August 2, 2014

Through the Looking-Glass, and What the Cavaliers Found There

kyrie_fannight

Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

There’s a degree of order in life. Certain things fit together in ways that make sense. There are laws of math, and physics, and biology. Unbreakable truths. Anyone who has been watching the recent reincarnation of the show Cosmos on FOX has been able to look on with awe at the sheer depth of scale to the universe and life on earth. From observable galaxies that are billions of light years away to the beautiful complexity of life at the sub-molecular level, there are rules and order. The same laws of physics that govern our world apply to those billions of light years away.

None of those unbreakable rules of consistency apply to the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers. In a world of order, the Cavaliers are outlaws. They are agents of rebellion flying in the face of matters of consistency and basketball truths. Or, should I say, they “were” outlaws. The 2013-14 Cavaliers are no longer a fluid existence in the present, but instead are now frozen in time as a part of history. And when basketball scholars look back and study this team, what will they find? They won’t find answers, but more questions. That’s something everyone who lived through this season knows from personal experience. No matter where things go from here, this will always be remembered as one of the most confusing seasons in Cavalier history.

[Read more...]

Cavs vs Pistons Behind the Box Score: Trees falling without making a sound

AP Photo/Mark Duncan

AP Photo/Mark Duncan

Don’t get me wrong…that was a fun game. The Cavaliers played some of the best team basketball we’ve seen this group play as they came out and just crushed the Pistons 122-100. But as fun as it was, it unfortunately didn’t matter. The Pistons quit a long time ago. They’re the same team who played a 76ers team on the verge of breaking the all time losing streak record. And the Pistons got killed by that Sixers team. So it wasn’t surprising that the Cavs were able to take care of business.

The fact is, the playoffs are gone, the Pistons are a team tanking as hard as can be, and so there’s just not much to take away from this game. Winning a game like this just doesn’t really mean much. You would like to think that the ball movement, spacing, and team scoring were all functions of a team developing and figuring things out. Unfortunately, it could just as easily be about playing a team that just doesn’t care anymore. And because I don’t want this to be coming across as too negative, I’ll point out that the Cavs legitimately deserve credit for caring. Or at least caring a lot more than the Pistons, anyway.

Now lets get into the numbers: [Read more...]

Cavs vs Spurs Behind the Box Score: What defense?

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Well, for 12 minutes this was a fun game. The Cavaliers had one of their better first quarters of the seasons, jumping out to a 23-13 lead in the quarter. Unfortunately, that would be about the extent of the fun this evening.

The Spurs roared back with a 37-17 edge over the Cavaliers in the 2nd quarter. The Spurs went from being unable to make anything to not being able to miss a thing. The Cavaliers’ offense was pretty good in this game, but the Spurs’ role players were simply too much for the Cavaliers to handle and the Spurs left the Q with a 122-101 win.

We knew March was going to be a brutal month, and nights like this show why. The Cavaliers really didn’t play all that poorly. The defense obviously wasn’t great fundamentally, but the Spurs just ran their offense to perfection and they overmatched the Cavs. The Cavs shot 48.1% from the field and 52.6% from three, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome San Antonio.

The Cavaliers already slim playoff odds are shrinking even more with every loss. So while the Cavs played decent basketball, there’s just no room for moral victories. At this point in the season, only actual wins and losses matter.

So lets get into the numbers: [Read more...]

Cavs vs 76ers Behind the Box Score: Five in a row

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Cleveland took a four-game winning streak into the All-Star break, and in their first game back they picked up right where they left off. The Cavs got off to a fast start in Philadelphia Tuesday night and they never let up, winning one of their most complete games of the season by an easy 114-85 margin.

While the game was mostly an enjoyable affair, it wasn’t without drama. In the second quarter Dion Waiters threw down a monstrous dunk in traffic, but when he came down and tried to stop his momentum, his left leg locked up and he hyperextended his knee. It was a terrifying moment as Dion laid on the ground holding his knee. Thankfully, worst fears were never realized as Dion was shortly back up laughing with Kyrie. He was held out the rest of the game and for now his status is uncertain, but it seems as if the injury isn’t as bad as it initially looked like it could have been.

Other than that, this game was mostly a walk in the park against a severely struggling Sixers team. Offense, defense, transition…it was all clicking for the Cavs in this one and it’s a great way to keep building on the momentum as the Cavaliers hit the stretch run of the season. Before this game it would have been hard to believe that with Dion leaving the game in the second quarter with injury, Kyrie having a quiet but efficient 14 points and three assists in limited minutes, and Andy being out that the Cavaliers would coast to an easy 29-point victory, but that’s precisely what happened.

So lets get into the numbers… [Read more...]

Cavs vs Magic Behind The Box Score: Undefeated in 2014!

They say box scores don’t tell the whole story. Behind The Box Score is a new series where from time to time we will attempt to look behind the box score and tell more of the complete story of what happened in the game.

Anderson Varejao vs MagicThere are ugly games in the NBA. Teams have ugly wins. Then you have whatever this game was. With Kyrie Irving sitting out with a bruised left knee, the Cavaliers played one of the worst basketball games I have ever seen. Thankfully, they played the Orlando Magic.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the first 3.9 quarters of this game. Both teams took turns trying to out-lose each other, but in the final minute of the game, the Magic appeared to have a comfortable 79-70 lead. In the final minute, all kinds of crazy would break out.

Dion Waiters got things started by hitting a pair of FTs. After an Arron Afflalo miss, Jarrett Jack was fouled on a three-point attempt and would make all 3 free throws. Orlando would then get called for a 5 second violation trying to inbound the ball. Dion would make layup to bring the Cavs within two at 79-77 with 10 seconds left. The Cavs fouled E’Twaun Moore to send him to the line with 9 seconds left. Moore would miss both free throws and on the 2nd miss, the Magic knocked the ball out of bounds to give the ball back to the Cavs. Dion then completed a nice drive to the basket to tie the game with 0.6 seconds left and the game would go to overtime.

In overtime, the Magic could only manage 2 points, going scoreless over the final 3:19 of the game, and the Cavaliers pulled away to come up with an unexpected 87-81 win. For most of this game it felt like the Cavaliers were hitting rock bottom. It was offensive to the game of basketball, and it really said a lot about the construction of this team outside of Kyrie Irving. But credit to guys like Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova, and Dion Waiters who all made huge plays at different points and found a way to come up with a win.

Now let’s get into the mostly ugly numbers… [Read more...]

Cleveland Cavaliers Open the Season with Hope, Excitement, and Something New….Expectations

Cleveland Cavaliers

Season 44 of Cleveland Cavalier basketball tips off tonight at 7:00 at The Q when the Wine and Gold host the new-look Brooklyn Nets. That much we know for sure. Beyond that, so much of this upcoming season is a mystery. But the nice thing about the unknown is that it can offer equal parts hope and excitement.

Hope is nothing new for Cleveland. People often mistakenly assume that Cleveland sports fans are miserable and hopeless. Well, we might be miserable, but for some reason we never let go of hope.

There was hope that the post-LeBron Cavaliers would still make a playoff run with the likes of Mo Williams, JJ Hickson, Antawn Jamison, and Daniel Gibson. There was hope that Byron Scott would bring a fresh, new, exciting brand of basketball to Cleveland. There was hope that Brandon Weeden in his 2nd year would make the leap into a competent QB and lead the Browns to a meaningful season. There was hope that an overachieving Indians team could ride their hot streak into the playoffs and make an improbable run at the World Series.

So maybe our hope isn’t paid off very often. But this unrequited hope is what makes Cleveland sports fans so great. And never is hope more abundant than on opening day of any season. None of this is new. I feel like every year on opening night I write about the hope of a new season and the quality of the unknown and blah, blah, blah. It’s all a fine sentiment, but all it’s ever done recently is precede a gut-wrenching season of miserable basketball. [Read more...]

2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

Kyrie All StarThe 2012-13 season for the Cleveland Cavaliers was an up and down season. Mostly downs, but there were some nice stretches of good basketball mixed in. But the recurring theme of an almost defiant refusal to play any defense whatsoever night in and night out became too much for head coach Byron Scott to survive. And so the Cavaliers begin the 2013-14 season with a new head coach, a new identity and philosophy, a new hope in a veteran All-Star center, a new potential in the #1 overall pick, and a new sense of purpose for achieving a higher goal. And oh yeah, they still have Kyrie Irving, too. Will the new season deliver new results, or will the Cavaliers continue to watch the playoffs from home? Let’s take a closer look at the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers.

Team Name: Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Year’s Record: 24-58 (5th in the Central Division)
Key Losses: Wayne Ellington, Marreese Speights, Shaun Livingston, Daniel Gibson, Omri Casspi, Luke Walton, Byron Scott (coach)
Key Additions: Andrew Bynum (free agent signing), Jarrett Jack (free agent signing), Earl Clark (free agent signing), Anthony Bennett (first round draft pick), Sergey Karasev (first round draft pick), Carrick Felix (second round draft pick), Mike Brown (coach) [Read more...]

WFNY Podcast – 2013-03-01 Craig and Andrew Discuss MIT Sloan Conference, Dion Waiters, and more

WFNY Podcast LogoCraig is in Boston this weekend for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, but that didn’t stop him from calling me up for another podcast episode.

Admittedly, I like most of my fellow WFNY writers are pretty envious that Craig is lucky enough to take in this impressive and prestigious sports media conference in person, and so we started off spending a couple minutes talking about the conference. And from there, the conversation kind of went all over the place.

Here’s just some of the things we discussed…

  • MIT Sloan Conference
  • Our strange inability to remember other writers’ names
  • What do we make of the Shaun Livingston resurgance? Is it luck?
  • What happened in Washington?
  • Coming back from catastrophic injury and overcoming the mental and physical setbacks
  • Polarization on the internet
  • Eric Mangini and the internet muscles on both sides
  • Should the Cavaliers wait until 2014 or should they make a move for someone sooner?
  • Dion Waiters, improvement, and confirmation bias

[powerpress url="http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/WFNYPodcast2013-03-01.mp3"] [Read more...]

Some Thoughts on Dion Waiters’ Improvement

waitersEveryone has different opinions when it comes to basketball. It’s funny, because it seems like basketball should be the easiest sport to objectively breakdown due to a lot of built-in factors with the sport1. But there are still massive disagreements all the time on whether players are good or not.

Of course, words like “good” and “bad” can and do mean different things to different people. So perhaps that’s why arguments break out over this stuff. Either way, in case you missed it or aren’t on Twitter and/or don’t follow CBS Sports’ Matt Moore (@HPbasketball), last night a huge debate broke out between Moore and Cavs fans over Dion Waiters.

Now, for those who don’t know, Matt Moore doesn’t like Dion Waiters. I ‘m not talking about Waiters the person, but Waiters the basketball player. Moore has been a very vocal critic of Waiters all season long, and he’s evidently tired of Cavs fans defending Waiters’ game.

I don’t mean that as an attack on Matt. I like and respect Matt a lot. But if you look at his Twitter timeline, that’s the truth. He doesn’t think much of Waiters and whenever Waiters has a good game, many Cavs fans call him out on Twitter about it, which can sometimes lead to Matt making sarcastic comments about Waiters and Cavs fans.  [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. fewest number of players playing at one time, individual players making bigger impact on team, strong advanced stats, just to name a few… []

On the Cavaliers and the Prospects of a Failed Rebuilding Process

Sometimes you think you know something. And then someone really smart says something that challenges what you think you know, and it makes you look at the subject from an entirely different point of view. And when the context changes, you can sometimes be surprised at what you learn.

I love the WFNY Podcasts that Craig is doing, and by far my two favorite episodes have been the two Brian Spaeth conversations. I don’t know Brian, save for a few Twitter interactions and one email interaction in which he sent me a promotional copy of his movie “Who Shot Mamba?” (which is genuinely funny and really stupid at the same time…it’s great). But I follow him on Twitter and read his website. He has a lot of interesting things to say and generally looks at things from a perspective different from my own.

But what I really remember the most about Brian is his old sports blog, Yay Sports!. Yes, a long time ago (in internet time) Brian wrote this really great basketball blog and I vividly remember reading it, laughing a lot, thinking about basketball from a different perspective, and just being happy that this guy was a fellow Cavs fan. [Read more...]

Box Score: Kings 97, Cavaliers 94

This game brought some big changes for the Cavaliers. First of all, Tristan Thompson was playing without his mask. This game also saw Shaun Livingston make his Wine and Gold debut. But the big change was Coach Scott’s decision to start CJ Miles and bring Dion Waiters off the bench. In the first half, the move paid off as CJ Miles had a big first quarter and then Dion Waiters followed with a 14 point 2nd quarter to lead the Cavaliers to a halftime lead.

In the 3rd quarter, though, the Cavaliers’ offense went missing and a slew of bad fouls early in the quarter allowed the Kings to use the free throw line to build a 10 point lead.

The Kings were playing their 2nd road game in two nights, and generally when that happens teams struggle to hang on to leads and keep up the intensity for a full game. It looked that might be happening as the Cavaliers went on a run toward the end of the 3rd quarter and regained the lead early in the 4th.

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, though, the Kings weren’t going to just roll over and hand the game to Cleveland. The Cavaliers seemed to be lacking energy for much of this game despite having 2 days off, and it was Cleveland who made bad plays and unfortunate turnovers down the stretch.

Tristan Thompson fell 1 point short of yet another double double, and he struggled with foul trouble, forcing him to sit for much of the game. This opened the door for big minutes for Luke Walton, who, to his credit, made some really nice defensive plays including a big blocked shot and a couple charges drawn. Kyrie Irving lead the Cavaliers with 22 points and Dion Waiters had 20.

Without Anderson Varejao, though, the Kings’ frontcourt was just too much as DeMarcus Cousins had 18 points and 16 rebounds while Jason Thompson had 19 points and 10 rebounds. While there were some things to like from Cleveland in this one, particularly some nice scoring distribution, it was not a great start to the New Year for the Cavaliers, as things looked pretty 2012 in this game.

1 2 3 4 T
SAC 28 24 22 23 97
CLE 25 28 18 23 94

 

Sacramento

Starters Pos Min FG 3Pt FT +/- Off Reb Ast TO Stl BS BA PF Pts
J. Salmons G 31:58 3-6 1-4 0-0 +10 1 3 3 3 1 0 0 5 7
I. Thomas G 19:29 3-8 0-2 2-3 +4 0 1 4 1 1 0 0 1 8
D. Cousins C 34:22 7-17 0-0 4-4 +13 7 16 6 1 2 1 0 3 18
J. Thompson F 36:23 8-16 0-0 3-4 +4 3 10 2 1 0 3 2 3 19
F. Garcia F 33:35 6-13 2-6 0-0 +11 1 6 2 0 2 2 0 2 14
Bench Min FG 3Pt FT +/- Off Reb Ast TO Stl BS BA PF Pts
Totals 38-88 3-16 18-23 15 46 22 10 8 6 4 19 97
Percentages .432 .188 .783 Team Rebounds: 5
A. Brooks 28:34 6-10 0-2 1-2 +1 1 2 3 0 1 0 1 1 13
C. Hayes 16:48 1-5 0-0 0-0 -9 1 2 2 0 1 0 1 0 2
J. Johnson 16:08 2-6 0-0 4-5 -9 1 4 0 1 0 0 0 3 8
J. Fredette 14:54 1-5 0-2 4-5 -7 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 6
T. Robinson 7:49 1-2 0-0 0-0 -3 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 2
T. Honeycutt DNP – Coach’s Decision
T. Outlaw DNP – Coach’s Decision
M. Thornton DNP – Coach’s Decision

Cleveland

Starters Pos Min FG 3Pt FT +/- Off Reb Ast TO Stl BS BA PF Pts
K. Irving G 35:03 8-18 1-4 5-6 -7 2 5 6 3 0 0 1 2 22
C.J. Miles G 28:44 4-13 1-7 3-3 -5 0 2 0 2 0 0 1 2 12
T. Zeller C 35:55 3-7 0-0 2-2 -5 3 8 0 3 0 2 2 2 8
A. Gee F 38:33 5-10 1-3 5-6 -3 2 10 6 1 0 0 1 2 16
T. Thompson F 35:22 4-12 0-0 1-2 +4 5 13 0 2 0 0 1 4 9
Bench Min FG 3Pt FT +/- Off Reb Ast TO Stl BS BA PF Pts
Totals 34-87 5-21 21-24 15 50 19 13 2 4 6 20 94
Percentages .391 .238 .875 Team Rebounds: 10
D. Waiters 29:21 8-19 1-4 3-3 +1 1 2 3 0 1 0 0 5 20
L. Walton 17:58 2-7 1-3 0-0 -7 1 7 3 2 1 1 0 3 5
S. Livingston 12:57 0-1 0-0 2-2 +4 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 2
K. Jones 6:07 0-0 0-0 0-0 +3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
O. Casspi DNP – Coach’s Decision
J. Leuer DNP – Coach’s Decision
J. Pargo DNP – Coach’s Decision
S. Samuels DNP – Coach’s Decision

 

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 []

Cavaliers Road Trip Takes Them to Golden State

The Cleveland Cavaliers have played 4 games this season, and sit at 2-2. In 3 of the 4 games, the Cavaliers were able to feel good about the way they played. Only in the Chicago game last week could their effort and desire really be challenged. This is a good sign for the early season.

Tonight, as they continue their road trip by playing against the Golden State Warriors (2-2), the Cavaliers will try to keep the momentum going. One of the biggest positive for the Cavaliers is that 3 of their 4 opponents have been very good defensive teams this season. In terms of defensive efficiency, the Bulls are 1st, the Bucks are 3rd, and the Wizards are 12th. Only the Clippers (19th) fall in the bottom half of the league.

[Read more...]

ESPN Future Power Rankings: Cavaliers’ Future Is Looking Better

Back in February, ESPN’s Chad Ford and John Hollinger released the latest (at that time) Future Power Rankings. For those unfamiliar, the FPR examines every team’s roster strength, cap situation, front office prowess, market desirability, and future draft picks to decide which teams have the brightest future.

In that installment, the Cavaliers jumped all the way from 29th in the previous version to 18th. Obviously that jump was mostly1 thanks to Kyrie Irving. Now that Irving has taken home Rookie of the Year honors and the Cavaliers added a couple more first round draft picks, the future in Cleveland should look even brighter.

Hollinger and Ford agree with that sentiment and they have moved the Cavaliers all the way up to 12th in today’s update to the Future Power Rankings:

It’s getting better, Cavs fans. After spending a season in the FPR basement following the loss of LeBron James, Cleveland suddenly sports one of the brightest futures of any team in the league.

Much of that has to do with the addition of Kyrie Irving. The top overall selection in the 2011 draft showed enough potential in his rookie season to make us believe the Cavs may have a future All-Star on their hands. The long-term futures of fellow second-year player Tristan Thompson and rookie Dion Waiters also look promising, and we believe Anderson Varejao still has enough juice to man the middle for the Cavs the next few seasons.

The team also has plenty of draft picks coming its way. The Cavs will likely have another lottery pick in 2013, and possibly again in 2014, and they own future picks from both the Kings and Heat.

They also have such a good cap situation going forward that we’ve ranked them second in money heading into the summer of 2013. Cleveland isn’t a top destination for free agents, but there’s no question the team has the flexibility to continue to add to its roster.

For the record, the Cavaliers rank 21st in players, 14th in management, 2nd in money, 20th in market, and 5th in future draft.

In many ways, the speed with which Dion Waiters gets in shape and acclimates to the NBA game will largely determine when the Cavaliers return to contention. Based on Hollinger’s schedule, the Cavaliers are sill 2 years away from being in the playoffs, which likely places them 4-5 years away from Championship contending.

No matter how far away the Cavaliers are, the good news for Cavs fans is that the rebuilding plan is in place, is being followed with patience by the front office, and according to ESPN, the future is looking good for our Cavaliers.

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Footnotes:

  1. entirely []

Random Cavaliers Off-Season Thoughts

Now that Summer League has come and gone, things are probably going to be mostly quiet on the Cleveland Cavaliers homefront until training camp starts in late September/early October. Sure, the Cavaliers will likely sing restricted free agent Alonzo Gee at some point, they still have to decide whether or not to pick up Daniel Gibson’s team option (they probably will), and there’s always the chance of the Cavaliers being involved in some kind of trade. But for the most part, this is the quiet period for the team.

So in the meantime, while football is getting ready to start and baseball is going through all their trade deadline hoopla, here’s some random basketball thoughts to pass the time. [Read more...]

Summer League Thoughts: On Dion Waiters, His Struggles, and More

There’s always plenty of debate when it comes to the NBA Summer League. Every year we see certain mid-to-low first round picks who shine and several top draft picks who really struggle. And there’s always debate as to what it all means.

In general, I would argue that for top draft picks, the Summer League doesn’t tell us a whole lot. It provides us with our first glimpse and you know what they say about first impressions, but when it’s all said and done, these are glorified practices/scrimmages. There’s not a lot of structure, full offensive and defensive sets aren’t installed. It’s a lot of isolation and one-on-one.

Now, if you’re an elite basketball player, you should thrive on this. This freestyle form of basketball should play to your strengths. It’s why we saw Michael Kidd-Gilchrist come out and dominate the game until his injury. It’s why Bradley Beal looked solid in averaging 17.5 points per game for Washington. It reaffirms why so many Cavalier fans were hoping one of those guys would fall to Cleveland. [Read more...]

Boeheim: Waiters “more ready for the NBA than any other guard I’ve ever had”

There are plenty of skeptics when it comes to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ selection of Dion Waiters with the 4th overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim is not one of them. Despite a lot of anger and disappointment from Cavs fans, Boeheim told CBS New York’s Jon Rothstein that those fears are unfounded:

“He’s more ready for the NBA than any other guard I’ve ever had,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of the 6-foot-4, 215 pound Waiters on Tuesday. “Nobody will be able to guard him one on one unless their last name is Westbrook. He’ll go by anyone he faces. Dion started out the draft process at 25 or 30 and has risen dramatically. It should come as no surprise, he’s got all the tools.”

Not that the list of Syracuse guards in the NBA is all that impressive1, but this is still high praise from a coach with whom Waiters had his share of run ins with in his two seasons at Syracuse.

Another underrated aspect of Waiters’ game is his NBA-ready frame. While some fans have expressed concern over Waiters’ height at the SG position, Boeheim feels his body type will be an asset at the next level:

“It’s huge,” Boeheim said in reference to Waiters’ physical attributes. “You look at some players in college and they’re good players but they’re not physically ready for the next level. That’s something that doesn’t affect Dion. He’s more than ready in that aspect and he’s also ready to play with other good players because he played at Syracuse. People sometimes say if you play at a lesser program and put up better numbers that it’s better for your chances in the NBA but that’s not the truth. In the NBA, you have be able to co-exist with other great players. Dion’s already done that.”

Boeheim may be a little biased when it comes to Waiters, but that doesn’t make him wrong. Despite Cleveland fans’ obvious let down factor over not getting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal, the fact remains that with those guys off the board, Waiters was arguably the next best wing player available to the Cavaliers. Several analysts and draft pundits have had nothing but good things to say about the Cavaliers’ pick of Dion Waiters. Jim Boeheim would agree with them.

[Related: 2012 NBA Draft: Cleveland Cavaliers Select Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse]

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Footnotes:

  1. no offense to Jonny Flynn []