rookie from UNC.

5. Jonas Valanciunas (Last Week: NR)

After a strong start to the season, Valanciunas hit the typical rookie wall in the winter months, but has bounced back nicely of late for Toronto. The bruising big man out of Lithuania has been in double figures in 9 of his last 10 games. Big V seems to be settling into his starting role for the lowly Raptors, logging 27.5 minutes a night during the Raptors last 10.

Valanciunas is earning a reputation around the league for being an absolute pest. The way in which he throws his body around underneath the glass has sparked a couple different altercations in the last month. He’s becoming a guy you hate to play against, but would love on your team.

He’s not going to be a star, and is still behind Tristan Thompson who the Cavs selected just in front of him in terms of development, but Valanciunas is showing signs of life north of the border.

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Footnotes:

  1. Good news for Cavs fans []

NBA Rookie Rankings: Davis’ game winner, Beal and Waiters injured

Anthony DavisWith the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

Lillard’s game has been seesawing a bit over the last five games. In three of his last five Lillard has scored 24 plus points converting on over half of his field goals, along with an average of 8 assists. In the other two games Lillard struggled, shooting 22% from the field and turning the ball over 8 times.

The best of those last five for the Rookie of the Year frontrunner came in a loss to Philadelphia on Monday. In the loss, Lillard stuffed the stat sheet with 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, but it was his trip to Chicago that that garnered national attention. Because Lillard is a dynamite, athletic, rookie point guard it’s natural to put his name in the same sentences as former Rookie of the Year and MVP Derek Rose.

Chicago coach, Tom Thibodeau sounded off the Blazers’ guard, “He’s come in mature beyond his years. [He] plays the game with a lot of poise. I think the combination of his shooting along with his ability to break you down off the dribble [and] pick-and-roll offense. I’ve been very, very, impressed with him.”

Lillard’s 24 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds helped pace Portland passed the Bulls on Thursday night.

2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2)

Davis is settling in nicely in New Orleans and now can be counted on for somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 and 8 each night. In his last four games Davis has in fact has been just under 15 points and 8 rebounds. After a 5 block game over a week ago against Brooklyn, Davis’ gumby-like wingspan has managed to average just one block over his last four games.

The Hornets have had a lousy season so far, but Davis gave the future Pelicans something to smile about with his game winning tip in against Boston on Wednesday. Down just a point in the final seconds, the Hornets’ Eric Godron attacked the paint, threw up a runner that corralled off the rim, for Davis and those aforementioned gumby-like arms to sky over Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green and tip in the game winner.

The loss means little in the scheme of the playoff picture for either conference, but could do a lot for the confidence of Davis and the Hornets. When a rookie lifts his squad in memorable fashion to a win over a marquis team (Irving over the Celtics and Thunder) it gets the locker room, the fans, and the city a buzz. Davis only had nine points in the win, but his athleticism and wing span were enough to get the two that mattered.

3. Maurice Harkless (Last Week: NR)

Harkless has been in double figures for Orlando in each of their last five games including a career night in a loss to Milwaukee on Saint Patrick’s Day.

The rookie swingman from St. John’s, scored 23 and grabbed 9 rebounds in 43 minutes against the Bucks, all career highs.

After starting the season slowly and tentatively, Harkless is becoming one of the steals of last June’s draft, and the most important piece in August’s Andrew Bynum trade that brought Harkless from Philly down to the land of Disney. He scored in double figures just once in his first 37 games, but has hit that mark 17 times in his last 25 games, including 15 of his last 17.

Harkless missed all of training camp and the entire preseason with Orlando due to a sports hernia. As the season progessed and the Magic traded JJ Reddick, playing time and shots started to come Harkless’s way. Now that he has his feet wet, and is back to full health, he looks to be the top small forward from last year’s draft class.

4. Dion Waiters (Last Week: 3)
5. Bradley Beal (Last Week: 5)

Waiters and Beal are destined to be grouped together. They are the same age, play the same position, were drafted back to back, and have both emerged as good NBA players with high upside. Unfortunately, we can now add injured to the list of similarities between the two.

Waiters left Monday’s beat down at the hands of Indiana with soreness in his knee. He is expected to be out at least a weak and could end up needing surgery. Regardless this is the last thing Cavs’ fans want to hear.

Although it appears to be nothing too serious, with the continuous injuries to Kyrie Irving, Cavs fans have to be pulling their hair out watching their two young stars fall victim to injuries…or they may be thinking this is perfect timing for tanking in these meaningless end of year games.

Like the Cavs, the Wizards also know what it’s like to watch their former number one pick point guard be bitten by the injury bug. John Wall’s knee has been a major concern for folks in Washington, but Wall has come back from injury in the second half of this year to provide a nice 1-2 combo with Bradley Beal.

With Beal and Wall together, the Wizards are a fun watch on NBA league pass, but against Phoenix the fun came to a stop as Beal once again landed awkwardly on his bad ankle.

Beal was forced to sit on the sidelines as Wall and the rest of the Wizards finished off the Suns and reports are that Beal was visibly frustrated in the locker room following the win. Beal previously missed six games with the same ankle and is sure to miss several more.

Follow Ryan Jones on Twitter @Czarjonesey7

NBA Rookie Rankings: Anthony Davis starting to live up to the hype

Anthony Davis runningWith the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

1. Damian Lillard (Previously: 1)

If I were Damian Lillard, I’d be sending text after text to that evil elf, David Stern, asking where my trophy is? The ROY race is locked up, it’s over. After capturing the Rookie of the Month award for the 4th time this February, DL has hit March, full steam ahead. Game after game, the Blazers guard continues to put up 20 plus points, including a monster 35 point, 9 assist effort as the Blazers embarassed Western Conference leaders San Antonio last weekend. Lillard led the Blazers to a whopping 79 points in the second half, including 46 in the 4th, to slam the door shut on the Spurs and hand them their worst loss of the Timmy Duncan era. [Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: Waiters and Beal move up, Davis finally slides

dion waiters

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

[Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: Anthony Davis not an alpha dog, Beal heating up

NBA: Preseason-Washington Wizards at San Antonio Spurs

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

[Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: Waiters and Zeller impress against Spurs

Zeller and WaitersWith the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great nicknames, beards, and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

Lillard had an up and down last seven days that started with a horrid shooting night (1-16) last Sunday vs. Orlando. Lillard’s shot wasn’t falling, so he turned to creating, dishing out a career high 12 assists.

When they play 82 games a season, even the best players are going to have poor shooting nights,that’s a given. What isn’t a given is how the player responds to his bad shooting night. When Lillard was struggling shooting the ball, he was still able to hand out easy buckets to teammates and not become a black hole. It’s important for a player to have awareness, to know his limits, and do what’s necessary to help his team win.

After a rough night like Lillard had against Orlando, players can either:

A) Fall deeper into a slump
B) Play tentatively, deferring to other teammates or…
C) Come out the next night and kick ass like you have Kanye’s “Power” pumping into your eardrums.

Two nights later against Miami, Lillard opted for choice C. While his performance against the world champions may not have been set to Kanye’s beats, it was to the tune of 33 points on 55 percent shooting. The Blazers’ guard could get anywhere he wanted on the floor, earning 11 trips to the line, converting on 10.

However, it wasn’t all roses for Lillard in Miami, he got served a nice slice of humble pie on this block from the King. Welcome to the league rookie.

The next night against New Orleans, DL struggled once again in a classic “mail it in before the all-star break” loss to the Hornets. While we’ll have to wait until after the weekend to see how Lillard responds in a real game, we’ll get a look at Shaq’s number one pick Friday night in the Rising Stars challenge. The Rising Stars challenge will be Lillard’s only action over the weekend — which as pointed out by some of our commenters could be one reason why Shaq chose Lillard first over Irving, who will be featured in the Rising Stars Challenge, 3-point shootout, and the actual All-Star game itself. While Irving’s minutes may be limited in the Rising Stars Challenge, Lillard should be locked, loaded, and gunning for MVP honors.

2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2)

Those who watched the Hornets/Blazers game on Wednesday may have thought nothing has changed since last June’s NBA draft. Back then, Anthony Davis was a phenom from a team featuring six players drafted and Damian Lillard was an afterthought from a school best known for not being known. We all know now that Davis isn’t quite the phenom he was billed as and Lillard has gone from afterthought to ROY lock, but if you watched Hornets/Blazers the other night it was as if the last 8 months never happened. Lillard had an off night, following his stellar showing in Miami the day before, while Davis looked every bit of the player chosen first overall.

The Brow had his highest scoring game since December 28 (21 points), highest rebounding total since January 19 (11), and added two blocks and a steal to complete the night. Davis, like Lillard, was able to bounce back and have a career high game following a career low scoring night.

In the Hornets’ previous game against Detroit, Davis struggled on the offensive end, failing to make a single shot from the floor (0-7). Davis, once again like Lillard, turned to other areas of his game to help his team when the scoring wasn’t happening. The number one pick, added 8 rebounds, 4 huge blocks, and a steal to help the Hornets thrash the Pistons.

The good thing about Davis is when his offense fails, his defense and rebounding are there to pick up the slack. The bad thing about Davis, his offense is failing far too often.

3. Dion Waiters (Last Week: 5) Waiters has been a sparkplug and a dividing point for Cavs fans and NBA fans alike. Whether you’re a Waiters hater or supporter, the numbers don’t lie, Dion is improving. Against the league’s best team on Wednesday night, with Kyrie Irving struggling (2-15), it was Dion’s show. And as a spectator at the show, it was one hell of an entertaining performance.

Late in the second quarter, with the shot clock winding down and the offense stalled, Waiters was stuck with the ball his hands. Kyrie tried to bark orders Dion’s way to which the Syracuse product shrugged off, and instead pulled up to bury a deep j.

You could tell Dion had it going on this night. A few moments later Dion leaked out for a breakaway dunk in which he hung on the ring an extra second, landed, and kept his arms in the air a la the Shaq “I didn’t do anything” celebration. Brilliance.

Dion wasn’t done, the next time down the floor, another broken play. This time instead of pulling up, Dion attacked to score the bucket and earn a trip to the line for the and-1.

He kept it going throughout the third, drawing another and-1 and prompting the lady making my wings to exclaim “Don’t get mad, get even!” This was the Dion Waiters show.

But Dion saved his best act for last. With the game tied, and under a minute to play, Waiters came up with a timely steal, setting the stage for the biggest shot of his young career. Once again with the offense stalled, and the ball in his hands, Dion was required to make yet another play. Waiters pulled up for a long jumper like we’ve seen so many times before, but this time it was different. This time, the shot was pure, the shot was nothing but net.

Of course Kawhai Leonard had to ruin Dion’s fairy tale ending by icing a game winning three a few seconds later, but this was the kind of performance Cavs fans want and expect out of their number 4 pick.

4. Bradley Beal (Last Week: NR) Beal returned from a wrist injury to come off the bench in an uninspiring performance against Brooklyn. Although it appears Beal just needed time to get his feet wet again, as his next outing was a special one. Beal has been far from consistent, as most rookies are, but his collection of sharp shooting games continues to grow.

He poured in 28 on nearly 60% shooting, nailing all four of his attempts from 3-point range to lead the Wizards to their 4th straight win Monday in Milwaukee. Despite his career high scoring outburst against Milwaukee, Wizards’ coach, Randy Wittman continued to bring Beal off the bench in a disappointing loss to Detroit.

The Wizards have outscored their opponents by 54 points when Beal and John Wall are on the court together. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Beal return to the starting lineup following the all-star break.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Beal hit 10 plus 3′s in the Rising Stars game. The up and down pace, and lack of defense has been a 3-point shooter’s paradise these last few years.

5. Andrew Nichoslon (Last Week: NR) First Andrew Nicholson gets added to the rising stars challenge, then he cracks the top 5 of WFNY’s Rookie Rankings. This may be the best week for a Saint Bonaventure athletics since the school’s inception.

Unless you’re from Orlando, or you snuck down to the hotel bar for a sanity break from screaming kids at the Magic Kingdom, you probably haven’t seen Andrew Nicholson play. At St. Bonaventure, Nicholson dominated the A-10 with his variety of post moves, and his shot blocking ability with his 7-4 wingspan which are both translating well to the NBA game. Nicholson has had his bright moments so far this season, but has yet to put together a stretch like his last week of action. Over the last seven days, the Magic rookie is averaging 15 points and 6 rebounds. In an otherwise very forgettable season for Magic fans, Nicholson has been a pleasant surprise.

Honorable Mention: Tyler Zeller Zeller may have had the best game of his career Wednesday against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Big Teezy looked very comfortable with the ball in his hands in the loss to San Antonio. Put back jump hooks, isolations as the shot clock winded down, and pick and pops all were going Zeller’s way. He is clearly a skilled player, and as he adds more and more confidence, he’s beginning to look a lot like last year’s ACC Player of the Year that Carolina fans loved.

Follow Ryan Jones on Twitter @CzarJonesey7

NBA Rookie Rankings: Lillard vs. Kidd and Payton, Waiters can’t finish

dion waitersWith the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

The mid season rookie of the year had another strong week, averaging just over 21 points and 7 assists in 3 games, including a win against Indiana that snapped the Blazers’ 6 game losing streak. Lillard has received praise from the media, coaches, and even LeBron, but now we can add future hall of famer, Gary Payton to that list.

In an interview with Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk, Payton gave his endorsement of Lillard for Rookie of the Year. “I like Damian Lillard because he’s from Oakland, California, and he’s a phenomenal basketball player,” Payton said. “He should be the rookie of the year, he’s playing very well right now for Portland and I love his game.” [Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: Career nights for rookie swingmen

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

Bradley Beal1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

In my eyes the Rookie of the Year race is all but over. Unless Anthony Davis steals Damian Lillard’s basketball abilities Monstars’ style, the trophy will undoubtedly go to Lillard.

Lillard scored a career high 37 points last weekend against the Warriors and in doing so made it very clear that if you go under a ball screen, he will launch and drain a 3. Few tools of a guard’s game are more useful than the ability to shoot the 3 off of a high ball screen. It’s the ability to penetrate, but also the ability to make you pay from behind the arc that makes the likes of Steve Nash, James Harden, and Steph Curry so dangerous in pick and roll situations.

[Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: Jedi Drummond, Bradley Beal heating up

Drummond light saberWith the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

It’s been another good week for Damian, collecting December’s Rookie of the Month honor and getting the approval of the King. The Blazers have won four straight and 12 of 15, including wins against LeBron and the Heat, and against fellow rookie Alexey Shved and the Timberwolves. Against Minnesota, Lillard hit step back jumper after step back jumper, leaving the defender no chance to stop him. As the ‘Wolves sagged off, Lillard rose up and buried shots from deep. But the highlight that sticks with me most is his attack off a high ball screen and finish through the contact from mountain man, Nikola Pekovic. With just two explosive dribbles from the top of the key, he manages to get all the way into the lane, onto Pekovic’s body,1 get the ball up on the glass, and in to the hoop.

The Blazers and Lillard are both much farther along than anyone expected them to be. Lillard is the clear frontrunner for Rookie of the Year honors, while Portland has cemented themselves in the middle of the murky Western Conference playoff picture. Not a bad time to be a Blazers’ fan. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Being on Nikola Pekovic’s body, every lady’s fantasy []

2013 NBA Draft: Five players emerging at the top

It’s become an annual tradition in Cleveland to begin talking quite early in all sports about the upcoming draft.

For the Browns in the NFL, I did my first 2013 NFL Draft outlook post back in mid-November, when the Browns were 2-7. They finished at 5-11 and will have the No. 6 pick in April’s draft.

For the Cavaliers in the NBA, who selected No. 1 and No. 4 in 2011, then No. 4 and No. 17 in 2012, they again should be in the top-end of the Lottery this coming June. After an offseason of hype and intrigue that many fans thought could lead to the team potentially competing for the final playoff spot, the Cavs got off to a very slow start.

After Saturday night’s loss to Houston, Cleveland has the second-worst record in the NBA at 8-27. That’s eerily similar to their 35-game starts in each of the past two seasons: 8-27 in 2010-11 and 13-22 in 2011-12. So even if the team finishes strong (as opposed to #tankstrong), it’s likely they’ll finish somewhere in the top 8. [Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: Anthony Davis not living up to the hype

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

The Blazers are playing their best basketball of the season, but the same cannot be said about their rookie point guard. Despite hitting a cold blooded three at the buzzer, the last few weeks have been pretty “ehhhh” for Lillard. Earlier in the year, the three point shot had been Lillard’s weapon of choice, shooting over 6 per game.  But as the old adage goes, “live by the three, die by the three.” Early on in the season, boy was Lillard living. His three point shot was opening up the lane for penetration, leading to easy buckets for himself and for teammates. However, in the last couple weeks the Portland point guard has been on life support from behind the arc, shooting just 8 for 28 in his last four games.

As his three point percentage has dropped so have his assists. In those same four games where Lillard shot just 26% from downtown, he is averaging 2.5 assists lower than his season average. True point guards are counted on to hit open threes and set up teammates but it’s becoming more and more clear that Lillard is not a true point guard. Instead, he’s an attacking guard who is never afraid to try and make a play. Although his numbers may be hurting recently, his team is succeeding. Teams are being forced to pay extra attention to Lillard, leaving more room the rest of the Blazers to play ball. With the way Portland is playing, if Lillard can find his stroke from deep once again, the Western Conference will have to start taking notice of the team up in Rip City.

2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2)

Anthony Davis is taking much longer than most thought to become a star in this league. It’s far, far too early to say he’s not living up to his predraft hype, but he’s not living up to his predraft hype. With Lillard coasting, the door has been wide open for Davis to ascend to the top of the rookie class. Davis is slowly creaking open that door, but hardly stomping his foot through it like most expected.

Davis is playing like a rookie. One night he looks like he has the potential to be the best big in NBA, and the next he looks like Tristain Thompson. The Brow will always be a force on the defensive end with his length and athleticism but he needs to start scoring consistently if he wants to be a star, let alone the rookie of the year.

Only four times this year has Anthony Davis scored over 20 points. Here is just a short list of other bigs within 1 point of Davis’ scoring avearge.

JJ Hickson, Glen Davis, Chris Kaman, Thaddeus Young, Serge Ibaka, Paul Milsap, and Metta World Peace1

I know Davis isn’t billed as a “scorer” but if you’re the number one pick, and the face of the franchise, you better be able to put the peach in the basket.

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Last Week: 3)

Speaking of struggling to score…MKG has failed to score in double figures in over a third of Charlotte’s games. His offense is not his strength, everyone knows that, but like Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist is a high lottery pick, and the face a franchise. Along with those two distinctions come the expectation you’re going to be able get your team points.

Unlike fellow rookies, Lillard, Waiters, and Beal, Kidd-Gilchrist does not have his finger stuck on the trigger. He is yet to take 15 shots in a game, while Lillard, Waiters, and Beal have combined to do so 39 times. We all know MKG is great teammate, leader, and utility man, but it might be time for the Bobcats’ first round pick to start to try and score.

When you’re team has lost 18 straight games2 being a team player might have to go out the window. It’s all about getting work in for the future, so let it fly MKG.

4. Alexey Shved (Last Week: 4)

Now that’s some fresh facial hair

I’ve made little effort to hide my love affair for Alexey Shved. He’s got the european flair, the ability to play the one or two, and the moxy to rock a crisp looking goatee. Although the Shved/Rubio backcourt hasn’t quite reached the level of success I had once predicted, it’s hard to find many more young backcourts in the league as exciting as the two Europeans3.

Shved is avearging just over 14 points and 6 assists over his last five games. Over that same stretch Damian Lillard, is averaging a similar 17 and 5 but with 1.5 more turnovers. Shved may not have the upside Lillard has, but White Russia is has cemented himself in the discussion for the best guards in the 2012 rookie class.

5. Andre Drummond (Last Week: 5)

Andre Drummond and the Pistons have won 5 of their last 6, which has taken some heat off Piston’s coach Lawrence Frank for limiting the minutes of Drummond. Slow and steady continues to be the approach as Detroit tries to develop the raw rookie from UCONN. Drummond is 6th in the NBA in rebounding percentage, ahead of rebounding machines Dwight Howard, Kenneth Faried, Kris Humphries, and Tyson Chandler.

More impressively, Drummond is tied for the league lead in offensive rebounding percentage with Anderson Varejao. Varejao is wildly renowned as a monster on the offensive glass, and sooner or later Drummond will get the same recognition. Fans around The D are even starting to compare Drummond to Big Ben Wallace. Although he may have far to go to gain Big Ben status4, but he may be able to get a Kid Rock song written about him.

Honorable Mention

Dion Waiters

After three rough shooting nights in a row, Dion was moved into a role as 6th man for the Cavs. Waiters thrived in that role at Syracuse and flourished once again coming off the bench against Sacramento. Waiters scored 20 points in his reserve role, and did so shooting 42% from the field. This was only the 3rd time in the last 13 games Waiters has been over 40% from the field.

 

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Footnotes:

  1. I know Metta isn’t exactly a big, but like I said a few months ago, I’ll take any excuse I can get to type “Metta World Peace” I can get. []
  2. Yes they’re the Bobcats, but 18 straight. C’mon man! []
  3. Lin/Harden are the best followed by Irving/Waiters, Curry/Thompson,  and Crawford/Wall/Beal in no particular order []
  4. 4 straight ECF appearances, and a title to be exact []

NBA Rookie Rankings: Davis climbing, Lillard beats buzzer

Left Cameron Browne NBA Getty Images. Right Steve Dykes USA TODAY Sports

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

The past seven days have been kind to the top of the 2012 rookie class. Signature games from the Kentucky boys, Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, and a signature moment from Damian Lillard highlight the last week in fresh meat action.

With the top 3 shining, the rest of the rookie class is struggling to keep up. Top 4 picks, Dion Waiters and Bradley Beal continue to chuck the pumpkin with little success, while big men Andre Drummond and Jonas Valanciunas contribute solid but unexciting minutes off their respective benches.

The top 3 sees a minor shakeup while the 4th and 5th spots continue to be a revolving door.

Vamanos! [Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: The Brow Returns, Beal Enters the top 5

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor.

After missing 13 of the Hornets first 19 games, Anthony Davis finally made his return to the court this week in games against Washington and Oklahoma City. Davis was solid, and steady in his extended minutes off the bench in his two games since returning from injury, but it’s another rookie who stole the show this week. Wizards’ guard, Bradley Beal makes his first appearance in the rankings this week thanks to several strong all-around showings, and Waiters being on the shelf.  Lillard holds strong at the top, and looks like he’s going to make someone come take his top spot on the rookie ladder, he won’t be giving it away any time soon.

Let’s jam. [Read more...]

NBA Rookie Rankings: Lillard, MKG take home Rookie of the Month honors

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor in rankings.

[Read more...]

Rookie Rankings: Lillard’s big fear, Waiters keeps chucking

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor in rankings.

The end of November is upon us. Halloween and Thanksgiving are distant memories as we turn toward the final month of 2012. Basketball and football overwhelm the televeision schedule in December, giving us plenty to watch while spending time with our families on December’s traditional holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years. This year, we get the treat of another special day in December because on December 21 the world may or may not end. That means we may or may not only have 21 more days of basketball to watch, 21 more days of arguing team vs. team, or player vs. player. There’ll be plenty of time to talk about Armageddon1, but for now we must talk basketball. More specifically, the NBA. Not just the NBA, but its crop of rookies. We’ve seen the surprise rise of Damian Lillard in Portland, and flashes of what’s to come for Anthony Davis in NOLA. We’ve seen Dion Waiters become allergic to passing, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist be exactly who we thought he was. With so many rookies playing large roles for their teams the first month of the season, it’s important we take a step back and see where the NBA’s fresh meat stands after one month of play. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Somewhere Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck are training to save us. []

NBA Rookie Rankings: MKG winning, Waiters struggling, and the rise of White Russia

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor in rankings.

What ‘s the most American 24 hour period in the year?

4th of July?

Veteran’s Day?

The real answer is from noon on Thanksgiving to noon on Black Friday.

It starts with sitting on the couch watching football. Followed by a meal so large that people strategically wear pants with an elastic wasteband to allow their stomach to stretch. Then it’s back to the couch for more football. Followed of course by more over eating, this time deserts. Then guess what? More football. 

And that’s just the first twelve hours.

At midnight we flock to retailers all over the country, shove strangers out of the way, and wrestle 30 others to get our hands on a $100 laptop, a tradition that would make Frank Constanza’s Feats of Strength look like a game of paddycake.

After it’s all over we’re forced to go back to our normal lives. It’s no longer acceptable to assault a stranger in the quest for gadgets, nor is it acceptable to pour gravy over your entire plate. Fortunately for us, on the day after Thanksgiving the NBA returns. The NBA takes a day off during this most American 24 hours, but returns in full force on Friday. So after you get home from your shopping, eat your left over turkey sandwhich, take your inevitable nap, and eat some more turkey, give yourself a much deserved rest and flip on some roundball. 

Without further ado, this week’s rookie rankings.

1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

Lillard has been a gem to watch so far during his rookie campaign. Night in and night out the rookie guard is leaving his mark on the game, and as you might expect with a rookie, the results have been mixed. In the last week, Lillard recorded his two highest scoring games, as well as a career high in turnovers. Rookie guards in the NBA are like your buddy who just got out of a long relationship and he’s out at the bar for the first time in a while. You can’t help but get excited about the potential they have, but not having seen much of them in action, you definitely can’t trust them to always make the right play. He’s capable of pulling off moves that dazzle you, but decisions that baffle you. It takes some time to get in the rhythm of things, to know when to try and score, and when passing is the safe decision, but all the while it’s entertaining as hell to watch.

Lillard continues to lead all rookies in scoring, assists, and steals, but also is the rookie leader in turnovers at 3.5 per game. Ball security will continue to be a concern for Lillard, but the last thing you want to do with a rookie guard, or a newly single buddy, is rattle his confidence. Instead of cautioning them, you give them the green light. The Blazers’ guard has embraced the green light given to him, by coach Terry Stotts, but he must be careful of settling for too many jumpers as 61% of Lillard’s shots have come from 16 feet or farther out. Despite all the outside shots, he is still shooting 45% from the field. It’s easy to fall in love with the jumper when it’s falling, but Lillard must force his way into the lane to create for his teammates and give himself some easier looks at the hoop.

Anthony Davis (Last Week: 2)

When Anthony Davis is on the court, he is something special to watch, but The Brow is struggling to stay on the court. Davis has only played in 6 out of the Hornets’ 10 games, missing the last two with an ankle injury. Davis hasn’t played since last Saturday at Milwaukee where scored a career high 28 points to go with 11 rebounds. Davis’ 28 and 11 are worth noting, but the most significant stat from last Saturday was the number of blocks Davis recorded. For the first time in the NBA, or college, or probably in his whole life, Anthony Davis did not record a blocked shot. Still, Davis leads all rookies, and is top ten in the league with 2.2 blocks a game.

Davis continues to lead all rookies in efficiency, EFF481, rebounding, blocks, and is second in scoring. He is still Vegas’s favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but to win hardware, you need to be playing. With Davis out, the Hornet’s spotlight shines on fellow rookie Austin Rivers. Rivers has struggled so far this year and doesn’t appear to be the solution to stopping New Orleans’ five game skid. For Rivers, the Hornets, and those who bet on The Brow to win ROY, Davis’s return can not come soon enough.

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Last Week: 3)

In case you were distracted by Thanksgiving, football, or any other of the 31 NBA teams, it’s worth noting that the Charlotte Bobcats have won 5 of their last 6 games.

“The same Bobcats that didn’t win their fifth game until 36 games into the season!?”

Not quite.

The 2012-13 Bobcats have one big difference from last year’s team. Three words, one hyphen.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

The Bobcats are 40 points better when MKG is on the court versus when he’s on the bench. That’s the greatest difference in +/- of any rookie. His 1.4 estimated wins added is second among rookies2 and equal to the likes of Dwyane Wade, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Serge Ibaka, and Kevin Garnett. To be in the company of those names in a category that measures how much you help a team win is extremely impressive.

Article after article about the Bobcats’ success this season emphasizes the intangibles Kidd-Gilchrist brings to the team. The kid3 is a winner. Last year, the Bobcats had the worst season in NBA history, and this year they have the league’s seventh best record. Last year’s roster looks almost identical this year’s except for those three words and one hyphen, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Third among rookies in efficiency, second in rebounding, fourth in scoring, and shooting 47% from the field, MKG does a little bit of everything. Everything except hit outside shots. Kidd-Gilchrist still has only made four shots not at the rim all season. For someone to score as much as he has, and efficiently as he has, it’s astounding that he has only made four jump shots all year. Once he develops his outside shot, the sky is the limit for MKG.

In MKG Bobcats fans finally have hope, and as The Shawshank Redemptiontaught us, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”.

4. Dion Waiters (Last Week: 4)

After the top 3, there is a significant drop off in production from this rookie class. Waiters is avearging 13.9 PPG, leaving him third among rookies in scoring, but in his last four games he is 16 of 67 from the floor, good for 24%. He’s shooting well from behind the arc at 42%, but is only 35% on 2-point field goals. Coming into the season everyone expected Dion to get his points at the rim, not 3-point land. Dion needs to find a better balance between outside and inside to start scoring more efficiently.

Dion Waiters is not shy, which is a good quality of a rookie guard or your newly single buddy,  but when Dion’s shot isn’t falling he must find other ways to help his team win. In the Cavs win over Philladelphia this week, Waiters recorded a career high 6 assists and career high 4 rebounds. 6 assists and 4 rebounds may not seem like much to brag about, but it’s a positive step in the right direction for Dion.

With Kyrie Irving out for the next month, the weight on Dion Waiters’ shoulders will only increase. He’ll see more time as the team’s primary ball handler, which should lead to more assists as well as more turnovers, and will also see more plays as the team’s primary scoring option.  Over the next month, Waiters will be thrown into the pressure cooker, Cavs fans can only hope he enters as a lump of coal and comes out a shiny, new diamond.

5. Alexey Shved (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

“White Russia”4” as he is being referred to, had a career night last Friday against Denver. Shved scored a career high 22 points and dished out a career high 7 assists. He leads all rookies in assist percentage5 and has an almost identical EFF48 to Damian Lillard. In the two games where Shved has played 30 minutes or more, White Russia is averaging 19 points and 6 assists.

The Timberwolves are .500 and Shved is making fans forget about their other European point guard, Ricky Rubio. Shved is nowhere near the passer that Rubio is, but his scoring is farther along than the Spaniard. Shved is a hybrid point/shooting guard and I am salivating at the idea of Rubio at the 1 and Shved at the 2.

T-Wolves general manager, David Kahn, is often the butt of many jokes, but recently Kahn has been pressing some of the right buttons. Russians Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved were two under the radar free agent signings this summer that are paying dividends early on, as well as big man Nikola Pekovic. Kahn is quietly adding quality European talent around Kevin Love that could help the ‘Wolves make the playoffs for the first time since 2004, or at least make them a popular draw on League Pass.

Honorable Mention

Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Jonas Valenciunas

Zeller Report

Since returning from his concussion, Zeller has been fairly quiet for the Cavaliers. He adds much needed depth to a thin Cavaliers’ roster, but has yet to make a serious impact in a game this year. Although Zeller hasn’t shined, he also hasn’t stunk it up. The more time on the court, the more comfortable Zeller will get. All-Rookie 2nd team appears to be a realistic goal for Zeller and Cavs fans.

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Footnotes:

  1. EFF48 measures how affective a player is while on the court []
  2. Lillard is first. []
  3. No pun intended. []
  4. My second favorite nickname, behind “Chandler Bang” []
  5. The percentage of team field goals assisted on while on the court []

NBA Rookie Rankings: Lillard holds on to top spot

With the Cavaliers having two rookies playing prominent minutes, WFNY thought it would beneficial to see how the fresh meat around the league is faring in comparison with the Cavalier rookies. Each week, we’ll have NBA rookie power rankings where we’ll rack and stack the freshman class of the NBA. The rankings will be weighted with the most recent games carrying the most importance, but the whole body of work will be taken into account. Great beards and great celebrations may also play a large factor in rankings.

Two weeks into the NBA season and like many basketball nuts out there, I’ve already managed to fall behind in most aspects of my life. My kitchen sink is full of dishes, my DVR is full of shows, and instead of playing catch up, I’m continuously getting sucked into a full night of watching roundball. Instead of engulfing myself in Brody, Carrie, and the rest of the gang from Homeland, I find myself settling in for Wizards at Bobcats. I imagine the only other people outside of D.C. or Charlotte watching that game were me, gamblers1, and those who clicked on Wizards vs. Bobcats hoping to see Gandalf and Harry using spells to fight off aggressive felines.

Whatever the reason for tuning in, those watching were treated to a player of the game performance by none other than Ramon Sessions. I know Ramon is enough to get most hoops junkies going, but for me it was all about Beal vs. MKG. There isn’t much better television than two top three picks going head to head2. Kidd-Gilchrist shined with a 15 point, 8 rebound night, while Beal stuggled with his shot going 1-8 from the field. 

Bradley Beal came into the 2012 draft with comparisons to Ray Allen thanks to his sweet stroke, but the reality of it is, Beal was not a good shooter at Florida and has continued to struggle with his shot in the NBA. At Florida, the “sharp shooting” Beal shot only 34% from 3-point range, and is shooting just 33% from behind the arc so far in his NBA career. Beal is 19-67 on shots not at the rim, good for a whopping 28%, compared to Dion Waiters who is 33-73 (45%) on those same shots. Beal needs to start scoring more efficiently if he wants to succeed in the league, and more importantly find a spot in the weekly fresh meat rankings.

 1. Damian Lillard (Last Week: 1)

Lillard has slowed some since his amazing start, but still is playing at a high level. After four losses in a row with Lillard having under seven assists, Lillard dished out nine in a blowout win over the Kings. He is the rookie leader in points, assists, and usage rate, but most importantly in estimated wins added to his team with 1.1.

One key to the Weber State product’s success so far is his ability to pull up and shoot off the dribble. Like Russell Westbrook or Eric Bledsoe, Lillard uses his strength and speed to create space to shoot. When those shots start to fall, defenders are forced to respect it, making the drive much easier.

Pair that with the way Lillard has been launching and hitting three’s and Lillard is a big time offensive threat. Half of Lillard’s 15.1 points per game are coming off of three point shots. If he continues to hit that shot consistently, Portland will start to win some more games.

2. Anthony Davis (Last Week: 3)

After missing two games while out with a peach-grade concussion, The Brow returned to the court with his best game of his young career putting up 23 points, 11 rebounds, a massive 5 blocks, and two steals in a win over the Bobcats. On several  occasions I’ve seen polls where fans overwhelmingly say that they would prefer their  team to have Anthony Davis over Kyrie Irving. Now this is a bit of a rush of a judgement as Kyrie has played far more games in the NBA than Davis, and although we can’t definitively say Davis will surpass Irving as the league’s best young player, it is clear Davis is going to be a force in this league.

He runs the floor, blocks shots, gets in passing lanes, rebounds,  scores in the post, can takes guys off the dribble, and has a wing span comparible to a terydactyl. Davis leads all rookies in efficiency3, rebounding, blocks, and steals. Before I start sounding too much like Boobie Miles’ Uncle in Friday Night Lights, let’s get into what keeps The Brow out of the top spot on this list.

Neither of New Orleans’ two most productive lineups feature Davis on the floor. The Hornets’ strongest lineup (Lopez, Anderson, Aminu, Vasquez, Rivers) has a +/- of  20 which is 14 points better than their second strongest lineup (Lopez, Anderson, Aminu, Vasquez, Mason Jr.), and neither has Davis on the floor. Putting up big numbers is sexy, but being on the floor helping your team succeed is what really matters.

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Last Week: 4)

MKG turned in his first dominant performance of his career this week in an overtime victory over the Mavs. Still far from polished, Kidd-Gilchrist was able to take over a game at the NBA level, something you expect from the number two pick. Career highs in points and rebounds showed up in the headlines, but offensive rebounds down the stretch, specifically one that allowed for the tying basket at the end of regulation proved to be the real difference maker.

Naturally, to follow up his first dominant performance, Kidd-Gilchrist turned in his first lemon of the season against the Timberwolves.  Something had to have been wrong as MKG scored only 2 points on a mere 4 shots. Not to mention only 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Known for his effort and intangibles, it is surprising to see Kidd-Gilchrist look non existent, but it is only one game.

Despite the let down against  Minnesota, Bobcats’ fans finally have a reason to be hopeful in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. A respectable 11.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.1 STPG, and 1.7 BPG to start the year, it looks to me as if his upside is a high motored Josh Smith. He’s got all the goods but lacks a real offensive repertoire. Kidd Gilchrist has only made 5 shots that weren’t at the rim all year! Only 5! His ability to improve his outside game will dictate how far he can go as a player.


4. Dion Waiters (Last Week: 2)

Dion continues to be up and down to the start his NBA career. There is no reason to panic, just as there was no reason to get too high after some impressive games early on. Some days will be better than others, but the outcome will ultimately be positive. My favorite stat Waiters has in his favor is that Waiters is a member of the best five man unit in the NBA. Let me reiterate.

THE LINEUP OF IRVING, WAITERS, GEE, THOMPSON, AND VAREJAO LEADS THE NBA IN +/-.

The Cavalier starters have outscored their opponents by 55 points when on the court together. That’s good for best in the league, with the Heat and Lakers’ starters tied for second, a full 22 points worse than the Cavs.

Dion is third among rookies in scoring (14.5 PPG) and fifth in efficiency (10.5). Back to back games with under 10 points, and shooting 3-16 in his last outing have fans in a mini panic, but patience will be the key with Dion. Sit back, enjoy the ride, and pray to god it stays on track.

5. Andre Drummond (Last Week: Not Ranked)

In only 15 minutes a night, Andre Drummond, the big question mark out of  Connecticut, is impressing up in the Motor City. Despite being on the worst team in the league, Drummond is second among qualified rookies in EFF48 making him the second most effective rookie while he is on the court. Drummond has a small sample size of minutes, but in extended action last Friday at Oklahoma City, the rookie had a career high 22 points to go with his 8 rebounds. Maybe Drummond has found something in his new secret move and he’ll have some big scoring nights, but if he can at least commit himself on the defensive end, and on the glass he will make Detroit fans happy. Drummond leads all rookies in rebounding rate and times being challenged to a game of horse on the street. The offense will continue to be a major project, but for now Drummond’s effort and athleticism is enough to encourage.

Honorable Mention

Alexey Shved (Last Week: Not Ranked)

Shved is in the same crop as Drummond, Singler, Beal, Barnes, and Valenciunas,  but because of his perfectly groomed facial hair Shved earns some honorable mention. This Russian, 23 year old is having a noteworthy rookie campaign so far in Minnesota. He’s great in pick and roll situations and is really giving the shorthanded Timberwolves a spark during their 5-3 start. It’s also worth remembering the Cavaliers were one of the teams rumored to be interested in Shved’s services.

Zeller Report

Tyler Zeller continues to be out with a broken bone in his face and a concussion4. He is slated to return Saturday against the Mavericks, which cannot come soon enough for the Cavaliers as their bench can use all the help they can get.

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Footnotes:

  1. I may or may not have been one of them []
  2. Unless you’re watching four stoners try and find an imaginary animal on Finding Bigfoot []
  3. Lebron leads the entire leauge, while Varejao is second []
  4. It must have been more serious than Anthony Davis’ peach-grade concussion, Zeller’s appears to be more of a marroon-grade concussion []