Tag Archives: Luol Deng

A Farewell to C.J. Miles and Spencer Hawes

There has been a good amount of activity and rumors involving the Cleveland Cavaliers since free agency started on July 1. Within a matter of four days, two of their three unrestricted free agents agreed to deals with other teams (they cannot officially sign until July 10). On July 2, C.J. Miles agreed to a four-year, $18 million deal with the division rival Indiana Pacers. Two days later – fittingly on July 4 – big man Spencer Hawes agreed to a four-year, $23 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. Both of these players were guys I would’ve liked to have back, especially Hawes who I talked about briefly last week. There have also been rumors swirling about the third and final unrestricted free agent for the Cavs, Luol Deng. Like Hawes, Deng caught the eye of the Clippers and very early on in the process.

Even before Hawes signed with Los Angeles, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnorowski said the Clippers were interested in the two Cavs (plus Deng) in a possible sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland. This is a point he repeated shortly after Hawes agreed to his new deal.

Deng leaving wouldn’t really bother me, especially with what he reportedly has wanted since the Bulls decided to trade him. He scoffed at Chicago’s three-year, $30 million offer before they felt they had to deal him. It’s been consistently noted that he’s looking to make $12 million annually and even though he may eventually get in the $8-$10 range, I don’t think he’d be worth it. Deng’s struggles with the Cavs may have been a blessing in disguise. Had the Cavs not been able to trade for Deng, they most likely would have been interested in signing him this offseason. Had they signed him to a four-year, $40 million deal (just as an example) and he struggled like he did at the end of last year, it would’ve put the Cavs in a financial bind. The two Cavaliers that did sign new deals are the ones that I will miss the most.

C.J. Miles (aka @masfresco)

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Cleveland Cavaliers

C.J. Miles was arguably Chris Grant’s best free agent signing while GM of the Cavs. Miles came over after he spent seven years with the Utah Jazz. He was drafted right out of Skyline High School in Dallas, Texas as an 18-year old in the second round, 34th overall. For the Cavs, Miles spent time playing on the wing and became their most reliable shooter over the two seasons he was here, shooting 39% from three and a 53% eFG%. These numbers made him a much-needed scoring option off the bench, making 47 starts in 116 games for the Cavs. He wasn’t the best defensive weapon on the team, but he always had good effort and attitude, something that has been echoed by members of the media.

The appreciation of a player who served this team for only two years is outstanding. I saw a lot of Cavs fans on twitter expressing gratitude and best wishes to Miles after he agreed, which speaks volumes since he’s signing with a division rival. I personally had a great time watching Miles play and his three-pointers were some of the highlights of the last two years – especially the 10 he made against the 76ers on January 7th this year. And from a fan’s perspective, he was great to interact with on twitter, if you like that sort of thing (I do).

Going forward, the Cavs drafted Joe Harris to hopefully help their three-point shooting. Now it looks like he’ll have to fill the hole Miles left as an off-the-bench shooter and defensive try-hard. With David Blatt most likely looking to get efficient shots from deep, Miles leaving is a bit devastating but something the Cavs in all likelihood saw coming and were prepared to handle.

Spencer Hawes (aka Steve)

This was the last game Spencer Hawes played in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform before being traded to the Cavaliers right before the deadline. (Both guys getting dunked on in this video, which includes LaVoy Allen, were traded the next day. Best dunk ever.)

Hawes was traded for Earl Clark, Henry Sims, and two 2014 second round picks (Jeremi Grant and Vasilije Micic for Memphis). At this time, a lot of people were focused on a possible deal with Lakers big man Pau Gasol. The Hawes trade came out of nowhere and was a surprise to many, with mixed reactions. (The guys at Fear The Sword had some good input on the Hawes trade the day after it happened.) Some were glad the Cavs added much-needed floor-spacing. On the other hand, he was in a contract year and the Cavs might have just given up picks for a guy that might only play 28 games – which basically turned out to be the case (played 27 games with the Cavs).

Hawes came in and shot the lights out. He was already known to be a great shooter, but shooting 45% from deep (led the team) was probably more than anyone could have hoped for. This dimension from Hawes, as well as his superb passing ability was something that the Cavs needed to keep and he would have fit so well with what David Blatt would want to do. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards. Hawes took what many thought was a generous deal for the Clippers so that he could play with a contender in the West.

Before I wrote this, I planned to talk about Josh McRoberts or Channing Frye as a backup plan to Hawes. Both of these big men have somewhat of the same skill set Hawes does – great shooting and passing. Unfortunately, both of them were picked up by other teams – McRoberts by Miami (four years, $23 million) and Frye by Orlando – for a surprisingly big four-year, $32 million deal, averaging $2.25 million more annually than Hawes.

There are two gaps left with the loss of Miles and Hawes: shooting and the frontcourt altogether. These were areas that were going to need attention even if these guys stayed in Cleveland. Now the Cavs will have to dig more other free agents and rely on current Cavaliers to step up – namely Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. Miles and Hawes were fun to watch as Cavaliers. Now it’s time to find their replacements.

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 3 Most Likely Draft Scenarios for the Cleveland Cavaliers

There are 3 scenarios the Cavs are most likely to explore come draft time.

The NBA Draft Combine is less than a week away and representatives from every NBA team will be in Chicago to make some of their final evaluations on the draft prospects. Most of the projected lottery picks will be working out and interviewing in Chicago, but unfortunately for Cleveland Cavaliers fans, Dario Saric, Jusuf Nurkic and Clint Capela won’t be in attendance. These three names have been associated with the Cavs–especially Saric and Nurkic–since it was determined the Cavs are likely to pick ninth and they are likely to be drafted somewhere in that vicinity.

Jusuf Nurkic, via soaringdownsouth.com
Jusuf Nurkic, via soaringdownsouth.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The five most likely prospects for the Cavs, which I wrote about last week, included Saric, Nurkic, Doug McDermott, James Young and Rodney Hood. Fortunately, McDermott, Young and Hood will be at the Combine. Now, from the vibes given off by Dan Gilbert and David Griffin, it seems as though the Cavs roster will go through some changes this offseason. The magnitude of those changes remains unknown, but with Gilbert placing so much emphasis on winning now and appeasing Kyrie Irving, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were immense.

Whether the Cavs retain their draft pick, whom they draft, and whether that player comes over immediately or is stashed overseas largely depends on the moves the Cavs make (or don’t make) over the next six weeks. For instance, if the Cavs re-sign Spencer Hawes and CJ Miles, but not Luol Deng, then they will have 12 players signed for next season. Most teams have a steady rotation of 12 players or less throughout the season, so it’s highly unlikely that the Cavs bring in two rookies next season. If we assume that the Cavs either trade or buyout Anderson Varejao and end up signing a free-agent small forward, as well as signing their first-round draft pick, then they will be set with 13 players. Carrick Felix likely won’t find his way into the rotation yet, and depending on whom the Cavs sign or obtain through trades, the final two roster spots will probably be minimum deals.

With this current scenario, there are three draft options that would make the most sense for the Cavs. The first is that they draft either Dario Saric or Jusuf Nurkic with the ninth pick and stash him overseas. The Cavs would then roll with Hawes and Tyler Zeller as their centers for next season (possibly picking up a cheap third big). Then, in a year or two, they would have a talented big man coming in and adding to an already solid core.

The second option would be drafting McDermott with the ninth pick. This option would succeed trading Tristan Thompson and moving forward with Anthony Bennett and McDermott as the Cavs’ power forwards. This is the only scenario where I see the Cavs taking McDermott because I’m skeptical of his ability to guard most small forwards in the NBA. I’m also not high on this option because the Cavs’ defense would become much more susceptible in this scenario. McDermott is one of the most gifted offensive players in this draft and could some in and score right away, but his glaring weaknesses make me wary of adding him to this roster.

The third option would be trading back in the draft to acquire a player like Young or Hood. The Cavs could end up using both of their draft picks (9th and early second round) in a trade to acquire a veteran talent and a later pick. For instance, the Cavs could package both of their picks and Varejao to a team looking to move up in the draft. This way, the Cavs could acquire a veteran player and then draft a player like Young or Hood who is likely to go later in the first round. Depending on what the Cavs can get from a team looking to move up in the draft, I’m a big fan of this option. Young or Hood would be solid backup wings with great potential and the Cavs would be adding experience to their young roster as well.

Out of the three options, I would prefer seeing the Cavs go with option one or three. I just explained why I like option three, and option one would allow the Cavs’ core to grow together and likely gain playoff experience while also improving the outlook of their future.

Unless Nick Gilbert does his thing and somehow obtains a top three pick for the Cavs again, they aren’t going to draft a franchise-changing talent. Thus, these three options make the most sense for the Cavs at this point. Everything has been quiet on the Cavs front since their season ended, however, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire landscape changes by the time the draft rolls around.

Cleveland Sports Quick Hits – Indians, Cavs, Browns

After what seemed like an eternity the 2014 NFL Draft is finally here, or at least almost here anyway (first round kicks off Thursday at 8PM eastern time). As is often the case with the Draft, Browns fans are excited for it but also fairly burned out with all the analysis that seems to dominate the Cleveland sports media around this time of the year. While it’s understandable that the Draft dominates the media’s attention (and the fan’s attention as well), if you sat down a person with absolutely no knowledge of Cleveland sports and made them listen to Cleveland sports talk radio they might think Cleveland only had a football team. With regard to that here are some Cleveland sports quick hits, discussing the Indians, Cavs and (of course) the Browns.

Indians

The Indians sure didn’t get off to the hot start they were hoping to. Coming into today’s game the Tribe currently resides in last place in the AL Central, 7.5 games back of the division leading Detroit Tigers, with a 14-19 record. Unfortunately for the Indians, not much has gone right since the season started.

-The starting rotation was a concern from the beginning of the year and so far this unit has struggled, posting an ERA of 4.21 (21st overall) while the opposition has a batting average of .264 against Tribe starters (20th). The starters have shown some signs of stabilizing recently as they collectively have an ERA of 2.13 over the last seven days, however time will tell if that is only an anomaly.

-The Indians defense has been laughably bad. They currently have the lowest fielding percentage in all of baseball (.973) and are tied for the league lead in errors with 33 (tied with the Dodgers). Yan Gomes leads the team (and is tied for most in the league) with eight errors while Asdrubal Cabrera is responsible for five.

-One of the best things the Indians offense did last season was hit with runners in scoring position. That has simply not been the case so far this season. The Indians are batting only .222 w/RISP and .139 w/RISP and two outs. While David Murphy and Michael Brantley are hitting well with runners in scoring position (.450 and .333 respectively), Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera all have batting averages under .200 with runners in scoring position.

Cavaliers

While the NBA post season continues into the second round the Cavs are still trying to answer a few key questions – like who is going to be the GM, is Mike Brown coming back for another season and what to do with the current roster.

-The Cavs fired former General Manager Chris Grant in February and since then David Griffin has been acting as interim General Manager. Grant’s firing and the Cavs disappointing season (33-49) has many wondering if coach Mike Brown will be shown the door. The recent firing of (former Golden State Warriors Head Coach) Mark Jackson has many Cavs fans asking Dan Gilbert to fire Brown and hire Jackson. If it was Grant’s idea to bring Brown back in the first place, this move (or a similar move) may be made.

-On top of the management decisions that must be made, the Cavs also must decide what to do with the current roster and what they will do in the draft. C.J. Miles, Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes are all free agents while the contracts of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao expire in 2015. In addition to worrying about these players, they also have a draft to prep for in June. Click here to look at some potential candidates for the Cavs from Wade Foley.

Browns

At long last the question of “what will Ray Farmer do in the draft” will have an answer. There has been plenty of speculation as to who they will pick, and Farmer has played the pre draft game beautifully.

-If you do not want the Browns to take a quarterback with pick number four, there is a good chance you are on the Sammy Watkins (or perhaps Mike Evans) bandwagon. Regardless, the popular opinion seems to be that Browns fans want a playmaker at number four and that taking an offensive lineman (either Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews) would be a wasted pick. If you want a quarterback at four, that’s one thing. But what I fail to understand is the opinion that selecting a second wide receiver with the number four pick is smart, but selecting a second tackle would be a complete waste. Sure, Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans can help transform this offense. But an upgrade on the offensive line could do the same thing in both the passing game (keeping the quarterback upright) and the run game. If Robinson or Matthews is the top player on the Browns board when they pick, why not take one if available?

-Another potential need may have developed for the Browns over the last couple of weeks. Tight End Jordan Cameron reportedly fired his agent and contract negotiations between Cameron’s camp and the Browns reportedly haven’t gone smooth either. With Cameron set to be a free agent in 2015 (along with a lot of other guys) the Browns could look to draft a tight end in this year’s draft to prepare for Cameron’s potential departure.

-The Browns quarterback situation got a lot stranger recently, as they singed Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young to one year contracts. The Browns currently have four quarterbacks under contract (Thigpen, Young, Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney) and many believe that they will select a quarterback (or possibly two) in the draft. Don’t mistake Young’s and Thigpen’s presence as future altering plans for the Browns, however. It’s unlikely both will make the team out of training camp and it’s possible neither one will be on the week one roster. Think of this as the equivalent of the Indians offering minor league contracts to veteran players – very little risk with a potential reward.

Guide to the Cleveland Cavaliers Offseason and Draft

Cleveland Cavaliers look to the future after being eliminated from the playoffs.

 

Cleveland.com
Cleveland.com

After a dreadfully slow start to the season for the Cleveland Cavaliers–and constantly toying with fan’s emotions–they are now officially eliminated from the playoffs. With only one week left to the season, it appears that the Atlanta Hawks should have the eighth-seed in the Eastern Conference locked up. The only question remaining for Cleveland is whether they finish in 9th or 10th place in the East (currently 1 ½ games behind the New York Knicks). The Cavs take on the Bucks tonight in Milwaukee and then conclude the season at home with the Boston Celtics tomorrow and the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.

 

 

 

Now that the Cavs are eliminated, we can all turn our focus to the offseason and the upcoming draft. One of the biggest questions to be answered this summer is whether Kyrie Irving signs a max-extension. He’ll initially be able to sign after July 1st, but has until October to make his decision. I wholeheartedly think he’ll sign the max, but there’s no doubt constant questions will be flying his way this summer until he does.

 

There’s also been a great deal of talk about the Cavs making a big splash via trade and/or free agency before the draft, partly due to their underachieving this season in the owner’s eyes. I’ll go ahead and break down some likely scenarios regarding who will remain on the roster for next season, some trade targets, and smart draft choices.

 

Hypothetically, if the Cavs re-sign Hawes for $8 million and Miles for $4 million, this would put the team total at just over $44 million. Once you add in Dellavedova and Felix’s minimum salaries, it would put them close to $46 million with 11 players signed.  Assuming they pick around tenth in the draft this year and sign that player, that would be an extra $2 million (approximately), making the total $48 million. The salary cap is likely to be around $60 million next season, which would give them approximately $12 million to work with before going over the cap and approximately $22 million before exceeding the luxury tax. This means that they would be able to offer a max-contract to a free agent. Assuming Deng leaves, filling the starting small forward position should be the priority. After signing their rookie and free agent, the Cavs would have 13 players signed and approximately $68 million invested.

 

If all of that comes to fruition, the Cavs would only need to fill the roles of small forward and backup center. Zeller could step in as the backup to Hawes, allowing the Cavs to sign a cheap third big. That would also allow them to use nearly $20 million to lure an all-star caliber small forward. Obviously LeBron James would be the number one target for every team here. With ties to Cleveland and ESPN constantly bringing it up, it makes sense financially and roster-wise for him. I have my doubts about this though and will take a look at a few other free agent small forwards that the Cavs could target.

 

After LeBron (unlikely) and Carmelo Anthony (not happening), the Cavs could target Gordon Hayward, Lance Stephenson, Trevor Ariza or re-sign Deng. Hayward is a good shooter with good size who can also pass and rebound. His shooting percentages have been down this season, but I think they would improve if better players surrounded him. The Cavs could use his shooting and he’d be a good plan B or C. He’s making just under $3.5 million this season, but will likely be asking for over $10 million next season. Stephenson has exceeded expectations the last couple of years and plays a big part in Indiana’s success. He’s averaging over 14 points, 5 assists and 7 rebounds this season. He’s not a great three-point shooter, but improves every year. He would give the Cavs much-needed scoring and toughness, and would likely only cost between $8-12 million. Ariza has similar stats to Stephenson with better three-point shooting (best year of his career at 42%). Ariza has pleasantly surprised me this season and seems to be better as a role player. The Cavs could probably sign him for around $10-12 million/year. If the Cavs aren’t able to sign one of these guys, they could still look at trying to re-sign Deng for around $12-14 million/year. Signing any of these guys would keep the Cavs closer to $60 million rather than $70 million.

 

The Cavs added some floor spacing with Spencer Hawes. Irving, Miles, Waiters and Karasev are also all capable three-point shooters. Still, I would like the Cavs to have at least one more efficient, long-range shooter. They could explore a trade for Denver’s Randy Foye, who is a combo guard able to score, set up teammates, and shoot fairly efficiently (38% from three). The Nuggets could trade Foye and use their exception from Andre Igoudala for Jack. Aaron Brooks is a free agent after this season and Nate Robinson has a player option for Denver. They could use Jack as their backup point guard behind Ty Lawson, and the Cavs could use Foye as a backup point guard/shooting guard. The best part for the Cavs would be that Foye makes less than half of Jack’s salary and there’s a team option after next season.

 

Another player that the Cavs should pursue come next season’s trade deadline is Kevin Love. Now, obviously many teams will be trying to lure Love away from Minnesota, and it’s likely he would favor a large market, but the Cavs should still make an attempt. If Minnesota gets the sense that Love isn’t going to re-sign after next season, they may look to see what they can get for him before he bolts in the offseason. The Cavs could potentially offer Thompson and Jack for Love, which works financially. This is a lopsided trade for Cleveland, but if Minnesota gets desperate at the deadline, it’s a possibility. The Timberwolves might prefer Bennett, Waiters and Karasev, which would also work financially. Love would provide the Cavs with even more spacing, a dominant rebounding presence and another star to pair with Irving.

 

The final aspect of the Cavs management that I will focus on is the upcoming draft. The Cavs are currently 32-47, which is good for the tenth worst record in the league. Assuming the Cavs pick somewhere in the 8th-12th range, I will outline some of the best options.

 

Rodney Hood is a 6”8” small forward who could backup whichever starting small forward the Cavs sign in the offseason. He is a very good catch-and-shoot player and shot 42% from three with Duke this season. He’s long, good defensively and should be able to guard multiple positions. Once he adds some bulk, he has the potential to be a very good player.

 

James Young is 6”7 and could play either shooting guard or small forward in the NBA. He’s long with a solid frame and has good defensive potential. He plays with a lot of energy and gets his teammates involved. He shot 34% from three this season for Kentucky and has the potential to improve from that area. He could be an intriguing wing for the Cavs to consider.

 

Dario Saric is a 6”10”, 220-pound Croatian combo forward who is about to turn 20 years old. He’s versatile on the offensive end and can hit the three. He’s a talented passer, ball-handler, rebounder and has good court vision, as well as promising upside. Depending on whom the Cavs sign in the offseason, this could be a great draft-and-stash pick for Cleveland, assuming Saric doesn’t come to the NBA right away.

 

Jusuf Nurkic is another interesting draft-and-stash option for the Cavs. He’s a 6”11”, 280-pound center who is only 19 years old. He averages 12 points, 6 rebounds and a steal in 16 minutes per game in the Adriatic league this season. He has great scoring instincts, promising rebounding ability and great defensive potential. He’s an efficient scorer, and really an efficient player all around due to his limited minutes. I fully believe Zeller is capable of being the Cavs main backup center next season, so Nurkic could be a great stash for the Cavs and give them a lot to look forward to in the future, when they are truly ready to compete.

 

Willie Cauley-Stein is a much more developed center who could help the Cavs right away. He’s 7’, 240-pounds and an intimidating defensive force. He shoots 60% from the field with over 6 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. He would instantly improve Cleveland’s interior defense and rim-protection, but has a ways to go on the offensive end. He has a high motor and would bring a great deal of energy off the bench. One of his main flaws is his abysmal free throw shooting (48%), which would have to be greatly improved. If the Cavs desire to add a third big who can help contribute right away, this is their best option at the end of the lottery.

 

Re-signing, signing and drafting the players I discussed would put the Cavs’ roster at 13 players and somewhere between $58-$68 million. The Cavs’ young core would remain intact, a veteran starting small forward would be added, a shooter or two could be added, and a promising rookie would join the squad (either this year or in the future). It’s still early and a lot of variables could change, but this is the foundation the Cavs will be building on for the near future.

The Hawks, Bobcats send their regards

After a massacre at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks that could sit alongside The Red Wedding in a George R.R. Martin novel and a capitulation against the Bobcats that could also share a goblet of wine with some of the other deceased Starks in a frozen-over Winterfell, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ long-shot hopes of a 2014 playoff run have been dispatched and buried with the swiftness of a Roose Bolton-gripped knife to the heart. And just as I could barely stand to watch Catelyn, Rob and Talisa meet their grisly ends at the feet of Walder Frey again yesterday as HBO marathoned Game of Thrones’ Season 3 in anticipation of Season 4’s premier last night, I grimaced and looked away in shame from both of the Cavs’ Friday and Saturday night games as I was forced to admit I was watching a team that just doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZMI32FK_f4

The Hawks scored 39 POINTS in the FIRST QUARTER on Friday night. The Cavs trailed by 16 after, then 12 at halftime before trailing by around 20 points for most of the second half. It was a game that was never close and the Cavs were clearly an inferior team. Jarrett Jack went 4-13 from the floor, including 1-6 from three-point land. WAY SHOW UP IN THE CLUTCH JARRETT. Spencer Hawes continued to show he can score by posting a 16-10 line but sucks at defense by constantly getting abused by Mike Scott, who went 12-13 from the floor in putting up 26 points. Kyrie Irving only scored 13 points on 6-15 shooting. It was a doo-doo performance at the worst possible time by a team that couldn’t afford to lose again.

A report surfaced soon after the conclusion of the Hawks’ blowout that Kyrie was unhappy, his camp reported he wants to leave, yadda yadda, etc. It’s the same story we’ve been hearing for the past year or two and once again, Kyrie denies it. Soon after, Josh Gordon of the Browns decided to chime in and open his big mouth–saying that he thinks that “it might play out better” if Kyrie and Dion were on different teams.  I, along with a lot of other Cavs’ fans I can imagine, am SO sick of hearing about all the drama with Kyrie not wanting to be here, not getting along with Dion, etc. I am a little relieved the season is ending so we don’t have to hear about it on a weekly basis anymore–and hopefully whatever happens in the offseason whether or not Kyrie is still a Cav next season will put to bed some of this locker-room drama. Does Kyrie seem happy when he’s out on the court for the Cavaliers? I would say no. But when the Cavs offer him a max contract this offseason, he would be a fool to not take it. He won’t get that kind of money anywhere else. Would it mean that he would be a Cavalier for life? No–don’t forget the kid just turned 22.

While the Cavs aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs yet, their chances are infinitesimal they will still get in. I suppose we can look at the brief, and honestly a little sad, playoff push the Cavs made at the end of this season as a sort of “playoffs” in a way. At least the Cavs were playing meaningful basketball in April, something a despondent fanbase hasn’t been able to say the past couple of years. As another disappointing season comes to a close with the Cavs failing to make the postseason yet again, at least now I have another option on Sunday nights to witness some bloodletting–I guarantee it won’t make me as disappointed, either.

Yes, you should be excited about the Cavs' last 7 games

The Cleveland Cavaliers are playing meaningful basketball in April. When was the last time the people of the North Coast could say that? Seven games remain in the Cavaliers 2013-2014 schedule and they sit two and a half games back from Atlanta for that final playoff spot. The Knicks sit one spot ahead of the Cavs at one and a half games back from the Hawks. After a ballsy win for the Cavs against a suddenly struggling Pacers team yesterday afternoon, things are shaping up for a HUGE clash this coming Friday night down in Atlanta.

 

At a time in the season when a lot of other teams are feeling the effects of a grueling 82-game campaign, the Cavs look fresh and energetic. Aside from the Nets in the season finale, every team the Cavs play over the next two weeks has a losing record and two of those teams have already been eliminated from the playoffs, with another two teams (Boston and Detroit) on the precipice of elimination.

 

So what’s changed? What’s sparked the team to a 4-1 record over the past five games with wins over the Raptors, Knicks and Pacers? Well, it’s been a few things the Cavs are suddenly doing better. But first, let’s talk about this:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3383kTuXfao

 

Aside from the weird elevator music and sensationalist title (not much of a FIGHT I can see going on), this clip shows a couple things. First, David West is a frustrated man. The Pacers have scored less than 80 points in their past four games and after the loss to the Cavs, West said that the Pacers were “…losing games at an alarming rate to teams inferior to us.” That may be so, Mr. West, but getting your butt kicked by a surging Cavaliers’ team isn’t cause for getting all huffy and trying to choke out Spencer Hawes. Second, I’m going to guess that Hawes got into West’s face because he thought West threw an elbow into little Matthew Dellavedova’s ribcage, as evidenced by the grimace and tumble to the floor by the rookie Australian point guard. It’s too difficult to see from that clip if that actually happened, but if it did is irrelevant. The Cavs are clearly playing with a chip on their shoulder with something to prove, and looking as much like a real team who actually deserve to be in the playoffs. Maybe not being able to rely on the “give the ball to Kyrie and see what he can do with it when shit is starting to get tough” strategy is forcing the rest of the Cavaliers to step their collective games up.

 

Perhaps the first thing you notice when watching the Kyrie-less Cavs is how much more the ball moves around. The Cavs are finding the open man and Jarrett Jack and Dellavedova have done an excellent job in distributing the rock, combining for 15 assists in the Indiana game. Tristan Thompson is showing up, too–grabbing 16 man-size rebounds yesterday while West only had four.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4h8DIAC7AQ

 

The only bad news coming from yesterday’s win is that guess what? Anderson Varejao is injured again. Straining his right shoulder on a pass, Varejao was forced to leave the game early. Scheduled to be re-evaluated by the doctors sometime today, it would suck if the Cavs had to make this last playoff push without Wild Thing.

 

The Cavs are off until Wednesday (perhaps in deference to the Indians kicking off their season later tonight) when they face the Magic down in Orlando. How great would it be to say we have two playoff teams here in Cleveland?

 

Cavaliers' Final Stretch, Waiters Zone and What's Next

The hope of playoffs has slipped away, but Cavs look to finish strong.

 

 

Spring is finally here. Those are great words to hear for Cleveland residents who have endured a treacherous, grueling winter that has seemed to drag on and on. The end of March is fast approaching and with it comes a feeling of change. The weather won’t be the only thing changing in Cleveland, either.

 

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers are approaching their final stretch of the season. It’s a stretch that the few remaining Cleveland hopefuls were looking to propel the Cavs to the playoffs. Sadly, that won’t be the case, and it’s been apparent for a while now. The realization of another April exit for the Cavs has begun to sink in to even the most optimistic of fans now though.

 

 

Kyrie strained his left bicep in the loss to the Clippers last Sunday and will be out at least two weeks. Luol Deng injured his ankle in that game as well and is currently day-to-day. CJ Miles suffered another setback with his ankle and is likely to miss more time, if not the rest of the season. All three of the Cavs’ rookies have now suffered some sort of injury and are unlikely to see any time the rest of the year. The Cavs are now 6 ½ games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth seed. In short, the playoff talk can officially cease.

 

 

And like I’ve said the last few weeks, that’s okay for this team. Even with the losses, the last couple weeks have been encouraging. The team is playing with a continuous, concerted effort. It’s an obvious improvement from before the All-Star break. They just lost to the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder by a combined 11 points. Not bad for being without their top two scorers and best wing. The team has been resilient, they haven’t given up when down by double digits and they’ve played with heart. With the current roster, plethora of injuries and grim playoff hopes, that’s all you can really ask for.

 

 

It’s effort and chemistry like the Cavs have played with over the past couple of weeks that can transfer into the next season. With supposed upcoming cap room and some assets, next season is looking much more promising. Throw some residual chemistry and winning culture in there and you might have an actual team on your hands. Can you imagine?!

 

 

The Dion Waiters Zone

With Kyrie sidelined for at least two weeks, Waiters was given the starting shooting guard spot. If you know anything about Waiters, then you know he embraces the moments when he gets to be “the man.” He played most of Tuesday’s game against the Heat and ended with 17 points, 11 assists and 4 rebounds. He didn’t shoot very efficiently, however, going 6-19 from the floor, which is something he needs to focus and work on. On Thursday, against the Thunder, he ended with 30 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. He shot 11-25 from the field in that game.

 

Dion Waiters Zone

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing to be said about Waiters is he definitely never lacks confidence. He’ll go at anyone in the league and truly believes he can be one of the best. Even though he didn’t shoot efficiently and took some questionable shots at times in both of those big games, he also stepped up and led the team. He was able to bring the Cavs back when they were trailing in both games and he’s the type of player who never quits. Those types of guys can be valuable and I’ve been encouraged about Waiters future with the Cavs as he’s begun to mature, both as a player and person. If he improves his shot selection, decision-making and efficiency, I can see him becoming a solid starting shooting guard in the league.

 

 

Up Next

The Cavs have just over three weeks left to the season and 13 games to go. So far they are 2-6 during their arduous March schedule and it doesn’t get much easier. The Cavs take on the Houston Rockets tomorrow night, which just dismantled the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday. Then they head to Madison Square Garden on Sunday to take on the New York Knicks, which are currently 2 ½ games ahead of the Cavs in the standings. They end their rigorous month of March with Toronto, Detroit, Brooklyn and Indiana. After tomorrow’s game against Houston, the remainder of the Cavs’ opponents are Eastern teams. This would be an extremely important stretch of games for the Cavs if they were still in the playoff hunt. Still, it’ll be a good test for next year to see how they fare against some future rivals once (if) everyone gets healthy again.

 

Update:

The Cavs have officially signed Seth Curry (brother of Stephen Curry) to a 10-day contract.

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 1.29.47 PM

The Spencer Hawes Effect and Smart Offseason Moves

Cavs get big win during rough trip out west.

 

Cavs drop Suns 110-101
Cavs drop Suns 110-101

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers still aren’t going to be able to rally enough to make the playoffs, but defeating the Phoenix Suns on the road was a solid win. The Cavs jumped out to an early lead and led 60-47 at the half, and unlike last time these two teams met, the Cavs were able to maintain that lead for a 110-101 victory.

 

 

It was an overall great game by the Cavs. All of the starters played heavy minutes and contributed nicely and the effort remained constant throughout the entire game. Six Cavs scored in double figures, led by Kyrie Irving’s 23 points. He also added six assists, nine rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. Ever since his first-career triple-double that he obtained recently, he has been much more effective on the boards. He has 27 rebounds over his past four games and his per-game average has gone up by almost two over his last ten games.

 

 

Kyrie spoke to the media before the game about how important these final stretches are and how the Cavs have been letting opportunities slip away. “I’m going to do anything to make this playoff push, anything coach needs me to do, anything my teammates need me to do, I’m willing to do,” said Irving.

 

 

Spencer Hawes’ Positive Affect

 

Unfortunately, it looks to be a little late for the Cavs, at no fault of Kyrie’s though. He has been playing at a very high level since December, especially after the All-Star break. Another player who has been playing exceptionally well of late is Spencer Hawes. Since coming to Cleveland, he is averaging 15.6 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game and 1.2 blocks per game. He has also been very efficient from all over the floor. He is shooting 48% from the field, 55% from three and 85% from the line. It’s obviously a small sample size, but these are impressive numbers nonetheless.

 

 

Not only are his individual stats impressive thus far, but he also has a noticeable positive effect on the Cavs’ offense. The ball-movement in Wednesday’s game was impressive and the presence of Hawes has something to do with that. Hawes ability to space the floor and knock down the long-ball at a high clip opens up the paint for the Cavs’ guards and forwards. He also is a near-perfect complement to Kyrie, who runs the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop excellently with Hawes.

 

 

Hawes is virtually the opposite of Andrew Bynum. What I mean by that is Hawes and Bynum are completely different types of centers.  Hawes forces opposing centers to leave the paint and guard him on the perimeter, he’s quick and can run the floor on the fast break, and he’s an excellent pick-and-pop center to pair with our guards. On the contrary, Bynum is a traditional low-post center who needs the ball in the paint to be effective. The Cavs spent a large portion of their first 25 games trying to get Bynum touches down low and involved in their offense. If I had to blame the Cavs slow start on one thing, it would be this. Bynum constantly clogged the paint and clearly Kyrie had a hard time adjusting to not having as much room to drive and operate with. Bynum was also too slow to get out in transition and run the floor, which this young Cavs team needed to be doing. Chris Grant signing Bynum to pair with Kyrie and David Griffin trading for Hawes to pair with Kyrie is a good indication of how having an analytical background and understanding team fit helps from a GM position.

 

 

Cavs’ Offseason Moves

 

After the trade, I initially viewed Hawes as a two-month rental to help the Cavs make a playoff push. I though (and still sort of think) that he would command to much money in free agency for the Cavs to re-sign him, but I am seriously starting to think that they should do everything they can to keep him. It seems logical that the Cavs will buy-out Anderson Varejao’s remaining year on his contract in order to free up some cap-space in the offseason and I get the feeling that Luol Deng and the Cavs are likely to go their separate ways. This could free up enough to keep Hawes and still make a competitive offer to a star free agent this offseason. Hawes is only 25 and seems to fit in well with this young team. He also already has six years of experience under his belt and could be a nice mentor for Tyler Zeller, as well as the rest of the youngsters.

 

 

This would give the Cavs a core of Kyrie, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Hawes, Zeller, Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev and Jarrett Jack. Bennett has a lot of work to put in over the offseason, but I think he’ll be a decent rotation player next season. We’ve yet to see enough of Karasev to make any type of judgment yet and I believe he has good potential. Jack is likely to be in trade talks again next season and it’d be nice to get some good value for him. Then, there is also CJ Miles, whom I think the Cavs could re-sign fairly cheap next season. He has been excellent this season and is a solid role-player without the outrageous cost. That would put the Cavs at nine players, keep the young core intact, and leave room for another lottery pick and one or two veterans. If the Cavs are able to re-sign Hawes for around $8 million, CJ for around $4 million and lure a max free agent, it would only put them a few million dollars over where they are right now while remaining several million dollars under the luxury tax.

 

 

It appears that Griffin has a plan in place for the near future. The young core has emerged and is starting to jell, veteran pieces are beginning to assemble and the team is starting to learn more about what it takes to develop and sustain a winning culture. The Cavs are now merely a few pieces away from becoming a respectable team once again.

Crash and burn

As inappropriate as a plane crashing metaphor is in describing the month of March so far for the Cavaliers, I’m going to go there. Someone forgot to tell Mike Brown and company that these past four games, in which the Cavs have gone a sterling 0-4, were the ones his team were supposed to win–because it ain’t gonna get any easier over the next few weeks.

 

mikebrown

Associated Press photo

 

Somehow the Cavs still sit 3 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the East, mainly because Atlanta is doing their best Cavalier impression and have won exactly one of their last ten games. The putrid Knicks have risen from the grave and now sit tied with the Cavs. Can you feel the electric intensity in the air as the race for the 8th playoff seed in the East heats up?!?!? Sad, but this is what being a Cavaliers fan in 2014 amounts to.

 

The Cavs kicked off this four-game skid with a 14 point loss to the Grizzlies, 110-96. Someone also forgot to tell Mike Brown that the Cavs need to play four quarters against a decent team like Memphis. After holding a 10 point lead at halftime, the Cavs got absolutely posterized by Zac Randolph and the Griz in the second half:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2oWXVL54xE

 

Pay attention to around the 1:30 mark of that video as Randolph throws aside Tyler Zeller like a ragdoll as he makes his way to the hoop.  With Anderson Varejao only playing nine minutes against New York on Saturday after missing the previous 12 games, the Cavs have been sorely lacking in size down around the rim. Spencer Hawes plays soft to no defense, and Zeller is still looking for ways to impose himself on the court. What momentum Zeller had going this season seems to have been lost with the introduction of Hawes. With no Wild Thing crashing the boards, the Cavs just can’t compete when big teams decide to get physical.

 

The Spurs then put on a passing clinic, showing everyone just how far away Cleveland is from having a good basketball team. Danny Green, ex-Cavalier, spit in our eye and scored 24 en route to a 122-101 massacre for San Antonio. I turned that game off about midway through the third quarter–I am not a masochist.

 

Must-win games against Charlotte and the Knicks followed, the latter on the night of Z’s jersey retirement.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffi9A8w_tEA

 

The touching ceremony was fitting for one of the Cavs’ most loyal players, whether you agree with him being given the ultimate honor as a Cavalier or not.

 

Also, where has Anthony Bennett been in this losing streak? Aside from posting 14 points against the Spurs, he’s been invisible on the court in the small amount of minutes he’s been given. Time is running out to prove his rookie season wasn’t a complete bust.

 

The Suns, Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Thunder and Rockets are the next six games for the Cavs. All teams in playoff contention–all teams much better than the Cavs. The 24-win mark of last season has already been reached in this 2013-2014 campaign, with 18 games left in the season. But unless the Cavs pull something miraculous out of this last month of NBA basketball, can you call this season anything other than a huge disappointment?