Tag Archives: Andrew Wiggins

Thank You, David Griffin

A lot of people deserve credit for the turnaround the Cleveland Cavaliers organization has seen in the last 365 days.

Some people will say first and foremost that none of this happens without LeBron James making the decision choice to come back to Cleveland. He’s in the MVP conversation and the only thing that will probably hold him back from winning it is the first two months of the season. Since January 15, you’ll be hard pressed to find a player who has performed better.

Of course, it also helps that LeBron – as well as Kyrie Irving and others – had some new toys to play with once he came back from his two-week hiatus. J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov will also get a varying amount of credit for sparking the Cavs.

Owner Dan Gilbert might also receive praise for his work this offseason, making amends with LeBron. He was also the driving force behind David Blatt being hired in Cleveland. Gilbert is also opening up his pocketbook to pay two coaches at the same time after firing Mike Brown with four years still left on his contract.

Then you have Kyrie, who’s taken the big step we all wished for. He single-handedly beat two powerhouse Western Conference teams in the Portland Trail Blazers and defending champion San Antonio Spurs. He’s also shooting the best he ever has from deep and at the rim.

And some people will even say David Blatt deserves the most credit of all, being able to make these players buy in. It may not have happened as soon as we all wanted it to, but these guys are clicking at the right time of the season. Lol, who am I kidding #FireBlatt

I’m not here to say who deserves more or less credit or that so-and-so doesn’t deserve any credit. When it comes to a conversation like this, variance is a must have. But I’ll be damned if first-year General Manager David Griffin doesn’t get his just dues.

In case you forgot or were understandably hiding from Cavaliers action, Griff took over as interim GM the night after the weirdest/worst game since my fandom started in 2002. After the Cavs were beaten by a four-man Lakers squad, Chris Grant was fired the next day.

The loss was just the tipping point for Grant. He made controversial and questionable picks such as Tristan Thompson (at the time), Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, and Carrick Felix. He was also responsible for signing free agent busts Jarrett Jack (4 years, $25.2 million!!), Andrew Bynum, and Earl Clark – all in one offseason.

David Griffin Kvin Love intro presser

In his first trade deadline, in a surprising move, Griffin dealt for 76ers big man Spencer Hawes, sending Philly Clark and Henry Sims along with draft picks. Hawes became the Cavs’ best 3-point shooter at 44.8%. Though I was disappointed he wasn’t re-signed in the offseason, he’s now having arguably the worst season of his career.

Griffin went on to draft Andrew Wiggins and made the contentious decision to include him in a deal that brought in Kevin Love. And even though I didn’t have enough foresight to see the big picture, Griff did. And now, finally, so do I.

Griff and the Cavs were all in.

But the season started out rougher than expected. Some had anticipated a somewhat slow start for the Cavs, after all, this was a severely face lifted team from just a season ago. But not like this. Not a 19-20 start.

Before the Cavs went on a six-game losing streak, one without LeBron James at their service, Griffin decided to speak out publicly against the rumors about David Blatt’s job being in jeopardy. He also preached patience.

LeBron wasn’t healthy and the Cavs weren’t complete. Griff knew this, we didn’t.

The very next day, the Cavs dealt Dion Waiters for Smith, Shumpert, and a pick in a three-team deal.

Two days later the Griff worked some more magic and traded two first rounders to Denver for Mozgov. This was viewed by many as an overpay by the Cavs, but Griff had a plan and executed it. He saw both trades as one big deal, only having to give up Waiters, Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk, and a first round pick for their three new players.

And it just so happens that the New Big 3 and the Cavs roster go together like Kevin Love and dreamy faces.

Shumpert has brought perimeter defense the Cavs needed but didn’t have, along with occasional floor spacing. Smith has brought exceptional floor spacing with more offensive ability and surprisingly good defense and effort. Mozgov, perhaps the most important of the acquisitions, filled a depleted center position that got even worse with the season-ending Achilles injury to Anderson Varejao.

And, most importantly…

J.R. and Timo have filled an emotional role that I desperately needed because my fandom for certain players is usually very inexplicable.

Griff was able to get guys that both fit with the team and provide entertainment. And while that might just be a coincidence, I’m not sold that Griffin didn’t do his due diligence on their characters. Of course, he was really taking a chance on J.R. Smith. But the odds of him acting out on a championship contending team has gone down significantly. Instead of him untying opponents’ shoelaces during free throws, he’s doing cartwheels during post-game interviews.

https://youtu.be/1THwZHJGpLk

This is just the type of team David Griffin talked about when he was named interim GM. Some laughed at the time, but a few days after Griffin was named acting GM, he said:

“I want to see us smile more,” he said. “I want to see us enjoy this. I want to see us remember this is a game. I want to see us remember that there’s passion involved in this. We’re not robots. Nobody is flawless. We’ve all made mistakes. I want guys to accept making one and then move on.”

Some dude most of us never even heard of talking about smiling more – he was now making the day-to-day decisions for the Cleveland Cavaliers, a professional basketball team.

But that’s just the kind of guy David Griffin is. He has a positive attitude and serendipity or not, this Cavs team has reflected it since January 15.

Some will say that he just fell into a great situation, which is partly true. Chris Grant did do a great job of acquiring assets (picks) to provide maneuverability. It wasn’t any skill of Griffin’s that helped the Cavs win the lottery and consequently get Love to Cleveland. He also wasn’t responsible for luring LeBron James coming back to the Cavs.

But he still had to pull the trigger on trading the number one pick in Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota. And if you think that’s no big deal, then you weren’t around for the hundreds of daily Twitter threads constantly debating whether the trade should’ve happened or not.

Griff also made a few deals that I think fly under the radar. Griffin may not have been a deciding factor that helped bring LeBron back, but he created the necessary cap space to sign him onto a max deal. He also created his own flexibility for moves in the future.

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers

First, Griffin was able to convince a team to take on Jarrett Jack’s behemoth of a contract. He, along with Sergey Karasev, were sent to Brooklyn, while Tyler Zeller and a first round pick were shipped to Boston. In return, the Cavs got a heavily protected pick from Boston that they will likely never see. Oh, and enough cap space to sign LeBron.

Griffin also dealt Carrick Felix (who is not currently in the NBA) and a second round pick to Utah for the unguaranteed contracts of John Lucas III, Erik Murphy, and Malcolm Thomas. These three players were then traded with Cavs 2015 second round pick Dwight Powell and two second round picks to Boston for Keith Bogans and two more heavily protected second round picks.

Bogans and a second round pick were then traded to Philadelphia for another protected second round selection. Trading Bogans gave the Cavs a ~$5.3 million trade exception, which was used to bring in… Timofey Mozgov.

These moves that Griffin initiated in the offseason enabled the Cavs to acquire the players that have made them look like one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA.

So if you think he’s been able to make this Cave team that we see before us just because of the cushion of picks that was leftover from Chris Grant, you are sorely mistaken.

David Griffin is enormously responsible for bringing together one of the more fun-inducing and talented teams we may ever see in Cleveland. And I thank him for that.

This is a man who has beaten cancer, twice. Not only has David Griffin put together what seems to be a perfectly fitting team, he did so in a manner that should be commended. He comes off as a leader in every sense of the word. He’s honest, knowledgeable, and just seems to love the game of basketball. He deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done so far and faith in what’s to come in the future.

Trading Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love was the Right Move

I was wrong.

In late July, almost a couple of weeks after LeBron James came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers and almost a month after they made Andrew Wiggins the number one pick in the NBA draft, rumors were swirling that Cleveland could be a destination for Kevin Love after he was put on the trading block.

Wiggins was the guy rumored to be involved in the package that would be sent to Minnesota in return for the three-time All Star. And, as I wrote back then, I wasn’t having any of it.

I cited the five reasons in that article as to why I would not include Wiggins in a Love deal: the salary cap (which admittedly was a weak argument), filling out the rest of the roster (which David Griffin made obsolete), Love’s pure trade value at the time, LeBron’s prime window (which could’ve been used for either side of the debate), and that the Wolves weren’t in a position to demand such a return (which most likely isn’t true, thanks to Chicago). Not to mention I probably undervalued Klay Thompson and overvalued teams’ perception of Dion Waiters.

There were also other poor points I made that included waiting until Love is a free agent to sign him. It would’ve been close to impossible to do this considering the Cavs wouldn’t have been allowed to go over the cap by signing Love like they can right now with him already on the team. And with soon-to-be three max players on the team, the salary cap will likely be extremely tight for a while.

Drafting Wiggins, who David Griffin himself said he would find better success as a 2-guard rather than a small forward, caused somewhat of a complex situation at that position with Dion on the team. Granted, that wasn’t the reason Wiggins was traded nor should it have been. Now, neither is on the team and the grouping of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert is finding more success than Wiggins and Waiters could have. Wiggins could and should go on to be a better player than the former Knicks duo, but these guys just fit better and add in the fact that Love is on the team, something that wouldn’t have been possible keeping Wiggins.

All of these points are minor to the one point that is the most important and one that I ironically left out in July.

Rarely is there a player of Kevin Love’s caliber that either hits the open market or is available for trade like he was in Minnesota. But it’s not even about that to me.

The way this team is built, it’s just harder to function without a stretch four (which Kevin Love is, no matter how reluctant he is to accept that label). It just so happens that the best one in the NBA was available and the Cavs were able to get him, albeit at a hefty price. But hey, you gotta give something to get something. David Griffin obviously did not go to Chris Grant’s school of holding out for a lopsided deal.

If there was a prospect in last summer’s draft that had a similar skillset to Love’s, mainly the three-point ability, then I think a better argument could’ve been made to keep that prospect instead of trading for Love. But guys like him, not only his style but his talent level, just do not grow on trees. That’s why it makes this so remarkable that Love is the exactly the kind of player the Cavs needed to be able to function at such a high quality and really, he’s arguably the only player that does all these things at a high level: shoot three’s, shoot from mid-range, distribute the ball, see the floor, and arguably post offense. Sure his defense comes and goes, but just the other day against the Nets he was doing a solid job one-on-one against Brook Lopez.

NBA: Preseason-Cleveland Cavaliers at Memphis Grizzlies

Some of Love’s teammates’ shooting efficiency suffers when he’s off the court. Below is a list of players who have played at least 300 minutes with Kevin Love both on and off the court along with their efficient field goal percentage (eFG%). The players in bold are the one’s who statistically shoot worse with Love on the bench.

Cavs On/Off eFG% with Kevin Love (according to nbawowy!):

Kyrie Irving: 50.7/57.7
LeBron James: 56.0/49.0
Tristan Thompson: 51.8/57.8
J.R. Smith: 53.2/59.6
Timofey Mozgov: 62.6/54.1
Shawn Marion: 53.2/39.8
Matthew Dellavedova: 46.0/46.9
Dion Waiters: 45.2/41.6
Iman Shumpert: 45.6/52.2

Before I go on, keep in mind that I realize there are a lot of variables that go into on/off statistics, including who replaces the ‘player x’ and who else is usually on the floor/on the bench with ‘player x.’

Also, these statistics are from all of this year, which is why you see Waiters in there. Even though what he did this year isn’t relevant going forward, he’s very relevant in this instance in trying to see how well players shoot with Love on/off the floor.

Full disclosure: I’m pretty shocked at some of these numbers, mainly Kyrie’s and Thompson’s. They’ve shot significantly better with Love on the bench. But perhaps more importantly, LeBron’s shot is 7.0% worse with Love sitting, which seems important, considering he’s taken more shots than any Cavalier with Love off the floor, even though he’s played less minutes than Kyrie. And since January 15, he’s taken nearly double the shot attempts Irving has with Love on the bench.

Though Kyrie has seen success on offense regardless if Kevin Love is playing or not, they have developed an important rapport with each other. No one has passed the ball more to Kyrie Irving than Kevin Love and vice versa. Irving is also shooting 40.0% from deep on assists from Love.

Now let’s look at Love’s direct contributions to the Cavs.

After struggling to start the season from 3-ball land, he’s gotten his percentage up to 36.2%, including 38.4% (good enough for second best of his career) since January 15 (32 games or over a third of the season). This is important for spacing, as fewer guys will decide to sag off of Love at the 3-point line when the Cavs are operating pick-and-roll/pop action. This is also a good thing because, you know, the object of basketball is to get buckets.

Andrew Wiggins has shot 32.5% from long-range this season including 22.2% in his last 32 games. This is the part of his game I most overestimated. He only shot 34.1% in his only season at Kansas, but I thought this number could improve because of his good shooting form. And it still can, this is only his rookie season and he just turned 20 years old. But it’s evident he wouldn’t have been able to provide the necessary spacing this team needs in the relatively small window the Cavs have.

Going back to Love, he also has the best FG% from 16 feet away from the rim (51.8%) with a minimum of 20 attempts from this area, according to nbawowy.

Kevin Love Cavs

As for the distributing part of Love’s game, he takes care of the ball with only James Jones and J.R. sporting a better turnover percentage (TOV%) than Love’s 10.0. This is impressive considering he has the third highest usage percentage among current Cavs at 21.6%.

Wiggins, meanwhile, has a TOV% of 11.5%, a bit more than love, albeit with a higher usage at 22.1%.

Lastly, Love also has the upper hand in assist percentage at 10.9% to Wiggins’s 8.9%.

It seems like I’m picking on Wiggins and it seems dumb to compare a seven-year vet to a rookie. But neither is the point I’m trying to make.

Of course Wiggins and Love play two totally different positions and have two totally different roles; this also isn’t the point.

The point is simply that the Cavs are better off with Kevin Love than Andrew Wiggins (and Anthony Bennett, and even that first rounder they gave away, I guess). That’s it. Credit to David Griffin for constructing a team that fits so well together that at times they look like they’ve been playing together for 20 years, when in reality there are only three holdovers from last year.

What I’ve come to realize and what has made it harder and harder to defend my stance on not trading Wiggins is that the Cavs just flat out play better with Kevin Love on the floor. With that, I’m ready to give in and say, with year one of the Kevin Love-Cavs era not even over yet, it was better to have Love’d and (potentially) lost than never to have Love’d at all.

NBA: Around the Association (Week Four)

Player Recognition

All-Star Synopsis:

Anthony Davis, PF, Pelicans

It was only a matter of time before Anthony Davis dominated the NBA with his unique athleticism and aggressive defensive presence. Davis is usually known for his defense, but he is second in the league in scoring shooting 57% from the field. The three-year starter had a great week scoring right at his average for the season (26.8ppg) with a 43-point performance in the Pelicans’ win over the Jazz 106-94.

Anthony-Davis
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Davis is currently playing on a very high level and with a healthy Jrue Holiday puts this team on a tear for a possible playoff bid. But, it’s November and the West is tougher than ever.

Andre Drummond, C, Pistons

Andre Drummond has been known for his frequent double-doubles in the past with a high shooting percentage. This season, though, the 6’11 center is finding some difficulties in many different categories. The Pistons as a team are struggling mightily with no rhythm and not much of an identity, but this was thought to disappear after a year as a whole last season. Things don’t always go to plan and Drummond’s season hasn’t been what many expected.

Drummond’s rebounding abilities has been right on par this season, but the scoring is nowhere to be found. Drummond was the team’s fifth scorer last season at 13.5 and this season is sixth on the team with 8.7. Drummond is in no way the main scoring outlet on this team, (we don’t really know who is) but his field goal percentage has dropped from 62.3% to 39.7%! (114th in the NBA)

 

Rookie Rundown:

Andrew Wiggins, SF, Timberwolves

Andrew Wiggins’ potential has suddenly started to seep through the cracks after a career-high night with 29 points (9-22 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 9-10 FT), five rebounds, two assists, four steals, and one block in Saturday’s loss to Sacramento 101-113. Wiggins can stretch the floor and is a nice defender with great length. The rookie started off a little slow, but has picked up the pace this week offensively in all three outings with double-digit points.

 

Flying Under the Radar:

Demarcus Cousins, C, Kings

Demarcus Cousins has received many different reviews since being selected in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft. Cousins has been targeted as wasted potential and a bust even in just four years in the league. The harsh critiques have done nothing but for Boogie to play better. This season, Cousins averages 23.2 points per game (fifth), 12.3 rebounds per game (first), and a 52% shooting percentage (23rd).

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins is the definition of a double-double machine and has been a key component to the King’s early 2014 success. Cousins is finally becoming one of the top big men in the league like we all expected.

 

Lou Williams, SG, Raptors

The Hawks may want to reconsider the trade options when possibly giving up one of the top sixth men of the league when trading away Lou Williams for essentially nothing. Williams has been nothing but effective for this rising Raptors team while capping off a great week. Williams was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week Monday after averaging 23.6 points per game on 49% shooting, 52.9% from three-point range as the Raptors went 3-0. Lou was also the game-high scorer in a dominating win over the Cavs 110-93.

 
Team Outlooks

Top Five:

1. Golden State Warriors (10-2)

As projected in last week’s edition, the Warriors went 2-0 this week and remain as the best team in the NBA. The biggest issue in the very early part of the season was the turnovers committed even in blowout wins. The turnover numbers have dropped to 12.6 per game during the most recent five-game win streak. David Lee is on his way back and this team should continue to have the “dubs” stack up in the win column.

2. Toronto Raptors (12-2)

Even though it’s odd to see Toronto near the top in the power rankings, it’s not a surprise. The Raptors hold a strong young and talented roster with potential all-stars in Kyle Lowery and DeMar DeRozan. One problem: the Raptors have played the league’s weakest schedule so far and it continues to be easy as the games trickle into December. Either way, this team is playing on a high-level with great play from Lou Williams off the bench.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (12-2)

I struggled, once again, where to put Memphis after the convincing home win versus the Clippers 107-91. Marc Gasol is playing like an MVP on both sides of the court and the grit’n and grind’n cliché is in tack for another season as the Grizzlies are doing just that to possess the best record in basketball.

4. Portland Trail Blazers (11-3)

Getty Images
Getty Images

The Blazers have benefitted heavily off a predominantly home schedule, so the away games are coming soon. The Blazers hold the league’s longest active win-streak at eight but only including one quality win over Chicago. The schedule doesn’t get much tougher with a trip to Charlotte Wednesday. Many NBA followers pegged Portland’s 2013-14 season a fluke. Maybe time to reconsider?

5. Houston Rockets (10-3)

The Rockets have floated up and down between 1-5 this season so far and inconsistencies tack them at the five spot in week four. Dwight Howard is out and his return in uncertain at the time, but James Harden continues to play at a high level on both sides of the court. It’s weird that the offense has been the issue so far in 2014. That Parsons loss may be a little bigger than expected.

 

Bottom Three:

28. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-12)

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

I hate to place the Thunder here, but without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook the team really might be the 28th best team in basketball. History shows that a team starting off this bad rarely makes the playoffs. The duo very well could be the exception, but fighting for a playoff spot in the powerful Western Conference is no easy task.

29. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-9)

If it couldn’t get any worse, the injuries continue with Rubio, Pekovic, and now Martin all having to sit the bench and be spectators for awhile. Andrew Wiggins has picked up the slack, but there’s only so much a rookie can do.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-13)

They’re here again. I can’t write much else.

Kevin Love is a Cleveland Cavalier

The Kevin Love deal is finally…

Andrew Wiggins draft day smile

https://twitter.com/TH_Da_06er/status/468447672807206912

https://vine.co/v/M9MVd97BpzU

 

…official.

 

What a long, strange trip it’s been. In the end, the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to get the highly coveted Kevin Love. All it took was the last two first overall picks in Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins and future first rounder via the Miami Heat (the Timberwolves also got a $6.3 million trade exception). All in all, both the Cavs and Minnesota Timberwolves are pretty ecstatic with what they got.

The Philadelphia 76ers were also technically involved in the trade, receiving the pick previously stated. The deal included the discarding of Thaddeus Young for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved.

Let’s start with the obvious; the Cleveland Cavaliers are championship contenders right away. This is something that I thought was true with or without the addition of Love. Late in July, I went into detail about why I wouldn’t have traded Wiggins for Love. Regardless of my opinion on that specific subject, I still think these next two years the Cavs are better off having Love then Wiggins (and Bennett).

I was also semi-worried about the draft pick the Cavs were speculated to have to give up in the deal, even though initially I though it was absurd Minnesota would need a first rounder when they’re already receiving more than they should. Nonetheless, the pick ends up in Philly and it was a pick the Cavs were able to shed without severe consequences. This pick (from the LeBron-to-Miami trade in 2010), is top-10 protected in 2015 and 2016 and unprotected in 2017. In short, the most likely outcome is that the 76ers get this pick after this season and it’s a mid-late first rounder. The Cavs also still have the rights to a protected Memphis 1st rounder (unprotected in 2019) and a top-55 protected Boston 2nd rounder – they really wanted LeBron James – for this upcoming draft as well as a top-55 protected 2nd rounder of the Clippers (via the Pelicans) – they really wanted to get rid of Alonzo Gee.

As the Cavs discard yet another player from last year’s team in Anthony Bennett, the roster looks dramatically different/better.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves

(new players in bold)

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Kyrie Irving

SG- Dion Waiters

SF- LeBron James

PF- Kevin Love

C- Anderson Varejao

 

Rest of the roster:

PG- Matthew Dellavedova, John Lucas III

SG- Mike Miller, Joe Harris

SF- Shawn Marion, James Jones

PF- Tristan Thompson, Malcolm Thomas, Dwight Powell, Erik Murphy

C- Brendan Haywood, Alex Kirk

With all the moves the Cavs have made this summer, there still may be one or two they are looking to execute. The three players the Cavs acquired in the Carrick Felix-to-Utah deal could be swapped for a big. Personally, I’d like them to try to keep Lucas because one, he’s the son of former Cavs head coach John Lucas II and more importantly the Cavs lack pure point guard depth behind Kyrie. If worst comes to worst, Delly wouldn’t be a terrible option behind Kyrie, though he’s thought more of an off-ball guard.

The Utah 3 (or 2) would most likely be dealt for a center. I mean seriously, look at the centers on this team right now. One of them is better suited as a power forward, one is 34-years-old and is more valuable as a trade piece for next season, and the other is an undrafted rookie who got this done to him. The Cavs have been reportedly talking to teams about acquiring a starting center. The departures of Spencer Hawes and Tyler Zeller have certainly left a nice gap in the roster.

All that said, in the grand scheme of things, the sparse depth at center shouldn’t be that big of an issue. Though they will lack significant rim protection if they cease making anymore moves, it’ll be arguably the only significant weakness on this team – maybe along with perimeter defense, although Shawn Marion should help in that department.

Love added to the starting lineup of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao gives Cleveland an offensive juggernaut. Not to mention they get to call on the likes of Mike Miller and James Jones to shoot the lights out. Not only is he a great player, but he’s a fit as well. He helps spread the floor with his limitless range, offers excellent passing as a big man, has respectable defense, and rebounds like an absolute pest on both sides of the floor. He’s pretty much the culmination of everything the Cavs are as a team.

 

You didn’t think I’d leave without an Uncle Drew/Wes video, did you?

Get buckets.

http://youtu.be/TZUd9KYn_Rs

Taking a look at the Cavaliers roster post Kevin Love trade

The time has finally arrived. Tomorrow could be the day that Kevin Love officially becomes a Cleveland Cavalier. While the NBA offices are closed on the weekends, apparently the trade can still be officially announced tomorrow. So, at 12:01 AM tonight, Andrew Wiggins is officially able to be included in a trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

 

 

 

According to Stein, the reported deal that has surfaced is a three-team trade among the Cavs, Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers. Apparently the Timberwolves have also decided to retain Anthony Bennett instead of flipping him to Philly, like originally reported. It looks like they’ve enticed Philly to give up Thaddeus Young for Miami’s 2015 first-round pick (from Cleveland), Alexey Shved and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The thought is that Mbah a Moute can mentor rookie Joel Embiid since he’s a veteran player who is also from Cameroon. This trade makes sense for the Sixers because they are obviously in a rebuilding mode and still looking to stockpile near future picks. The Timberwolves are looking to the future while also still trying to stay competitive in the present. A year of Young gives them an opportunity to be more competitive this season, while Wiggins and Bennett give them a young, promising core for the future (next to LaVine, Rubio and Dieng). It’s truly quite an impressive haul for a player set to leave anyway in a year.

The expected trade will break down like this:

The Cavs receive: Kevin Love

The Timberwolves receive: Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young

The Sixers receive: Alexey Shved, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Miami’s 2015 first-rounder

What this means for the Cavs is that they no longer need to include salary filler (John Lucas III and Erik Murphy) for Love. They will likely only be trading Wiggins, Bennett and Miami’s 2015 first-round pick. This also means that the Cavs will have 17 players heading into the end of August, while still waiting to hear from Ray Allen. After the reported trade takes place this weekend, the Cavs’s roster will look like this:

Kyrie Irving / Matthew Dellavedova / John Lucas III

Dion Waiters / Mike Miller / Joe Harris

LeBron James / Shawn Marion / James Jones

Kevin Love / Tristan Thompson / Malcolm Thomas / Dwight Powell / Erik Murphy

Anderson Varejao / Brendan Haywood / Alex Kirk

With two months until the season begins, there’s still plenty that can happen with the bottom half of this squad. The Cavs can and probably will still attempt to bring in a defensive big using Lucas III, Murphy and Thomas’ contracts. Harris, Powell and possibly Kirk will likely spend the season with the Canton Charge (the Cavs’ D-League affiliate). With more trades/movement likely coming and the possibility of still adding Allen, it’s tough to determine anything concrete at this point. That’s what training camp is for. What we do have at this point is a good idea of what the top 8-10 player rotation will be for the Cavs, which will be the guys competing in the playoffs. Those guys will consist of:

Irving, Waiters, James, Love, Varejâo, Thompson, Marion, Miller and probably Delly. Then they’ll likely finish off the bench with Haywood and Jones. Hopefully David Griffin is able to bring in a capable defensive big and Allen to bolster the depth for a championship run, but they would be luxuries at this point.

Everything will be a bit clearer after this weekend and Griffin’s job will get a bit easier after he locks up Love long term. Role players like Marion, Miller, etc. were nearly impossible to get to Cleveland before championship-laden LeBron James returned. Once the Cavs have James, Irving and Love on contract long-term, those types of players should be interested in playing for the Cavs for the foreseeable future. Not only does that make Griffin’s job much easier, but it also gives the Cavs an opportunity to improve the roster every season in search of a championship(s). The Cavs are relevant again and this is about to be a fun ride for all of the die-hard fans that have stayed loyal since 2010. The journey continues this weekend with the completion of our ‘Big Three.’

Love, The Matrix, and Moore

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst first brought it to our attention that the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers had a deal set up to send Kevin Love to the Eastern Conference. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarwoski then backed this up last Thursday morning – though this deal didn’t include the Philadelphia 76ers as a third team. What does this mean? Well, basically we can’t celebrate or mourn this trade until August 23, 30 days after Andrew Wiggins signed his rookie deal and when the Cavs are officially allowed to involve him in a trade.

A semi-important detail to think about is this trade could possibly be blocked should the NBA find evidence of an agreement between the Cavs and Timberwolves before the 23rd. The Cavs also can’t have any evidence of the Cavs and Love agreeing to an extension after this season, which was in Wojnarowski’s report. No need to worry though, this is something that is pretty rare and hasn’t happened since 2000 when the Timberwolves promised – on paper – Joe Smith a future big contract after he signed one for less money for salary cap relief for the short term. One would think Owner Glen Taylor has learned his lesson and Dan Gilbert and David Griffin are too smart to do something like that.

Anyway, I wrote about my feelings on a Kevin Love trade involving Andrew Wiggins. I still wouldn’t do this deal. Though Kevin Love has been my favorite non-Cavalier to watch since 2012, I’m okay walking away from the deal with Andrew Wiggins because that’s how good I think he’ll be in a short amount of time. Wiggins may not be at his peak in a few years, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute heavily by then, which I think he can.

Nonetheless, I’m starting to come to terms with this happening and trying to forget about the possibilities of what Wiggins could have done on both sides of the floor for the Cavs. Getting Kevin Love perhaps gives the Cavs the best [catchy nickname for a trio of three redacted] in the NBA with him, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving. Love also gives the Cavs a unique skill set of both a perennial rebounder and three-point shooter. The latter is something that’s been a focal point for the Cavs this summer, signing guys like James Jones (career 40.3% 3-pt shooter) and Mike Miller (40.9%). Even LeBron has come on into the late peak of his career, shooting 39.1% from deep in his last two years. Rookie Joe Harris should be able to bring some floor-stretching ability as well – 40.7 career 3-pt shooter in four years at Virginia – even if he spends part of this year with the Canton Charge. Two other players the Cavs have been rumored to be interested in are Shawn Marion and E’Twaun Moore, guys that have had some success stretching the floor in their respective careers.

Shawn Marion dunk

Shawn Marion, aka “The Matrix,” was seen in Downtown Cleveland last week at a restaurant with David Griffin and Head Coach David Blatt, among others.

Marion is a somewhat surprising name to come up for the Cavaliers, but one that’s welcomed. He could go to the in-division rival Pacers and make more money, but he’s reportedly leaning toward Cleveland for obvious reasons.

Marion has had inconsistent success throughout his 15 seasons shooting the long ball. Last year was the first year since the 2007-08 season, when he split time with Phoenix and Miami, in which he had at least 100 3-pt attempts. Last year with the Dallas Mavericks he shot 35.8% from deep and is a 33.2% career long-range shooter.

One of Marion’s best assets as a player has been his defense and versatility on that end of the floor. Though he’s 36 years old, he still has enough juice to make him a reliable perimeter defender and can also guard power forwards with his 6’7 frame. This will be much needed since the Cavs are on the precipice of trading Wiggins. And defense on this team is important, no matter how much people want to downplay it. Though our projected starting lineup should score a lot of points, the defense may be a slight problem with LeBron being the only player that’s above competent in that area. Older guys like Marion and Mike Miller are welcomed defensive players on the bench that can also offer some offensive ability.

E'Twaun Moore shot

Another player that could add depth to the Cavs’ bench is combo guard E’Twaun Moore who they reportedly have serious interest in.

(He added in the comments that he meant Kevin Love instead of LeBron.)

So, where to start with Moore? Well, about the only thing I know about him without having to look him up on Google is that he was a really good three-point shooter in NBA 2K13. In real life, he’s a career 35% 3-pt shooter and shot 35.4% with the Magic last season. He’s an okay defender, but the Cavs are gleefully still looking for shooters and should get one around the time they (probably) get Kevin Love.

The Positives and Negatives of a New 'Big Three' for the Cleveland Cavaliers

Four short months ago, before David Griffin was even officially given the title of GM of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he mentioned that the Cavs were transitioning from “asset accumulation mode” into “target acquisition mode.” Well, four months later, it’s safe to say that the targets were acquired. Now we will get to see if they are all hits.

Since that time, Griffin has been made the long-term GM, David Blatt has replaced Mike Brown as the head coach, the Cavs won the NBA draft lottery and drafted Andrew Wiggins first overall, Kyrie Irving signed long-term in Cleveland, LeBron James returned, Mike Miller and James Jones came to play with James, Ray Allen and Shawn Marion are contemplating coming to play with James, and the Cavs have agreed to trade Wiggins/Anthony Bennett/a future first-round pick/salary filler for Kevin Love, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. 

Griffin appears to be more than capable of managing an NBA team, but obviously James’ desire to return to Cleveland and recruit other players to the Cavs has accelerated his “target acquisition” plan. Assuming that the reported Love deal does indeed come to fruition in 15 days, The Cavs should have Irving, James and Love locked up long-term. Obviously having three all-star starters on the roster equates to a lot of good things for the Cavs down the road. Like most good things, however, it also comes with certain restrictions for the Cavs.

Cap Space

With the Kevin Love trade accounted for, the Cavs would be paying approximately $71 million for 13 roster spots right now. The salary cap is $63 million for this season and the luxury tax line is set at just under $77 million. The Cavs likely won’t be finished shopping for talent this offseason after the Love trade since they could still use a shot blocking, interior defender down low, but they should seemingly be okay this year in the financial department. It’s next season that gets a little tricky. It’s been reported that the Cavs could offer Love a five year, $120 million deal next offseason. That, along with Irving ($15.5 million) and James’ ($21.5 million) max salaries should equal around $61 million for the new “Big three.” Next year’s cap is projected to be $66.5 million with an $81 million tax line. Depending on what the Cavs work out with Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, etc., they’ll likely be tiptoeing that $80 million line while still looking to add a defensive center/depth. A few positives that could help the Cavs in this area are the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions ($7 million and $2.5 million, respectively), which allow teams to spend when they have surpassed the cap line; and Brendan Haywood’s valuable $10.5 million unguaranteed contract to use in a trade. $60+ million for Irving, James and Love seems worth it now, but Griffin is going to have to get strategic with the finances in the near future in order to construct a continual championship contender.

Defense

We all know that the Cavs’ offense will be very good, if not great, right away. I’ll get to that in a minute. The defensive side of the floor is what most people are concerned about for this Cavs team. Everyone knows James is one of the best defenders in the league every season, but Irving and Love have been known to give up high field goal percentages to their opponents. When Love is locked in mentally and in good defensive position, he holds his own. Unfortunately, he’s far too often not in either of these things. Having Varejao, Thompson or James to cover with help defense should help some, but the Cavs are still left without a shot-blocker. Blatt is an underrated defensive coach and will surely team with James to come up with a system at least acceptable for this first season, but a defensive presence will need to be addressed at some point.

Offense

The offensive end of the court is where the Cavs should excel and be a great deal of fun to watch. They now have three go-to-scorers, several shooters and a whole starting lineup of talented passers. Irving, James and Love will be a joy to watch in pick-and-rolls/pops. Love is a 36.2 percent career three-point shooter, and that’s without Irving and the best player in the world drawing defenders away from him. James, Irving and Waiters are all talented drive-and-kick players who can penetrate even the best defenses. With Love, Miller, Jones, Joe Harris and possibly Allen on the wings, the Cavs will be almost un-guardable when the ball is moving like it should. The Cavs will also have a legitimate post-player to dump the ball into for the first time in a long time in Love. The Cavs should easily have one of the best/most efficient offenses in the league this season.

On top of their projected stellar offense, the Cavs should also be one of the best rebounding teams in the league. Love is one of the best–if not the best–rebounders in the league, and he’ll be paired with two other very talented rebounders in Varejao and James. The combination of rebounding, passing, court vision, shooting and scoring should make this team a nightmare for opposing teams to guard.

After this reported trade, the Cavs roster will look something like this:

Starters:  Irving – Waiters – James – Love – Varejao

Bench:  Dellavedova – Jones/Harris – Miller – Thompson – Haywood

The Cavs will also have a combination of Jones, Harris, Dwight Powell and Malcolm Thomas on the roster. There are still reports that Allen and Marion are interested in joining the roster, which would add even more depth to this team. The glaring hole right now–and possibly for the season–for the Cavs is a shot blocking/defensive presence though. Hopefully Griffin can find a way to address this priority before the Cavs kick off their season in October.

Tristan Thompson’s Value to the Cavaliers

Last week, I wrote about Dion Waiters’s potential breakout year for the  Cavs this upcoming season. Fellow teammate/number four overall pick Tristan Thompson is seen in some of the same light that Dion has found himself in. They were both surprising number four overall picks in their respective drafts; both of which have been scrutinized. Above everything else, they’re both polarizing players when it comes to evaluating what they have done and what they will do with the Cleveland Cavaliers. There are fans that think the Cavs could do away with either of them and it wouldn’t hurt one bit. There are others who think it would take an extreme circumstance to part with one of them – though this is probably more so the case with Dion.

Nonetheless, it seems as if it’s been tough for fans to collectively gauge where Tristan Thompson belongs on the Cavs. Is he the power forward of the future (given the Cavs don’t complete a trade for Minnesota forward Kevin Love)? Is he just a scrub who won’t get much better, if at all, than he was last season with the Cavs? Is he somewhere in the middle? I think he’s a fascinating player if only for the opinions that he elicits from fans. Here’s where I think Tristan stands with the Cavs going forward.

High Expectations

Tristan Thompson was the fourth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the same draft in which the Cavs selected Kyrie Irving number one overall. As mentioned before, he was the surprising pick of the Cavs, passing up the likes of projected pick Jonas Valanciunas. Fair or unfair, these two will always be linked in terms of figuring out whether or not the Cavs made the right decision or GM Chris Grant was just trying to outsmart everyone.

As the number four pick in any NBA draft, you’re expected to contribute heavily and efficiently right away. Thompson hasn’t lived up to expectations in that sense, but if you step away from the vacuum of “he was the fourth overall pick” and look at the rest of the draft, his production, or lack thereof, for the number four pick is more understood. For comparison’s sake, the only player taken ahead of him that has clearly succeeded more than Thompson has been Irving. With Derrick Williams and Enes Kanter, while an argument can be made that both of them have been more efficient than Thompson, it’s so close that it really is splitting hairs to some extent.

Then you look at the players taken after Tristan Thompson that were a realistic possibility for the Cavs. The one that comes up the most is Jonas Valanciunas, who was expected to be taken by the Cavs at number four (I personally didn’t want him at the time because I wasn’t willing to wait a year for him to play overseas with that high of a pick). This is also a close debate between the two players, as much as the pro-Valanciunas/anti-Thompson crowd would be reluctant to admit. This article written during last season by Zach Salzmann of RaptorsHQ highlights some of the struggles Jonas has encountered during his young career.

Thompson has had high expectations as the Cavs’ number four overall pick in 2011. But when you look at some of the players that the Cavs could’ve plausibly picked at that time, Tristan Thompson hasn’t been clearly outshined.

His role with the 2014-15 Cavaliers

A big part of this depends on what happens with the Kevin Love deal that will probably happen. However, to make things simpler, I’ll just assume (for now) a deal doesn’t get done and we go into next season with the roster as is (which won’t happen).

The current lineup would most likely look like this:

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Andrew Wiggins

SF: LeBron James

PF: Tristan Thompson

C: Anderson Varejao

The two biggest changes from last year are the additions of Andrew Wiggins and LeBron James. I’d like to say LeBron coming in will give Thompson a big spike in productivity, especially in terms of rebounding, but how much of a step he takes this year will be much in part due to his own improvement. We all remember him switching shooting hands before the season last year. This saw an impressive improvement in his free throw shooting (60.8% to 69.3%) and around the basket (3-10 feet out; 39.2% to 42%).

His jump shot still leaves a lot to be desired. His hand switch rendered his impact with these shots ineffective, as he shot 34.9% from 10-16 feet out, down 3.9% from last season. Floor spacing on this team is always a great thing and Thompson can be a big part of that if he can improve his shot from mid range, much like Varejao has over his career. This would give the Cavs an extra pick-and-pop player to utilize.

Speaking of Varejao, with the starting lineup the way it’s projected, Thompson will likely continue to struggle to get rebounds the way he’s capable of. Varejao has been one of the best rebounders in the league over the last few years when he’s been healthy. Rebounding is one of Thompson’s best attributes, so it’s a bit redundant having him out there with Varejao considering the latter also possesses supreme passing ability and a solid jumper. Getting Kevin Love and sending Thompson to the bench would be the best thing for both the Cavs and Tristan.

Going forward: Starter or bench player?

Speaking of the bench, that’s probably where Tristan could do his damage on this team and where his skillset fits him the best. I only see this happening if/when the Love deal happens. For the argument of him being a bench player, let’s say the deal goes down with Wiggins and Anthony Bennett being traded away. This is probably what two of the lineups would look like:

Starting lineup:

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Dion Waiters

SF: LeBron James

PF: Kevin Love

C: Anderson Varejao

Rotational lineup:

PG: Matthew Dellavedova

SG: Dion Waiters

SF: Mike Miller

PF: LeBron James

C: Tristan Thompson

Unless the Cavs sign a cheap rim protector, Thompson is looking to see minutes at center in a small lineup. Additionally, perhaps we shouldn’t rule out Thompson starting at center instead of Varejao. It would make more sense to limit Varejao’s minutes if you have to pick between the two. Nonetheless, Varejao is more experienced there and Thompson can still get ample minutes coming off the bench because of the current lack of bigs on the Cavs’ roster.

As a rookie, Thompson played in 60 games, starting 25 of them. Since then, Thompson has started all 164 games in the last two seasons. His experience the last few years as a regular starter would help should Love get hurt (has missed 96 games out of a possible 246 in the last three seasons).

With this lineup, Thompson should provide energy off the bench, something that is valuable to any team in the NBA. His rebounding is much more useful coming off the bench away from Varejao. With shooters like Waiters and Miller on the court – and even Dellavedova to some extent – offensive rebounds will be super beneficial to get these guys more possessions and touches.

Tristan Thompson has been both praised and – probably more so – criticized during his time with the Cavaliers. In reality, both aren’t wrong, but there’s middle ground to be had when talking about him. To me, he’s a solid player to have on the bench of a championship caliber team. He’s a hustle player who will get you a good amount of rebounds that lead to more possessions. He’s almost like what Varejao was in the early years. And as we know, there’s always room for a player like that.

A Kevin Love trade looks imminent for the Cleveland Cavaliers

It appears that Kevin Love joining the Cleveland Cavaliers is now all about “when” instead of “if.”

 

As expected, the Kevin Love to Cleveland rumors are heating up the closer we get to the start of the 2014-15 season. As reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein, the Minnesota Timberwolves are likely to deal Love before the new season gets underway and are currently focusing solely on completing a deal with the Cavaliers.

 

After six seasons in Minnesota, Love still has yet to make the playoffs in the rugged western conference. With a clear opportunity to join LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in the eastern conference, it seems like a no-brainer for Love to desire a trade to the Cavs. Not only would he make the playoffs for the first time in his career, but he would also have a chance to legitimately compete for a championship. The combination of these desires for Love and the Cavs’ ability to offer the most valuable package to the Timberwolves makes them the frontrunners of acquiring Love by the commencement of the season.

Stein and Windhorst went on to state in their report yesterday that the Cavs’ offering of the last two number one overall picks, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, along with a future first-round pick, would trump any other offers that the Timberwolves have received. They also wrote that sources have now confirmed that the Cavs are the only team in contention for Love. Well, with that type of offer, I would certainly hope that the Cavs would be the last team standing for Love. With Love assuredly leaving Minnesota after this season as a free agent, I would take that deal and run if I were Flip Saunders.

The only other reported offers that the Cavs are supposedly competing with are from the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors. True or not, the Bulls have been reported as offering Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott for Love. The Warriors have been reported as offering Harrison Barnes, David Lee and a future first-round pick for Love. Those are both solid offers, but neither competes with the young potential of Wiggins. Throw in Bennett and a future first and they aren’t even close. If the Cavs are truly making that offer to the Timberwolves, then I don’t see any way that this deal doesn’t get completed by the end of August.

For the salaries to match-up, the Cavs would need to trade Wiggins, Bennett, Erik Murphy and John Lucas III (plus a future first-round pick, apparently). For salary purposes, the Cavs could just as easily replace Wiggins with Dion Waiters, and that trade would work as well. Obviously, Windhorst and Stein are reporting the Cavs are the only team in contention for Love with the assumption that Wiggins is in the deal. Is Love worth an unproven 19-year-old with superstar potential? Of course he is. Love finished third in PER last season at 26.97, behind only James and Kevin Durant. If the Cavs realize and understand that Love wants to play for them and no other reported offers come close to Wiggins, Bennett, etc., then they have the ability to play hard-ball with the Timberwolves and fight to keep Wiggins. I’ve said it before, but if you look at what other all-star players have been traded for in the past, nothing really compares to this reported offer by the Cavs. Fear the Sword’s Mike Mayer does a good job of breaking down those previous trades here.

So do I think Love will ultimately end up a Cavalier this season? Yes. Do I think it will cost the Cavs Wiggins, Bennett, a future first and salary filler? Most likely. But I have to imagine that David Griffin is doing everything within his power to keep Wiggins, and with how this situation is constructed; I don’t see that as an impossible task. It will likely take the cooperation of a third team though.

So, assuming this reported trade takes place and the Cavs have one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history, the roster could look something like this by October:

Starters:

1 – Kyrie

2 – Waiters

3 – LeBron

4 – Love

5 – Varejao

Second unit:

1 – Delly

2 – Jones/Harris

3 – Miller

4 – Thompson

5 – Haywood

Bench/Charge:

Powell, Harris, Thomas

That’s instantly one of the best starting lineups in the league. All five guys have good court vision and can find the open man. It’s a high basketball IQ aggregate. It’ll be hard to find a 3-5 who can outrebound Varejao, Love and LeBron. There are four very talented scorers there and everyone can space the floor. Pick-and-rolls/pops will be un-guardable. The sheer assortment of plays that this lineup could run to perfection is mind numbing.

Then we have the second-unit. Hopefully Ray Allen will be in this unit by the start of the season. Replacing Jones/Harris with Allen (or possibly even Waiters with Allen at some points) would make this team so much deeper and much more dangerous. As presently constructed, however, Delly would be leading the second-unit with sharpshooters Jones and Miller in the corners. Thompson and Haywood have the potential to work well together down low, and I’m really excited to see Thompson off the bench. I think he can excel in that role. Malcolm Thomas came over with Murphy and Lucas III in the Carrick Felix trade, and it was assumed his unguaranteed contract would be used for trade purposes. Since Thomas can’t be included in a trade with any other player (the Cavs are over the cap and can’t do this for two months), I am assuming for now that he will remain on the roster for the year. I had the chance to scout Thomas in Vegas for Summer League and he could actually be a welcomed addition to the roster. He’s a long, athletic defender and can be compared to Tyrus Thomas. Thomas also previously played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, David Blatt’s former team in Israel. I would expect him, Powell and Harris to spend a lot of time with the Canton Charge throughout the season.

If When Love does get traded to the Cavs, it will represent an absolutely incredible power shift in the East for possibly the next decade. James, whose letter leaves most people believing he will finish out the rest of his career in Cleveland, could have the Cavs on top of the NBA for the long-term. James turns 30 in December. He’s never had a serious injury and is one of the healthiest, most athletic players in the world. So, assuming that James plays until he’s 37-39 years old, the Cavs could have 8-10 years of a team including James. Irving is already locked up for five more years in Cleveland and Love would be likely to sign a four-year deal next season. That’s a nice five-year window for the Cavs to win a title with their new “big three.” And even still, it’s hard to imagine any player leaving a team with LeBron James, even if he is in his mid-thirties (whereas Irving will be 27 and Love will be 30). If Love does in fact end up a Cavalier this season, the Cavs have the opportunity to run the league for the next decade. All eyes will be on Minnesota and Cleveland for the next few months. And yes, it still feels strange to even type that.

Why Dion Waiters is Due for a Breakout Season

Dion Waiters dunks on 76ers

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a very busy offseason marked by multiple trades, free agent signings, and a critical contract extension. It’s inarguable that the Cavs got enormously better this year, going from a bubble playoff team in the weak Eastern Conference to perhaps a powerhouse in all of the NBA. There’s no question the Cavs will look like a completely different team; a night and day comparison from what they’ve looked like the last four years. But with all the moves and rumors surrounding the Cavs this offseason, we shouldn’t lose sight of the talent that was already on the team coming into this offseason.

Dion Waiters will be entering his third NBA season out of Syracuse after the Cavaliers made him the (controversial) number four pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He’s been at the epicenter of trade rumors at least since the trade deadline of this past year, coming up in trade rumors involving then-Lakers big Paul Gasol. Not much has changed as now Dion’s name has come up frequently in trade rumors for Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. With all the uncertainty surrounding Dion’s future with the Cavs, we mustn’t forget he would be a great role player coming off the bench (if he’s willing). In my eyes, should Dion stay in favor with Cavs management and isn’t traded by the time this season starts, he’s in a position to take a considerable step forward with his career.

The LeBron James factor

Even if Dion comes off the bench at times or most of the season, he should see considerable playing time with LeBron on the court. Two lineups with this duo included could look something like this (for the sake of not making this too complicated, I’ll assume Kevin Love hasn’t been traded):

 

Possible starting lineup

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Dion Waiters

SF: LeBron James

PF: Tristan Thompson

C: Anderson Varejao

 

Possible rotational lineup

PG: Matthew Dellavedova

SG: Dion Waiters

SF: Mike Miller

PF: LeBron James

C: (random free agent rim protector probably, hopefully, please)

 

To look at how much amount of time bench-Dion is in store for with LeBron on the court, I look to the 2013-14 Miami Heat. The 4th most common Heat lineup last year included two starters and three bench players (this is the type of lineup I expect to see when LeBron and bench-Dion play together): Norris Cole, Ray Allen (back-up shooting guard, like Dion is expected to be), LeBron, Shane Battier (regular starter), and Chris Andersen. This group together logged over 92 minutes throughout the year. The duo of LeBron and Allen also spent 1,236 minutes together, also the fourth most of any duo on the Heat roster. So even if Dion comes off the bench, he’ll still see ample time with LeBron.

With that said, how does LeBron help him? Ray Allen, with LeBron (more than any other Heat starter), was able to average a bigger net three-point attempts and three-point field goals than Allen with any other Heat starter.

This tells me that LeBron’s ability to drive and draw multiple defenders combined with his court vision and willingness to pass was able to help Ray Allen take more long-range shots. This is something that I think is likely to carry over with the Cavs and hopefully with Dion Waiters. He improved his three-point shot vastly from his rookie year – from 31% to 36.8% – and hopefully he continues to trend upward this year as he’ll most likely be able to get off more shots than ever.

Restarting what he finished

After basically the whole Cavaliers team had a tumultuous start to the season, both on and off the court, Dion Waiters was one Cavalier who came out of it smelling like a rose. The second half of his and the Cavs’ season was highlighted by his buzzer beating shot in a comeback win against the Detroit Pistons. Why does this matter? Because when you have the opportunity to show this shot, one of the biggest by a Cavalier in the last four years, you have to do it.

http://youtu.be/BO8-fwBLAR0

After the show he put on during All Star weekend in a one-on-one battle with Tim Hardaway Jr., Dion was able to bump up his FG% by 4.3%, 3PT% by 1.8%, and his TS% (true shooting percentage) by 4.3%.

In the last month of the season (seven games), Dion caught fire from three and shot about 47% while averaging 20 points per game. Granted, the Cavs’ playoff chances waned down the stretch, but it’s a good sign Dion kept playing well anyway.

Where Dion needs to improve

Should Dion stay on the bench in favor of Andrew Wiggins, something that’s not out of the question, he’ll need to start being more consistent as a reserve player. As noted above, spending time on the floor with LeBron should help this, but he won’t always be able to rely on him. Dion’s offensive rating (ORtg) as a starter (101) was noticeably higher than when he came off the bench (97). He also had a much lower FG% and TS% as a bench player (42.9%, 50.4%) than as a starter (43.9%, 51.3%).

His usage percentage was just about the same whether he started or not, so supporting cast likely has some role in the difference between his numbers. Either way, two things that would help his overall consistency would be his finishing ability and shot selection. This is where David Blatt should come into play, hopefully limiting the number of mid-range jumpers Dion and the Cavs take this upcoming year. Also, one of the reasons the Cavs would be best-served taking on multiple shooters is to help a guy like Dion Waiters finish in the paint with less defenders in the way. Here’s his shot chart from last year, courtesy of nba.com/stats.

Dion Waiters 2014 shot chart
Dion Waiters has been one of the most enjoyable Cavaliers to watch since he’s come into the league; something I didn’t expect to happen the moment he got drafted. Entering his third year with an improved roster around him, I’m expecting even better things from him and more fun moments.