Tag Archives: David Griffin

Another January Rebirth for the Cavaliers

Four games, four wins, and an average margin of victory of almost 13 points.

This was the week of basketball provided by our Cleveland Cavaliers under the direction of their new head coach Tyronn Lue. Sure, Lue’s first game last Saturday, a 96-83 loss to Chicago, was likely to give GM David Griffin a small jolt of buyer’s remorse, but these last four games have most certainly solidified his confidence in the decision to replace David Blatt.

I think that it is safe to say that the way this team plays now is notably different from the previous regime. Its the same cast of characters but as a whole, it is a very different narrative.

One of my favorite decisions that Lue made right away is moving Tristan Thompson back into a starting role. If you look at the level of talent that he brings to the court, coupled with the amount of money we invested in him just before the start of the season, having him in the starting lineup just makes good basketball sense.

I know that I have been hard on Timofey Mozgov this season and most of it can be backed up with hard evidence. Having said that, I have not seen him play more consistently than I have in his role coming off of the bench this week.

Thompson and Mozgov are where they now belong in the rotation and I don’t anticipate that changing unless the very healthy and reliable Thompson goes down with an injury. As a Cleveland sports fan it is impossible to not have thoughts of an injury in the back of your mind considering the storied history of maladies that our sports figures have endured that end of derailing our championship hopes and dreams.

Here is an example of just that type of mindset. During our 117-103 victory of the San Antonio Spurs Saturday night, Kyrie Irving had a moment where he seemed to fall awkwardly on his knees and just played there for a moment.

Of course, ABC decided it was a perfect time to take a commercial break without addressing or showing whether Irving stood back up and appeared to be fine. The entire commercial break I was fidgeting in my seat while praying that I would not see an image of trainers working on Irving as soon as the broadcast returned.

Thankfully, I did not see that and there was never any mention of Irving getting up slowly or asking to be subbed out. Did I invent this entire scenario in my own mind or did I simply interpret things incorrectly?

Regardless, all is well in Cavalier country as our team has seemed to reinvent itself again in January. Some of my readers may wonder why I do not go more in depth about Lebron James’ role and accomplishments with this team.

James is the heart of this team and of course we would not be able to compete at the same level without him. Everyone knows that we can rely on him for scoring, defense and leadership.

From last year’s Finals we know that Lebron is not enough singularly to win us an NBA title. The contributions of Love, Irving, Dellavedova, Thompson, Smith and Shumpert are what will determine our eventual success level.

I would like to go player by player and give my opinion of each of those player’s role as it stands today.

Kevin Love – Love must continue to be a threat both inside the paint and outside the arc. He is getting more lift under his three point shots and we have seen a higher percentage of them being made. Under Coach Lue, he has been asked to produce more under the hoop and has not disappointed.

Kyrie Irving – I’ve said it before and I will say it as many times as it is deemed necessary. Irving is the best finisher in the NBA. His penetration under the basket causes defenders to leave their assignments which provides Smith, Love, Shumpert, James or Dellevedova enough space outside the arc to get off a clean, calculated shot when he kicks it out. Irving has been both hot and cold from long distance but any of those others have the potential to knock those down when called upon. Kyrie is a master facilitator in that respect.

Matthew Dellavedova – Delly has been able to not only find the player that we all cheered for against Atlanta in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, but to improve upon that player as well! He is no longer afraid to drive to the hoop and has shown an amazing increase in his three point percentage. He is a part of this team that could not be easily replaced if we lost him.

Tristan Thompson – His presence in the starting lineup is essential to our success. When matched up against the current King of NBA rebounding Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Thompson out rebounded him 14 to 8! This is an example that Cavs fans will do well to remember as we go up against more of the elite teams in this league.

J.R. Smith – Swish, as they call him, has become a much more important part of this team as the year has progressed. He is not only scoring fairly consistently for us but he is starting to contribute in other areas such as steals that are worth just as much as a basket because it takes potential points off of the board for our opponents.

Iman Shumpert – While Shumpert isn’t getting the minutes of J.R. most games, he is still putting forth his best effort with the minutes that he does get. I always look forward to opponents getting “Shumped” when he is on the floor. He is a true student of his adversaries and likely knows things about their tendencies that they may not even be aware of. This leads to a bevy of great defensive work from him.

We are about to embark on our February journey in the NBA. February brings the All Star Break and an opportunity to not only obtain a status report of the respective teams at the half way point of the season, but to remember why they all started playing the game in the first place; their love for it.

In Cleveland, January has been a month of transition for the second year in a row. I have high hopes of what this iteration of the Cleveland Cavaliers has in store for us in the months ahead.

David Griffin ushers in a Lue era in Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers have set another record this week, though it remains to be seen whether it is one to be proud of or sorry for.

David Blatt celebrates with LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 8, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers 101-97. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
David Blatt celebrates with LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second half at Quicken Loans Arena on November 8, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers 101-97. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Around 3:55pm on Friday, the Cleveland sports world let out a collective gasp when it was broken by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the sports world’s premier NBA insider, that the Cavaliers organization had terminated Head Coach David Blatt. Not only was this news shocking and puzzling but it was simultaneously reported that Assistant Coach Tyronn Lue was being promoted to the position of Head Coach.

Lue would not assume the title of Interim Coach as is the traditional procedure when a coach is unexpectedly fired. He was immediately given the moniker of Head Coach with even some rumors of a two to three year deal already having been negotiated.

The aforementioned record that was set, is that Blatt is the first coach, since the league separated into two conferences, to ever be terminated when his team had the best win/loss record in their conference. That is not exactly what I would have hoped for in terms of a ground breaking statement, but the effectiveness of this strategy is yet to be determined.

Cavs General Manager David Griffin held a press conference Friday and alluded to the team not showing an inability to “galvanize” under Blatt’s leadership. He felt that the team was at a crossroads in terms of fixing this problem and a change needed to be made in order to continue moving towards their common goal of bringing an NBA championship to the City of Cleveland.

The primary and obvious speculation is that the decision, as many have been in the past two seasons, was influenced directly by Lebron James. Both Griffin and James have denied publicly that James had any say or that he was consulted on the final decision.

Do I think James went to Griffin and “suggested” that Lue be promoted and Blatt let go? No, I do not.

Do I think that James has had ups and downs with Blatt in terms of their coach/player relationship and that he may have known in the back of his head that this would be the end result someday? Absolutely, 100%.

It is important to note that the decision of who to name as the head coach of the Cavaliers was made BEFORE James announced his intent to return to Cleveland in July of 2014, and that while Griffin favored Lue to receive the position, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert preferred Blatt. This must have spawned an interesting conversation over at Quicken Loans Arena when the Sports Illustrated cover was revealed.

OK, Blatt is out and Lue is now the head coach of our team. The next question is, how will the team’s strategy and performance change with a coach that is rumored to be more “in touch” with the players?

Our first test of Lue’s coaching prowess would be against our Eastern Conference rival, the Chicago Bulls, on our home court. The team can only improve if Blatt was such a hinderance to their success, correct?

The final score from our matchup against the Bulls at home? A 96-83 loss where the Cavaliers looked listless and unable to execute.

Now this could be explained by the suddenness of the coaching change or from some apparent shifts in substitution patterns that Lue put into place. Whatever the reason, this team should never lose on their home court when they hold their opponent under 100 points.

All they could muster on the offensive end over 4 quarters was 83 points?!? In this particular game the lack of offense was the fault of several factors.

As a collective group, our bench players shot 3/14 for 8 points. Obviously, that is not a typical set of stats for Dellavedova, Shumpert and Tristan Thompson but this certainly contributed to the lack of scoring overall.

The second factor was that we shot just under 41% (9 for 22) from the free throw line. Essentially, the Cavaliers contracted out all of their free throw shooting for the night to Clippers forward Deandre Jordan; quite an embarrassment in my eyes.

The last factor, in my estimation, relates to offensive strategy. The Cavs took 24 three point shots against Chicago and were only able to make four.

This abysmal 16.7% from downtown means that even though we were showing that the long range shots were not going down, we still continued to take them. Is this just an example of the new coaching staff urging the players to “shoot through” their cold streak?

Listen, I was as shocked as anyone to hear of Blatt’s firing. Too often, there is a Twitter explosion (which I engaged in on a small scale right as it happened) and a rush to be the first to write an opinion piece on whether Griffin is a hero or a zero for this.

I knew that I needed time to process everything, hear all sides of the story, and even see our newly appointed coach in action for the first time before I could give my honest opinion on the matter. Now that most of that has occurred I am ready to levy a judgment!

My feeling is that the Cleveland Cavaliers, while possessing the title of best team in the East, showed that under David Blatt’s coaching, that they could not compete consistently against the best teams in the West. Seeing as the goal of management is acquiring a championship, a change needed to be made.

I applaud our GM as he has put himself into the position of being called either a genius or a goat when it is all said and done. He has certainly volunteered to put this team on the back of his decisions, as great leaders should.

Griffin’s legacy in this city is at stake now more than ever. To me, that is the very definition of ALL IN.

Cavaliers face tough "Tour of Texas"

What a fun couple of weeks to be a Cavs fan!

The Cavaliers have won seven straight games dating back to 12/26 which means they are undefeated so far in 2016! We are quickly approaching the anniversary of last season’s turning point also.

Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat dribbles the ball during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena on December 5, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat dribbles the ball during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena on December 5, 2015 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Last January, our team was a disappointing 19-20 in mid January. The addition of Lebron James and Kevin Love was not paying dividends and the team looked average at best.

As soon as David Griffin made the deals that brought JR Smith and Iman Shumpert from the Knicks and unloaded Dion Waiters to OKC for Timofey Mozgov, the Cavaliers caught fire.

This year we have many more encouraging results and outcomes to show in the first two and a half months of the regular season. 26 wins and nine losses is a hell of an improvement in my book.

Now having said all of that, our next four games are maybe the most critical stretch of the whole season up to this point. The teams that we are facing over the next four have a combined record of 108-43.

During our “Tour of Texas”, as I have dubbed it, we are facing the 22-16 Dallas Mavericks, 32-6 San Antonio Spurs and the 19-19 Houston Rockets. Houston looks like easy pickings with that record but they ALWAYS play the Cavaliers tough.

Look at the tough game that the 4-35 Philadelphia 76ers gave the Cavaliers last night. Teams always seem to be at their best when playing the Cavs.

I expect all of those games to be extremely difficult and will go a long way to determining our progress in developing a championship attitude and resolve for this season. I would be pleased with one win out of those three games as long as we play hard and show heart.

No one is talking much about San Antonio even though they have only registered six losses this season. They have always been a dangerous team and this year is certainly no exception.

The Spurs remain in the shadow of Golden State in the Western Conference and I am certain they prefer it that way. Speaking of our arch nemesis, the Warriors will be waiting for us at home after out Texas road trip to see if there is anything left of us.

We only have one of our nine losses at home this year. After losing to the Warriors on Christmas Day, it sure would be satisfying to defend our home court successfully against them on 1/18.

In grammar news, Kyrie-diculous has officially entered the vocabulary of Cleveland fans and announcers alike. It is truly amazing how quickly he has returned to championship form when it comes to finishing.

The only piece of his game that I feel he is still trying to find is his three point shot. Otherwise, I truly believe that he is, even though he has only been back a few weeks, the best player in the league at the rim.

We cannot ignore the leadership and contributions of James either. He has averaged 26.6 points over the last five games and has also improved his finishing from earlier in the regular season.

He has most definitely been taking the ball to the hoop more consistently than even last season and seems to still be improving. This accomplishes two things from my perspective.

It not only puts teams on the defensive if they are expecting a physical drive but it also racks up personal fouls and creates opportunities from beyond the three point arc for his teammates.

This is a tried and true characteristic of ALL championship caliber teams. This week I am very interested to see if they can couple that with a “win at all costs” mentality and toughness while they visit the Lone Star state.

Big-Picture Cavs Will Absorb Loss of Shumpert

The good feelings and the revelry of Media Day for the Cleveland Cavaliers, to some, probably didn’t last long enough.

Within 24 hours of the press getting its first glance of the 2015-16 edition of the team, the Cavs announced that guard Iman Shumpert will have surgery to repair a ruptured extensor carpi ulnaris sheath on his right wrist. He suffered the rupture in the days leading up to training camp. Recovery time for this injury, according to doctors, will take 12 to 14 weeks.

Shumpert’s wrist is just the latest in injuries to the Cavaliers roster. Kevin Love is coming back from

 Iman Shumpert #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers .  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Iman Shumpert #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers . (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

a separated shoulder that was caused by Kelly Olynyk, which turned the Celtics player into Cleveland’s latest folk villain. Anderson Varejao is also back after mending from an Achilles injury that sidelined him for most of last season.

Add into that center Timofey Mozgov’s off-season knee surgery, plus the fact that Kyrie Irving was already going to be out until January because of his knee, and it all lays the groundwork for a huge fan freak-out.

But is there really that much cause for concern? Not really.

Love, Varejao and Mozgov have already started working out at training camp in non-contact drills, and it looks as if all three of them will be ready for the start of the regular season. Plus, general manager David Griffin added some insurance at the front, signing 2008 draft pick and Russian Leaguer Sasha Kaun, along with former Spurs forward Austin Daye. If nothing else, the move could provide some early-season rest for any of the main players.

And eventually, Tristan Thompson will be back with the team, so there should some added depth. It will just be a matter of when he signs and for how long at this point. Too bad it’s taken forever already.

Now that Shumpert is out of the picture in the short-term, the Cavs rotation at shooting guard will start with J.R. Smith, who took turns with his former Knicks teammate in the starting role. With Shumpert out for three months, Smith will now take the helm at the 2. Matthew Dellavedova will also probably see time at the shooting guard position. And maybe, just maybe, fans will see a little bit more of Joe Harris in the early part of the season before he takes his annual trip down to the Canton Charge.

Head coach David Blatt will probably spend the first part of this season working on the team’s depth, which proved to be the albatross around his neck that eventually came to haunt him during the NBA Finals. Even with most of last season’s squad back, Blatt was notorious for short rotations, which led to his stars running out of gas in the end. Playing around with the lineup while key players are out should fix that problem this time around.

And it may even give some training-camp signees some hope for playing time with the big team at the start. Along with Harris, who was the Cavs’ second rounder last season, free agents Jared Cunningham and Quinn Cook, who was part of Duke’s latest national championship team, will see if they have what it takes to stick around, at least in the short-team.

Most of all, it helps that the Cavaliers are in the Eastern Conference, which they are picked as the overwhelming favorite to win once again. The state of flux for most of their conference foes already gave the Cavs a sizeable advanatage, injuries or no injuries.

This helps when you have LeBron James on the roster.

So, while it seems like a short-staffed Cavs team could be staring down the barrel of another slow start like they say last season, it has always been the end of the road that has been the goal.

And with that in mind, it should keep fans from completely losing their minds.

Tristan Thompson Will Get Paid and Some People Will Hate It

The Cavs have had a pretty boring yet successful offseason to this point.

They re-signed almost all of their free agents, as they set out to. They didn’t draft anyone in the first round, therefore didn’t bring in any guaranteed contracts this way. They signed former Cav Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson. And Brendan Haywood was finally shipped off for the largest current traded player exception in the NBA.

But there are still a couple of things that haven’t been settled to this point.

For one, J.R. Smith is still an unrestricted free agent after opting out of making $6.4 million next year and becoming an UFA the following season. Smith has little leverage in this situation as teams have already done most of their spending and the market for him is slim at this point.

But the bigger question mark at the moment is what will happen with Tristan Thompson. His situation is pretty unique yet some fans think of it as business as usual. In other words, Thompson is a backup forward with no offense, and has one good skill (rebounding). So obviously he isn’t worth anywhere near the $94 million he reportedly wants from the Cavs (the maximum he can ask for).

But really, what Thompson is worth isn’t the most relevant thing when talking about what the Cavs should pay him.

At 23 years old, Thompson averaged 8.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game in his fourth NBA season. No big man at that age, at that point in his career, playing that many minutes has touched the kind of contract that Tristan Thompson is set to get, let alone the amount he’s asking for. That’s a big reason, even if subconsciously, why a lot of people are steadfast against him getting paid so much money.

We’re just not used to seeing a player of his skill set throw his weight around and give the demands that he and his agent Rich Paul have.

We also have a tendency to take two players making a similar amount of money and going down the line comparing their talents as basketball players. The one with the worse overall skills is labeled as overpaid.

In a lot of instances, especially in this one, the team that is doing the spending needs to be taken into consideration. The Cavs aren’t aloud to do some of the same things defensively without Thompson that they’re allowed to do with him, namely switching off or even hard hedging on the pick and role.

Should the Cavs offer Thompson his five-year, $94 million deal, he’d be making similar money per year as Blake Griffin. No one will tell you that Thompson is a better basketball player than Griffin, even those who think the Cavs should pay Thompson this year’s max. But nowhere in sports are contracts slotted based on talent. If it were, Kobe Bryant wouldn’t be set to make over twice as much as Steph Curry next season.

For the most part, market interest determines how much a certain player gets paid rather than specific traits players do or don’t have.

This isn’t to say that this comparison method is completely irrelevant in all cases (I’ve done it before and probably will continue to do it), but it’s less so here and shouldn’t nor will it be the determining factor for how much Thompson will garner, whether that be this offseason from the Cavs or next offseason from other teams.

What Tristan Thompson does, the multiple things he does at a high quality, not just one, are things the Cavs need to help them be a contender. His versatility and potency on defense, his rebounding ability on offense, his finishing around the rim, and his consistent improvement in most facets of his game are what the Cavs utilize often when Thompson is out on the floor.

Tristan Thompson games two bulls ccavs playoffs

This situation is complicated, but the decision should be a simple one if you’re the Cavs. David Griffin and co. could hope Thompson takes their “significantly less” offer. But then they run the risk of Thompson declining that deal and accepting the $6.8 million qualifying offer, which would make him an unrestricted free agent next offseason. This result yields multiple problems for the Cavs, one that hurts Dan Gilbert, and one that hurts everyone in the Cavs organization.

Should Thompson reach the open market next summer, he would be poised to make more money than he could make this offseason. Whereas he can make a maximum total of $94 million over five years this year, his maximum next year would be much higher given the expected $20 million rise in cap.

This isn’t to say Thompson would get next year’s max, but it’s still likely a team would offer more money to him next year since they’re able to do so.

One reason why teams will willing to pay Thompson what seems to be an absurd amount of money (remember, there’s still a season to be played [and thus, a case for Thompson to make himself more money] between now and next offseason), is the weak-ish free agency class set to hit next offseason.

Another reason Thompson will garner a lot of interest is for the same reason the Cavs are willing to offer him a lot of money: he’s a uniquely gifted player.

Thompson does things on the defensive end that just are not common with men at his position. He has the athletic ability to guard every position effectively at certain points in the game. He’s even shown he can do this when it matters the most in the playoffs.


He’s one of the best offensive rebounders in the game. He’s improved his shot and his overall game each year of his career. And at 24 years old, with his work ethic, there’s no reason to believe he’s done developing in any aspect of his game. This isn’t to say he’ll ever be a great offensive player, but I think it’s fair to expect overall improvement here.

Even if Thompson doesn’t get as much interest as projected, it will only take one team to move heaven and earth to grab Tristan Thompson away from the Cavs. If it comes down to Thompson becoming an UFA next season, either the Cavs pony up more dough than they would have this season, costing Dan Gilbert, or Thompson leaves Cleveland, hurting the Cavs’ chances at a championship.

Thompson’s unique set of talents makes him a hard player to replace, leaving the cupboard bare in ways the Cavs could play defensively.

And it may not even come to Thompson choosing between Cleveland and another team. That is, if you believe that reports about Thompson accepting the qualifying offer are more than just Rich Paul playing hardball.

There really isn’t much to decide here if you’re the Cavs front office. Sure, they could hope he takes $80 million over five years. But it’s unlikely that Thompson wouldn’t bet on himself by taking the qualifying offer and waiting for more money next year. The odds are in Thompson’s favor. He’s been trending upward each year and has played every game for the last three seasons. Health and work ethic are not a problem for him.

And even if Thompson does decide he would stick with the Cavs after a year of playing under the qualifying offer, the Cavs would most likely be signing him under a much richer contract than the $94 million he wants now.

Thompson already bet on himself when he turned down a four-year, $52 million extension in October. Now he’s aiming to get paid almost double that. What happens if the Cavs let him do that again?

Thompson could get paid his $94 million this year. He could get paid much more next year from the Cavs or some other team. Either way, Tristan Thompson will get paid and some Cavs fans will not be happy.

Get Ready for More Kevin Love

On the first day free agents were allowed to agree to contracts, Kevin Love did so with the Cavs, re-upping with a five-year, $100 million deal.

This ended any speculation there was that Love would spurn Cleveland after a full season of verbal commitments to the team through the media.

Throughout the season Love remained steadfast in his commitment to the Cavs for the future. Even though there was a report saying he would visit the Lakers, it never happened. Love always came back to the idea of a return with the Cavs, and a poolside meeting with LeBron set that in stone.

Love’s first season with the Cavs, as cliché as it sounds, had its ups and downs.

He had a healthy-ish year, playing in 75 games in the regular season. The caveat here is he dealt with a nagging back injury for much of the year. And then, just as he was experiencing playoff basketball for the first time in his career, Kelly Olynyk dislocated Love’s shoulder in Game 3 of the first round, forcing him to miss the remainder of the playoffs.

This was his first non-All Star season in which he played at least 60 games. This is also the first time he played with two other All Stars and wasn’t the number one option on offense every single night.

His role from his days with the Timberwolves changed, that’s for certain. He was asked to shift his focus from doing almost everything on offense – especially whenever Ricky Rubio was hurt – to be asked to essentially be a decoy for much of the time.

Was this change for the better? Maybe not for Love’s statistics and All Star status. But for the Cavs, it’s hard to argue with the results.

Last season there was a narrative that Love was being misused by the Cavs. As I wrote, this wasn’t the most accurate way to put it. Certainly Love wasn’t sniffing the individual success he did in Minnesota. But the Cavs’ offense for much of the season, especially after LeBron got healthy and two key trades were made, was humming like no other team in the Association. A big part of this was due to Kevin Love’s unique ability, even if he wasn’t scoring 26 points per night anymore.

In that post from late February, the passage that sums up most how I felt about the theory of Love being misused is this:

“Even so, the Cavs have still been winning, coming out on top in 16 of their last 18 games. Which ultimately leads me to believe that, even if the Cavs aren’t using him enough, I don’t think they’re necessarily misusing him.”

Most would argue that not having Love operate at the high post is a “misuse” of his talents. But I would argue Love wasn’t misused because he is a really good shooter for his position. Keeping him outside the arc forces guys that, for the most part, are used to guarding in the post move into unfamiliar territory. But mainly, it creates more space for guys like Kyrie and LeBron to drive and give them less resistance on the way to the rim.

Part of Kyrie Irving’s jump in FG% at the rim from 53.8% in 2013-14 to 58.2% in 2014-15 was because of the decrease in help he had to face on the way to the rim.

Kevin Love point cavs

With all that said, year two is the time to get Kevin Love more involved. Using the same focal points of a successful offense the whole season in year one of an accelerated rebuild is fine. But with Love cemented as a Cav for at least four years (fifth year player option), year two should be used to throw some more wrinkles into the offense.

David Griffin talked about Kevin Love when he was down in Las Vegas for Summer League. Griff let the media know that the important members of the Cavs organization think that Kevin could be utilized more in the offense.

“I think [Love] and Coach have had a lot of conversations about that. He and Bron have had conversations about that. Kevin enables us to have somebody else carry the mail when LeBron sits down once in a while… I think we have the ability to put him at the elbow and run offense through him a lot more than we did – some of the things he did really well in Minnesota.”

Griffin also brought up another good point that will probably be even more relevant this year. When LeBron wasn’t playing, the Cavs didn’t really veer much from their typical philosophy of really stretching the floor and keeping Love outside on the wing when LeBron wasn’t playing.

This may come into play more this year considering these Cavs have a year under their belt and will feel confident giving a guy like LeBron nights off in the regular season. With James out, it would be a good idea to lean more on Love to run some offense.

As he showed in Minnesota, Kevin is really good at playing at the elbow. We know his shooting range effectively stretches all the way out to the 3-point line. A unique feature about Love is his ability to see the floor and make the proper passes to make the offense flow.

The Cavs didn’t completely ignore this idea this season. One game in particular that I go back to was Kyrie’s 55-point game against Portland, one in which LeBron did not play.

On two of the last three possessions, Love was used at the elbow so Kyrie could operate off the ball; the first play leading to a huge shot.


On the second play, Batum is able to get over the pick, forcing Kyrie to drive. Portland also shows good help defense on the drive.


Nonetheless, Love, on the first play, was reason 1b why the Cavs were able to tie the game up in crunch time.

This is exactly what the Cavs could use whenever LeBron needs a breather, is off that night, or is just flat out having an bad game. This is also why the Cavs went after Mo Williams in free agency.

More variance in the Cavs offense makes the team that much scary.

From January 13 (the day LeBron came back from his two weeks off) to the last regular season game on April 4, the Cavs had the highest Offensive Rating in the NBA. Yeah… better than Golden State.

With more variation in how they use their All Star stretch-four, teams will be more on their heels than last year. Get ready fo(u)r more (years of) Love in Cleveland (sorry, had to).

The Cavs Are Back Where They Belong

For the first time in eight years, the Cavs are back in the NBA Finals. And for the first time in my adult life, it really feels like a Cleveland sports team has a great shot to win a championship for this great city.

What a road to glory it’s been.

Four years ago, it didn’t seem likely that we’d be back here this “soon.”

The Decision. The 26-game losing streak. Three coach firings. Multiple GM flubs. Losing to a four-man Lakers team. All of that in a span of four years.

After the Cavs sweep of the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals, Ernie Johnson asked Dan Gilbert how long it’s felt since the Cavs’ last Finals appearance. Gilbert responded, “Like a hundred years.”

This could not be truer.

It’s only been four years since the Cavs have been legitimate championship contenders. But with all of the losing and 10-day contract players, it’s felt like a century.

Of course, the Cavs could not be where they are without some fortune along the way. That all started when the Cavs traded Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for a first round pick that turned into none other than All Star point guard Kyrie Irving. For four years, Kyrie was the lone guiding light in a seemingly endless abyss.

Kyrie Irving Timofey Mozgov

Through those four years, the Cavs thought they were building a young core for the future. This was capped off by the drafting of Kansas guard and Canadian phenom Andrew Wiggins.

But plans change. Especially when you have a chance to acquire the best player in the sport.

LeBron James coming back to Cleveland changed everything and his second decision was the catalyst for the plethora of moves David Griffin made to make this the best damn Cavs team fans have ever seen, and perhaps the most fun, since that’s what this is really all about.

There were bumps and bruises along the way, no doubt about it. Personally, the worst feeling of the season was seeing my favorite player, the guy who helped me stay around in the darkest of times, Anderson Varejao go down with a torn Achilles, ending his season. It looked as though Andy had escaped the serious injury bug after playing 65 games the year prior, his most since 2009-10.

Expectations can also be a fickle foe. This team, headed by Irving, LeBron, and Kevin Love, was expected to be an immediate contender. The 19-20 start to the Cavs’ season could’ve been a serious deterrent for this. Instead, the Cavs recovered in a big way.

LeBron got some much-needed rest. The Cavs bonded over bowling, in a genius move by David Blatt.

Then, David Griffin turned into a savageous wizard; the Cavs essentially acquired J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov for Dion Waiters (/pours one out), Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk, and a first round pick.

These three players, combined with LeBron taking a dip in the fountain of youth, led to the Cavs team we see today, albeit with a bit of a twist; no Kevin Love.

Losing Love was yet another speed bump the Cavs decided to floor over. To me, Love was the piece that held this team and their offensive philosophy together. Spacing was the name of the Cavaliers’ game.

But with LeBron and Kyrie, you always have a shot. And not to mention the huge boost by Kyrie’s draftmate Tristan Thompson, who has played his way into a big payday.

Even with Love out, this team is still a joy to watch. It isn’t always pretty, but the Cavs have shown some serious grit, led by Thompson and folk hero Matthew Dellavedova.

Timofey Mozgov Delly J.R. Smith cavs

There are so many likeable guys on this team, and that’s something I honestly worried about after Andy went down and Dion was traded. I was worried about the ability for me and other fans to latch onto guys that aren’t superstars. Give credit to David Griffin; that seems like the silliest worry in the world right now. He delivered in the fandom and talent department, a two-headed monster that Cavs fans appreciate.

There are many thanks to give out for such a great season so far, but I’d like to do away with that just to say that Cleveland fans deserve this. LeBron coming back is a great story. It’s great for his legacy. Winning multiple rings for this city may very well move him past Michael Jordan, if that’s the type of conversation you enjoy having.

But most importantly, we deserve this and shouldn’t apologize for anything coming our way. We’ve been through a lot of hurt in the sports world.

This is about us more than anyone. We didn’t nee LeBron, Kyrie, Love, even Andy to be here to still root for this team. We didn’t need 40 or 50 wins to care deeply about Cleveland basketball. So it’s nice that all those guys have come together and done it anyway.

There are still four more wins left to enjoy. And even if they don’t reach that this year, it’s been a hell of a ride. And I appreciate everyone who’s stuck with this team the last four years. The Cavs are back and all is right in Cleveland.


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.


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.

No Need to Panic About the Cavs… Yet

It’s never a dull moment with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It seems like anytime I take a moment to think about what the latest with this team is, there’s always some kind of development that people can take sides on.

This happened after the hiring of David Blatt, during draft season, during the process of trading for Kevin Love, and everything – on and off the court – between game one up to now.

The latest “mishap” came in a post-game press conference with David Blatt after the Cavs were crushed by the Sacramento Kings. I watched that presser on Fox Sports Ohio, as I usually do after games. I didn’t hear anything out of the ordinary. But after I checked Twitter a couple hours later, this quote from Blatt was picked up.

Of course, in text, this looks really bad. Fortunately for Cavs fans and everyone who doesn’t want to watch this team burn to the ground, there was more to that presser than just these quotes.

I knew that after Blatt said that, he asked the reporter what a max player is. Here’s the full transcription of that exchange via Dime Magazine:

David Blatt Kevin Love max transcript

When I heard the clip at first, I thought Blatt actually did not know what the term “max player” meant. So when the reporter answered him without using money in his answer, that didn’t really give Blatt the full understanding of what a max player is. This is understandable, considering this is Blatt’s first year in the NBA and he’s not the one writing the checks or determining who’s getting those checks.

While this wasn’t the case, Blatt was still trying to do right by the organization. While he was wrong about Love not being a max player (he is being paid that way), he knew that if he talked about future contracts regarding Love, he’d be in trouble.

Luckily, after Love saw the comment, he waited for the context behind it (like we should all do in these types of situations) and understood what Blatt was doing.

The Cavs are losers of six straight. This reminds me of a line from Al Pacino in Any. Given Sunday. The Miami Sharks are about to face the Dallas Knights in the first round of the playoffs. The Sharks are underdogs, the Knights a powerhouse. Before the game Pacino gets his players together and delivers one of, if not the greatest speech in cinematic history (NSFW):



“We’re in hell right now, gentlemen.”

It seems as if that’s where the Cavs are right now, at least that’s where I hope they are. In other words, besides the whole team getting wiped out by injuries (which has proven to be a real possibility), I hope this can’t get any worse.

This is the longest losing streak of the season for the Cavs. The last time they had a streak this bad was another six-game losing streak last season from January 26 to February 5. If you recall, the Lakers only had eight able bodies that night, two of them fouled out, and one of them took a nap on the bench.

Chris Kaman nap Cavs Lakers

The Cavs lost that night 119-108. The general feeling was that some kind of move needed to happen with this team. The next day, Dan Gilbert delivered as then-General Manager Chris Grant was fired. The Cavs responded by going on a six-game winning streak.

Fast forward to the current-day Cavs. It’s pretty much a mess, relatively speaking. The on-court product isn’t looking like it was constructed by a “genius” as it was hyped up before the season started. Kyrie Irving has struggled with his shot the last few games, shooting 20-55 (36%). LeBron just came back from rehabbing his back and knee (and did look good last night against the Suns). Kevin Love has struggled all season to find the player he was last year. And the bench has yet to be able to consistently offer some insurance in the points department.

Really, that’s not even all that’s wrong with the team right now. Regardless, even with not being able to have enough fingers and toes to count all the things that are going wrong with the Cavs right now, I still think it’s too early to freak out about them.

When I think about pressing the proverbial panic button, I don’t just look at what the team has done and where they are, but I also look at where they could be. This is especially true when you have basically a whole new organization.

There is so much talent on this roster that I just can’t wrap my head around giving up on it halfway through the season. I get that I can no longer say “it’s still early,” but I think it’d be a plus if we can see what consistency in crucial positions of the team – head coach definitely included – could do for the Cavs. I honestly think they can only get better. But the door on patience is shutting and the time I remove the doorstop is probably/hopefully not until next year.

But there are still adjustments that need to be made, and I think help is on the way. The trades executed by David Griffin I think are moves that will aid the team on both sides of the floor.

J.R. Smith has put up games of 27 and a season-high 29 points in four games with the Cavs. With Shumpert not playing and Delly struggling like there’s no tomorrow, Smith has been forced into the starting lineup playing heavy minutes. Surprisingly, he’s been decent on defense and a damn good passer, both in quality and quantity. Sure, he will (and already has) take his fair share of shots. But he’s been a proven scorer in this league and what helps J.R. be successful is being J.R.

Timofey Mozgov should also help cover up Love’s disappointing defensive limitations. At 7’1, he’s an obvious rim protector that the Cavs need, even though he may not be the best in the league. He’s also very athletic given his huge frame and will be a good player in the pick-and-roll game, sliding into Anderson Varejao’s role, with more of a post-up game.

Iman Shumpert is still weeks away from playing, but he should fit nicely into the starting two-guard spot. With the Cavs, he won’t be asked to do as much as he was in New York, so hopefully this gives him the opportunity to purely focus on his strengths. He should be able to help the Cavs’ perimeter defense and might even be able to help in the spot-up three department.

There’s still patience to be had with this Cavs team. Help is on the way in the form of Shumpert and chemistry. The only question is if David Blatt will be given the time to see those things through.