All posts by Anthony Joki

Who to target at the trade deadline?

The NBA Trade Deadline is less than three weeks away on February 18. The Cleveland Cavaliers may be looking to add a piece.

Before we get into who the Cavs will target, you have to ask yourself, “What needs do the Cavs have?”

Offensive-minded Backup for Kevin Love

The Cavs offense struggles mightily with its second unit. Recently, the Cavs have played Love with the second group in order to maintain some level of offensive competency. It’s no secret that when they play Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao at power forward, they lose offense naturally.

Thompson, with his rebounding prowess, is more suited to play the center position. He can get rebounds by the handful. Timofey Mozgov can stretch the floor with his mid-range shot but he is a center and only a center. Varejao’s mid-range shot is unreliable at best. He has added it to his game over the years but has not been able to hit it consistently.

When you decide to rest Love, who do you put out there at power forward? You can go small and put LeBron there and play Iman Shumpert or Richard Jefferson at the small forward position. It is a mismatch against almost every power forward in the NBA to play LeBron at that position. However, LeBron does need his rest during games.

A solution? Find an offensive-minded power forward, a stretch four, to play when Love needs to go to the bench.

A Potential Replacement for Timofey Mozgov

Timofey Mozgov is in the last year of his contract, and with the NBA Salary Cap rising next season, he is going to get a large contract. There has been speculation that the Cavs will try and trade Mozgov before the deadline. If the Cavs do stand pat and keep Mozgov, it is likely that he will not be with the Cavs next season.

According to Nylon Calculus, a basketball statistical breakdown website, Mozgov ranks in the Top 10 in Percent of Shots Contested at the Rim of those who play at least 18 minutes per game. He is a very good rim protector. So if you are going to replace Mozgov, you have to find someone that is near his level, or has the potential to reach Mozgov’s level of rim protection.

Timofey has also developed a mid-range shot. This season, he has hit 67% (12-18) of his shots from the 16-foot to 3-point range, almost all of them from the left side of the basket.

So what happens if you trade Mozgov? You have to find a reliable backup because Thompson will take over the starting role for good. The Cavs lineup is best with Thompson in the lineup. If you can find a young center, or one with a manageable cap number for three or four years due to the luxury tax, that would be ideal.

Who to Target at the Trade Deadline?

Here are seven names (six realistically), that the Cavs could look at to add to their championship roster.

Al Horford – C – Atlanta Hawks
One Year, $12,000,000

Let’s get this one out of the way first because it is least likely. There are very few reasons why the Hawks would trade their All-Star center. Horford is in the last year of his contract at $12-million.

Horford is going to get one more large contract before he retires, more than the three-year, $60 million contract that fellow Hawk Paul Millsap received last summer. He will more than likely get a max contract, which is going to be massive due to the rising cap.

Whether the Hawks are going to pony up and give him that contract remains to be seen. They have two other centers locked up beyond this season, Tiago Splitter and Walter Tavares. Tavares is an interesting prospect and may be seen as the replacement in the future for Horford.

I could give you a hundred reasons why the Cavs would do this trade.

In order to make the trade work, the Cavs would have to give up Varejao along with other assets to even make the Hawks consider it. The Cavs do not have a pick in the 2016 NBA Draft that they own. The Clippers owe them a second round pick but it is Top 55 Protected. They would have to part with more than one first round picks.

Kosta Koufos – C – Sacramento Kings
Four Years, $7,700,000

Koufos would be a great a replacement for Mozgov. The Sacramento Kings have a loaded front-court with DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein. Koufos has been the third man in this rotation.

Koufos does not have much of an outside game, but he is an above-average defender at the rim. He would fit well defensively in the second unit if the Cavs decide to move on from Mozgov.

In order to get Koufos, the Cavs would be able to use the Brendan Haywood trade exception. They could also throw in a player like Sasha Kaun or Jared Cunningham, but what Sacramento could use is draft picks. There is a relationship in the past with the Cavs and Kings from the JJ Hickson and Omri Casspi trade.

Brandon Bass – PF – Los Angeles Lakers
Two Years, $3,000,000

The Lakers will look to be shedding more salary that is on the books for next year with this summer’s free agency class (Kevin Durant). Bass has averaged 18-minutes per game with only six points and four rebounds per game.

He would not provide the offensive spark that the Cavs need in the second unit, but defensively he would be a good addition. The Lakers would not any salary in return that would be on the books for next year. The Cavs would only be able to use the Haywood extension, which would be a complete waste. The Lakers would have to send a draft pick along with Bass for the Cavs to take the contract.

Terrence Jones – PF – Houston Rockets
One Year, $2,100,000 (Restricted Free Agent after season)

This one is interesting. Terrence Jones is a player who has completely fallen out of the rotation in Houston. Unlike Bass, Jones can definitely provide a spark offensively and is a good rebounder. He is a freakish athlete. The Rockets have recently reacquired Josh Smith so his minutes are more likely to continue falling.

For this trade, the Cavs can use the Mike Miller trade exception, which make this a possibility. The Cavs would be able to sweeten the pot with future unprotected first round picks.

Ersan Ilyasova – PF – Detroit Pistons
Two Years, $7,900,000

I have liked Ersan Ilyasova back to his days with Milwaukee. He is a good athlete, can shoot the three. Detroit does not seem to be going anywhere and they are going to need all the cap room necessary to resign Andre Drummond.

For this trade, the Cavs would be able to use the Haywood trade exception and would likely have to include draft picks. He would be the perfect fit into the second unit.

Markieff Morris – PF – Phoenix Suns
Four Years, $8,000,000

Markieff Morris has fallen out of favor with the Phoenix Suns ever since they traded away his twin brother to the Pistons. He is only 26-years old and has a team friendly contract, especially one with a high luxury tax bill, for the next three seasons.

The Suns may just want to get out of this situation with Morris. The Cavs would have to use the Haywood exception but if the Suns would like a player in return, Varejao would be the likely candidate.

Channing Frye – PF – Orlando Magic
Three Years, $8,100,000

Let’s finish with my odds-on-favorite players for the Cavs to land at the trade deadline. Channing Frye is an older Kevin Love who is not as good at rebounding, but he can definitely shoot. Frye can still give you valuable minutes off the bench behind Love.

Orlando has been trying to rebuild their team since Dwight Howard wanted out of there. At 32-years old, the Cavs would have Frye for the next two seasons and would be the absolute perfect fit in their rotation.

So what would the Magic want? Draft picks. The Cavs can use the Haywood trade exception here again along with draft picks to pry Frye away from the Magic.

Dream Scenario

The Cavs use the Haywood trade exception on Frye and trade Varejao along with say Cunningham and Kaun for Al Horford. Let’s just way that won’t happen.

Personal Favorite Scenario

Channing Frye and Markieff Morris would be two great additions to the Cavs bench and would keep this championship roster together for a few more seasons.

Cleveland Cavaliers Fire David Blatt, Hire Tyronn Lue

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Cleveland Cavaliers have fired Head Coach David Blatt and have promoted Assistant Coach Tyronn Lue to the role.

Obviously this move comes as a shock. Under Blatt, the Cavs had a an 83-40 record plus he was 14-6 in the playoffs ultimately where the Cavaliers lost the NBA Finals. I am speechless at this move. It doesn’t make any sense to do this right now. However, it is not the best kept secret that the players seemed to favor Tyronn Lue more than Blatt. Now for the second year in a row, the Cavaliers will have a rookie head coach trying to win the NBA Finals. 

Stay tuned to Cleveland.morethanafan.net for continuing coverage on the Cleveland Cavaliers.

An Open Letter to Peter Krouse

Today, Peter Krouse from cleveland.com posted an article in the opinion section titled “Trade LeBron James: Is it that Unthinkable?” Let’s break this down piece by piece.

“People in my office accuse me of being a LeBron hater. I assure you that I’m not. But while most people believe the Cavaliers can’t win a championship without LeBron, I believe they can’t win one with him.

Unless things change.

The Cavaliers have great talent, but collectively their sum doesn’t come close to the value of their parts. If you could unload LeBron, you might get two very good players in exchange who, when inserted in a lineup with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, might make two plus three add up to six.”

Well sure, if you can trade LeBron for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, why not do it? The problem is, it is absolutely impossible. There is no two/three player combination in the NBA that would combine to the talent of LeBron that a franchise would be willing to trade away. If you trade LeBron, you have to fill his spot. Who are you going to put there? Who can you trade for that can play the small forward position as good as him? He is the best player on the planet for a reason. He is the best at his position.

“The problem is that LeBron’s savior-complex prevents any kind of chemistry from developing. He thinks he has to carry the team on his shoulders all the time. That’s not being a leader. That’s being an egomaniac.

A leader accepts the fact that regardless of his exceptional ability, he is still a cog in a machine that is programmed by a coach. And that machine has to be finely tuned if it wants to perform at its highest level.”

LeBron is the leader of this team. He wants to desperately win a championship in this city. He made a promise to the City of Cleveland and to Northeast Ohio that he would bring a championship here. I don’t call that being an “egomaniac”, I call that someone who really cares about winning basketball games. I call that someone who is really driven and motivated by the great fans who root for the Cavaliers.

LeBron is a cog in the machine that the Cavaliers team is. The team is still building chemistry. They have played less than an entire NBA season together and everyone is still figuring out their roles. LeBron brings championship experience to the Cavaliers. Coach David Blatt cannot do that, he is also learning from LeBron. The entire team, besides James Jones and Richard Jefferson, have not won a championship before. LeBron James has two of those and has been the NBA Finals MVP twice. That experience he brings to this team is undeniable. I will ask again, who can you trade for that can bring that experience that he has.

“LeBron may think these mid-season games don’t matter, but they do. If the Cavaliers develop a system now, it will carry them through the playoffs. If they’re hot against Golden State, they win. If not, the discipline of a system keeps them in the game”

He knows these games matter. LeBron has repeatedly said that they need to continue to build chemistry. It may not matter if the Cavaliers lose regular season games, but what does matter is if in that loss they learn something about their team. Something that helps them in the future, it is okay. That mainly is one of the reasons why I did not declare the Cavaliers season over after the loss Monday against Golden State.

“A leader also doesn’t rely on gimmicks such as skipping pre-game introductions to ostensibly demonstrate solidarity and focus. That seemed like a stunt to draw attention by claiming you don’t want it.”

A stunt to draw attention? What’s wrong with taking the game of basketball serious?

“LeBron’s presence also makes it hard for the team to respect Coach David Blatt. One way to ensure dysfunction is for LeBron to second-guess his coach or to think that he and Blatt are on an equal plane. They aren’t, nor should they be. LeBron has to stop telling everybody he’s the leader.”

LeBron is the leader of this team. There is no doubt about that. Are you telling me that Dwayne Wade is not the leader of his team in Miami? Or that Chris Paul is the leader of his team in LA? Or how about Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City? Sure, coaches are an important part of a team in the NBA, see Phil Jackson, Lenny Wilkens and Red Auerbach.

They can be on an equal plane. I am positive that no one watches more film on the Cavaliers other than LeBron and Coach Blatt. LeBron has the trust of Coach Blatt to call a play because of the kind of player LeBron is. Because he has proven it over and over again.

“Under a healthier franchise dynamic, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert would step in to ensure greater accountability and respect. But as long as LeBron continues to sell out The Q, winning a championship appears secondary in Gilbert’s mind.”

This is a joke right? “Winning a championship appears secondary in Gilbert’s mind.” That is absolutely laughable. Dan Gilbert is the one who is committed to paying over $80 million this season in luxury tax and over $100 million next season in luxury tax on top of what he is already paying in salaries. That argument is completely invalid.

“Blatt may not be the answer, but maybe he is. If the Cavaliers have any hope of going all the way this year, they need to coalesce around him.

And here’s a thought (not just mine). Have LeBron stay down around the basket and use his size and quickness to score and rebound and otherwise cause havoc. The dribbling and driving and the fall-away jumpers from 30 feet should be largely removed from his repertoire.

In the end, all LeBron and the Cavs need to do is go about their jobs in a scheme designed by Blatt with discipline and commitment. That’s how great teams with arguably less talent than the Cavs do it.”

We have no idea if Blatt is the answer. What I do know is that Blatt is a championship winning coach. Yes they were overseas but it still takes a special person to win multiple championships as a coach. You do not do that by accident.

We have all complained about LeBron dribbling the shot clock away, there is no denying that. But to my point earlier, the Cavaliers Big Three have played LESS THAN 82 GAMES together. They are still learning how to function and operate together. The dribbling and driving should NEVER be eliminated from his game. That is what he does best. When LeBron takes the ball into the paint, he draws defenders every time. When that happens, he passes to the wide open player if the shot is not there.

The team should also be included in the design of the scheme. Every player knows what they do best, where there hotspot on the floor is. It takes a team effort to build a system, not just a coach.

“The truth is LeBron blew it with Clevelanders when he skipped town in the prime of his career to play in Miami. And it’s looking less likely all the time that he will be able to redeem himself by bringing a championship to Cleveland.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers are more equipped to win an NBA Championship now than ever before. They have talent locked up for many years to come, see Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert. Not to mention that LeBron said he will finish his career as a Cavalier. LeBron, the Cavaliers and Dan Gilbert are committed to bringing a championship to Cleveland. It is looking more likely that LeBron will be able to redeem himself.

What does tonight's game mean?

The hot takes will be burning up around Midnight EST tonight after the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs.

Here’s what a win and loss means for each team.

Cavs
A win means the Cavs will improve to 28-9.
A loss means the Cavs will fall to 27-10.

Spurs
A win means the Spurs will improve to 35-6.
A loss means the Spurs will fall to 34-7.

That’s all it means. Look, we all love to make crazy predictions and declarations after these kinds of games. Everyone is going to do the same thing after the game against Golden State on Monday night. Sure, this game and the one against Golden State could be a measuring stick but more than likely that if the Cavs and Spurs/Warriors meet in the NBA Finals that the Cavs roster will look different. The Cavs are going to add a piece or two by the trade deadline.

The Cavs team is just starting to gel now. Kyrie Irving has been #KYRIDICULOUS since he came back including this massive three pointer against the Dallas Mavericks in overtime on Tuesday night:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3aRnG9mhew]

We all know how good Kyrie Irving is, there is no denying that. But Kyrie has the capability to take his game to the next level, MVP level. The only thing that can hold him back from getting there is staying upright and fighting away the injury bug.

Regular season games do have fun match-ups, so here are the three that I cannot wait to see tonight.

Kevin Love vs LaMarcus Aldridge

These two players are two of the best at power forward in the game. Both players can shoot from the outside. Both players can rebound the basketball. I cannot wait to see how they match-up tonight. The key for Kevin Love is his defense. We will have to wait and see if he can keep up with Aldridge all night long as the Spurs use creative ways to get him the basketball.

LeBron James vs Kawhi Leonard

Leonard is playing a high level of basketball this season. He is averaging over 20 points per game and if Steph Curry hasn’t been so ridiculous this season, Leonard would be one of the leading candidates for MVP. We all know how good of a player LeBron is on defense, but Leonard is a pretty good defender too. I am curious to see how well LeBron performs on offense tonight.

Cavs’ Bench vs Spurs’ Bench

Both of these teams have good benches. It has been a staple of the San Antonio Spurs for years. They have players such as Borris Diaw, Manu Ginobli, David West and Patty Mills that come off the bench and play high minutes. They all play at a high level. The Cavs’ bench will have their work cut out for them tonight as Delly, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mosgov try to keep those players in check. The most interesting match-up off the bench is Ginobli and Shumpert. There is no doubt that Shumpert can guard Ginobli so we shall see if he is a big factor.

Cavs Show Their Double-edged Sword

The Cleveland Cavaliers have piled up three consecutive wins in the last five days and they have done it with both their offense and defense.

Offensive ‘Sword’

The Cavs put up three 100 point-plus wins against the Orlando Magic (104-79), the Toronto Raptors (122-100) and the Washington Wizards (121-115).

In those three games, LeBron James posted 29, 20 and 34 points respectively. His three point shot has been a work in progress this season so he has had to find other ways to attack the rim. So far this season, LeBron has scored 55.6% of his points in the paint, which would be the highest percentage in his career if he maintains this pace. In his last three games, he has scored 68.3% of his points in the paint, an astonishing number. Tonight against the Wizards, he was 4-9 from three-point range, hitting four of five in a three minute stretch.

But it isn’t only LeBron making an impact offensively. The Cavs’ bench has been a big impact as well.

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

In the games against the Magic, Raptors and Wizards, you have seen these performances:
James Jones (Magic): 10 points
Mo Williams (Magic): 8 points
Timofey Mozgov (Magic): 7 points
Matthew Dellavedova (Raptors): 11 points

The lack of Cavs’ depth showed last season when they got to the NBA Finals. They were forced to start Delly and Thompson and players such as Mike Miller and James Jones were forced to play a high amount of minutes. They were put into spots where they weren’t used to playing.

This Cavs’ team is different. Because of injuries early in the season, other players have been forced to step up. When Irving returns, the Cavs’ rotation will be 11 deep, which is one less than the 13 needed for the active roster. Right now, they are the deepest team in the NBA and it has only gotten deeper now that Kyrie Irving has returned and is playing at a high level.

Defensive ‘Sword’

The Cavs’ defense shined against the Magic, in a game that was fueled with emotion, holding them to 79 points and shooting 38.2% from the field for the entire game. Their defense also had a strong two quarters against the Magic, which helped them build their lead. In those 1st and 2nd quarters, they held the Magic to only 32 points.

The player who had the biggest impact against the Magic? Kevin Love. Love’s defense is vastly underrated. Channing Frye, the Magic’s starting power forward went for 3 points on 1-4 shooting. We all know how good defensively LeBron and Iman Shumpert are, but Love hasn’t been exactly praised for his defense.

Cleveland is 3rd in the NBA in points allowed with 96 points per game. They also force other teams to hold the ball. The Cavs do not allow passes to open players. They rank 5th in the NBA in opponents assists.

Double-Edged Sword

The most complete game the Cavs played was against the Orlando Magic, blowing them out 104-79. The entire Cavs’ team put out a great effort against the Magic. They only had FOUR turnovers for the entire game.

It is awesome to see what Iman Shumpert’s return has done to this Cavs team. He is such a great defender coming off the bench and can guard multiple positions. In the game against the Magic, he had a +21 plus/minus for the 21 minutes he was on the court. That is outstanding.

The most interesting thing I saw during these games? It would have to been the line-up that the Cavs put out there tonight against the Wizards. They had Kyrie, Delly, JR, Shumpert and Thompson, four guards and a power-forward. It gave the Wizards problems, regardless of the fact that Irving went #KYRIDICULOUS on them, scoring 10 straight points to start the 4th Quarter.

Coming up, the Cavs continue their six-game road trip with stops in Minnesota, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. Then, they come back home for revenge against the Golden State Warriors

Which Cavs Lineup is Best?

The Cavs have thrown out many different lineups this season with all of the injuries they have had, but which one has worked the best for the them so far?

They will be referred to as: Lineup A, Lineup B, Lineup C, Lineup D and Lineup E.

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
Mo Williams had a season-high 29 points against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

With a win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, the Cavs improve to 14-7 on the season. It was a gritty win that had the Cavs coming back from a large deficit in which they eventually overpowered the Trail Blazers.

The sleeved jerseys seemed to effect LeBron a lot less this time around as he had a team-high 33 points, including some crucial And-1 plays down the stretch. For the first time in a few games, the ball finally seemed to be moving again and it led to offensive efficiency.

Let us see how this lineups compare against each other

Offensive Rating – The number of points a team scores per 100 possessions.

Lineup A – 103.0
Lineup B – 128.4
Lineup C – 120.3
Lineup D – 93.6
Lineup E – 115.2

Defensive Rating – The number of points a team allows per 100 possessions.

Lineup A – 101.9
Lineup B – 94.4
Lineup C – 67.3
Lineup D – 127.1
Lineup E – 82.4

Net Rating – The difference between Offensive and Defensive Ratings.

Lineup A – 1.1
Lineup B – 33.9
Lineup C – 53.1
Lineup D – -36.6
Lineup E – 32.8

It is very clear that Lineup C has been the best lineup for the Cavs this season. Here are the actual lineups:

Lineup A – LeBron, Love, Mozgov, Smith, Williams
Lineup B – Delly, LeBron, Love, Thompson, Smith
Lineup C – Delly, LeBron, Love, Thompson, Williams
Lineup D – LeBron, Jefferson, Love, Mozgov, Williams
Lineup E – Delly, LeBron, Jefferson, Love, Thompson

There are some other stats that shows how well this lineup works together. Out of the five lineups, this is the best rebounding lineup. They out rebound the opposing team by a ratio of 2:1, including grabbing almost 45% of the offensive rebounds.

Everyone is fascinated with the pace at which the Golden State Warriors play at. When the Cavs are playing this lineup, they are playing just as fast as Golden State is. They average 1.5 less possessions than Golden State, an incredible pace. The Warriors may be good offensively, but they are poor defensively. The Cavs give up 17 less points per possession defensively than the Warriors.

When the Cavs are in this lineup, the opposing team is shooting only 34.3% and they also force their opponents to turn the ball over 20 times every 100 possessions. That is just INSANE.

Where does all of the credit go in this lineup? It is a complete team effort.

Delly has greatly improved his offense this season and continues to pester other players while on defense. LeBron is LeBron. He is the ultimate all-around player. Love has been more involved in the offense this season and the Cavs have benefited greatly from it.

One of the biggest reasons this lineup succeeds is Tristan. He is a monster on the glass and has the arm-length to effect shots at the rim. Mo has been a great welcome to the Cavs this season. The offense just seems to flow while he is in the game. Not only can he pass the ball well, but he can create his own shot.

It will be interesting to see how the lineups are when Kyrie and Shumpert return. When they return, be sure to check back here for a comparison on how the lineups perform. Maybe this lineup will continue to perform at a high level even after they return.

The Cavs Bench Is Vastly Improved

One of the biggest flaws in the Cleveland Cavaliers team that went to the NBA Finals last season was the poor bench play.

It was easy to see the bench was missing a legitimate scoring threat other than the streaky J.R. Smith. By the end of the Finals, both Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson were starting due to injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Shawn Marion was a poor shooter and had little left in the tank. Mike Miller and James Jones could not hit a shot. It ultimately led to the demise of the Cavs against the Golden State Warriors.

This offseason, the Cavs reloaded their bench after trading away Miller and Marion deciding to retire. To fill those replacements, the Cavs signed Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson.

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
Mo Williams had a season-high 29 points against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

I was elated when the Cavs signed Williams for multiple reasons. First off, I know Mo wanted to win a championship here in Cleveland the first time he was here. It was why he was so hurt when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. He wanted to win here.

The Cavs decided to trade Williams to start their rebuilding process after James had left. In that trade, the Cavs netted Baron Davis, whom they amnestied, and a first round pick in which the Cavs used to take Kyrie Irving.

Mo Williams had a season-high 29 points against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. Mo wanted to win here in Cleveland and this past offseason he got another chance. He signed a two-year contract with the Cavs and is already paying dividends.

He has been starting in place of the player he was essentially traded for in the first place, Kyrie. When Kyrie does come back, Mo will move back to coming off the bench and that gets me excited.

Through the first eight games, the 32-year-old point guard is averaging 14.7 PPG and 5.4 APG. He has had three 20-point games, including 29 points against the Utah Jazz last night. He provides consistent outside shooting off the bench, something the Cavs really needed last season.

Richard JeffersonWhen Richard Jefferson joined this team, I am willing to bet that he did not expect to be contributing as much as he is now. He was forced into this roll with Iman Shumpert being hurt and he is excelling at his role.

Jefferson is in his 15th season in the NBA and is with his fifth team in the past five years.  He signed a one-year deal with the Cavs at the league minimum this offseason. In the preseason, you could already tell that Jefferson would turn out to be a better fit with this Cavs team than Marion.

Jefferson has been a starter for a couple games but mainly being the guy that gives LeBron the rest he needs and is producing in that spot. He is averaging just under 10 points per game this season and is also hitting the outside shot. He will absolutely be a key player off the bench this season for the Cavs and will be what Marion was supposed to be last season.

Tristan Thompson is being Tristan Thompson. He is giving this Cavs team a near double-double off the bench, which is insane. But for $82 million, he better be doing something extraordinary like that.

It has been great to see the return of Anderson Varejao. I just hope he can stay healthy through the 82-game schedule and a long post-season run. His minutes seem to be being managed very closely and that will be important in the long run to stay healthy for the entire season.

Will we see Sasha Kaun play much this season? I highly doubt it unless someone gets hurt.

To me the biggest surprise has been the improvement of Dellavedova. I no longer cringe every time I see Delly take a shot. He has worked on his game tremendously during the offseason. The biggest question with Delly is where does he fit in when Kyrie and Shumpert return from injuries?

It is a good problem to have when everyone does get healthy. Coach David Blatt will have to find a way to manage the five guard rotation of Irving, Williams, Delly, Smith and Shumpert.

Jared Cunningham has been a nice addition to the Cavs team early this season. However, he and Joe Harris will find themselves on the outside looking in when Kyrie and Shumpert return from injury.

The Cavs’ backcourt is easily the deepest in the entire NBA and the depth in the front court is solid. The Cavs bench has been greatly improved from last season to this season. Hopefully this year, it will turn into what Cleveland has been wanting since 1964, a championship.

Kevin Love emerging early in the season

It has only been two games, however you can see that this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers team will be better than last.

Gone are the likes of Mike Miller, Dion Waiters and Kendrick Perkins. It is unfortunate about Perkins because I was hoping he would be around for the first Boston Celtics game (Kelly Olynyk).

The team brought in Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson and Sasha Kaun. And to borrow one of the Indians favorite sayings, “The team got back a healthy Anderson Varejao which is like making a deal at the trade deadline without having to give anything up.”

Throughout the first two games, something is very clear. Until Kyrie Irving returns from injury (insert Indians quote again), Kevin Love is going to be the primary option offensively.

Kevin Love Shot ChartLove was two baskets per game last season from being a 20 point/10 rebound player like he was in Minnesota. He look out sorts offensively all of last season, never getting into the groove. It appears that the focus of the offseason and training camp was to figure out how to get Love the ball more.

Love has touched the ball more under the basket than he did last season through the first two games. But the biggest change as designated by the shot chart is that he is getting more touches on the elbow.

Getting more touches around the elbow is vital for the Cavs’ offensive success. He really stretches the floor for the Cavs offensively. Stretching the floor gives LeBron more room to drive to the basket and helps Tristan and Mozgov get more offensive rebounds.

Another big change for the Cavs this season is the play of the bench in the first two games. It is clear to see why the Cavs went out and got Williams. He can still contribute consistently at his age. When Irving comes back, Williams will really give the Cavs a scoring threat off the bench and will pair up with either Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith.

Outlook

The Cavs take on the Miami Heat tonight at The Q for their home opener. The place is going to be electric. The Heat seem to be the media darling to dethrone the Cavs in the Eastern Conference. I’m sorry. That is just not going to happen.

We all know that Dwayne Wade is not going to stay healthy the whole season and Heat will go as far as Wade goes. They do have a formidable front court now with the return of Chris Bosh and the surprising emergence of Hassan Whiteside last season.

I expect the Cavs to go small tonight and put LeBron on Bosh for the game. It depends on if the Heat pair Bosh with a center or he plays that position tonight. If they do go with Bosh at center, I would expect the Cavs to counter with Mo, Delly, Smith, Thompson/Love and LeBron. I am looking forward to seeing Delly pester Wade all night.

After having back-to-back games on the road to start the season, the Cavs have the next five of six at home against Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Indiana and Utah. The schedule gives the Cavs an opportunity to get off to a fast start.

Quick thoughts:

  1. Kaun really takes up some space, and that is a good thing.
  2. Matthew Dellavedova looks like an improved player offensively.
  3. Where in the heck did Jared Cunningham come from? Oh, the Cavs actually drafted and traded him. It appears he can contribute this season.
  4. I am comfortable with James Jones never taking another 3 this season.

Four Downs – Browns at Chargers

The Cleveland Browns took a step back last week after beating the Tennessee Titans the week before. Here’s why the Browns will continue to go backwards this week against the San Diego Chargers.

First Down: Can someone please stop the run?

 Defensive tackle Danny Shelton #71 of the Cleveland Browns (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
Defensive tackle Danny Shelton #71 of the Cleveland Browns (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Fans have been getting on first round pick Danny Shelton for all of the issues relating to the Browns not stopping the run. It is not entirely his fault. Shelton has been busy and doing his job by taking up the double team in a 3-4 defense. Ideally, taking up two defenders in a 3-4 defense will allow the linebackers to step up and make a play. They clearly haven’t.

To me the linebackers are the biggest issue here. Did anyone hear Paul Kruger’s name last week? Anyone? Bueller? Kruger is in the third year of a 5-year, $40 million contract and right now he is no where to be found. If the Browns want to stop the run, especially to the outside, they need Kruger and another first round pick Barkevious Mingo to set the edge on the outside.

Mingo has been a big disappointment so far and is probably another first round bust. The typical sentiment about draft picks is that you will see the biggest growth of a player from year two in the NFL to year three. This is year three. He really needs to step up if he wants to be on this team next year. Mingo single-handedly changed the momentum of the game last week and in a negative way with the roughing the kicker penalty.

The Browns defense has the incredible task of stopping the multi-threat Danny Woodhead and rookie Melvin Gordon of the Chargers. San Diego is averaging over 100 yards of offense on the ground this year and with the way the Browns have defended the run (32nd in the NFL), both of these players could have huge games.

Second Down: Can someone please run the ball?

The Browns have not been able to run the ball this season effectively, they are 26th in the NFL in rushing. The offensive line has been struggling so far this year and it is a wonder if Alex Mack is not fully healthy yet. They have not yet been able to get in sync.

The Chargers, like the Browns are also not very good with stopping the run. This would be a good time for Isaiah Crowell to get a lot of carries and do some damage for the first time this season. Running the ball effectively will finally give the Browns an opportunity to pass the ball off the play-action.

Third Down: Josh McCown has something to prove

Josh McCown needs to prove that Mike Pettine made the right decision at starting quarterback. If McCown struggles again, I could definitely see a change at starting QB after the bye week. I am not a huge fan of Johnny Manziel, he still has a lot to prove to me.

However, he seems to make this offense click. The other players seem to feed off of his energy, including the defense. In the first and third games, we had no pass rush whatsoever. In the second game, the Browns had seven sacks, seven. I don’t know what it is exactly but Johnny seems to make this offense and defense click.

Fourth Down: Prediction

The Browns will not be able to stop the run this week against the likes of Woodhead and Gordon. It will be a long day for the Browns defense after they try to stop the run and Rivers throws the ball over their heads.

Final Score: San Diego 34, Browns 20

My picks this year: 1-2

Four Downs – Titans at Browns

 

Well, I foolishly picked the Cleveland Browns to win last week and conquer their season opener streak. I couldn’t possibly pick them two weeks in a row could I? Well it may be foolish, but I believe the Browns will win this week against the Tennessee Titans.

First Down: Johnny Football is Starting

Head Coach Mike Pettine revealed on Friday that last week’s start Josh McCown had still not passed the concussion protocol and Johnny Manziel will make the start on Sunday.

Here you can see the awesome gif of why McCown is not starting this week.

McCown

Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner, will get another chance to start. This week, he will be going against another Heisman Trophy winner in Marcus Mariota. There was talk around the NFL Draft that the Browns could move up and take Mariota but that did not ultimately happen.

This will be Manziel’s third start of his career with his previous two not going so well. Some folks believe that this week is make it or break it for Manziel. That is entirely not the case. If Manziel performs well on Sunday, he will be on track to start the rest of the season. If he does poorly, once McCown passes the concussion test, McCown will be the starter going forward.

Look for Manziel to roll out a lot this week to try and move the pocket. But the key success for the Browns this week will be the running game.

Second Down: A Dwayne Bowe Sighting?

Dwayne Bowe was a surprise scratch last week before the game started and the Browns seemed to have missed him mightily.

The sole saving grace from the Browns receivers group last weekend was the move that Travis Benjamin put on his defender to get wide open for a long touchdown.

This group needs to step up and Dwayne Bowe needs to be the leader of this group. The only way he is going to do that is to get on the field.

Bowe is the biggest Browns receiver and would be a welcome target for Manziel as a red zone threat. They greatly missed that last week on the 19 play opening drive that ended in McCown getting concussed.

Third Down: Where did the pass rush go?

The Browns recorded zero, zilch, gooseegg in terms of sacks last week. The defense also only registered ONE hit on the quarterback.

They really need to get the pass rush going to be successful. I fully expect it to be back this week against a rookie quarterback in Mariota.

Throwing different pass rushes at Mariota should hopefully result into some rookie mistakes and by rookie mistakes I mean turnovers. The Browns did force one turnover last week but Tashaun Gipson was pickpocketed during the interception return.

Fourth Down: Prediction

The Browns will win this game in front of the Dawg Pound in their home opener.

The Browns will force Mariota into mistakes and make him turnover the ball while also playing ball control offense with the running game.

Hopefully this week I am not as foolish as I was last week.

Final Score: Browns 23, Titans 20