April 21, 2014

Numbers Don’t Lie: Cavs took huge steps defensively in 2013-14

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Across from the coach’s office within the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room is a poster-sized sheet that serves as a reminder for what this team had set out to accomplish heading into the season. All 30 NBA teams, listed in order by opponent field goal percentage—a widely-used gauge to determine defensive prowess in a game that can vary widely in the way of pace of play. Last season, when Byron Scott took that final walk, the giant metal door clicking behind him, the Cavs were listed 30th. When Mike Brown was reintroduced just days later, the message was clear: If the Wine and Gold were going to improve, it would be through defense. And while they did not make the playoffs, a goal that was clearly disseminated from the top, the team did improve substantially on the defensive end, finishing 12th in the league in opponent field goal percentage with a mark of 45.2.

Other defensive statistics also show marked improvement. After finishing the year 25th in points allowed per game in 2012-13, this year’s unit finished 16th. The Cavs (perhaps surprisingly) had the fifth-lowest average for opponent points in the paint (38.9) and had the seventh-lowest average in fastbreak points (12.1). They finished 2013-14 17th in defensive efficiency (104.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), one year after finishing 26th (106.9). Where they failed, at least in the way of being among the top third of the league, was in three-point percentage, finishing 22nd (.367). 

Offensively, the team was a mixed bag as they ranked 22nd in scoring (98.2) and 27th in field goal percentage (43.7) after ranking 19th (96.5) and 29th (43.4) in 2012-13. The Cavs ranked 17th in pace of play this season—a mark that by no means has a direct correlation with success—after finishing last season 12th. They finished the year 23rd in offensive efficiency (101.3). In 2012-13, they were 23rd as well with a mark of 100.8.

Statistical improvements or regressions, at least when it comes to team-wide output, can rarely be linearly extrapolated into subsequent years. They’re largely a function of the individual players and their fit within the system. Anderson Varejao will be a year older with a partially guaranteed deal. Much will change between this unit and the one which will take the floor this October.

Many of the numbers listed above, while improvements, represent a jump to league average. The LeBron James-led Cavalier units under Brown were frequently among the best in the league. It’s clear that the team made strides defensively as compared to a year ago—a goal of theirs heading into the year—which was the goal in bringing Brown back for his second tour. If he is retained beyond this summer, it will be for these reasons, with the hopes and conviction that that poster across from his office displays something even more favorable come this time in 2015.

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers and the #seasonofhuh – WFNY Podcast – 2014-04-17

WFNY Podcast LogoI got Ben Cox to come on the podcast to discuss the 2014 Cleveland Cavaliers. He dubbed it the season of huh.

From the Cavaliers drafting Anthony Bennett, to hiring Mike Brown, to firing Chris Grant to Matthew Dellevedova being the Cavs’ best rookie this year.

It was one for the ages.

Make sure you go read Ben’s post at WFNY on the topic.

Check out this episode!

Big changes coming to Cavs…Maybe

Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown, Chris Grant

So we know that Dan Gilbert is none too pleased. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ majority owner is reportedly fuming, having set his sights on the Eastern Conference Playoffs this season, only to fall just short in a year when countless teams around him missed the playoffs intentionally. Gilbert has a reputation for being short-sighted and reactionary, supported by recent firings and re-hirings. With the Cavs on the outside looking in, many assume that more of the same will be on the way, but FOX Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico says that while some changes are going to happen, no decisions have been made regarding the front office, head coach or roster.

How displeased is Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that his team missed the playoffs? Well, “enraged” was the word most used by sources to describe Gilbert’s overall feelings. “Inside the organization is like a time-bomb waiting to go off,” said one.

That doesn’t mean Gilbert will overreact and start firing everybody, sources cautioned. It does mean he is expected to strategically (and perhaps slowly) find the best fit for running the basketball side of things this summer.

That could mean keeping interim general manager David Griffin and giving him the job on a full-time basis. Sources said Gilbert has been impressed with the improved culture in the Cavs’ locker room since Griffin took over. However, Griffin landing the gig is still not considered a definite. One source close to the situation described the idea of keeping the current front office entirely intact as “shaky.”

Amico expands on the status of head coach Mike Brown, which is expected to be determined this summer. The team owes Brown four more years of a five-year, $20 million deal and is less than a year removed from a press conference where the head coach was the definitive man to lead the team for the second time. Apparently, Glbert is very unhappy with the fallout of the Luol Deng deal, especially with the growing belief that the award-winning small forward will be playing elsewhere next season.

And the priority? Make Dion Waiters Waiters and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving work as the long-term starting backcourt. Just who will be tasked with executing on this plan will apparently be the giant variable.

Vìva uncertainty!

(AP Photo/Jason Miller)

Windhorst: “LeBron and Kyrie have drifted apart”

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving

Brian Windhorst has no shortage of interesting things to say about the Cavaliers. He has so much to say that I had trouble even figuring out just one thing to put here. There’s talk of dinner meetings with Isiah Thomas that has the potential to make Cavs fans hurl. There’s talk about whether it’s worth it to extend Tristan Thompson. Most notably there’s lots and lots of disappointed talk about an “immature” Kyrie Irving. Most notably though, the former Cavs beat writer says that if the Cavs have any designs on LeBron James spending any part of his remaining career in Cleveland that future won’t include Kyrie Irving.

I’m just giving you my feel right now and my feel is that (Kyrie’s) not crazy about [signing the full max extension] unless he gets everything checked off across the board.

And the other thing is: if the Cavs ever dream of having LeBron, it’s not going to be with Kyrie there. LeBron and Kyrie have drifted apart in the last few years, even to the point that if the Cavs wanted to get LeBron they would maybe trade Kyrie for someone who would fit better with LeBron. And I’m not making that up. That line of thinking was not originated by me. That’s just the truth.

And here I think most Cavaliers fans who have ever spent even small moments thinking about the possibility of LeBron returning assumed that it would take a running mate like Kyrie Irving to make the situation more attractive. Granted any dreams of LeBron returning seemed a lot more feasible (even remotely) before the Cavaliers had such a disappointing season this year.

It just gets further and further down a road where it seems like the pain and suffering of Cavaliers over the past few years was all for nothing. Yes, there seems to be some talent on this team, but if that talent doesn’t translate to team success, isn’t it just wasted talent?

Even worse than wasted talent is the by-product for Cavs fans. That’s a whole lot of wasted time.

(Photo: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

Has Dion Waiters (finally) arrived?

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After a season rife with rumors of trades and fistfights, is this—finally—Dion Waiters’ coming out party?

Dion Waiters stood outside of his locker, squinted his eyes and shook his head as a half-smile-half-grimace formed on his face. It was early January, just days after the calendar turned to 2014. The Cleveland Cavaliers had just lost a heartbreaker to the Indiana Pacers, contenders for the NBA title, and he came pretty damn close to pulling off a miracle that would have propelled his name even further up the ranks in the minds of Cavalier fans. The Cavs were playing in their third game without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving who had fallen victim to a bruised knee. In Irving’s absence, Cavs head coach Mike Brown opted to go with Matthew Dellavedova at point guard, an undrafted rookie out of St. Mary’s who had grown a bit of a cult following due to his never-ending hustle, rather than Waiters, who was drafted fourth-overall just a year earlier. [Read more...]

Your 2014 (Offseason) Champion Cleveland Browns: While We’re Waiting

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Tell me how my Ben Tate: So how about these free-spendin’ Browns? While some national types will want to parse apart the $7 million given to Ben Tate this past weekend  (Phil Dawson money!), Cleveland locked up a 25-year-old without much in the way of mileage on his tires. Sure, those tires have had trouble staying affixed for the last few years, but we’re talking about a guy who thrived in a zone blocking scheme in Houston, who will now be given feature-back carries in a similar offense with chip on his shoulder and a chance to prove his worth. Plus, HE’S ONE OF US.

Sign me up.

Speaking of, this may deserve more in the way of an in-depth discussion, but there’s something to be said about the front-loaded nature of these Browns free agent deals. The bulk of Karlos Dansby’s money is up front; Donte Whitner’s appears to be relatively similar. Same can be said for the two-year deal given to Isaiah Trufant and the four-year deal offered to Andrew Hawkins where $10.8 million (of the $13.6 million) will be provided to him in the first two seasons. I don’t have the energy or desire to analyze what the Browns’ situation looks like beyond 2016, but things appear to be mighty flexible. I would imagine this means good things for the Josh Gordons and Joe Haden’s of the world.

Ouch: Talk about a bi-polar road trip. While you were counting sheep, the Cavaliers were shocking the world on a West Coast swing, coming up with wins against the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors. Unfortunately for Cleveland and any remote playoff hopes, not only did they fall victim to the always dangerous Los Angeles Clippers, Kyrie Irving may be done for the season with a biceps injury. Brother left Staples Center on Sunday night with his left arm in a sling. Also not helping matters: This week’s schedule brings both the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder to The Q.1 Enjoy the road show, folks.

Ohio State: I’ll obviously be pulling for the Buckeyes this weekend when they look to escape the first two rounds (Yes, they’re the first two rounds—nothing the NCAA will change what normal—read: non-paid individuals—call them), but it will certainly be a tough road. If they can scrape past the Dayton Flyers, they’ll be forced to tackle the zone defense of Syracuse. They may not score 40 points. Someone has to provide the Scarlet and Grey with a consistent scoring option—you can only live on Aaron Craft’s defense for so long. The missed free throws certainly will not help. Here’s a March Madness prediction: Several shades of red emanating from Thad Matta’s high-definition face this weekend. Book it.

And just because… Cricket: A sport Brandon Weeden could actually be good at.

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Footnotes:

  1. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Tristan Thompson who bottomed out in Sunday’s loss, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting with one rebound and three personal fouls in 20 minutes of action. Over the past four games, shooting 8-of-28 from the field with more fouls (12) than combined assists, steals and blocks (nine). Come celebrate his birthday this Thursday! []

Spencer’s Gifts

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Turmoil often leads to reaction. You can attempt to rectify your prior poor decisions with new ones, but oftentimes this is analogous to doubling down at a blackjack table in hopes of catching a hot hand. We often expect things to simply work out. Our decisions that were, at the time, supported by well-thought and careful analysis are supposed to bear fruit. But when they don’t… Well, that’s when some point fingers and others lose their jobs.

[Read more...]

Your Post-Trade Deadline Cleveland Cavaliers Viewing Guide

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Because masochism isn’t for everyone

I hate winter.

Seriously.

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

[Insert barely coherent mumbled obscenities here]

[Read more...]

Cavs vs Raptors Behind the Box Score: Shooting Blanks

Kyrie RaptorsThe Cavaliers are banged up and it’s showing. They’ve now accumulated three consecutive losses since the trade deadline and there’s still not set date for the return of CJ Miles, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao. Every team the Cavaliers will face in March is either in the playoffs or sitting just barely outside them. These games are only going to get tougher for.

This particular loss to the Raptors at home Tuesday night hurt for a host of reasons. The Cavs came out shooting all sorts of blanks in the opening quarter and it looked as if the offensive woes from the last few games were going to doom the Cavs to a blowout defeat. They managed to minimize the damage of what looked like a poor second quarter and headed into half  shockingly, to anyone watching, only down by six. An 11 point third quarter from Kyrie Irving pushed the Cavs back into the lead to start the fourth, but some questionable calls and sublime shot making from the Raptors proved to be too much for the shorthanded Wine and Gold as they fell 99-93. [Read more...]

Breaking down the arrival of Spencer Hawes to Cleveland

 David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

A detailed look at Cleveland’s newest headband-wearing big man

The Nitty Gritty

The Cavaliers acquired 25-year old Spencer Hawes from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for a package of Earl Clark, Henry Sims, and two second-round picks in this year’s draft. Hawes is set to be a free agent at the end of the season and the rebuilding 76ers were in a position to either trade him at the deadline or lose him for nothing at season’s end. They obviously opted for the former. Earl Clark and Henry Sims can barely be registered as a loss for this Cavs team as neither was garnering consistent minutes within Mike Brown’s rotation. The second-round picks being sent out are the Cavaliers own second-rounder this year, along with the Grizzlies’ second-round pick that they acquired last season. They still own Orlando’s second-round pick this year which, due to the Magic’s awful season, is the most valuable of the bunch.

[Read more...]

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes about how the Cavs lost their way

Chris Grant Cavaliers RookiesLiterally minutes after the Cavaliers sealed a rare three-game winning streak on Tuesday night, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski decided to rain on Cleveland’s parade and release an article about what he’d dug on a seemingly dysfunctional Chris Grant regime.

Wojnarowski is the most well connected NBA writer out there and he tends to be the one to break most of the major news that hits The Association. It’s not often though that he decides to expound further on NBA events beyond dropping #WojBombs on Twitter. So when such a well informed writer decides to go more in-depth about your favorite franchise, it’s hard not to pay close attention.

Some of the most interesting claims he makes in the article are:

  • Despite the league-wide acclaim for interim GM David Griffin, owner Dan Gilbert is going to search far and wide for a replacement this summer. That doesn’t mean Griffin is out of the running though.
  • There was belief among the Cavs organization that Grant had not scouted Jonas Valancinunas well enough before the 2011 draft. Though most of the Cavs personnel department wanted Valanciunas, Grant used the fact that the player’s agent, Leon Rose, would not negotiate a buyout agreement with his European club before they knew where he would be drafted. Thus, that was his justification to select the player he wanted in Tristan Thompson.
  • Grant passed on Andre Drummond in the 2012 draft over concerns that a Tristan Thompson-Andre Drummond frontcourt would not be offensively compatible.
  • Kyrie Irving pushed hard to have his “close friend” Harrison Barnes drafted by the Cavs in 2012.
  • Grant had been attempting to trade Dion Waiters before he was fired.
  • Klay Thompson was discussed for the No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft by the Cavs, but Grant believed he could move back into the lottery and snag him later.
  • The No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft was between Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett.
  • If Bennett had not been selected by the Cavs, then he would have fallen somewhere around the No. 10 spot in the lottery.
  • Bennett loved making late-night pizza runs at UNLV which was a contributing factor to his weight problem.

I take qualms with some of the opinions expressed in the article such as Victor Oladipo being the “perfect two-way player to complement Kyrie” and that Anthony Bennett is a “colossal failure” considering no one in this draft class has colored themselves in glory. Plus, Bennett hasn’t been given a ton of opportunities. Nonetheless, the sourced information is fascinating and a must-read for any Cavs fan.

[Related: David Griffin: Next Man Up]

Photo: Joshua Gunter, The Plain Dealer

On defensive analytics and the Cavs’ recent issues

Cleveland Cavaliers v Dallas Mavericks

“Math is winning out on offense in the NBA.”

These were the words of Grantland’s Zach Lowe, the man whose writing represents basketball’s best combination of analytics with the league beat. But what does Lowe mean by that exactly? And where can we see information relevant for the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers, owners of the NBA’s worst defense since Luol Deng’s debut last month?

Looking into those questions requires background information on the rise of basketball analytics and a look into what we actually do know about defensive analytics in the game today. [Read more...]

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

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

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

Check out this episode

While We’re Waiting… Where exactly Chris Grant was wrong

While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links every day. We’ve been doing it for about four years or so. Denny Mayo used to be much more amusing with his intros, if you recall. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Blaming the Cavs for falling into the trap of the LeBron years: “This is the latest example of a franchise assuming that there is a template for the type of success enjoyed by the likes of the San Antonio Spurs translating to every other market. It takes stars, superstars usually, and just the right fit to launch an outfit from the lottery to the upper echelon of the league. The players come first, then the success. That’s the way it’s always been and always will be. Assuming that some set infrastructure is supposed to come first is where the Cavaliers went wrong.” [Sekou Smith/NBA.com] [Read more...]

New Cavs GM will have the tools in place to rebuild properly

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From the first day Chris Grant took his office as the general manager of the Cavaliers, the buzz word on everybody’s lips was “assets.” As Investopedia describes it, “assets are bought to increase the value of a firm or benefit the firm’s operations.” At the time Grant took over general manager duties for the Cavaliers, the franchise had just lost the biggest asset they’d ever had (or anyone had ever had) in LeBron James. And since there was no other asset attainable on the market of the caliber of LeBron, Chris Grant went into asset collection mode. The notion was the more assets you gather, the more flexibility you have as a franchise. [Read more...]

A wooden case of emotion

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(Update: Chris Grant has been relieved of his duties as Cavs GM)

With his Cleveland Cavaliers taking the floor, having lost their last five games, but playing host to a shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers team which had had recently been tag-teamed by Mother Nature and the Injury Bug, Chris Grant sauntered up a flight of temporary stairs and stepped foot into his baseline-side box. Roughly 25 square feet of plywood, builder-grade carpet and folding chairs, it’s a perch that resembles more of a holding unit at customs than one for an extremely well-paid NBA executive, but such is life. The box is elevated enough to provide a decent view of the floor from such close proximities, but also equidistant between the Cavaliers’ bench and the team’s locker room. The 6-foot-10-inch Grant was adorned in his uniform—a dark suit anchored by black loafers. Coffee was in hand. Glasses were off.

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The Diff: Revisiting ShotScore and how the Cavs are terrible

The Diff is your weekly WFNY look into the amazing world of sports statistics. For a complete log of articles, click this link. Last week, I wrote about the downfall for the Cavs in four terrible home losses. This week, I’m focusing on shooting data again.

The Diff

Within the next 15 days, this Cleveland Cavaliers roster should undergo yet another significant shift. The past few weeks of speculation have made it perfectly clear that not everyone – front office and/or personnel-wise – will survive this season from hell. While there are storylines for days about what that means for the organization’s future, I wanted to focus – perhaps for one of the final actually meaningful times – on what we’re seeing out on the court from these Cavaliers of late. Today, I’ll be looking at the Cavs’ efficiency from a number of different areas, again highlighting the ShotScore statistic. [Read more...]

Mike Brown needs to speak up

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Following an embarrassing 124-95 defeat on November 13 at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves just nine games into the season, the Cavaliers sitting at a disappointing 3-6 against a fairly weak schedule, held their now-infamous players-only meeting.

The week that followed in Cavaliers talk revolved around whether or not Dion Waiters got into a physical altercation with another player and whether or not that player was Kyrie Irving. This speculation was completely unfounded. Mike Brown, when asked about the meeting, had this to say via Cleveland.com: [Read more...]

Things that annoy me about the Cavaliers right now

Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown, Chris Grant

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

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

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Quotes in Luol Deng-based report paint ugly picture in Cleveland

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While the spotlight of speculation continues to shine brightly on the Cleveland Cavaliers, small forward Luol Deng is the subject of a column in the New York Daily News that paints an even worse picture for the scene in Independence.

As Deng recently told one close friend, “the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess.”

Deng was brought in to help clean it up when he arrived in a deal for Andrew Bynum on Jan. 7. But since then, he’s seen players get thrown out of practice, take off their uniform tops at halftime and threaten not to play, mouth off to Brown and generally act like spoiled brats.

There is no accountability, as Dion Waiters found out when he was kicked out of practice last week but still got his usual minutes against the Knicks. Brown isn’t getting much help from GM Chris Grant, who is expected to be fired at season’s end because of the losing and problems in the locker room. […]

Kyrie Irving is close to firing his agent, Jeff Wechsler, according to a league source. We hear part of the reason Irving is seeking a new rep is that he intends on leaving the Cavs, while Wechsler wants him to stay. As we reported at the start of the season, Irving wants to come back home to the New York area — he’s from West Orange, N.J. — and play for the Knicks. Lord knows they could use an All-Star talent at point guard, and Irving will be headed for his first starting assignment in an All-Star game in a couple of weeks.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Deng said, the wake of his trade from Chicago to Cleveland, that he was leaving one great organization for another. If these quotes are true, while not said directly to the author of the column, they show what may be going on behind the scenes. This is the first anyone has reported anything regarding players getting kicked out of practice.

Two notes worth pointing out: It was the New York Daily News that, earlier this year, attempted to discuss a path that ultimately ends with Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving ending up in a New York Knicks jersey. Also, these quotes provide a stark contrast to those which will hit Jason Lloyd’s Sunday-morning column.

“I don’t get the vibe that anyone has given up on Coach, I just think we’re not playing as a unit,” said Deng. “Cleveland is going to win. I really believe that. I’m not surprised they went to the Finals before. It’s going to happen again.”