July 26, 2014

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...]

Cavs’ Dion Waiters named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month

News broke during tonight’s Cavs-Clippers game that Cleveland rookie Dion Waiters was awarded the February nod for the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. Here is the official release from the team:

“CLEVELAND – Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters was named today as the Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in the month of February.

Waiters played in 12 games during February and averaged 15.8 points on .514 shooting, 2.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 28.2 minutes per game. During the month, he ranked first in scoring and assists, second in steals and field goal percentage and third in minutes among Eastern Conference rookies (minimum 10 games played). Waiters scored 20 or more points in four of 12 games (tied for the most 20-point games by an East rookie in the month) and shot at least .500 from the field seven times in games played in February, including six games with at least .600 shooting from the field.

Waiters helped lead the Cavs to a 7-5 record in February. He finished the month strong, scoring over 20 points in each of his last three games as the Cavs went 4-1 to end February.

His highest scoring performance in February came on Feb. 24 at Miami when he tallied a team-best 26 points on 11-17 (.647) shooting and three assists in 31 minutes of work. In a 101-98 victory at Chicago Feb. 26, Waiters scored 25 points on 10-16 (.625) shooting from the field in 36 minutes, becoming the only rookie this season to score 25 or more points in consecutive games. He had 23 points, six assists, one steal and one block in 35 minutes of work in the Cavs’ most recent win on Feb. 27 versus Toronto.

Other nominees for Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month were Washington’s Bradley Beal and Orlando’s Maurice Harkless.”

 

Waiters’ improvement has been one of the keys for the suddenly streaking Cavaliers, who entered Friday night’s game with a 15-15 record since Dec. 22. Previous winners of the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month are: November — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte; December — Bradley Beal, Washington; January — Bradley Beal, Washington.

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

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: 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 []

NBA Rookie Rankings: Fresh Meat

(Photo: AP/Gus Ruelas)

Fresh meat. We all love it. Whether it’s the new guy at work, the new girl in your apartment complex, or the guy at the tailgate with the slab of baby-backs, everyone stares and starts asking questions fast.

“Is he here to fire someone?”

“Is she single?”

“Is there any way we can trade him three natural lights for those ribs?”

Once we get the information we want, we spread the information as fast as possible. [Read more...]

WFNY’s 2012 NBA Draft Roundtable

NBA Draft day is here! In the Cavaliers’ franchise history, these have been some special days. The Cavaliers have drafted nearly all of their franchise cornerstones, and they’re hoping to add another for the second straight year. Here at WFNY, we’ve got a wide range of college and pro basketball opinions, and we drew on those experiences in this roundtable. We hope you enjoy.

Who is your guy and why (obviously excluding Anthony Davis)?

Kirk: “The answer to this question for me has been MKG, Beal, and Barnes all within the last three months. I remain firm in my opinion that the Cavs should not and will not be disappointed if they stay at four and select Barnes. In the end, I’m hoping for MKG. I’m counting on the fact that he’s only 18 and it will give him plenty of time to develop that jumper, and the other aspects of his game will be outstanding enough to warrant the selection even if he never becomes what you would call a good shooter.”

Andrew: “I remain on team MKGtoCLE. I totally get people’s concerns about his shooting ability, but I don’t want MKG as a shooter. I want MKG to run the floor with Kyrie, slash to the rim, draw fouls, grab rebounds, play tenacious defense, and be an on floor leader. Basically, I want MKG to be MKG and do all the things he does best. When watching Kentucky games, you couldn’t help but notice him doing all the little things to help his team win. It’s intagibles similar to what you get with Anderson Varejao. Fine, those guys are limited offensively. But they’re winners. They do whatever it takes to give you a chance to win. That’s what I want on the Cavaliers.”

Rick: “Admittedly, I watch probably less college basketball than any other writer at the site. That said, I have been tracking Beal since February, thinking the Cavs would have a shot at him. What I read about MKG makes me think he is the smart choice. Truthfully, I will be excited about either of these guys. ” [Read more...]

2012 NBA Draft: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes and Growing Debates

Volume versus efficiency. Finesse versus raw athleticism. Relatively regal or standard with a hyphen.

With the Cleveland Cavaliers owning the fourth spot in the upcoming NBA Draft1, and every selection beyond the first-overall being laced with various layers of mystery, there is a growing belief that Chris Grant and his staff, if they stay put, will have their choice among the best small forwards in the pool: North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Both players providing solid character traits, ideal size and high-grade pedigree, both players having strong personal ties to last year’s first-overall pick in point guard Kyrie Irving – Barnes sharing the same agent and pre-draft itinerary – but each player coming equipped with his own brand of getting-it-done skills. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Assuming they don’t do this []

NBA Mock Draft: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist To Cavs In Latest Chad Ford Projection

Chad Ford released the eighth version of his 2012 mock draft on Friday, and the ESPN scout thinks the Cavaliers will have their choice of Harrison Barnes and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at No. 4. Ford predicts Thomas Robinson will go to Charlotte at No. 2 and the Wizards will scoop up Brad Beal at No. 3, leaving Chris Grant with a delectable choice between the two wing players to run alongside Kyrie Irving:

If Beal goes No. 3, the Cavs have a choice between Kidd-Gilchrist and Harrison Barnes. The team is high on both players and could go either direction. Kidd-Gilchrist brings toughness, defense and leadership and would be great running the floor with Kyrie Irving. Barnes is a much better shooter and scorer who could add more punch to the Cavs’ attack.

At this point I’d give Kidd-Gilchrist the slight edge over Barnes.

As you may be aware, both have strong connections to Irving. MKG was his high school teammate at St. Patrick’s while Barnes and Irving were considered the top two players in their high school class and developed a strong friendship during high school. They’re also represented by the same agent.

[Related: Should Cavs Trade Up For Brad Beal?]

NBA Draft 2012: Time To Go Get Brad Beal?

The NBA Draft is upon us, and the Cavaliers and their fans are sure to have an eventful week, climaxing on Thursday night. The Cavs hold the No. 4 overall pick in a Draft that has little locked in after Anthony Davis at No. 1 for New Orleans. After Davis, there’s another five prospects who have all consistently been rumored within the top four — the big man duo of Thomas Robinson and Andre Drummond, and Harrison Barnes, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Bradley Beal. At one time or another, the Cavaliers have been linked with all of these prospects, with a consensus coalescing around the latter three.

The Cavs, of course, will not have their pick of the litter at No. 4. It’s likely that Beal, for one, is off the board before Chris Grant is on the clock. In comes Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated, who reported yesterday that many league executives expect Grant to approach the Bobcats with a trade for the No. 2 pick: [Read more...]

NBA Free Agency: Cavs Likely to Match Offers to Alonzo Gee

Though the fervor amongst fans of the orange roundie has been firmly focused on the upcoming draft, Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio reports that the Cleveland Cavaliers will likely match any offers given to swingman Alonzo Gee.

Citing several league sources, Amico states that the team will look to retain Gee, 25, following what was considered to be a breakout campaign from a player who was scooped out of the NBDL just a year earlier. Playing both off of the bench and in a starting role, Gee averaged career-highs in points (10.6) and rebounds (5.1), playing in 63 of a possible 66 games.

Though likely to retain the restricted free agent’s services, the Cavaliers are widely considered to be in the market for a small forward in the June 28 NBA Draft, having their sites set on Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes. Given the current salary cap flexibility afforded to Chris Grant and his staff, however, the Cavaliers can afford to draft a small forward and still ensure that Gee remains in a Cavalier uniform for the 2012-13 season and beyond.

[Related: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Cleveland Far From a Sure Thing]

What I Think I Know About the NBA Draft

The 1986 Draft put the Cavs on the path to contention. Let’s we’ll say the same for the 2012 Draft.

Here’s what I know about the 2012 NBA Draft:

1. It takes place on Thursday, June 28th, 2012 (you should watch it here).

2. The New Orleans Hornets will take Kentucky center Anthony Davis with the first pick.

3. The Cavs have four picks and a lot of options.

When the lottery gods pushed the Cavs out of the Top 3, many were understandably down. Trust me, I was one of them. I had just spent a month dreaming of Kyrie Irving throwing alley-oops to Anthony Davis and having earnest “if the Cavs have Irving and Davis and LeBron wants to come back, what do you do?” conversations. Also, the local conventional wisdom seemed to be: “as long as the Cavs can stay in the Top 3, we’ll be OK.” Landing in the fourth spot was definitely a let down.

But picking fourth isn’t so bad. A number of high caliber players could be available to the Cavs at four. It’s Chris Grant’s job to figure out which one fits the best with Kyie Irving and the rest of your Cleveland Cavaliers. [Read more...]