Tag Archives: Jabari Parker

What the Bucks?

I’d imagine the Christmas cards are already en route from Milwaukee to Madison. If not for Bo Ryan’s surprising retirement at last night’s Badgers post game presser, all the talk today would be about the Milwaukee Bucks losing to the hapless Lakers 113-95 days after upsetting the best team in the league in Golden State. Even more so now that video has since surfaced of Bucks players at an L.A. strip club til after 2 in the morning the evening before the Lakers game. Greg Monroe, incidentally one of the players at the club, was a scratch for the Lakers game, apparently from a knee injury suffered at that shoot around hours after Bucks players were seen leaving the club. Ho, ho, ho.

Now let me be clear: we are dealing with alpha males in the prime of their lives who just recently became millionaires. To think that partying, either at gentleman’s clubs or other venues across the country, does not happen with NBA and other professional athletes traveling the globe is naive. I do not intend to sit on my high horse and pass hypocritical judgement on anyone for enjoying themselves or visiting an entertainment establishment on special occasion, possibly even til wee hours of the morning.

The frustration with such activities only really begins to creep in when the team is underachieving and losing in mind-boggling fashion. The Lakers only had 3 wins coming into last night’s contest, and they handled the Bucks easily. Was it because some players were out the night before? Was it because Monroe missed the game? Did he really have a knee injury or was he incapacitated for other reasons? Were those 20’s or 100’s when he was making it rain last night at the club (yes, this is in the video)? Are they incapable of winning on the road (2-11) because some players are often out seeing the city the night before? None of these questions need to be asked if the Bucks show up for their game last night.

Showing up is about all they did, and they may as well not have shown up at all. They showed up 2 games ago against Golden State, and that was a lot of fun. Even so, during the celebration of the Milwaukee Bucks improbable 108-95 victory that ended the Golden State Warriors record streak of wins to start the season, I’d imagine many Bucks fans were swept over by a wanton feeling of dissatisfaction. Don’t worry, as a sports fan this is completely natural. We do not allow ourselves to have nice things for long. That was quite fun, and we’d like to enjoy more of it. Where had that been all year? Where was it last night?

Looking at the win over the Warriors in a vacuum, the Bucks played like a young, talented and energetic team ready to ascend and compete for a spot in or just below the top echelon of the Eastern Conference. If informed that the opponent was the defending champs on a 28 game regular season win streak stretching back to last year that is playing the most impressive basketball we’ve seen in the NBA in quite some time, the feat would seem all the more impressive. Budding superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo notched his first triple double, and The Greek Freak was the youngest Buck to ever do so at the age of 21. Greg Monroe had a huge night with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists, abusing interior defenders on numerous occasions. Jabari Parker had a season high 19 points in the first 3 quarters, and did not even play in the 4th. Michael Carter-Williams came off the bench to play great on both ends of the court, and put the cap on a great victory with a steal and slam late in the game. He and Monroe combined for 22 of the team’s 28 4th Quarter points. Mayo and Middleton played well early, with the latter going cold after starting off hot, but there was enough team offense elsewhere to more than make up for it.

The defense was the best and most energetic I’ve seen out of them this year, and helped to spark the transition game they took great advantage of against what is a good transition team in Golden State. On offense the ball was moving and everyone was playing together. Passes and cuts seemed more crisp and the sets seemed to flow a bit more smoothly. Even Kidd’s sometimes confusing rotation decisions seemed to mostly be working. Golden State made some runs of their own. The Bucks weren’t perfect by any stretch, but that was a marked improvement over what these young bucks have displayed so far this season.

To be fair Golden State contributed some to Milwaukee’s success. They shot the ball uncharacteristically poorly for their high standards. The rigors of the 7 game road trip they were concluding, including a double OT contest the night before in Boston, seemed to catch up to them a bit. The pressures of their own success seemed to take their toll as they continued to take everyone’s best shot during their historic run. I mention this all to be fair to Golden State, but make no mistake: The Bucks played like they needed to in order to compete against a very good team. They played with energy on both ends of the floor and pulled away from and beat an incredibly talented juggernaut of a basketball team by 13 points, no matter the circumstances. They held the baby-faced assassin Steph Curry to a mere 28 points, which is like holding anyone else to single digits with how he has been playing as of late. They played like many Bucks fans hoped and knew they could this year. But that has not been the story all season. Maybe the strip clubs in Milwaukee have lost their appeal?

Coming off last year’s earlier than expected success, hopes were high for this year’s Milwaukee Bucks team. Adding Monroe as a free agent in the off-season going up against bigger markets was considered a huge coup for a small market team like Milwaukee. They’d be getting last year’s 2nd pick of the draft Jabari Parker back healthy after missing the end of what had started as a promising rookie of the year bid. Battling constant roster changes, including a trade that shook up the roster and chemistry mid-season, new coach Jason Kidd proved his worth by coaching up an injury-riddled and inexperienced team to a .500 regular season that pushed the Bulls to the last game in their playoff series before succumbing to their superior foe. That exciting run helped fuel public sentiment and governmental dealings to get approval for the Bucks to build a new stadium and stay in Milwaukee for decades to come. Things were good, and they were only going to get better.

Last year’s surprising success came a couple years too early in the grand scheme of things for new ownership, but now the future was bright for this season. As the season had worn on leading up to the Golden State game that brightness dimmed to a flicker of fleeting hopes. Bucks fans were then left waiting to see if that huge win could re-ignite the flame in a young team still trying to gel and find it’s way this season. Much to our dismay, we got our answer.

Tonight they face the Clippers in the same venue as last night’s debacle. Let’s hope they were in bed by midnight after watching game film. After L.A. they’ll have a day off (hint: ok to stay out late) before heading to play what will certainly be a revenge-fueled Golden State team, and they’ll close out the road trip at Phoenix on Sunday before coming home for a 2 game home stand against Philadelphia and Toronto sandwiched around a 2 day Christmas break. What that means for the immediate impact on their record is beyond me; they can win or lose against anyone in the league, as they’ve proven in their last 2 games.

Thankfully in the NBA it’s much more important how you’re playing in the 2nd half of the season heading into the playoffs. Putting together some winning stretches to pull back to .500 and prepare to challenge for the Central Division and the Eastern Conference playoffs is still possible. I’ve been caught saying before that the NBA season doesn’t start until Christmas. but it is important not to be too far behind the leaders when the jolly fat man gets stuck in the chimney next week.

So what has plagued the Bucks on the court previous to last Saturday’s magical win? Currently 13th in the East and 5th in the Central, they are 29th in points per game, 30th in rebounding, 6th in assists, 10th in turnovers and 18th in points allowed.

The fact they’re 6th in the league in assists is interesting considering they are near the bottom of the league in scoring. This seems to indicate when they do score it’s through good team offense, but they aren’t scoring nearly enough. Partly due to turnovers, I believe it is also due to them being 2nd last in attempted 3 pointers at only 17.7 per contest. In today’s NBA you need some gunners to spread the court, and though they are 11th in the league in 3pt% at 35.7%, they are not getting those shots in volume because they don’t have a lot of shooters. The irony is not lost on me when I consider that I just suggested that the Bucks need to make it rain from deep more often.

On defense they clearly give their opponents second chances way too often after playing below average team defense to begin with. That sounds like a recipe for a middling to below-average basketball team that will show flashes in spurts but will not be competitive on a consistent basis against any type of decent competition, especially more experienced veteran units. Three more general things I’d like to cover quickly before looking at more specific immediate fixes to this year’s season:

  • Expectations need to be reset by the fan base and I know that is difficult. But the fact remains that this was supposed to be year 2 of an Oklahoma City-styled rebuilding process fueled by talented youth that will play inconsistently as they figure out the NBA game. Last season pushed the expectations ahead faster than expected, but pumping the brakes is apropos here when considering the long term plan. The Durant/Westbrook/Harden blueprint took some time, and in that time it was necessary to have some down years that resulted in consecutive lottery picks to acquire the pieces needed for completing the rebuild.
  • That does lead me to something that needs to be covered here. What exactly is the plan for the future? I was surprised by the Monroe signing in the offseason because it didn’t really seem to fit into the plans. It felt very Herb Kohl-esque in nature, and had a hint of a Mark Attanasio-Jeff Suppan signing if you fellow Brewers fans know what I mean. There’s no real middle ground to rebuilding a professional sports franchise, as Brewers fans will be finding out harshly this season. I don’t recall OKC signing a big name free agent in the midst of their NBA rebuild either. Maybe it can work if the plan is to try to remain competitive while rebuilding the core of the team for the future, but I’ve seen attempts at that before from Senator Kohl’s Bucks teams, and it never ended well, instead miring the franchise in a state of mediocrity for decades.
  • Team composition is something I’d like to touch on a little bit here. It is no secret that Jason Kidd is for all intents and purposes calling personnel shots as well as coaching. John Hammond is a good GM, and valuable to the organization for his experience getting deals done. Though I’m sure his opinions are taken into account on personnel decisions, I think his job now is relegated to much like mine is on the occasional trip to the grocery store. I have a list and I need to abide by that list. I don’t get to go off and select my own ingredients and inject my own opinions very often. The meal has been planned and the ingredients have been listed. It is only my job to attain them now and not really ask questions. When you start to look at Kidd as de-facto GM and coach, it is funny to me to think that he is amassing a team of guys who resemble his playing style very closely. Brandon Knight was a shorter and more scoring-oriented point guard who was dealt last year to acquire a taller and longer point guard that can’t shoot very well from the outside. Sound familiar to anyone? The team is built around having length at every position to be able to defend and get out in transition and play in an equal opportunity offense that spreads the wealth, but, when looking at it’s players, has no semblance of outside shooting to speak of. I find this mildly amusing when comparing to Kidd’s style of game as a player. He’s an all-time great in this game, but he could never shoot the ball well.

After we’ve set expectations appropriately and put aside the debate on the pending plans for the future of the Milwaukee Bucks franchise and how the roster has been assembled, let’s look at a few things that could help the Bucks gain some stability and climb back into the race this season:

  • Consistent effort – I know what I saw against the Warriors and I know I hadn’t seen as much of it prior to that this season. I’d imagine it’s more often the case with younger teams to play up or down to their competition as they struggle to find their way through a long NBA season. I was thrilled when Kidd was hired because I believed he would be a great fit for a young team. How coach Kidd can motivate his players to give the effort needed on a nightly basis will be key to playing better and more consistent basketball this season. Things like defense and rebounding are largely effort based. They have to want it bad enough and be willing to work harder for it, plain and simple. Jason Kidd is incredibly competitive, and though he’s a young coach still, I would think it drives him crazy when he sees his team not playing to their potential in areas such as effort and competitiveness.
  • Shooting – Yes, defense wins championships, but if you can’t score, you’re not going to win in this league. This team sorely lacks consistent outside shooting from the guard and wing spots, which hurts when you don’t have posts that can step out and space the floor too much either. Mayo, Middleton, Bayless (currently out) and 1st round pick Rashad Vaughn all are capable of shooting the 3, but outside of them shooting better and more often, I’m not sure how you fix that at this point in the season. They did draft Vaughn in the first round to address this situation, but getting designed open 3 point looks in rhythm for the few shooters they do have needs to be a higher priority in my opinion. The benefits of spacing for the offense by forcing the defense to respect that credible threat would pay off nicely.
  • Defense – Much of last year’s success was based around great team defense. For much of the stretches where the Bucks had success they were among the league leaders in defensive metrics. Good defense not only helps from the obvious perspective of holding the opponent to less points, but it also fuels transition offense off missed shots and steals, leading to easier points to make up for other offensive inefficiencies. At critical points in games, there’s nothing that helps sustain runs and keep momentum on your side than getting huge defensive stops and turning them into points on the other end.
  • Offensive sets – The equal opportunity offense is a fun one to watch, and play in, but more designed plays to open up specific matchup advantages would be beneficial. Not only to create better looks from 3, but also to take advantage of the new weapon they acquired in free agency. When Monroe has a mismatch in the post, I’d like to see more effort made to run the offense through him. Getting the big man his touches could also help in opening up more clean looks from the outside after forcing defenses to double down and help in the paint.
  • Rebounding – This has been putrid. Rebounding is something you just have to want to do. I have no explanation for it. We can talk technique and defensive/transition philosophies contributing to the issue but we have plenty of data at this point a quarter of the way through the season and it is clear as day to me that they just do not want it as bad as their opponents. The Lakers out-rebounded the Bucks by 16 last night. That is flat out embarrassing. Maybe the Bucks coaches should take a new approach: “You know how that one honey was boxing you out at the club?…”

As Milwaukee continues on this west coast road trip, Bucks fans hope Jason Kidd can find a way to connect with this young team and motivate them to play more inspired basketball with higher defensive intensity and improved offensive efficiency. That could culminate into exciting games like we all had the pleasure of witnessing 2 contests ago against Golden State. It would go along way towards curing any fan concerns with off the court activities. We don’t expect the world.

They say winning cures everything. I would add that just playing respectable and competitive basketball with consistent effort cures most things. Show up for the game tonight against the Clippers and play with intensity throughout, and you can do whatever you want after the game. After all, your next game isn’t until Friday against, gulp, Golden State. Let’s hope the Warriors haven’t made any VIP reservations on behalf of their out of town guests for Thursday night.

On Wisconsin! (To Mediocrity)

Part of what makes college football great is its traditions.  However, unlike the “5th Quarter” that follows Wisconsin Badger home games, traditions do not always have to be an activity; they can be a mindset.  A Saturday at Camp Randall will be punctuated several times by the lyrics of “On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!” There is more to the song, but almost no one knows the words so for all intents and purposes, the entire song consists of “On, Wisconsin!” followed by skillful trumpet playing.  The presentation of this song during games is oddly symbolic of Wisconsin sports. Fans are very vocal about Wisconsin’s accomplishments before quickly fading away into self-doubt and an unwavering acceptance of mediocre results.

Although many Green Bay Packer fans are Badger alumni, the attitude of these fans toward each team are markedly different.  Packer fans expect to win.  If the Packers lose two in a row, an odd tension permeates the entire state and fans begin to wonder what is wrong.  For almost all other NFL teams, two losses is business as usual.  In sharp contrast, Badger fans hope things break the right way.  Discussions about an upcoming Badger season or a game often begin with the word “if.”  Seasons have been and will continue to be filled with phrases like if (insert star running back’s name) has a big game or if (insert game manager quarterback’s name) throws multiple touchdowns or if we can beat Ohio State and Michigan.  There are never expectations of winning and seasons never begin with if we can stay healthy, we can go very far.  Trips to the Rose Bowl are outliers and occur when circumstances favor the Badgers, like when Ohio State receives a postseason ban.  In the process, Badger fans have accepted a “good” season as one that ends in a trip to a second or third tier bowl game like the Outback Bowl or the Alamo Bowl.  Their attitudes and demeanors reflect this acceptance.

This despicable acceptance of mediocrity is very visible in what fans wear to the games.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of older Badger fans often attend games wearing items that commemorate their Rose Bowl victory in 1994, a victory that occurred when the overwhelming majority of incoming freshmen weren’t born.  Younger fans often attend games wearing shirts that refer to one of the three consecutive Badger Rose Bowl losses following the 2010 through 2012 seasons. Remembering the accomplishments of past seasons is important, however, there is something “jinxy” about cheering on your team while wearing a shirt of a widely publicized Wisconsin loss.

For some, the internalization of mediocrity goes further.  Fans have come to accept the second- and third-tier recruits that Wisconsin lands instead of demanding more.  Even after three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, something that should have resulted in a recruiting boom, Wisconsin continued to assemble average recruiting classes.  Somehow, the practice of signing lesser athletes has become the “Wisconsin way,” a mantra that sometimes morphs into embarrassing and ultimately damaging claims that Wisconsin didn’t land a particular recruit because the recruit wasn’t smart enough.  A school that routinely assembles average recruiting classes can ill afford to gain publicity for ridiculing the mental acumen of recruits, something which occurred when the Badger basketball team failed to land 5-star recruit Diamond Stone.

Just below the prideful exterior of Badger fans lies an ever-strengthening tradition of accepting mediocrity and acting in a way that perpetuates those results.  Fans can’t mock the academic prowess of top recruits who choose another school and expect to land the best players in the country.  And fans can’t continually strengthen a tradition of accepting mediocrity and expect the Badgers to be anything more than a consistent participant in the Outback or Capital One Bowl.  Only when a critical mass of fans refuse to accept mediocrity will Wisconsin football become elite. Page Break

An Unwavering Commitment to Bad Football

More than any other mainstream sport, college football fans exemplify dedication.  Growing up in Hawaii, going to college at Wisconsin, and living in Milwaukee has provided a broad spectrum of fan tradition and dedication ranging from apathy to unwavering, steadfast dedication.

When a team is at its worse, the true nature of fans is most prominently displayed.  When the Milwaukee Bucks were well on their way to drafting Jabari Parker with the number 2 overall pick, their fans cared so little that I was able to attend a game and sit 4 rows behind the opponent’s bench for $26 dollars.  Having a conversation with Kemba Walker was a very real possibility from those $26 dollar seats.  In sharp contrast, games in November and December at Camp Randall routinely show shots of a sold out stadium with a graphic in the corner about how cold it is with the wind chill followed by images of fans draped in blankets as they willingly put their health on the line to cheer on the Wisconsin Badgers.

And then there is the University of Hawaii (UH), a school with a college football program that I feel best embodies fan dedication.  With a few exceptions, their team is atrocious.  They play their home games in what many people consider to be paradise at a very inviting sounding venue, Aloha Stadium.  Growing up it was a brown, dilapidated eye sore located off one of the main highways.  The interior featured suspiciously sticky floors and random puddles that looked like ideal mosquito breeding grounds.  It hasn’t improved.  In fact, it is so bad that it was rated number 20 in the worst places to watch a football game.  Watch a UH game and the field will be littered with paper and other bits of trash by the second half.  Attend a UH game and there is a chance you will observe something ridiculous like fans throwing ice at others for no reason or a random fight.  Yet, somehow, fans still attend.

College football fans have such an attachment to their team that regardless of the environment, they still show up.  Regardless of weather or record, fans still make the trek out to their stadium, brave the elements (if applicable), and yell and scream for 3 to 4 hours.  It is truly beautiful.  Perhaps it is the chance that a great game can break out at any time, or perhaps the feeling of seeing your team win on a Saturday afternoon makes all the losses worth it, but the passion that college football fans show is incredible.  While a fan of an NFL team that has no shot at the playoffs by week 8 suddenly has very open Sundays for the remainder of the season and spends increasing amounts of the work day looking at mock drafts, the same cannot be said about college football fans.  Win or lose, they don’t go into hiding until the following season, they prominently show their allegiance.  In a time where fans declare draft picks as busts after a few games, the unwavering dedication of fans to their favorite college is refreshing, and hopefully, a tradition that continues for all schools.

Send Derek an e-mail at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @BigTenAloha.

NBA: Around the Association (Week Three)

Player Recognition

All-Star Synopsis:

Damian Lillard, PG, Trail Blazers
The NBA has “oohed and awed” over Damian Lillard’s ability in his young career with excellent passing skills, high-percentage three point shooting, and his ability to somehow always get to the basket. Lillard has been a vital part in building up this once down franchise to a legitimate championship threat out west. Lillard’s play this week sparked many putting together his best statistical week in his career. Lillard, with LeBron James, was nominated as NBA Player of the Week.

Damian Lillard POW

Lillard’s Stats Week Three:
at LA Clippers (L, 102-106): 25 points (4-8 from 3P), 8 assists, 7 rebounds
vs. Charlotte (W, 102-100): 29 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals
at Denver (W, 130-113): 27 points (5-6 from 3P), 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals
vs. Brooklyn (W, 97-87): 28 points (4-6 from 3P), 10 assists, 5 rebounds

 

Lance Stephenson, SG, Hornets
The Hornets’ signing of the Pacers’ X-factor guard Lance Stephenson made big headlines and was easily the strongest move this past offseason outside of Cleveland. Stephenson highlighted the 2013-14 season with multiple triple-doubles while helping lead the Indiana Pacers to the top spot in the Eastern Conference. With his stock high, the Hornets acted fast picking up the hot name, whether that meant overpaying the young gun or not. While the season is still young, Stephenson has yet to blossom into that All-Star type shooting guard the Hornets were expecting. Stephenson has shown some glimpses foreshadowing that he will get to that point.

The streaky shooter has become more efficient as of late versus quality playoff teams with performances with 14, 13, and 16 points accompanied with some high rebounding numbers. The LeBron James agitator started out slow, but seems to be becoming into his own mold after a rough first week and a half.

He was known this week for a stunt only he could pull off:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRzX0gxxeTo

Rookie Rundown:

Jabari Parker, SF, Bucks
Jabari Parker has been a big proponent on how the Bucks have managed an early .500 record, even though he doesn’t have gaudy numbers. Parker averages 11.6 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game (both statistics lead all rookies in those categories). Parker didn’t have a fantastic week with a tough three game stretch versus Oklahoma City, Orlando, and Miami in which he combined for just 25 points on 11-23 shooting (not terrible) within that span. Parker is becoming a valuable piece to this trending Bucks team as his minutes increase and his role becomes more demanding.

 

Flying Under the Radar:

Jrue Holiday, PG, Pelicans
When healthy, Jrue Holiday is one of the more productive point guards in the league and he is proving that statement in an underrated fashion this season. Holiday is not the primary scorer as he was in Philadelphia and doesn’t look to return that form, but he is becoming a more well-rounded point guard and is a vital part in the Pelicans’ 2014-15 possible journey to the playoffs. Holiday averages 16.3 points per game, just fewer than seven assists per game, and is shooting 48% from the field.

Reggie Jackson, PG, Thunder
Following the injury to Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson’s role increased in becoming the starting point guard for the Thunder. On paper, Jackson is one of the league’s leading stat packers with 21.5 points per game, 7.6 assists per game, and 4.9 rebounds per game. Regardless of his stats, the Thunder are still losing, but mostly due to the domino effect of injuries Scott Brooks has had to deal with. Jackson is doing all he can to keep pushing and carrying this team until the All-Star duo returns, hopefully, in December.

The Thunder appreciate his contributions (rumored):

Reggie Jackson

 

 

Team Outlooks

Top Five:

1. Golden State Warriors (8-2)
Records aside, Golden State is the best team in the league and may have one of the best coaches, even though being in his first season. No, Golden State didn’t have the best week with back-to-back losses to Phoenix and San Antonio, but the turnovers have been lowered since the time I wrote about them last week. While the offense continues to impress, the Warriors are off to their best start since 1975 at 8-2 and should improve this week to 10-2 with games versus Utah and OKC. Remember, this team is still without one of the league’s better rebounders in David Lee.

2. Houston Rockets (9-1)
Even with ugly wins versus Philadelphia and OKC, the Rockets are still one of the top teams in the NBA with a 9-1 record. Houston has been known for its offense in recent seasons finishing in the top five in three of the last four seasons in scoring, but the trend of this 2014 Houston version is the improved play of the defense, especially James Harden.

(Getty Images)
Getty Images

3. Memphis Grizzlies (9-1)
The Grizzlies franchise is not familiar with quick starts as this season marks only the third time the Grizzlies have exceeded the .500 mark within the first ten games in the team’s existence. The Grizzlies have benefitted off of two close losses giving them a 9-1 overall record. The upcoming week should give us a good idea of how strong this unit is with home games versus Houston and LA Clippers and a road trip to Toronto.

4. Chicago Bulls (7-3)
I’m a little higher on the Bulls than most right now, as I’m not putting much stock into the chain of Derrick Rose injuries. The offense has seen improvement whether Rose is on the court or not with improved play from Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson and good minutes from Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich off the pine. A Chicago team that is the ninth ranked offense in the league is unheard of which makes this team even scarier with the already tough Tom Thibodeau defense led by reigning defensive player of the year Joakim Noah.

5. San Antonio Spurs (5-4)
Many other teams including the Mavericks, Raptors, Clippers, and Trail Blazers could place here, but the Spurs get the nod this week with impressive back-to-back wins over the Warriors and Clippers. The Spurs haven’t been as effective in scoring this season averaging just 94.4 points per game which ranks 24th in the league. Tony Parker is the team’s leading three-point shooter. Take that in whatever way you want.

 

Bottom Three:

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (2-7)
Minnesota is one of the less intriguing teams in the NBA possibly even behind Philadelphia, but let’s not get too carried away now. The defense has been terrible with Ricky Rubio’s absence and the offense hasn’t been much better. This was a terrible week for the Wolves giving up a combined 270 points to Dallas and New Orleans. Minnesota has a nice stretch of home games coming up with New York, San Antonio, and Sacramento all coming to town.

29. Los Angeles Lakers (1-9)
If you follow me on twitter (@cpage2911) I constantly like to bash the Lakers and their decision to overpay Kobe Bryant, therefore receiving an incredibly weak roster. Kobe has produced, but that was expected. The defense is the worst in the league and will get smashed this week with three straight road games at Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas.

Kyle Terada, USA Today Sports
Kyle Terada, USA Today Sports

 

30. Philadelphia 76ers (0-9)
The 76ers continue to lose big and find a way to give up and blow the close ones, but what more can you expect from this roster? Tony Wroten is the team’s leading scorer. Yup.

 

What’s Trending:

The Cavs
If you don’t watch ESPN, I will update you on the Cavs real quick. After the 1-3 start the Cavs have reeled off four straight wins. A dominating win over Atlanta sparked many, but the defense still needs some work. LeBron has been, well, LeBron in this four game winning streak and the team chemistry and body language seems to be improving in the eye’s of this non-psychology major writer.

Buzzer-Beating Controversy
The Kings are protesting last week’s loss to the Grizzlies countering the officials’ final decision on the “game-winning” buzzer beating alley-oop. You be the judge:

 

(All stats and records taken before Monday, November 17th)

How the Cavs’ Rookies Fit into Blatt’s System

Last Thursday night, after months of debate and wonderment, the basketball world finally saw the Cleveland Cavaliers use their number one pick in the 2014 Draft. That pick turned out to be Kansas star wing Andrew Wiggins over Duke forward Jabari Parker or trading down. The Cavs also made two more picks in the second round that resulted in Virginia wing Joe Harris and (unofficially) Stanford big man Dwight Powell via a trade with the Charlotte Hornets – they also acquired center Brendan Haywood for wing Alonzo Gee.

There’s always talk after the draft about value and grades that are handed out. But that doesn’t have an affect on anything going forward, it’s just fun-talk that we like to have. The real question is how these guys fit with the current roster of talent the Cavs have now. Obviously there will be more movement along the lineup as we get into free agency; this involves possible trades (Tristan Thompson/Dion Waiters?), our own free agents (Spencer Hawes, C.J. Miles, and Luol Deng), as well as other teams’ free agents (i.e. Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons). But for right now, we can only focus on what we know.

The next thing we can look at is how these new Cavalier draftees fit with new head coach David Blatt’s philosophy. For that, we have to know somewhat about how Blatt likes to run his offense. Last week, “Coach Nick” (@bballbreakdown) highlighted what Coach Blatt has tended to focus on, on offense:

Since Blatt has coached overseas all of his career, this breakdown was a Godsend to basketball fans and was really well-done. Blatt stated in his press conference “there’s two kinds of coaching: there’s systematic and then there’s learning from what you have.” Blatt said he falls under the latter and just because Pete Carril (his college coach at Princeton) coached him under the Princeton offense doesn’t mean that’s what he’ll be teaching the Cavs. This is refreshing because you’ll see a lot of coaches come in with their own systems, both offensive and defensive, and try to fit the players they have into that specific system. I think in a lot of cases it’s more efficient to mold your system around the players’ strengths, which is what it sounds like Blatt intends to do.

Though it was only a short breakdown, Coach Nick was able to highlight some of the integral parts of Blatt’s offense. Keep in mind; while Blatt says he’ll mold his system to his players, I think it’s likely that he’ll still have ideals he’d like his players to play with. For instance, it looks like the Cavs will be moving away from the Midrange Township (h/t to Ben Cox of WFNY) to taking better shots above the arc and in the paint.

Last year, the Cavs were 2nd in the league in FGA from 10-14 feet away from the rim – 38% FG%, 18th in the league – and 5th in the league in FGA from 15-19 feet – 41% FG%, 11th in the league. While they were okay in the latter category, only teams with guys like Dirk Nowitzki and LaMarcus Aldridge – players who make a living shooting from there – should be focused on scoring from mid-range. Having mid-range poster boy Jarrett Jack heaving 312 long-range two’s for a 39% shooting percentage is not productive in any offense. It seems as if adding Blatt will cut down on mid-range jumpers, especially one’s that are unassisted (Jack’s mid-rangers were 62% unassisted).

Before I get into the fits with Wiggins, Harris, and Powell, I just want to preface by saying I’m not an expert on NBA offenses and I won’t pretend to be one. Does that mean I want to come in and just spew off nonsense? Not at all (or at least I won’t try to). But I look forward to learning more about the types of offenses that are run in the NBA and also what David Blatt has planned for the roster this year.

 How Wiggins Fits

Andrew Wiggins shot At the post-draft presser, GM David Griffin said “if Andrew ever finds greatness in this league, it’s going to be as a very big 2-guard.” I thought this was interesting and may not totally mean anything at the start. This could also spell doom for Dion Waiters, but that’s a whole other discussion for a different week. I’m assuming whether or not Waiters is on the team, Wiggins will split time between the 2 and 3 spots on offense (defensively he’ll most likely be able to guard at least three positions, depending on the opponent’s personnel). I think Wiggins would be able to play the 2 spot in “Two Down” where the 2-guard comes off the screen in the frontcourt to spot up for a 3, if he chooses. As I highlighted in Wiggins’s prospect profile a few weeks ago, one of his strengths was playing off the ball. He’s also a pretty good shooter and I think it would be a smart move if he were integrated into the NBA as spot-up shooter/transition player as his main way of getting points. The more things he can do without the ball in his hands (at least right away), the better.

Something else I touched on in that article was that I’d like to see Wiggins use a ball fake more often. Of course, his shooting ability will only take the effectiveness of this move so far, but it would go a long way in terms of improving his already-solid ability to drive.

Another thing I think Blatt should implement with the Cavs is backdoor passing from the bigs to the wings. Keeping Spencer Hawes, who has a knack for finding open teammates, would make this work. We saw this a little bit with Luol Deng last year, but pairing Hawes with Wiggins could make for some easy buckets.

How Harris Fits

Joe harris shot Virginia sharpshooter Joe Harris was taken 33rd overall with what turned out to be the Cavs’ first of two picks in the 2nd round. I wasn’t entirely familiar with his game, but the name I knew from somewhere. When I looked him up, I remembered. He was the dude that kept taking shots from deep against Clemson (who’s basketball and football programs I follow). Harris shot 4-9 from 3 in that game, one of which put the VACavs (I’ll just call them this to avoid confusion) up by four with three minutes and some change left in the game.

After reading more on Harris, it turns out he was Virginia’s go-to sharpshooter for all four years of his collegiate career. He averaged 4.8 3’s per game for his career, making just about 41% of them. There’s no doubt this is what he was drafted to do for the CLECavs.

David Griffin said Harris was a “hell of a pin-down shooter, really good off of screens, a very tough kid, (and) an overachieving personality type.” To me, that fits the 2-guard in Blatt’s ideology above to a tee. I said Wiggins would be a good contender for being the 2-guard coming off screens, well Harris was in all likelihood brought in to do just that. It would be a huge help to the Cavs’ floor spacing if he could keep shooting at a 40% clip from long-range. Of course there are adjustments that he’ll have to make, i.e. the longer NBA 3, but Harris also has a length advantage if he is to play as a 6’6 guard.

As an aside, it sounds like Harris has great intangibles too, which could help his value as a high 2nd round pick. Nbadraft.net’s “Outlook” on Harris sounds somewhat like CLECavs guard Matthew Dellavedova, who, despite huge athletic limitations, made a name for himself on the team because of his intangibles – I mean, this guy was asked to guard Kevin freaking Durant for crying out loud. If Harris can bring the same intensity as “Delly,” on top of having great shooting ability, he has a chance to fit Griffin’s goal to “under-promise and over-deliver,” just like Delly did as an undrafted free agent.

How Powell Fits

(I know this is just a workout, but man, he moves and shoots like a small forward during it.)

Technically, until July 10th, Dwight Powell isn’t quite a Cav. But draft day trades are almost always approved. With that, I’m going to talk about him like he’s on the Cavs for the sake of this article. The Cavs must really like Powell because they traded away Cavaliers legend Alonzo Gee and also acquired the contract of Brendan Haywood (who most are assuming won’t even play in a Cavs uniform).

As I said in my draft recap a few days ago, the only real exposure I’ve had with Powell was when Stanford beat Kansas in the NCAA Tournament this past year (he had a block on Andrew Wiggins). If Powell ends up making the team, he will have earned it with a log jam right now at power forward with Thompson, Anthony Bennett, and Anderson Varejao (depending on who’s on the floor with him). Although, maybe Blatt could operate under these circumstances by playing the 6’11 Powell at center some. I’ve linked this article by A.J. Mitnick before when Blatt was officially hired. In it he says some things about how he ran his offense at Maccabi Tel Aviv that makes me think there was a good reason the Cavs traded to get Powell: “This season’s Maccabi Tel Aviv team has gone through the season without a traditional power forward in its rotation, playing wing oriented players at the four position. While many viewed Maccabi’s lack of a power forward as a disadvantage, Coach Blatt implemented a system that resembles that of the current Miami Heat, and the Brooklyn Nets since New Year’s Eve.” Ironically, nbadraft.net compares Powell to Nets center Miles Plumlee.

Powell’s strengths seem to be his athleticism, face-up game from the post, and feel for the game. Adam Ganeles of nbadraft.net also seems perplexed at the lack of development from Powell over his 4-year collegiate career. Unless he sees a huge spike in his progression, I think Blatt could get Powell to be a pretty good role player. Though he won’t be a prototypical big man who performs back-to-the-basket post moves or protects the rim, it sounds as if he’ll be able to do the things that will fit this offense – which will likely include passing the ball and spreading the floor. Powell has the potential to have deep range, shooting 35% from 3 in his last two years at Stanford. Powell might turn into a nice consolation prize should the Cavs lose out on Spencer Hawes.

With the NBA Summer League starting a week from Independence Day, I cannot be more excited for “meaningless” scrimmages. Coach Blatt decided he will coach the Cavs during that time as well, so we’ll get to see the initial stages of what he’ll be like at the helm. If Wiggins, Harris, and Powell play, that should be more fun than allowed during Summer League.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Number One Pick Should Be…

The week that started on June 15th, 2014 was quite an eventful one for the Cleveland Cavaliers, to say the least. On Sunday, it was reported that former Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach David Blatt would get to interview face-to-face with Cavs GM David Griffin. This made Wednesday a busy day for the Cavs, bringing in Kansas wing and one of the top prospects in the draft Andrew Wiggins in for a workout. The next day, it was revealed that the consensus number one overall pick, Kansas center Joel Embiid, suffered a foot injury – which was said to be a stress fracture in the navicular bone on his right foot, aka the injury that Zydrunas Ilkauskas, Yao Ming, Kevin McHale and Bill Walton all suffered from (insiders only).

Late Thursday night, the Cavs and Blatt were hammering out a contract to make him the next head coach. By Friday, they got a deal done and the move was made official. Also on Friday, Embiid had surgery and had two screws inserted into his foot, with a recovery set time for 4-6 months.

With all of these things going on, it most likely changed the way people, including myself, think about what the Cavs will do with their pick. This is especially true with the unfortunate Embiid news. The Cavs can do a multitude of things with the first pick, some of which include trades. Had the Embiid news not come out, he would have been the slam-dunk number one option for me. Let’s see if his foot injury has changed my opinion.

Below, I will list the realistic options the Cavs have on draft night ranging from my least to most favorite. Also, I’ll have a link directly below the option, giving you a view into my reaction should that option happen. Here we go.

 

5. Trade it for Kevin Love

Excitement Level:

(0:20-1:09)

Let me get something out of the way; I adore Kevin Love as a player. Last year at this time I would have been ecstatic had the Cavs traded the number one pick for him. But this year the draft is a lot more loaded and Love only has one more year left on his contract. It’s also expected that if any team trades for Love, there’s no guarantee that he’ll sign an extension with them or that he will re-sign after the season. So the Cavs would basically be trading at least 4 years of an expected great prospect for probably one year of Kevin Love. I for one buy into the narrative that he’ll sign with a west coast team; he grew up in Oregon and went to college at UCLA. And if you didn’t know, Quicken Loans Arena is 2,346 miles away from Staples Center, where the Lakers and Clippers play (just for an example). All this isn’t to say I wouldn’t want to trade for Love at all, because I’d consider it. But if the number one pick is involved, I want nothing to do with this trade.

4. Dante Exum

Excitement Level:

Unlike the other three top prospects, I didn’t do a prospect profile on him because he was never a realistic option, until this happened:

Exum is a 6’6 Australian point guard. Yea, “point guard,” the position All Star Kyrie Irving plays for the Cavs. I’m assuming holding this workout is just posturing by the Cavs, in case any team wanting to land Exum has to think about trading up to number one to get him. But with this organization, you can’t really assume anything. So here I am, telling you what might happen if they take Dante Exum.

This option is ahead of getting Kevin Love for me because I’d rather get a good prospect with the pick – though a bad fit on the roster at this time – than Kevin Love, who I expect to only be on the team for a year. Anyway, if the Cavs were to draft Exum, they either think he’s bar none the best player in this draft or don’t expect Kyrie Irving to sign an extension this summer, which will force them to trade him. If it’s due to the former, I would think it spells doom for Dion Waiters. Exum would have to play the point guard role, as he’d be the better distributor of the three guards. This would move Irving to shooting guard and would force the Cavs to either bench or trade Waiters. And yes, this all sounds very ridiculous. I don’t expect it to go down this way, but anything can happen when the Cavs go into the draft – though hopefully David Griffin can ease these thoughts with a great draft/offseason.

3. Trade Down/draft Joel Embiid

Excitement Level:

http://youtu.be/jauhPKiqZ4A?t=14s

(0:14-0:27)

Just pretend I’m Gregg Popovich and David Griffin is Tiago Splitter in this clip. I’m obviously upset at Griffin, and when I pull him I out, I point to the two options he should be concentrating on; Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

There’s a lot of ways we could go with this one. First of all, coming into this draft, I, like many others, rooted hard for the Cavs to get the first pick. I still want the first pick in this top-heavy draft and am not pulling for it to be traded. So initially, I would be disappointed. However, there are a lot of variables that would take place that would make this trade better or worse in my eyes. The popular trade that has been going around is with Philadelphia. The biggest rumor has been Philly’s number three pick and forward Thaddeus Young for the first pick. Even had Embiid not been hurt, this would still be an unfavorable trade for the Cavs. An ideal trade for the Cavs with the 76ers would include their third and tenth picks, along with a player – perhaps Young or Nerlens Noel. This isn’t to say Philly would want to do this, but that’s what it would take for me.

Now, what the Cavs would do from here is another story. Let’s say the Cavs trade the first pick to the 76ers for the third and tenth picks and Young. Perhaps the Cavs still take a chance on Embiid at three, having another top 10 pick to utilize. They could either stay there or, what I would do, use this pick to trade for a veteran, like Kevin Love and maybe even use Young in this trade as well. In this scenario, the Cavs would have attained Embiid and Love. I would think this is the realistic best case scenario for the Cavs should they trade down. However, it would be better just staying put. Love probably still leaves next offseason and the Cavs are left praying Embiid stays healthy.

Other trade rumors have involved Utah’s fifth pick and Derrick Favors. I’m not going to get into this one as much, but just know that I think it’s a really bad idea. Favors is a good player, but gives us a serious log jam at power forward. Not to mention, the drop off from Wiggins and Parker to the prospects there at five is big, considering the prospects that are most likely still available are power forwards and point guards, positions the Cavs are most “set” at. The Cavs would most likely be hoping Embiid is there at five. I think trading down and accumulating more picks/players is the only way the Cavs can draft Embiid. He’ll most likely fully recover from his foot injury, but three major injuries in just four years of basketball experience is enough to scare me off from picking him at number one. Had he not gotten the stress fracture, he would’ve been my top choice for the number one pick.

If you still find yourself wanting Embiid with the first pick, read this great injury analysis by Right Down Euclid’s Trevor Magnotti, who also broke down Embiid’s back injury. In this, he tells you why the foot injury is a greater concern than Embiid’s back.

2. Jabari Parker

Excitement Level:

(0:05-end)

followed by

(3:28-end)

Here’s where we get into the good stuff. The Cavs’ decision most likely, hopefully, comes down to picking between Parker and Andrew Wiggins. Should Parker be the pick here, I’d be a bit disappointed at first, knowing that the Cavs just passed up on Andrew Wiggins, who I think will be the better player. But then I’ll realize we weren’t even supposed to have a chance at a guy like Parker and be fine going forward – though not as happy as we would be walking away with Wiggins. In any case, Parker would be an okay fit on the team overall. Offensively, he could probably play on the wing, but is best suited as a stretch-4. Defensively is where the problem lies with this pick. He most likely wouldn’t be a help guarding any position. On the wing, he’s not athletic enough to hold up with other teams’ best players on a nightly basis. In the post as a 4, he’s not stout enough to consistently hang with big men, though he has good size himself.

Parker would also force the Cavs’ hand at power forward, with Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett. However, there has been something transpiring with Bennett this offseason. I noticed Bennett looking slimmer in Matthew Dellavedova’s Instagram picture. Then, in an article last Friday (insiders only), ESPN’s Chad Ford said Bennett has been shedding some pounds. “The [Cavs have] also been working on slimming down Anthony Bennett to get him minutes at the small forward position.” Anthony Bennett making a transition to small forward would open up the necessary room should they draft Parker and let Thompson come off the bench. This would also hopefully plug a gaping hole at small forward, assuming Luol Deng isn’t re-signed.

1. Andrew Wiggins

Excitement Level:

(0:41-1:45)

From the time the Cavs won the lottery to some time after my Embiid came article came out, I was on Wiggins’s bandwagon. I had gone back and forth between the Kansas 2 for weeks. Embiid’s foot injury forced my hand and now I’m fully on board with the Cavs drafting Wiggins.

Embiid

Wiggins

Never mind, Embiid

Ok, no really, Wiggins. Final answer, Regis.

I watched more Kansas basketball games on TV, just as a basketball fan, than any other college program. I came for Wiggins and stayed for Embiid. For whatever reason, after the Cavs actually won the lottery, I gravitated toward Wiggins. After really evaluating both of the Kansas 2, I realized Embiid was the guy I wanted. However, I also realized Wiggins is far from a consolation prize. If the Cavs take him, they’re potentially (I know everyone loves that word come draft time) drafting a guy that could be the next great wing player in the NBA. First and foremost, ATHLETICISM, ATHLETICISM, ATHLETICISM. He has it. This helps him on both sides of the floor and he should be able to contribute well right away on the defensive side, should the Cavs take him.

On the offensive side, it’s a bit more of a challenge in terms of development. Some will say since he’s the (in this scenario) first overall pick, he should get the ball right away since he’s projected to be a star. The problem, other than Wiggins’ ball handling weakness, is that the Cavs have Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, other wing players that dominate the ball. This could maybe force the Cavs to trade Waiters. In my opinion, for Wiggins’s rookie year, let him focus on spot up shooting and getting buckets from off-the-ball cuts, things he did at Kansas this past season. Hopefully through the offseason and practice he’ll be able to build on his strengths before he’s thrown into the fire of leading an offense – which is why having Irving already on the team is such a great asset.

Ultimately, there are two outcomes that could happen on Thursday in which I would come away satisfied. Unless someone blows them away with a trade offer, which could possibly happen (crazy stuff happens on draft night), they should just stay put and draft either Wiggins or Parker… (Wiggins).

Cleveland Cavaliers Draft: Who Is Number One?

For David Griffin and the Cleveland Cavaliers front office decision time is getting closer and closer, not for deciding on the next head coach (although that decision must also be made) but what they will do with the number one overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Unlike previous years there appears to be some upper level talent at the top of this year’s draft. What the Cavs decide to do with the pick could trigger the turnaround Cavs fans have been waiting for since The Letter. So which of the perceived top three prospects (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid) is the best fit for the Cavs? Let’s take a look.

Andrew Wiggins

WigginsThe popular pick for the Cavs seems to be Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is an extremely athletic small forward who many believe is the best player in this year’s draft class. Some think he is the most athletic player to come out of the draft since LeBron James. That’s all well and good, but can all of that translate onto the floor? I mean, a 44” standing vertical is impressive, but NBA teams don’t draft Olympic high jumpers to their teams. Now there’s no doubting Wiggins can play. He finished the season as a 2nd Team All-American and averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He’s also known as a solid defender. The issue I have with Wiggins to the Cavs is roster fit. From a positional standpoint Wiggins could come in and start right away as small forward is a position of need for the Cavs. That doesn’t mean Wiggins is the right man to fill that position. While he is very athletic and a nightmare in transition, the big question here is how would he fit with the Cavs current roster – specifically Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters? Perhaps if the Cavs draft Wiggins one of those two players gets traded (presumably Waiters, but at this point who knows – especially with Irving’s contract situation), but for the sake of argument let’s assume Kyrie and Dion both stay and Wiggins is added. One of the more concerning flaws in his game (which shows up on tape) is his lack of movement without the ball. A 44” vertical won’t help Wiggins make a backdoor cut to get open. A quick first step doesn’t mean a thing if you stand out on the perimeter watching somebody else attack the basket.

This also ties in with another knock on Wiggins, his lack of aggression. Perhaps this partly stems from the fact that he isn’t the best ball handler, especially when you consider his athleticism, but a player who isn’t aggressive and doesn’t move without the ball (at least consistently) isn’t a great fit for a team that has two players (Kyrie and Dion) who are aggressive, ball dominant and want to attack the basket. Furthermore, at times he will settle for lower percentage jump shot instead of driving towards the basket for a higher percentage shot (and to possibly draw a foul). I won’t lead an angry mob if Wiggins is the selection for the Cavs. He has plenty of upside, but being aggressive and moving without the ball are two fundamental flaws that make Wiggins a not so great fit for the Cavs – or at least a challenging fit.

Jabari Parker

ParkerDuke forward Jabari Parker is thought of as the third player of the top three candidates by many. However, while he isn’t nearly as athletic as Wiggins, I feel Parker is the better fit for the Cavs when comparing the two. Both players would fill a position of need and both players can score. Parker was a consensus 1st Team All-American last season, averaging 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. While both players stand at 6’8” Parker is the bigger player, weighing in at 240 pounds (Wiggins weighs in right around 200 pounds). Two things stick out to me in regards to Parker, despite his ability to score he is a team focused player and he can play without the ball in his hands. Parker has a good understanding of the game, which undoubtedly was nurtured in his one season under Coach Mike Krzyzewski. In reviewing games, you’ll find Parker constantly on the move without the ball in his hands. When he does have the ball in his hands it’s extremely difficult for wing defenders to stop him when he attacks the basket. Simply put, he is stronger most other small forwards he will matchup against. He is a good shooter and attacks the ball for a rebound on both ends.

This doesn’t mean Parker is flawless. He isn’t the fastest player on the floor and can struggle on defense at times because of this. However, unlike Wiggins, nobody is questioning Parker’s work ethic. Many compare him to Paul Pierce, somebody also considered to be not the quickest, most athletic player on the floor. At some point athleticism will fade, or at least blend in. Drive is what separates Parker from Wiggins.

Joel Embiid

EmbiidIn my opinion, Joel Embiid should be the selection for the Cavs with the first overall pick. The Kansas center would provide an immediate upgrade to the position for the Cavs and would potentially give the team a dominant big man who has drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. While he might not ever be an elite scorer (few NBA centers are), Embiid can put up solid numbers offensively. Averaging just over 23 minutes per game, Embiid shot 62.6% from the floor and averaged 11.2 points per game. He is also able to impact the game defensively, averaging 2.6 blocks per game while pulling down 8.1 rebounds. The best part about Embiid, aside from the fact he is an athletic (former soccer player) 7’ 250 pound big man who can run the floor, is that he is still extremely raw. He has only been playing organized basketball since 2011, however he is clearly showing a natural feel for the game. As a center he isn’t somebody who needs the ball in his hands to be effective, another positive when you consider the current Cavs roster. There are some durability concerns (although ESPN’s Chad Ford says his back cleared out in Cleveland) and obviously his lack of basketball experience can lead to a learning curve and some frustrating mental lapses, but Embiid is the best fit for the when you consider the current roster and couple that with his tremendous upside.

Final Thoughts

All three players have serious NBA upside. While I prefer Embiid and Parker to Wiggins, I wouldn’t be upset with any one of the three coming to Cleveland. However, the past few seasons the Cavs seemed to be drafting (what they perceived to be) the best player available. That’s fine for a year or two, but at some point you have to start looking at player/roster fit. To me, it’s clear the Joel Embiid is the best fit for the Cavs roster.

Cavaliers Draft Prospect Profile: Andrew Wiggins

With the Cleveland Cavaliers wrapping up important workouts later this week with top prospects, they should be close to determining who they will take with the number one pick (if they don’t trade it).

Last week I talked about center Joel Embiid and a week prior to that I focused on forward Jabari Parker. This week, I’ll end the look at the Cavs’ potential pick with Kansas freshman wing Andrew Wiggins.

 

There's no doubt about it. Andrew Wiggins is a high flyer.
There’s no doubt about it. Andrew Wiggins is a high flyer.

2013-14 stat line: 32.8 Min., 45% FG, 34% 3PT, 17.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.7 PFPG, 2.3 TOPG

 

Andrew Wiggins was the top prospect coming out of high school last year. Native of Ontario, he has a chance to become the third Canadian-born player to be drafted by the Cavs in the last four years (Tristan Thompson in 2011 and Anthony Bennett in 2013). Wiggins garnered a lot of hype coming out of high school, as any number one prospect in the nation would, and ended his season with mixed results. He became the top scoring freshman in Jayhawk history (597 points), surpassing Ben McLemore’s mark of 589 set the year prior.

However, Kansas’s season ended on a bitter note, being upset by #10 Stanford and their zone defense in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, denying head coach Bill Self’s team a Sweet 16 bid. Wiggins was highly criticized after this game, finishing with just four points, four rebounds, an assist, and four turnovers.

Overall, Wiggins gets lauded for his extremely rare athleticism, defense, and dunks. But some question his passiveness, ball handling, and shooting ability. Let’s take a look at which critiques are real and which are perhaps a bit exaggerated. (Games evaluated: v. #4 Duke, @ #19 Florida, v. #24 Baylor, @ West Virginia)

 

Offense:

If you’ve heard anything about Andrew Wiggins, then you’ve heard about his out-of-this-world athleticism. Some will try to downplay this, stating that in the NBA, everyone is athletic which will compromise Wiggins’ abilities. While the former is true, Wiggins has athleticism that perhaps only a select few in the NBA will be able to match. This athleticism enables him to be a great player in transition and be a guy that plays above the rim.

 

(1:27:40-1:27:48) Wiggins’s teammate #34 Perry Ellis gets the steal and the former immediately starts to run the floor from the post. By the time he gets to the ball he’s in front of everyone and is able to dunk it home while taking a hit from Jabari Parker.

 

(34:28-34:36) #31 Jamari Traylor gets the rebound and gives a quick outlet pass to Wiggins. He turns on the burners past half court and then picks up his dribble as two Gators meet him. For most players, this would be enough to force them to just go into their half court set, but Wiggins takes the ball over the defenders and in just two steps is able to lay it up and in.

 

Wiggins’s athleticism also helps him be a heavy contributor on the boards, even on the offensive side (2.2 per game).

 

(44:29-44:35) Wiggins crashes the boards as soon as the shot goes up. He then tracks the ball off the rim and uses much of his 44-inch vertical to out jump everyone and grab the rebound.

 

(50:19-50:25) A few minutes later in the game, Wiggins gets another offensive rebound. This time, he shows that along with the ability to go up and get the ball, effort is critical in grabbing offensive rebounds. He taps it up to his right hand (probably by accident, but still) and taps it in with his right hand between two Baylor Bears.

 

Right away, Wiggins should be able to contribute on offense as a cutter/slasher, being able to get to the basket, especially off the ball. With the ball, he’s had some serious problems that he will need to fix to fulfill the potential he has on offense.

 

(22:23-22:29) This is a great overall play for Kansas. #21 Joel Embiid dribbles out of the post and Wiggins recognizes the gaping hole he leaves in the middle of the paint. He quickly cuts through the lane and Embiid gives him a nice pass for an efficient bucket.

 

(44:47-44:54) This is one of my favorite offensive plays I’ve seen from Wiggins. He gets momentum at the top of the arc on a pass by #1 Wayne Seldon Jr, who then sets a pick forcing Duke defender #2 Quinn Cook from Seldon to Wiggins. Wiggins is able to get initial penetration, but when Cook meets him, he’s able to perform a right-to-left spin move – a move he loves to use – to split him and his initial man, #5 Rodney Hood. From there, Wiggins is able to shoot it over Parker, through contact, and is able to bank it off the glass into the rim.

 

Wiggins isn’t just a supreme athlete that happens to play basketball. He has translatable skills going into the NBA on offense. He isn’t the most polished and has some serious work to do, but he has a pretty good foundation to start from, especially with his jump shot.

 

(1:20:49-1:20:54) In this game at West Virginia, Wiggins scored 41 points. He was able to show the promising range he can have in the NBA, coupled with his ability to get to the rim.

 

(50:23-50:29) Wiggins, above the arc, gets a pass from Embiid. He’s wide open for the shot, but jumps forward, causing him to miss long. I didn’t notice Wiggins make this mistake often, and his shooting mechanics are pretty solid. While he didn’t shoot at a high clip from 3, there’s no reason he shouldn’t (double negative!) be able to improve on that in the NBA.

 

Though Wiggins can get to the rim with the best of them, he has mixed results throughout the process, from beginning, to middle, to the end. What I mean by that, is that sometimes he is passive, which has been the narrative – one that I buy into right now. His ball handling and finishing have also been criticized, and rightfully so. These three aspects of his game aren’t atrocious, but will more than likely take some time to fix – especially his dribbling.

 

(1:05:11-1:05:17) Kansas struggled against zone defenses last year, which is what Florida runs. It was very hard for their wings to penetrate off the dribble. Wiggins has a great chance to do that here – he has a one-on-one matchup and at the very least could’ve drove middle to suck defenders in and then kick it out. He also could have, and probably should have, done a ball fake to the left and dribble right. I think sometimes he underestimates the athletic prowess he has over his opponents. Most of the time he’d have the upper hand athletically, giving him a good chance to drive. But sometimes, like he did here, he would just pass it up.

 

(31:58-32:03) Wiggins has two good options here, none involving turning the ball over like he did up top. It would’ve been reasonable had he taken that somewhat long 3. Also, his defender was closing so hard, he probably could’ve given a hard pump fake – something he should try more often – and drive to the hoop.

 

(37:16-37:22) Wiggins is an inconsistent ball handler, and just flat out struggles driving with his left. That’s exactly what happens here, as he tries to get into the paint but loses the handle as he tries to pick up is dribble. Losing the dribble is one thing, but this is also an example of Wiggins picking up his dribble too soon, which he does too much. As I said before, sometimes it seems as if he underestimates his ability when he can just blow past guys.

 

(40:37-40:43) Even though he drew the foul here, this is a shot I’d like to see him finish more often. He’s not a bad finisher through contact, just a bit inconsistent. He does a good job of using his body to shield the defender and then his long arms prevent the defender from blocking his shot. As Wiggins’s body fills out, he should be able to finish more shots in the paint through contact.

 

There are other parts of Wiggins’s game to be optimistic about. He’s made some good passes, none spectacular. He’s shown sparse post ability, though that would just be icing on top and not something he should grasp right away.

 

Also, like I touched on with Embiid, Kansas didn’t have great distributors that would set up teammates. Their point guard, #10 Naadir Tharpe, made some good plays for them, but sometimes was more interested in making a spectacular play than making the smart one.

 

(41:37-41:42) Tharpe gets doubled up top and has Wiggins wide open in the corner, but never sees him. Instead, he passes to Seldon, who drives and gets swatted down low.

 

If you’ve read this far, enjoy this picture of Dion Waiters’s buzzer beating game winning shot to make the Cavs go bonkers and steal a win in Detroit.

The night Dion Waiters became a Cavaliers legend, probably.
The night Dion Waiters became a Cavaliers legend, probably.

 

Defense:

 

This is the part of Wiggins’s overall game that has the highest floor, due to his athleticism. He still has things to clean up, as every prospect does, but it shouldn’t be long until he’s someone’s lock down defender.

 

(16:12-16:17) I know it sounds like I’m beating a dead horse, but Wiggins once again shows off his athleticism. He’s able to cheat inside the paint as #14 Rasheed Sulaimon drives. He kicks it outside to the corner where #12 Alex Murphy thinks he’s about to get off a 3 pointer. Nope. Wiggins closes in on him in a hurry and is able to block Murphy’s shot right out of his hand.

 

Wiggins played a great defensive game against Baylor, and this play was no different. If my memory serves me correct, he was only driven on twice during this game and eventually Baylor’s sharpshooter (and fellow Canadian), #5 Brady Heslip, was getting hot from deep. Wiggins was then put on Heslip and was basically shut down whenever guarded by Wiggins. Here are two of those plays:

 

(53:53-54:00) Wiggins shows off his transition versatility, closing in on Heslip and makes him think twice about shooting that 3, making him look like a deer in the headlights.

 

(57:57-58:08) Here, Wiggins does a nice job of getting around the weakside screen and chasing Heslip, who gets the ball on the opposite side of the court. He knows Wiggins is behind him and gives a pump fake, which Wiggins does a nice job of not completely falling for. After Wiggins gets through a pick, with the help of Ellis’s hedge, he’s able to recover on Heslip and force him to shoot a deep, contested 3.

 

(25:27-25:35) Wiggins’s athleticism is nice, but that’s not the only thing that helps in transition, and he displays that here. He gets good positioning to deny the rim and is able to poke the ball out. After West Virginia regains possession and puts a shot up, Wiggins rejects it into the eighth row (not really, but it was pretty far).

 

(2:24-2:31) Gator #24 Casey Prather gets the ball on the arc and quickly drives to the paint. However, Wiggins gets great first and second steps to beat him to a spot, forcing Prather to pick up his dribble. He tries a shot from there, but Wiggins is able to block his shot. It’s just a well-read, executed play by Wiggins.

 

For all the good that comes with Wiggins on the defensive side, there are still some fixable things that he can get rid of.

 

(1:09:15-1:09:22) Wiggins is guarding Sulaimon one-on-one at the top where #21 Amile Jefferson sets a screen on him. Wiggins has enough space to go over top of the pick, but instead makes full contact with Jefferson, forcing Embiid to come out on Sulaimon. As Wiggins recovers, he and Embiid get tangled with each other, allowing Sulaimon to get initial penetration. At times, Wiggins doesn’t read the screen correctly, and also isn’t able to power through some screens. This is something that can be learned through repetition and improved by getting stronger.

 

(1:25:36-1:25:42) Wiggins gets a good first step as his man starts to drive. But as they get closer to the paint, Wiggins starts to pull away, perhaps trying to avoid a foul (he did have four at this point in the game, when Kansas was trying to make a comeback). Nonetheless, this is something that I’ve seen him do on multiple occasions. Instead of trying to beat his man to a spot – which I showed he has done – it’s as if he’s just following the movements of the ball handler and following him.

 

Bottom Line: Wiggins is an easy player to fall in love with watching. The level of athleticism (the “athleticism” count is up to 9, in case you’re wondering) he has will be beyond most that of the players already in the NBA. At the very worst, he’ll be a reliable defender, a good off-the-ball slasher and a versatile transitional player on both ends of the court. As I said earlier, he’s not as polished as, say, Jabari Parker is offensively. He will have to work long and hard to get his dribble to become a reliable/elaborate weapon – he’s already shown he can have an effective spin move. Luckily for him, he already has a respectable shot. That and his defensive ability should be able to keep him on the court a good amount of time as a rookie.

Looking at all three top prospects – Wiggins, Embiid, and Parker – they’re all great options for the Cavs. These guys would arguably be the top prospects in other drafts as well, so GM David Griffin has a tough decision to make between the three. The draft is less than two weeks away and I have finally come to a decision of who I want the most out of three…

I’ll have that for you next week.

Contrasting reports surface on likely number one pick, Joel Embiid

With the 2014 NBA draft only 13 days away, there’s still a great deal to be determined for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs still have yet to make a coaching hire for this coming season, but it seems likely that they’ll have someone in place before the draft. The Cavs are also still conducting workouts and determining whom they will select with the number one overall pick, if they even keep it.

The Cavs have been linked to an abundance of coaching candidates over the past month, but many reports have seemingly narrowed it down to David Blatt, Tyronn Lue, Alvin Gentry and possibly Mark Jackson. Blatt announced yesterday that he would be leaving Maccabi Tel Aviv in order to pursue his dream of working in the NBA. It’s still unclear which team–and position–he will be working for, but he supposedly has an in-person interview with the Cavs sometime next week. Lue and Gentry are the only candidates who have been reported to have two interviews with the Cavs thus far. Jackson has simply been linked to being on the Cavs radar of late, by none other than ESPN’s Chris Broussard and his never-failing sources. There’s sure to be more details on the Cavs’ coaching development over the next week.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 3.48.34 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

As far as where the Cavs are in determining which prospect to select with the number one pick, so far they’ve only had Joel Embiid in for a workout and medical test. According to @PDcavsinsider, Andrew Wiggins will be working out for the Cavs next Wednesday and Jabari Parker next Friday.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 3.50.55 PM

 

 

 

 

 

That means there will be only six days until the draft after Parker–the last of the top three prospects–works out in Cleveland.

Now, if the Cavs keep the number one pick, the obvious and best choice for them is either Embiid or Wiggins. Parker is the best player right now and should have the most immediate impact (he’s my early choice for Rookie of the Year), but Embiid and Wiggins are clearly the best prospects with the most upside and star-potential. It then really comes down to the results of Embiid’s tests in Cleveland and how they view his long-term health. It was reported earlier this week that all of the tests came out positive and his workouts were a success.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 3.54.36 PM

 

 

 

 

This morning, however, radio host Tony Rizzo claimed from his “sources” that Embiid’s physical with Cleveland did not go well.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 3.56.23 PM

 

 

 

I see no reason for the Cavs to leak this sort of information and devalue the first overall pick, and every other report that’s surfaced has been positive about Embiid’s workout. Suffice it to say that there will undoubtedly be countless more rumors swirling about the top three prospects as they continue to workout for teams over the next week and a half.

IF everything did check out with Embiid and there appears to be no long–term problems, he should be the number one pick. Yes, the league has shifted from teams coveting dominant big men to now valuing two-way wings, but players like Embiid are rare. Embiid has been most often compared to Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan thus far, and if you’ve been watching this year’s NBA Finals (or the last 15 years of the playoffs), you know how valuable Duncan’s skill set is. The Miami Heat have the best wing in the league in LeBron James, but Duncan–and even Boris Diaw–has caused them absolute fits. Having a big who can post-up, face-up, knock down the mid-range shot, pass out of the post, make the right play out of double-teams, rebound at a high rate, protect the paint, block shots, all while keeping his teammates involved is a true commodity in today’s NBA. These are all things that Embiid is capable of and will continue to get better at. Yes, Wiggins is an athletic freak that will immediately contribute on defense and likely end up like a Kawhi Leonard or Nicolas Batum, but passing on Embiid is probably scarier than passing on Wiggins (and I’m extremely high on Wiggins).

The possibility of pairing Kyrie Irving and Embiid together for the next 5+ years is salivating as a Cavs fan. Having your franchise point guard and center in place, and then building around them seems like the best recipe for success at the moment. Especially with the assets and cap space that the Cavs also have now and over the next couple of years. There are plenty of options out there for the Cavs to consider in every aspect of this offseason, but if they can nail this coaching hire, number one pick and free agency; Cavs fans might actually be able to finally escape basketball purgatory.

Cavaliers Draft Prospect Profile: Joel Embiid

A lot has been circulating around the Cavs this past week, ranging from possible coaching hires to veterans they could be targeting via trade. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowksi had a busy day on Monday breaking somewhat (unsettling) Cavs news (that has since been refuted). But one thing remains constant: they still have to figure out who they will take number one in the draft later in the month.

Last week, I took a look at Duke freshman Jabari Parker as a possibility for the Cavs top choice. This week, I’ll be going over the first of two Kansas freshman: center Joel Embiid. I’m going to do things a little different this week, with more clips from actual games to highlight his strengths and weaknesses. With that said, let’s get into it.

Kansas center Joel Embiid
Kansas center Joel Embiid

2013-14 stat line: 23.1 Min., 63% FG, 20% (1-5) 3PT, 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2.6 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 3.4 PFPG, 2.4 TOPG

The one thing that almost always came up when watching Kansas play last year was the story of how Joel Embiid came to play basketball.

Until about the 18 minute mark, you’ll hear ESPN’s crew talk about how Embiid was integrated into the sport of basketball.

 

Offense:

The comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon have been constant ever since, and for good reason. Starting basketball at such a relatively old age, he’s been able to limit the amount of bad habits one could pick up from playing a lifetime of basketball since middle school. Here’s a big reason why Embiid draws some Olajuwon comparisons:

Hakeem Olajuwon explains his patented “Dream Shake” (goes until about the 1-minute mark)

http://youtu.be/5Irvvb7Y4-w?t=3s

Embiid fakes twice and gets his man to hesitate (watch the defender’s head turn every which way). Embiid finishes him with his smooth, quick feet and his length allows him to under the rim and finish on the other side. Another thing I noticed on this, and other plays, was Embiid’s awareness of the rim, no matter where he was at – which is crucial for someone who does his scoring in the paint. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a good jumper, because he does.

 

http://youtu.be/lvx20ZejUyU?t=39s

He shot a respectable 69% from the free throw line, and could get better. He has a sweet stroke and showed off his soft touch wherever he shot from on the court – including the three-point line.

In the 4 games I delved into this past week (v. San Diego State, v. Oklahoma State, v. Baylor, and at Baylor), Embiid got doubled, if not most of the time, then every time. He usually did a good job of dribbling out of it and was able to show off his great court vision in distribution ability. Sometimes though he wasn’t convictive enough and would turn it over or get called for a foul.

 

Embiid gets doubled and dribbles to the outside to force one of the defenders to cover his original man. From there, he takes advantage of his quickness and destroys his man, drawing the foul.

 

This is downright impressive. Embiid gets doubled and as he dribbles out, he takes a peak across court to point guard #10 Naadir Tharpe. He takes another dribble to clear space and fires an accurate pass across court to set up Tharpe for the three and an assist for himself.

 

Embiid is too far outside to dribble any further, especially while being trapped in the corner like that. In this instance, he should’ve quickly passed it to #31 Jamari Traylor on the post but instead commits an offensive foul.

 

Embiid has to know with three guys on him to get the ball out. He had #1 Wayne Seldon next to him on the 3-point line or #34 Perry Ellis across the court from him – a difficult pass, yes, but one he’s made before. Instead, he tried to dribble out of it and gets it stripped.

Embiid committed a lot of turnovers even though he just averaged 23 minutes per game. Something that will help him is that if the Cavs were to pick him, he wouldn’t see as many doubles. Even still, at times he needs to be more decisive on what to do with the ball and utilize his great court vision.

Embiid is an athletic freak – not an understatement – for his position. He runs in transition exceptionally well and can dunk over just about anyone and catch just about anything.

Granted, this dunk is over 6’3 guard Marcus Smart, but it was heavily contested and he slams it home like there’s no one in front of him.

 

Defense:

Embiid also has the potential to be a great defender as well as offensive player. His athletic ability alone enables him to do a lot of things that some big men struggle to do. This includes things like hedging on pick-and-rolls, recovering to his man, and leaping to block shots. While he still has some polish left to be done on this side of the court – i.e. better positioning, timing on blocks – his athletic ability is good enough to where at worst he’ll be a solid defender.

 

Embiid’s ball denial in the backcourt is astounding here. No matter where his man goes, Embiid is there to prevent him from getting the ball. He shows off his athleticism, quickness, and intensity.

 

Here’s Embiid covering ground on an inbounding play underneath the basket. As soon as he sees the guard cutting free to the basket, he’s right behind him and his able to use his length to block the shot. It’s an impressive play that Embiid makes look easy.

 

For all the great plays Embiid makes, he makes some fixable mistakes as well. A lot of his mistakes are due to either cheating inside the paint/on a hedge or jumping on a pump fake, allowing an easy bucket.

 

Embiid’s man fakes a screen and Embiid cheats to hedge Oklahoma State’s guard. Embiid’s man cuts to the basket and Embiid is caught out of position, giving his guy an open lane for a dunk.

 

Embiid comes off his man, who cuts to the post, to cover another Aztec cutting to the paint and getting the ball. Ellis comes to help, but Embiid jumps on #22 Josh Davis’s pump fake, leaving his original man open for a dunk.

 

Embiid is also a good rebounder. You would think I wouldn’t have to say that since he’s a 7-footer, but Ryan Hollins played for the Cavs so I feel like I should say it just to make sure. Sure, Embiid gets a lot of these rebounds because of his length, but he also puts effort into boxing out as well, something many NBA players don’t pay enough attention to.

 

Embiid is alone in the paint when the shot goes up. Some guys just feel around for the opposition when the shot goes up, but Embiid goes and searches for someone to put a body on. While he didn’t get the rebound, he prevented his man from possibly cutting into the paint and getting it.

 

Embiid powers through three San Diego State players to get the rebound and has the strength to go right back up and fish through contact to get the and-1.

 

Bottom line: One last thing I noticed about watching Embiid with Kansas is he set a lot of screens, both off the ball and on the ball. When he would set a screen for the ball handler, he would rarely be passed to.

 

Embiid is ready for the ball after he sets the pick, but Tharpe drives into 3 defenders and gets swatted.

 

The problem with Kansas’ offense was a lack of a consistent distributor. Tharpe was more interested in making a game-breaking play than setting up his teammates. This limited the amount of time Embiid got to see the ball, especially outside of the paint. With the Cavs, I would image whoever is brought in to coach would capitalize on Embiid athleticism and shooting promise, letting him star as a pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop player, along with being a lethal threat on the post. Embiid would also give the Cavs a legitimate rim protector, something they haven’t had in a long time.

If the Cavs pick him, the fan base will have to be patient with his progression. While he’s one of the more advanced big men to come out of the draft, it still takes time for his position to find their place in the league. Also, Embiid was in foul trouble quite a bit and will more than likely have to go through a growing period in this area. He only averaged a bit more than 23 minutes per game at KU, so don’t look for him to get more than that as a rookie.

The big issue with Embiid is his health. In early March, he suffered a stress fracture in his back that kept him out of the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament. There’s been huge speculation and argumentation about how serious this will be with Embiid in the future, but only the Cavs will truly know (insiders only) how serious or not serious it is. If they think it’s 100% sure it will be a problem going forward, then they can’t pick him. Anything less than that, he has to be heavily considered to be the pick for the Cavs at number one with Andrew Wiggins. Speaking of Wiggins, I will dive into why he could be the top pick next week.

Cleveland Cavaliers explore trading Waiters and Thompson for additional lottery pick

Since the Cleveland Cavaliers inexplicably won the NBA draft lottery on May 20th, there has been rampant speculation about what the Cleveland Cavaliers plan to do with the number one overall pick. The obvious option would be keeping it and selecting Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker. Another option that has gained traction recently is trading the pick for a proven, All-Star caliber veteran to help expedite the Cavs rebuilding process. Some of the names that have been thrown out are Kevin Love, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Zach Randolph. All of these players would obviously exponentially help the Cavs win next season and in the near future, but are any of them worth relinquishing the number one pick in this draft for? Straight up, I’d say no.

I would love to have any of those players to pair with Kyrie Irving and to help the Cavs make a playoff run next season, but I can’t say that would be better than pairing Irving and Embiid/Wiggins for the next 5+ years. Having that pair grow together and actually building a competent team around them that fits together seems like the better option.

One trade report that did catch my attention, however, was a scenario that involved trading Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson for a lottery pick in this year’s draft. Fox Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico first reported it this week.

via @SamAmicoFSO

Now, it’s a general report and he mentions that it’s just exploratory for the Cavs right now, but this has some enticing potential depending on which team it’s with. It’s also unclear whether that team is targeting the Cavs’ number one pick in that deal or just Waiters and Thompson. If it’s the latter, there are some interesting options there.

Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters in trade talks, via Fansided.com
Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters in trade talks, via Fansided.com

First of all, I don’t think the Cavs do this deal unless it’s the 8th pick or higher. While Waiters and Thompson still have some serious improvements to make, they were both 4th overall picks (2011, 2012) and should have more value than a 9th-14th pick. Also, if I were giving up Waiters and Thompson, I’d want to try to pair Julius Randle and Embiid or Noah Vonleh and Wiggins. In order to secure Randle, the Cavs would likely have to make this deal with the Utah Jazz for the fifth pick. In order to secure Vonleh, the Cavs would probably need the sixth or seventh pick from the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers. If they are unable to obtain those picks, they could look at targeting Aaron Gordon with the 8th pick as well.

 

As enticing as a lineup of Irving–Miles(re-signed)–Wiggins–Bennett(?)–Vonleh/Varejao/Hawes or Irving–Miles–(free agent)–Randle–Embiid is, that would be adding even more youth to an already young core. The positive is that it would allow that talented, young core to grow together over the next 5+ years and become very competitive. Unfortunately, Dan Gilbert has a reputation for putting a “win now” label on the Cavs and it’s doubtful he’d be on board with this direction.

Which brings me to the more likely scenario to happen if this rumored deal goes down. If the Cavs are able to trade Waiters and Thompson for a pick in the 5-10 range, then they could start exploring trades for that pick in order to bring in a veteran. There’s no doubt that the Celtics and Lakers are exploring the same types of trades with their picks (6 and 7), so the Cavs would be able to use a similar lottery pick, and assets, to open up their options.

It’s a little silly to speculate whom the Cavs would target with an additional lottery pick with so much still up in the air. It’s also hard to see a team giving up their lottery pick for Waiters and Thompson right now. If the Cavs are able to make this trade though, they will likely be adding either Embiid or Wiggins, a veteran player through this trade and then signing a veteran player through free agency.

With three weeks to go until the NBA draft, the Cavs have a lot of tough decisions to make. They still need to hire a coach, decide whom to draft with the number one overall pick and make a decision on which players they will be re-signing or trading. Then, after the draft, the Cavs and Irving will decide on an extension and the Cavs will attempt to improve the roster through free agency.

With so many variables for the Cavs to consider and so much still up in the air, one thing is for certain: the Cavs roster should look noticeably different on opening night.