Tag Archives: dion waiters

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.

Kevin Love emerging early in the season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outlook

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

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

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

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

Quick thoughts:

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

J.R. Smith and Richard Jefferson Can Help the Cavs Stretch the Floor

The Cavs finally struck a deal with one of the players acquired in a midseason trade. After hanging out in the free agency market after declining a $6.4 million player option, J.R. Smith agreed to a two-year, $10 million contract with a player option.

This also happened…

So now we’re all on our hands and knees waiting for Tristan Thompson to re-sign with the Cavs. It’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of him signing his $6.7 million qualifying offer and becoming an unrestricted free agent next year or him and the Cavs agreeing on a contract extension.

One thing we do know is that Smith will be under contract for at least another year. And even though he heard crickets in free agency, he’s an important piece to the Cavs’ championship blueprint.

Teams headed by LeBron James need to have multiple shooting options available. This isn’t just a matter of whether LeBron is or isn’t good enough to shoot from deep anymore, it’s more of having guys in proper spots for LeBron to drive and score/distribute the ball. Smith was one of those guys that was able to do just that the latter half of last season.

The Cavs are top heavy and filled with role players and super role players who have their… role cut out for them. Some of those role players are required to create space with their shooting ability on offense. Almost as important for these shooters is that they don’t veer too much from what they were brought here to do.

A perfect example of the latter is Dion Waiters at the beginning of last year. Dion, as much as I thought he had the potential to be a solid part of a championship caliber team, couldn’t adjust fast enough to what the Cavs needed him to do. Instead of eliminating more shots from the mid-range and shooting more 3’s and shots at the rim, he pretty much took the shots he did the season prior.

According to Basketball-Reference:

Dion Waiters’ percentage of field goal attempts by distance
0-3 feet: ’13-’14- 28.4%

’14-‘15 (w/ Cavs)- 34.2%

16-24 feet: ’13-’14- 29.2%

’14-‘15 (w/ Cavs)- 28.7%

24+ feet (3-pointers): ’13-’14- 25.2%

’14-‘15 (w/ Cavs)- 25.1%

While technically Waiters did lessen his mid-range shots, it wasn’t of any significant proportions. He was soon shipped off for someone who eventually could fulfill the 3-point shooting duties in J.R. Smith.

Much like Waiters, Smith loves shooting from the mid-range. Before he was traded to the Cavs, J.R. was shooting a career high 34.3% of his shots from 16-24 feet away (and hitting just 43% of them). It was time for both teams to move on from their respective guards.

However, the more veteran Smith proved to be more willing to move into the role that the Cavs intended for Waiters. According to Basketball-Reference, J.R. went from a 3-Point Attempt Rate (3PAr) of 35.9% – the second lowest of his career – to a career high 66.9% – a career high.

But it’s not just that the Cavs have guys that are shooting 3’s but that they have guys that have and will continue to make them – this distinction is important.

Last year the Cavs brought in Mike Miller in hopes that he would be a knockdown shooter, more so for the playoffs than the regular season. However, that never came to fruition. Miller, a 40.9% career 3-pt career shooter at the time and coming off a blistering 45.9% from the year prior (on his most attempts in four years), shot a career low – by 10% – of 31.3% from deep. Needless to say, he didn’t get much of a chance in the playoffs, playing just 65 minutes, most of them to spell the suspension of J.R. and injury to Kyrie Irving.

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This year the Cavs brought in another veteran who they hope doesn’t show the type of regression in shooting that Miller did last year. Richard Jefferson, for the most part, has been a trustworthy 3-pt shooter throughout his career with a few outlier seasons, mostly at the beginning of his career.

Something worth noting is that throughout his career, it seems the less Jefferson shoots from deep, the less efficient he is at it. After the first two years of his career, the four times he shot worse than 35% from 3, he’s had a 3PAr of less than 30% in three of the four seasons. Those three seasons came with three different teams in his age 25, 29, and 32 seasons. So it’s not just an age thing. In addition, his four best seasons shooting from 3 have all come when shooting 3’s at a rate of 46% or higher. With all the other help the Cavs have, expect RJ to shoot it early and often when he’s on the court.

Meanwhile, in terms of making shots from long range, J.R. Smith has been hit or miss from season-to-season, but mostly hit.

The role change for Smith is talked about ad nauseam, but it’s important. With the Knicks last year, he was shooting 35.6% from 3, below the 37.1% he shot for his career coming into the season. When he got to the Cavs, all J.R. had to worry about was taking 3’s; not being the second best option on the floor with Carmelo Anthony and not trying to carry the offense while Melo wasn’t playing. This change helped Smith shoot 39% with the Cavs in the regular season.

However, Smith’s good shooting comes with a caveat.

He stills shows his flaws at times. He’s a streaky shooter. When he’s on, he is on. But when he’s off, not many times does he find his stroke in the middle of the game. He also likes, as in actually enjoys, taking contested shots at times – 33% of all his shots last year came with “tight” coverage.

These flaws, however, are digestible for the Cavs if he’s able to limit them and keep his shot making at a high level.

Winning cures all, and so does a high shooting percentage for these two.

J.R. Smith and Richard Jefferson. J.R. and RJ. Expect these two vets to help the Cavs space the floor for the Big 3 to operate.

 

*Stats courtesy of NBA.com/stats unless noted otherwise.

The Iman Shumpert Contract Year Has Been a Treat for the Cavs

The Cavs are a team that is very talented on paper. That much was known dating back to when the core of the roster was assembled in the summer of 2014. It was widely stated when the roster came together that a lot of teams are good on paper, but it doesn’t matter until actual games are played. It looked like the skeptics were onto something when the Cavs had a 19-20 record after 39 games.

23KNICKS-articleLargeThere were probably a few different reasons for the team sputtering out of the gate. For starters, the Cavs only returned five players that were on the roster during the last game of the previous season. Those players were Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Matthew Dellavedova, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. That much roster turnover, even when it is favorable, is a lot for a team to handle.

Another issue was guys settling into their roles. This issue probably went hand-in-hand with the roster turnover, but there were obviously players on the team that did not buy into their roles. They said all of the right things when the cameras were rolling, but the play on the court left a lot to be desired.

And by “guys,” I mostly mean Dion Waiters.

The fascinating thing about the trades that sent out Dion Waiters and brought in J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov is how it was beneficial to the Cavs in two separate ways: The first being that they improved the quality of the roster. By trading away Dion Waiters, they essentially traded three for one players.

The other factor in the Cavs improving their fortunes with that trade was addition by subtraction. I hate to speak so negatively of Dion Waiters, because he was a very fun player to have for most of his career. He played hard every time and was a fun guy to root for. The post-all star break run he had last year was fantastic. He averaged 19.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 3.7 APG on 46% from the field and 37.9% from three. He hit a very fun game winning shot in Detroit that will go down as my favorite memory from that entire season. Having said that, Waiters probably doesn’t fit on a team vying for a championship. Waiters’ usage rate with the Cavs was 24%. That is a lot higher than Smith’s 18% and Shumpert’s 14.1%.

The Cavs essentially traded a guy who didn’t buy into his role on the team for two that do in J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. Much has been said and written about J.R. Smith’s surprising play on the Cavs. Nobody expected Smith to come to Cleveland and be as big of a treat as he has been. What is arguably more impressive is what is happening with Iman Shumpert. He has been the definition of a player joining a team and sacrificing his statistics for the betterment of the franchise. With the Knicks, Shumpert was averaging 12.4 shot attempts per 36 minutes. On the Cavs, that number is only 9. Shumpert was expected to join the Cavs after he recovered from his injury and be the team’s starter. Doing so seems like a natural fit since the starting lineup has so much offensive firepower. Placing Shumpert into the starting lineup would have in theory balanced out the rotation better offensively and defensively. The Cavs never did that, though. Shumpert came back from his injury and came off the bench. There are never rumblings that Shumpert is unhappy with his role even though having the talent to start on many teams.

The fact that Iman Shumpert is willingly reducing his role for the benefit of the team during a contract year is evidence that he is the exact type of player this team needs. Shumpert is a player who had a lot of hype surrounding him due to the fact that he was the only decent and young player the Knicks had on their roster for the better part of a decade. Being difficult and unhappy with his reduced bench role would not come as a surprise to anybody, but he is doing the exact opposite of that. This is even more impressive considering that he suffered a torn ACL in his rookie year. It would not be unreasonable to expect a player to want financial security after these aforementioned circumstances. To Shumpert, it doesn’t seem to matter.

Cavs Acquire Timofey Mozgov from the Nuggets

That was fast. Two days after trading away Dion Waiters for Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, and a future first round pick, the Cleveland Cavaliers have used said pick to get Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov. The Cavs will also trade a first rounder obtained from Memphis to Denver.

The Cavs will also use most of their $5.2 million trade exception they got for trading Keith Bogans to absorb Mozgov’s $4.6 million contract.

The first pick the Cavs are using was obviously obtained in the three-way trade executed a couple days ago. It has a top-18 protection this year and top-15 protection in 2016 and 2017. If the pick isn’t converted by then, it becomes two second rounders in 2018. The Memphis pick was acquired a couple years ago in a deal that involved Jon Leuer going to the Grizzlies for Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, and Josh Selby. This pick is 1-5, 15-30 protected for the net two years, top-5 protected in 2017 and 2018, and unprotected in 2019.

The Cavs have been after a rim protector ever since the season started and Mozgov has been the name that has consistently come up in rumors. Before the Waiters trade, it felt like a deal for him was unlikely, as Denver wanted more in return. When the Cavs got the first rounder from Oklahoma City, a trade for the big man became for feasible.

The 28-year-old Mozgov fits the profile the Cavs have been looking for. In his 35 starts this year, he’s averaging 25.6 minutes per game, 8.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. He also owns a 3.5% block percentage and a 16.4% rebound percentage.

In my little time watching Mozgov, I think he’ll be able to start for the Cavs, allowing Tristan Thompson to come of the bench again. He’s athletic for his size and is known as a solid rim protector.

Mozgov might have been the Cavs’ primary target because of David Blatt’s interest in attaining him.

Blatt coached Mozgov on the Russian national team. Making a move in the coach’s favor tells me that this backs up David Griffin’s assertion that Blatt will be here for the long haul.

Mozgov has a $4.9 club option next year and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2016.

Cavs Get Shumpert and Smith; A Farewell to Dion Waiters

The trade is official. The Cleveland Cavaliers have traded Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a three-team deal that also includes the New York Knicks.

You can read the breaking news article on MTAF here. As I promised, I will go more into depth with the trade.

Obviously, the Cavs are giving away Waiters. Here are the other moving parts:

Cavs receive – Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith from the Knicks and a future protected first round pick from the Thunder. This pick is top-18 protected this year and top-15 protected in 2016 and 2017. If the pick isn’t converted by then, it becomes two second rounders in 2018. The Cavs will use the disabled player exception they got from Anderson Varejao’s injury to absorb Shumpert’s $2.6 million contract, as Fear The Sword’s Ryan Mourton brilliantly explained here.

Thunder receive – Dion Waiters from the Cavs.

Knicks receive – Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson, and a second round pick from the Cavs and Lance Thomas from the Thunder.

I have been insistent on the Cavs not trading Dion Waiters and wrote about it a month before he was dealt. Little did I know this was the type of return the Cavs could get for him.

Dion’s been one of my favorite Cavs for a while, which is weird considering I was ticked about the Cavs drafting him over Harrison Barnes in 2012. Eventually, I fell into the group that would defend the Dion pick, arguing that he had compared favorably to Barnes. Whether that was right or wrong is irrelevant now. Barnes has been trending upward on a hot Warriors team while Dion couldn’t find the rhythm that he found at the end of last year.

Waiters will leave the Cavs this season averaging 23.8 minutes per game, 10.5 points on 40.4% shooting and 25.6% from 3-pt. The latter stat is disappointing. Not only is it far and away Dion’s career low, but I expected him to improve his outside shooting with the players the Cavs added in the offseason.

Coming into this season, the expectation for Dion was for him to improve his decision-making, specifically his quality of shots. This meant taking less mid-range jumpers in favor of spot-up 3’s and buckets in the paint. Since he was teammates with, not only Kyrie Irving, but LeBron James and Kevin Love, I thought it would have been best for Dion to be able to take more catch and shoot shots and less dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-contested-fall away shots.

Though Dion’s raw numbers and play on the court showed that he was struggling, I did think he was trying to adjust to the role the Cavs wanted for him. Last year, 17.4% of his shots were catch and shoot 3’s. This year that number rose to 19.6%. He also decreased the amount of two-point pullups he took from 32% to 27.5% while increasing the percentage of shots taken within 10 feet of the rim from 34.7% to 40.9%.

While those numbers show that Dion was willing to change his mindset on the type of shots to put up, his field goal percentages on catch and shoot 3’s left a lot to be desired, seeing a heavy decrease from 41.6% to 25.4%. His favorite shot, the mid-range two, has also been on the decline this season, dropping from 43.1% to 37%. Dion was able to improve his efficiency around the rim, a weakness of his, improving on his FG% in the restricted area from 51% to 54.1%.

Dion Waiters Kyrie Irving Anderson Varejao Cavs

Overall, Dion saw career lows in FG% (40.4%), eFG% (43.6%), and TS% (46.8). This was less than ideal as the Cavs were counting on him to be a reliable bench scorer and unfortunately that adjective just didn’t fit him this year, probably for a multitude of reasons.

Dion’s been an interesting player in his time in Cleveland. When people said he was no good, I thought there was still a good chance he would be a crucial contributor to a championship team for the Cavs. Obviously, none of us will get to see that through. Hopefully, in a more stable organization like the Thunder (one coach in seven years compared to four for the Cavs in that span [if you count Mike Brown twice]), Dion will be able to play better and be more at ease.

I still think there’s promise for Dion. He’s a fun player to watch, even if he’s frustrating or flat out bad at times. He plays hard, is uber confident, aggressive, and just recently, a talented and willing passer. He might have found a permanent home in OKC, should the Thunder let Reggie Jackson walk.

Despite the report below by FSO’s Sam Amico, I think this trade had more to do with attaining talent than getting rid of Waiters. I never would’ve expected Dion to net a quality haul like the one the Cavs just got.

Now onto the newest Cleveland Cavaliers:

Iman Shumpert is expected to be the main piece in this trade for the Cavs. At 24 years old, he’s young enough to where he can help in the future, but with 3+ years under his belt, he’s already built up a solid reputation. He has the potential to help the Cavs in multiple areas. First, he’s very athletic, a trait that is lacking on this Cavs team. He’s also been talked about as being a shut down defender at his best with the ability to guard multiple positions. While his ability on this side of the ball has arguably fluctuated, hopefully a move to a contender will be something that enables him to focus on perfecting his defensive abilities.

Shumpert has also shown some shooting potential, though that has wavered from year-to-year. In the 2012-2013 season, Shumpert shot 40.2% from deep, but is just a 34.3% 3-pt shooter for his career. He has improved his catch-and-shoot from long-range this year to 39.2%, up 3.1% from last year. Shumpert becoming a 3 and D stud would help the Cavs immensely, as that’s exactly what they’re looking for from their starting two-guard.

While Shumpert’s potential is exciting, he does come with some question marks. In over three years, he’s missed 65 out of 267 games. He’s also currently rehabbing a dislocated shoulder and is expected to return to action soon.

Shumpert is also a restricted free agent after this season and will hope to cash in. I’m not a capologist, but with the contracts of LeBron, KyriIman Shumpert and J.R. Smithe, Anderson Varejao, and Love hitting free agency (AND EXPECTED TO RE-SIGN), and Tristan Thompson being a restricted free agent, the Cavs will have some decisions to make as to where they want to allocate their money.

This is where it gets fun. The Cavs also acquired J.R. Smith. This is interesting if only because one of the players that Dion Waiters gets compared to the most happens to be Smith – more so with their playing style rather than talent levels. On the court, Smith, like Shumpert, has only played in 24 of 37 games. He’s missed one game due to suspension and others due to sickness and a heel/foot injury. He averaged 25.8 minutes per game and 10.9 points on 40.2% shooting and 35.6% from deep.

The 29-year-old Smith won the Sixth Man of the Year award back in 2012-2013, when the Knicks won 54 games and J.R. averaged 33.5 minutes per game. Smith will take over Waiters’s role as the Cavs’ main bench scorer and I expect him to perform better than Dion did this year. Smith is another athletic wing player in this deal for the Cavs, though he doesn’t have the defensive potential that Shumpert has.

Like Waiters, Smith is a streaky player, though to a much higher degree in that when he’s hot, he is HOT. He’s not afraid to shoot it either, as last year 50.3% of his shots were 3-pointers, making 39.4% of them.

J.R. comes with his fair share of question marks as well. He’s been suspended a numerous amount of times for various reasons; from violating the NBA’s anti-drug program to elbowing Jason Terry in a playoff game in 2013. I don’t think it’s a matter of “if” Smith does something to frustrate fans, it’s a matter of how many times will he frustrate fans. He will do some questionable things, on and off the court, but hopefully vets like LeBron, Mike Miller, and James Jones will be able to keep him in check (relatively speaking).

The Cavs also acquired a pick from the Thunder. The protections on it for this year (top-18) mean the Cavs will almost certainly get the pick this year. However, more than likely, this pick is just another asset for the Cavs to deal for a big man. The Cavs are second last in the league in opponent FG% less than five feet away from the rim at 62.9%. While Shumpert should help in terms of preventing drives to the rim, a solid rim protector would help lower opponent’s conversion rates at the basket.

The Cavs can use this pick along with their $5.2 million trade exception they got for trading Keith Bogans to help them acquire a big. Two names that have come up consistently throughout the season are Denver’s Timofey Mozgov (making $4.6 million) and Memphis’s Kosta Koufos ($3 million). Mozgov has a team option for next year while Koufos is a free agent after this year.

Other rim protectors that I think are possible for the Cavs’ TPE via trade include guys like Ian Mahinmi ($4 million), Bismack Biyombo ($3.8 million), Mason Plumlee ($1.3 million), and Brandan Wright ($5 million).

In the end, I have mixed emotions about this deal, but I do think it’s a good one. Sure there are some risks, but that goes with any trade. I’ll miss watching Dion every night. I’m glad I was able to watch him as much as I did. But at the same time, the Cavs got good players with the potential to get another good player. I’m anxious to see how this plays out.

Thanks for the memories, Dion.

https://vine.co/v/MOnEll2uMVv

Dion Waiters Traded; Cavs Acquire J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert

With rumors swirling around him for two years, a deal was finally consummated. Dion Waiters has been involved in a three-team deal, sending him to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In return, the Cavs have received a haul of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert from the New York Knicks and a protected future first round pick from the Thunder. The Knicks get Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk, and a 2019 second round pick from the Cavs and Lance Thomas from the Thunder.

Waiters, Amundson, and Kirk were all pulled from the bench preceding the Cavs’ game against the 76ers, creating some hoopla. Then, Woj did what Woj does.

We all anxiously waited for about seven minutes, which is an eternity in NBA breaking news on Twitter, for Wojnarowski to inform us who was coming to Cleveland.

The Knicks will also waive Samuel Dalembert, as his contract would have become guaranteed if he was still on the roster through Wednesday, as Wojnarwoski explained here.

There are a lot of variables in this trade. So let’s take a quick second to look at the main moving parts.

Dion Waiters, 23, was the Cavs’ main scoring option off the bench, but has struggled mightily this year. He started showing glimpses of promise this year, however, exhibiting more of a willingness to share the ball, improved passing, and more consistent intensity on defense. I still think he can be a really good player in this league, but he has to improve his decision-making and outside shooting (25.6% from 3-pt this year, 32.8% for his career), amongst other things. Unfortunately for him, he’s now on his 5th head coach in four years, going back to his days at Syracuse.

While the Cavs lost their main bench scorer, they gained a former Sixth Man of the Year award winner in J.R. Smith. Smith has averaged 25.5 minutes a night for the Knicks this year, compared to Waiters’s 23.8 with the Cavs. The 29 year old is also averaging 10.9 points per game while shooting 40.2% and 35.6% from 3-pt. Smith has a $6.4 million player option that he is expected to pick up next year.

The main piece the Cavs are getting back is Iman Shumpert. This is a guy that’s 24 years old and could help the Cavs now as well as in the future. I could see him starting for the Cavs in the near future, after he eases back from a dislocated shoulder he suffered in mid-December. Shumpert is known for his perimeter defense and has shown promise as a 3-pt shooter (34.8% this year), both of which the Cavs need out of their starting two-guard. The key will be locking him up after this season, as Shumpert will become a restricted free agent.

As for the Thunder first rounder, I think this is more ammunition for the Cavs to go get a rim protector, should the Cavs decide to pass on signing one in the free agent pool. Guys like Dalembert and Jermaine O’Neal could be possibilities should the Cavs fail to strike up a deal for one before the trade deadline.

I’ll have more on this trade in a couple days, but my initial reaction is this is a good trade for the Cavaliers. J.R. Smith is always a wild card, but again, the main player in this for the Cavs is Shumpert. If he can play well this year and the Cavs lock him up for the long-term, this should turn out to be a win for David Griffin.

As a side note, this will be known as the trade that broke twitter.

Get ready, Cleveland


(h/t Matt Skrajner)

Kyrie Irving Hasn’t Been Selfish

Coming into this season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the biggest things to watch for was how everyone would gel together. After the biggest offseason in team history, the Cavs roster was left with only five holdovers from the previous year. Everyone would have to get used to playing with each other, especially the Big 3 of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

One “concern” would be how each of them would be able to share the ball. All three had been the main scoring options on their respective teams for their whole careers. Now, one of them would have to be the third option on certain nights. In the eyes of many, much of the responsibility would be put on the point guard in Kyrie (he is a point guard after all, right?).

We all like to look at assists to determine how much a player distributes and helps set up his teammates for buckets. Despite getting seven assists in the opener, some people weren’t satisfied with the numbers Kyrie was putting up to begin the season. It also didn’t help that LeBron was in back-handed-compliment mode at the beginning of the year. Kyrie also went through a six-quarter stretch in which he didn’t put up an assist, a streak in which included a zero-assist game in a loss against the Jazz. Though Irving was able to put up 24 points in that game, the focus was still on the lack of assists.

It was more of the same in the Cavs’ second meeting with the Knicks. In a game in which each Cav struggled to hit shots, Kyrie was able to carry the team to a 90-87 win over the Knicks with his game- and season-high 37 points. However, even throughout the contest, some of the takeaway was how Irving wasn’t setting up his teammates. Throughout the game, TNT announcers Marv Albert and (former Cavaliers head coach) Mike Fratello had a lengthy discussion about Kyrie’s low assist numbers. Fratello also talked about how Irving needs to improve his ability to set up his teammates.

That was my tipping point.

As sports fans, we love to label players and make those players fit certain criteria for those labels. In Kyrie’s case, he’s labeled as a point guard and people expect him to play as such. How people determine what a “real” point guard does will vary from person-to-person. The main thing I think people would say a point guard does is set up their teammates for scoring opportunities. But just because Kyrie doesn’t perfectly fit someone’s subjective benchmarks to be considered a point guard doesn’t mean he isn’t one. It also doesn’t demean him as a player. Even if you don’t want to consider him a point guard, the only thing it effects is the barber-shop-talk of ranking him with other players at his position.

For me, determining positions is a matter of who players usually guard on defense anyway. Kyrie is a point guard because he defends other point guards.

Kyrie Irving John Wall

Kyrie is listed as a point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers. When you look at who he’s usually playing with on the floor, labels don’t matter. LeBron James has been used as the ipso facto point guard of this team. He’s the one who has run the offense the most and set up his teammates on the offensive side. That’s not an indictment on Irving’s ability either. If anything, it’s a compliment. Kyrie is a player that can and has been able to distribute the ball as well as play off the ball effectively.

What also isn’t an indictment on Kyrie is saying that LeBron is the best passer on the team. Kyrie has a higher assist percentage in Cavs losses (29.3%) than in wins (27.5%). On the flip side, LeBron has a higher assist percentage in wins (45.8%) than in losses (41.4%). Now, of course this may just be more of a case of correlation than causation. Certainly there are more factors that go into winning and losing a game. But still, the Cavs aren’t wrong for having Kyrie do what he does best: score.

Just because the Cavs would rather have LeBron being the main distributor on the floor at times doesn’t mean Kyrie can’t do it. He’s done it for three years prior, averaging 6.2 assists per game while playing with secondary options Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and Antawn Jamison.

Kyrie’s still been able to set up his teammates this year, even though his raw assist numbers are down. Four of his teammates are shooting at a better clip when Irving passes it to thecavs-vs-netsm than their season average, including: LeBron, (shooting 49.4% on the season, 50.6% off Kyrie passes); Tristan Thompson (53.2%, 55.2%); Matthew Dellavedova (33.3%, 66.7%); and his good buddy Dion Waiters (39.6%, 41.3%).

This year, Irving is 26th in the NBA in assists per game. Out of context, this probably seems like he’s a ball hog and doesn’t trust his teammates. However, it’s a lot harder to generate assists when your teammate (LeBron) is 5th in the league in assists (7.8).

The thought that Kyrie is incapable of setting up his teammates because his assist totals are low is ignorant. He just doesn’t get as many opportunities as other point guards do. According to Basketball-Reference, Kyrie is one of 10 guards in the NBA averaging at least five assists with a maximum 23% usage. In other words, it’s difficult to get pure assists with that “little” amount of time handling the ball. Of these 10 guards, no one is averaging more points than Kyrie, only Chris Paul has a higher FG%, and only Deron Williams has a higher 3-pt%.

Kyrie is a “point guard” a lot of teams would want, not just because he’s a good player, but because he’s versatile. He can drive at will, has some of the best handles in the league, can shoot the heck out of the ball from anywhere on the court, and, yes, he can pass.

Should the Cavs Change Their Starting Lineup?

Note: All stats are up to date as of December 9, before last night’s game between the Cavs and Raptors, unless taken from the actual game. Enjoy.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are 12-7 after starting the season losing seven of their first 12 games. It’s been a roller coaster ride so far, but this past week it’s been mostly ups for the Cavs.

Almost a month ago, I wrote about possible players for the Cavs that could fill the starting 2-guard position when Matthew Dellavedova returned. The moment of truth finally came when Delly was inserted into the rotation against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night, presumably so William and Kate could witness his scrappiness.

The starting lineup remained the same, with Shawn Marion keeping his spot as the team’s opening shooting guard. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Cavs make a switch soon, especially considering Delly was on a minutes constriction in Brooklyn and Mike Miller was out with a concussion. Marion was brought in to be a backup to LeBron James and provide help off the bench, a unit for the Cavs that has ridden the struggle bus all season long. However, the Cavs have won seven games in a row with Marion in the starting lineup and Cavs bench players who played in significant minutes (Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Delly, and James Jones) scored 54(!) points, over 30 points more than their bench averages per game, according to HoopsStats.com.

With all that in mind perhaps David Blatt keeps Marion as a starter. Still, it’s a topic worth visiting. It’s early in the season and it shouldn’t hurt in the long run to tinker with the starting lineup in December.

Let’s say Marion is moved back to the bench. There are multiple players that I think would be considered to take his place as the starter, including Miller, who Blatt openly stated he was considering starting last week.

At that point, the Cavs were on a three game winning streak, so that could be the reason why Miller didn’t get the nod. But Blatt’s shown he isn’t shy about tinkering with the rotations at any point this season. It’s more likely that Miller’s struggles to start the season are what left him coming off the bench and getting some sporadic time. Miller’s been known as a guy that doesn’t start seasons well. He’s a career 40.9% 3-pt shooter, but in the month of November, he “only” shoots 38.8%; still good, but as he gets older and his talent declines, the lows will get lower. Last month Miller shot 21.4% from long distance. With the Cavs’ starting 2-guard being a guy that will see spot up opportunities, they need a player that will convert those opportunities. Miller’s start likely prevented him from getting that chance.

Dion Waiters might be a name brought up as a possibility to take back his starting position. However, I think Dion’s more valuable to this team coming off the bench as their main scorer. We saw against the Nets how much his scoring for the second unit helps the Cavs. And when Dion plays well, which unfortunately hasn’t been often thus far, he can still get those starting minutes he likes. It was the second time this season he was able to play 30 minutes (if we’re rounding up) coming off the bench. Dion playing well is good for everyone, which is why I’d like to see the Cavs keep him. That said, his best chance at playing well is coming off the bench where he can play a little more like himself.

There are two options that I see as the biggest possibilities to start if Marion resumes his bench role.

James Jones is a guy that has come on as of late. Earlier in the season he was a guy that would only play in garbage minutes, though that was never an indication of his talent. Jones is a very respected veteran around the league, almost like a player-coach. He’s a professional and remains ready in case his number is called. He and Mike Miller have been honorable in this regard. With Miller going down against the Knicks, Jones finally got his chance to show Cavs fans what he could really do in important minutes. Jones is a career 40.5% 3-pt shooter. In his five games and 44 minutes so far with the Cavs, he’s shooting 72.7% from downtown. Is it sustainable? Who am I to say no?

(It’s important for me to credit the source of a line I borrow, even when the source is myself. [Great avi btw.])

Jones wouldn’t be a terrible choice at all for the Cavs to start. Like I said, the starting 2-guard on this team will get opportunities to spot up behind the arc, and it’d be great for a better shooter than Shawn Marion to get those looks. The only thing preventing Jones from being the starter is Blatt might designate him as a guy he’d like to rest for full nights at a time. Along with Miller, Jones is a guy that’s been playing this game at a high level for a long time. They don’t necessarily need a ton of reps early in the season to get them ready for the playoffs as much as these younger guys do.

I think Delly is most likely the guy that takes over the starting role – should Marion be benched – and it’s possible Blatt is waiting for him to be 100% ready for however many minutes he’d be willing to give him. He may be close though, with Delly playing all 12 4th-quarter minutes in the Cavs’ win over the Raptors on Tuesday. I think he is the perfect fit for the starting role. While he’s not as good of a spot up 3-pt shooter as Miller or Jones, he is an upgrade over Marion. Delly shot 36.8% from deep last year. Marion hasn’t shot that well since the 2002-2003 season (38.7%), his fourth year in the league. While he is 10-24 to start this season (41.7%), I don’t think this is something he’ll sustain throughout the year. Delly showed last night that he can hit 3’s, going 2-4.

Delly’s also one of the better and more versatile defenders on the whole Cavs roster. So if anyone’s worried about taking Marion’s defensive versatility off the floor, Delly would be able to fill in just fine. In his five games this year, his opponents are shooting 9.3% less than what they usually average, according to NBA Stats.

Delly guards Durant

With Kyrie, LeBron, and Love as three of the five starters, the 2-guard should be out there to fit what those guys need to do and Delly is a guy that does just that. He can shoot, drive and kick, hit a floater, and play hard-nosed defense. He doesn’t need the ball to be successful but when he does have it, he can make sure he helps his teammates.

Another lineup change that might be tested is moving Anderson Varejao to the bench in favor of Tristan Thompson. This was a spot that was up for grabs before the season started. Eventually, David Blatt made the decision to go with Varejao, which I thought made sense. Coming into the season, Andy was the only Cav to have played with both LeBron and Kyrie. This is important when you’re trying to create chemistry with a bunch of new players.

I’m not necessarily against Thompson starting. In fact, I think there would be good aspects to this move. For one, he’s been a better defensive player this year than Varejao. In fact, Thompson’s been the Cavs’ best front court defender so far this year. His opponents shoot 1.7% less than they usually average, compared to Varejao’s +2.1% and Love’s +3.7% (positive percentages are bad in this situation). When just isolating shots 10 feet or less away from the rim, Thompson’s opponents are shooting -5.5%, with Andy at 1.9% and Love at 4.2% (yuck).

Thompson might also be a better fit offensively with the starters. With Andy on the bench, this could force the Cavs to play more pick and roll/pop with Kevin Love. And if Delly did Anderson Varejao dunks vs Wizardsget the nod as the starter, him and Thomson showed glimpses of great chemistry against the Raptors last night.

With all that said, I’d still start Varejao. He’s not an upgrade over Thompson defensively, but he’ll still stick his nose in there and get dirty. I think Blatt asking his bigs to drop instead of hedge defensively on pick and rolls would help, but that’s an issue for another day. Offensively, I don’t think we’re close to the Cavs getting Love heavily involved in pick and rolls/pops. They’ve been doing it more with him, but they also have to use him in the post and as a floor spacer. One of the reason’s I think Andy’s been shooting so well is because of all the open looks he’s getting due to Love drawing defenders on the perimeter. The key for the Cavs is getting off to a hot start and Andy is someone that can help the Cavs do this. He’s shooting a staggering 78.6% (33-42) from the floor in the 1st quarter this season.

To me, the Cavs best possible starting lineup consists of Kyrie, Delly, LeBron, Love, and Andy. The potential second unit to start 2nd quarters could consist of Kyrie, Dion, Marion, Thompson/James Jones (depending on who the opponent is), and Andy/Thompson (ditto). Thompson can still get ample minutes off the bench. He got 34 last night compared to Varejao’s 16. The main point here being that rotations aren’t set in stone. Blatt will adjust in-game as he sees fit. If Thompson is having a rough game, Varejao will get most of the minutes, and vice versa.

It’ll be interesting to see if Blatt makes either of these moves. I do feel like a change is on the horizon, given that one was being talked about the last two weeks with Mike Miller. With Delly back and showing signs of being the same Delly as before, it might not be too long until the Cavs have two Australian born players in their starting rotation.

Should the Cavs Trade Dion Waiters?

Note: All statistics used are up to date as of December 2, before the Cavaliers faced the Bucks on Tuesday night.

We’re about a fifth of the way into the NBA’s regular season and the Cleveland Cavaliers have been struggling to stay above .500. A lot has gone right, but a lot has gone wrong as well. There is a lot of blame or criticism to go around, but one of the more consistent problems on this Cavs team has been its bench.

Coming into the season, I personally didn’t think the bench would be that big of a problem. It would be stacked with talented players like Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, Tristan Thompson, and Matthew Dellavedova; a good mix of experience winners and energy sparks.

Unfortunately, Delly got injured three games into the season, forcing David Blatt to shuffle up the starting lineup and his rotations. With Delly out, Dion was moved to the bench and Shawn Marion was put into the starting lineup. This also eventually led to a huge boost in time for rookie guard Joe Harris.

With the first month and some change in the books, the Cavaliers are dead last in bench points per game at a dismal 22.3, according to hoopsstats.com. To be fair, the Cavs bench players average a combined 15.3 minutes per game, which is 29th least in the league. They also shouldn’t be expected to be a top-10 bench scoring team when they start two of the league’s top 12 scorers and three of the top 34. However, the bench is shooting a 3rd worst 40.7%.

Dion Waiters has arguably been the most polarizing player on the Cavs since he was drafted in 2012. He hasn’t been able to get rid of this description this year either. After starting the first three games of the season, he was regulated to the bench after Delly got hurt to provide that unit with some scoring. It’s been met with mixed results.

In his second game coming off the bench for Blatt, Dion went off for 17 points in a win over Denver. This was a game in which he played through a shoulder injury suffered after he was shoved mid-air by Darrell Arthur. Dion went on to miss the Cavs’ next game at home versus the Pelicans. Since he came back from being inactive that night, he’s gone on to shoot 37.9% from the field, 21.7% from three and has been averaging nine points on 9.7 shots per game. Ew.

With all this in mind, calls for Dion to be traded have come up yet again. At this point, it seems like a Cavs tradition to do so no matter how the team is structured. We always wind up asking ourselves if the Cavs should trade him away. Every year my answer seems to basically be the same: no, at least not yet.

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Before the season started, I spent some time hyping up Dion Waiters. I really thought with all the moves he would have a great season. I don’t mean to talk in past tense, because it’s still super early into the season, but the breakout I thought would happen hasn’t begun to unfold yet.

Nevertheless, I still remain adamant that Dion has shown signs of improvement and adaptation in some areas of his game, even if there has been some regression in other areas. His assist percentage is by far as low as it’s ever been at 12.8%, but from my eyes it seems like he’s more willing to pass the ball, even if it’s not showing up in the statistics. This is important since he’ll usually (or should) be playing with at least one of either Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, or Kevin Love, meaning he’ll never be the best player on the floor for the Cavs.

He just hasn’t adapted as much as he should yet. I’m not sure whether it’s because he’s not willing to or he just doesn’t know how to/is hesitating. It’s probably some of both, but with his willingness to pass more I think it’s more of the latter.

While some of the numbers say he’s improved his shot selection, it hasn’t been by a significant margin. I was actually surprised to find that he’s decreased the percentage of shots he’s taken in the mid-range area from last year, albeit by .3%. Overall he’s still not taking shots where he should be with this team – mainly at the rim and behind the 3-pt line. His shot distribution remains virtually unchanged with the exception of taking more 3’s above the break (19.6% this year compared to 14.8% last year) and less shots inside the paint but outside the restricted area (5.9%, 8.9%).waiters

A big argument against Waiters is that he just simply doesn’t fit the team. And that’s a fair argument. The narrative of Dion Waiters is that he likes to create for himself, take a lot of shots, dribble the air out of the ball, and play lazy defense. While he’s done some things to improve his consistency as a passer and a defender, he still reverts to his stagnant ways.

Some may say Dion being successful on this team isn’t important and the Cavs would win if he were traded for a rim protector or wing defender. This is also fair, but I think it would be huge for the Cavs if Dion were be able to fit this team on a nightly basis. In the Cavs’ seven wins with Dion, he’s shooting 37.5%, 30.8% from downtown, averaging 10.4 points per game with a defensive rating of 102. Contrast that with their seven losses with Dion in the game: 36.5% from the field, 22.2% from 3, 7.9 points per game with a 111 defensive rating. We can get into the correlation/causation debate, but I don’t think it hurts to have Dion’s scoring if you’re looking to win games.

Regardless of my positive attitude in reference to Dion, it is troubling to see how poorly he’s played at times. He’s not nearly having the positive impact I expected. And while I’d like to point to the lack of chemistry between him and the new players, his production has tanked so much that a lot of it is on him too.

I’m probably in the minority, but I still think Dion can do great things for this team. This early in the season, I’m willing to wait for him to come around. But it’s a fluid situation. If he continues to take poor shots, air ball open ones, and have lapses on defense, I won’t have a problem with giving him up. I just happen to think that we’ll have a lot of fun watching Dion Waiters once again.

 

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