Tag Archives: Matthew Dellavedova

Cavaliers offend with their offense

After declaring a rebirth of sorts for the Cleveland Cavaliers in my last piece, I now feel a bit of egg running down my face after the team has dropped two very winnable games this past week. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss two factors that I think led to these disappointing outcomes.

I have said this before, and it rings true this week as much as it has all season. We MUST win the games we are supposed to win!

No one takes us seriously when we beat the #2 team in the league one week and lose to a sub .500 team the next. It makes fans and the national media question whether we are actually a good team or just putting on a show with smoke and mirrors.

Offensive Strategy: At times, I find the strategy that the Cavaliers decide to use on offense, offensive. Meaning that it offends my common sense approach as an analytical fan.

For example, when the game is close or we are starting to squander a lead late in a game, why on earth do any of these professional players think that the best idea is to run the shot clock down and hoist up a three pointer? Is it an engrained desire to be the hero as they have practiced thousands of times since they were first introduced to the game as kids?

Sure, sometimes the shot goes in and we all talk about how clutch that player is and how they always seem to bail us out. Most of the time, those shots do not go in and amongst fans there seems to be no accountability for having just wasted a crucial possession.

We should be taking high percentage shots from the paint in these situations. This is the most opportune time to rely on Kevin Love.

He has shown over the last few weeks to be not only shooting a high percentage from down there, but it also puts him in a great position to possible secure an offensive rebound for another clock eating possession. I don’t understand why we settle for just running out 24 seconds and taking a low percentage shot when we can get a higher percentage shot and possibly the chance to run out 40 seconds.

I also want to complain about one more strategy on offense that goes hand in hand with the one I just mentioned. That strategy is the isolation play for James.

Yes, I realize that he is The King and can make his way past most defenders one on one and get a high percentage shot, but it is what consistently happens AFTER he makes it past the player defending him that is in question.

Either he takes a tougher than necessary shot trying to get an “And One” and doesn’t get the call, OR if he does get the call and misses we take our chances at the free throw line.

For being a superstar in our league and contending with James Harden for most “And One” opportunities amongst all players, he has been mostly inconsistent at the free throw line. In close games like the 104-103 loss to Boston, #AllFreeThrowsMatter

Another thing that the isolation play does when you run it over and over, is that it gives the opponents time to rest as the play usually consists of James on one end of the court and the rest of the players just standing around watching on the other side. Make these guys run the slalom around picks at the end of the game so that the fatigue catches up with them and they will make more mistakes.

If Lue is dead set on running the ISO in these situation, PLEASE do it with Kyrie! At least he is shooting a reasonable percentage from the line and finishes just as well or better than James.

Bench Play: The contributions off of the bench in these two most recent losses have been truly disappointing as a collective group. Dellevadova being out with a hamstring issue only cements my suspicion that he is maybe the most important component of the second unit.

The strength of the second unit is clearly anchored in Iman Shumpert’s ability to steal the ball and make players think twice about lazy passes. This is an invaluable asset that we have as it gives us more possessions in addition to take potential points off of the board for our adversaries.

From an offensive standpoint, we just cannot produce consistently. Just when we think that Mozgov has “figured it out” he reminds us that there is a reason he is not starting anymore with another blunder at a crucial juncture.

Against the moderately talented Charlotte Hornets all that out five bench players could amass was 13 points. Delly is averaging over 8 points per game on his own so his contributions are clearly missed.

We cannot expect to win close games without these intangibles. I challenge the players and coaches to play a smarter game and, if necessary, make some key changes to the team that put us in a stronger position to contend in the Finals.

Even if we play horribly, we will get one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference purely based on our talent level. Having Kyrie and Love in the Finals this year will not matter though unless some of these issues are corrected.

I’m ready to see if Tyronn Lue is up to that challenge.

Another January Rebirth for the Cavaliers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Griffin ushers in a Lue era in Cleveland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to know: Sasha Kaun

Casual Cavalier fans know and recognize names like James, Irving, Love and even Dellevadova. Today my goal is to introduce a name into the conversation that otherwise has been left out: Kaun

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 5: Sasha Kaun #14 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball during the game against the Miami Heat on December 5, 2015 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images
MIAMI, FL – DECEMBER 5: Sasha Kaun #14 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball during the game against the Miami Heat on December 5, 2015 at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Sasha Kaun is a 6’11”, 250 pound center from Russia that signed with the Cavs late in the summer of 2015. He most recently played for CSKA Moscow winning five championships with them.

He has other connections to this team as well. He played for Coach David Blatt in the 2012 London Olympics where they finished with the bronze in basketball.

The casual fans are now thinking “I know that guy! He is tall and doesn’t talk a lot and rides a bear in that commercial!” Sorry, we are talking about the other Cavs center from Russia this time.

The primary reason you have not heard of Kaun is because he has only played in a handful of games during this regular season. He DID get some regular playing time in the preseason but that feels like a lifetime ago at this point.

After playing several years overseas, there are aspects of the NBA game that Kaun has struggled with adjusting to. Certainly the speed and size of the opponents are enough to throw off anyone coming from the European style of competition, but even things such as the size of the court (which is wider in the NBA than Euroleague) and the fact that the three point line is further from the basket, have frustrated the near seven footer.

Kaun is accustomed to running the pick and roll from his previous team but he has acknowledged that he is used to being closer to the basket after setting his pick and has had to retrain his brain to match the required timing of the new distance.

At the start of the season, Timofey Mozgov (the aforementioned bear jockey) was the starting center for the team. He has not been sharp and reliable since that time and has been replaced, rightfully so in my book, by the more versatile Tristan Thompson.

Mozgov is losing value nearly every time he steps on the court. I think it would be wise to give those minutes to Kaun, if only to see what you’ve got to work with.

I’m sure he is getting plenty of reps at the training facility in Independence, but I also think that we can agree that playing in an actual game is much more telling of a players potential. Like Mozgov, I am sure that Kaun is benefitting from some mentorship from former Cavalier big, Vitaly Potopenko.

Perhaps it is time to shift some of Potopenko’s focus to Kaun in lieu of Mozgov. Kaun was signed to a fairly meager deal compared to the rest of the roster so what do we have to lose?

I hope that Blatt can look past the adjustments that Kaun needs to make and see that over many seasons in Russia he shot 70.4 percent and even in the meager amount of minutes and opportunities during this season he has shot 60 percent.

Kaun may never be a starter in this league but I think he can be a solid contributor off of the bench after he works out some of the kinks. Here’s hoping the Cavaliers invest some minutes in the big man and try to get a good return on their investment.

Cavs Show Their Double-edged Sword

The Cleveland Cavaliers have piled up three consecutive wins in the last five days and they have done it with both their offense and defense.

Offensive ‘Sword’

The Cavs put up three 100 point-plus wins against the Orlando Magic (104-79), the Toronto Raptors (122-100) and the Washington Wizards (121-115).

In those three games, LeBron James posted 29, 20 and 34 points respectively. His three point shot has been a work in progress this season so he has had to find other ways to attack the rim. So far this season, LeBron has scored 55.6% of his points in the paint, which would be the highest percentage in his career if he maintains this pace. In his last three games, he has scored 68.3% of his points in the paint, an astonishing number. Tonight against the Wizards, he was 4-9 from three-point range, hitting four of five in a three minute stretch.

But it isn’t only LeBron making an impact offensively. The Cavs’ bench has been a big impact as well.

Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

In the games against the Magic, Raptors and Wizards, you have seen these performances:
James Jones (Magic): 10 points
Mo Williams (Magic): 8 points
Timofey Mozgov (Magic): 7 points
Matthew Dellavedova (Raptors): 11 points

The lack of Cavs’ depth showed last season when they got to the NBA Finals. They were forced to start Delly and Thompson and players such as Mike Miller and James Jones were forced to play a high amount of minutes. They were put into spots where they weren’t used to playing.

This Cavs’ team is different. Because of injuries early in the season, other players have been forced to step up. When Irving returns, the Cavs’ rotation will be 11 deep, which is one less than the 13 needed for the active roster. Right now, they are the deepest team in the NBA and it has only gotten deeper now that Kyrie Irving has returned and is playing at a high level.

Defensive ‘Sword’

The Cavs’ defense shined against the Magic, in a game that was fueled with emotion, holding them to 79 points and shooting 38.2% from the field for the entire game. Their defense also had a strong two quarters against the Magic, which helped them build their lead. In those 1st and 2nd quarters, they held the Magic to only 32 points.

The player who had the biggest impact against the Magic? Kevin Love. Love’s defense is vastly underrated. Channing Frye, the Magic’s starting power forward went for 3 points on 1-4 shooting. We all know how good defensively LeBron and Iman Shumpert are, but Love hasn’t been exactly praised for his defense.

Cleveland is 3rd in the NBA in points allowed with 96 points per game. They also force other teams to hold the ball. The Cavs do not allow passes to open players. They rank 5th in the NBA in opponents assists.

Double-Edged Sword

The most complete game the Cavs played was against the Orlando Magic, blowing them out 104-79. The entire Cavs’ team put out a great effort against the Magic. They only had FOUR turnovers for the entire game.

It is awesome to see what Iman Shumpert’s return has done to this Cavs team. He is such a great defender coming off the bench and can guard multiple positions. In the game against the Magic, he had a +21 plus/minus for the 21 minutes he was on the court. That is outstanding.

The most interesting thing I saw during these games? It would have to been the line-up that the Cavs put out there tonight against the Wizards. They had Kyrie, Delly, JR, Shumpert and Thompson, four guards and a power-forward. It gave the Wizards problems, regardless of the fact that Irving went #KYRIDICULOUS on them, scoring 10 straight points to start the 4th Quarter.

Coming up, the Cavs continue their six-game road trip with stops in Minnesota, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. Then, they come back home for revenge against the Golden State Warriors

How Good Are The Cavaliers Thus Far?

Our Cleveland Cavaliers have taken us on quite a ride this year. We have already experienced our share of ups and downs.

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 23: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Orlando Magic on November 23, 2015 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** LeBron James
CLEVELAND, OH – NOVEMBER 23: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the game against the Orlando Magic on November 23, 2015 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** LeBron James

This week, I would like to breakdown my thoughts on our team, player by player. I think discussing the progress (or lack thereof) for each player could help us understand how we have gotten to a 15-7 record and held onto the number one spot in the Eastern Conference. Lebron James: James is obviously the leader of this team. His 26.4 pts/game, 7.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game have him ranked in the top 10 in the NBA. This year has been no different in terms of his playing style. His minutes are being more closely managed but when the game is on the line, minutes don’t matter and “The King” takes over games. Kevin Love: At 17.8 pts/game, 11 rebounds and 2.5 assists, Love has been our number two producer on offense behind James. While he had a red hot start to the season his numbers have dropped some and he has only hit one three point shot in the last five games. J.R. Smith: Smith also had some difficulty hitting his three pointers at the beginning of the season. He managed to only make six of them in the first seven games. Over the last 15 games, Smith has hit 33 and has helped stretch the opponent’s defense more often as a result. He has also improved his defensive contributions over the last eight games with 11 total steals. Timofey Mozgov: The Cavaliers seven-foot center has been both a blessing and a curse so far this year. His turnovers and 4.1 rebounds/game have been a bit of a liability. There have been moments where I have thought that maybe he has figured out his role on the team, but he still makes an overabundance of mental errors. This causes the team to be less effective when he is on the court. Tristan Thompson: Thompson continues to be a strong contributor to this team coming off of the bench. His work ethic and focus on the glass, help to keep us in games when our starters are resting on the bench. When Thompson is in for Love, we lose some offensive potential but maintain our defensive presence. I would like to see him be more involved in taking shots from the paint and/or drawing fouls. Matthew Dellavedova: Delly has been our most improved player this year in my eyes. While he will never be a dominant player in the league, he always seems to bridge the gaps that our team has from time to time. Whether it is playing the alley-oop game with Thompson, driving in for a floater, or playing suffocating, high energy defense, he has definitely made the most of the minutes he has received. Moving into the starting role at PG, so the team can prepare for the return of Kyrie, has given him even more confidence. Mo Williams: Williams has transitioned to coming off of the bench after being the starting point guard when the season began. This was orchestrated to prepare him for his bench role when Irving returns from his knee injury. He has been consistent offensively and remains one of our strongest jump shooters on the second team. Richard Jefferson: Jefferson has been a welcome addition to this team. He is averaging just under 23 minutes and seven points per game. He is an upgrade from the Mike Millers and Shawn Marions of last year. Jefferson has also outplayed the younger James Jones whom I have not been at all impressed with this season. Anderson Varajao: The “Wild Thing” has proven to be an asset within the minutes he is given. He continues to exhibit his strong work rate and while he is not as limber as he was 2 injuries ago, the occasional jump shot or tip in for the second team is a welcome contribution. Iman Shumpert: Shumpert only returned this past Saturday but immediately put up 14 points on 66% three point shooting and three rebounds. I am excited for, not only the offensive bump he will give us, but also his defense which will start to make other teams think twice about making lazy passes. Kyrie Irving: We have not seen Irving on the court since his knee cap injury in the Finals against Golden State. He has been participating in full practices, and it was rumored that he may even make his season debut in Saturday’s game, but it was not to be. He is the one game changing player that can push us to achieve the team’s highest potential. This Cavs fan is ready to experience Cleveland basketball at that level again!

Which Cavs Lineup is Best?

The Cavs have thrown out many different lineups this season with all of the injuries they have had, but which one has worked the best for the them so far?

They will be referred to as: Lineup A, Lineup B, Lineup C, Lineup D and Lineup E.

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
Mo Williams had a season-high 29 points against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

With a win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, the Cavs improve to 14-7 on the season. It was a gritty win that had the Cavs coming back from a large deficit in which they eventually overpowered the Trail Blazers.

The sleeved jerseys seemed to effect LeBron a lot less this time around as he had a team-high 33 points, including some crucial And-1 plays down the stretch. For the first time in a few games, the ball finally seemed to be moving again and it led to offensive efficiency.

Let us see how this lineups compare against each other

Offensive Rating – The number of points a team scores per 100 possessions.

Lineup A – 103.0
Lineup B – 128.4
Lineup C – 120.3
Lineup D – 93.6
Lineup E – 115.2

Defensive Rating – The number of points a team allows per 100 possessions.

Lineup A – 101.9
Lineup B – 94.4
Lineup C – 67.3
Lineup D – 127.1
Lineup E – 82.4

Net Rating – The difference between Offensive and Defensive Ratings.

Lineup A – 1.1
Lineup B – 33.9
Lineup C – 53.1
Lineup D – -36.6
Lineup E – 32.8

It is very clear that Lineup C has been the best lineup for the Cavs this season. Here are the actual lineups:

Lineup A – LeBron, Love, Mozgov, Smith, Williams
Lineup B – Delly, LeBron, Love, Thompson, Smith
Lineup C – Delly, LeBron, Love, Thompson, Williams
Lineup D – LeBron, Jefferson, Love, Mozgov, Williams
Lineup E – Delly, LeBron, Jefferson, Love, Thompson

There are some other stats that shows how well this lineup works together. Out of the five lineups, this is the best rebounding lineup. They out rebound the opposing team by a ratio of 2:1, including grabbing almost 45% of the offensive rebounds.

Everyone is fascinated with the pace at which the Golden State Warriors play at. When the Cavs are playing this lineup, they are playing just as fast as Golden State is. They average 1.5 less possessions than Golden State, an incredible pace. The Warriors may be good offensively, but they are poor defensively. The Cavs give up 17 less points per possession defensively than the Warriors.

When the Cavs are in this lineup, the opposing team is shooting only 34.3% and they also force their opponents to turn the ball over 20 times every 100 possessions. That is just INSANE.

Where does all of the credit go in this lineup? It is a complete team effort.

Delly has greatly improved his offense this season and continues to pester other players while on defense. LeBron is LeBron. He is the ultimate all-around player. Love has been more involved in the offense this season and the Cavs have benefited greatly from it.

One of the biggest reasons this lineup succeeds is Tristan. He is a monster on the glass and has the arm-length to effect shots at the rim. Mo has been a great welcome to the Cavs this season. The offense just seems to flow while he is in the game. Not only can he pass the ball well, but he can create his own shot.

It will be interesting to see how the lineups are when Kyrie and Shumpert return. When they return, be sure to check back here for a comparison on how the lineups perform. Maybe this lineup will continue to perform at a high level even after they return.

The Cavs Bench Is Vastly Improved

One of the biggest flaws in the Cleveland Cavaliers team that went to the NBA Finals last season was the poor bench play.

It was easy to see the bench was missing a legitimate scoring threat other than the streaky J.R. Smith. By the end of the Finals, both Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson were starting due to injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Shawn Marion was a poor shooter and had little left in the tank. Mike Miller and James Jones could not hit a shot. It ultimately led to the demise of the Cavs against the Golden State Warriors.

This offseason, the Cavs reloaded their bench after trading away Miller and Marion deciding to retire. To fill those replacements, the Cavs signed Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson.

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
Mo Williams had a season-high 29 points against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.

I was elated when the Cavs signed Williams for multiple reasons. First off, I know Mo wanted to win a championship here in Cleveland the first time he was here. It was why he was so hurt when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. He wanted to win here.

The Cavs decided to trade Williams to start their rebuilding process after James had left. In that trade, the Cavs netted Baron Davis, whom they amnestied, and a first round pick in which the Cavs used to take Kyrie Irving.

Mo Williams had a season-high 29 points against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. Mo wanted to win here in Cleveland and this past offseason he got another chance. He signed a two-year contract with the Cavs and is already paying dividends.

He has been starting in place of the player he was essentially traded for in the first place, Kyrie. When Kyrie does come back, Mo will move back to coming off the bench and that gets me excited.

Through the first eight games, the 32-year-old point guard is averaging 14.7 PPG and 5.4 APG. He has had three 20-point games, including 29 points against the Utah Jazz last night. He provides consistent outside shooting off the bench, something the Cavs really needed last season.

Richard JeffersonWhen Richard Jefferson joined this team, I am willing to bet that he did not expect to be contributing as much as he is now. He was forced into this roll with Iman Shumpert being hurt and he is excelling at his role.

Jefferson is in his 15th season in the NBA and is with his fifth team in the past five years.  He signed a one-year deal with the Cavs at the league minimum this offseason. In the preseason, you could already tell that Jefferson would turn out to be a better fit with this Cavs team than Marion.

Jefferson has been a starter for a couple games but mainly being the guy that gives LeBron the rest he needs and is producing in that spot. He is averaging just under 10 points per game this season and is also hitting the outside shot. He will absolutely be a key player off the bench this season for the Cavs and will be what Marion was supposed to be last season.

Tristan Thompson is being Tristan Thompson. He is giving this Cavs team a near double-double off the bench, which is insane. But for $82 million, he better be doing something extraordinary like that.

It has been great to see the return of Anderson Varejao. I just hope he can stay healthy through the 82-game schedule and a long post-season run. His minutes seem to be being managed very closely and that will be important in the long run to stay healthy for the entire season.

Will we see Sasha Kaun play much this season? I highly doubt it unless someone gets hurt.

To me the biggest surprise has been the improvement of Dellavedova. I no longer cringe every time I see Delly take a shot. He has worked on his game tremendously during the offseason. The biggest question with Delly is where does he fit in when Kyrie and Shumpert return from injuries?

It is a good problem to have when everyone does get healthy. Coach David Blatt will have to find a way to manage the five guard rotation of Irving, Williams, Delly, Smith and Shumpert.

Jared Cunningham has been a nice addition to the Cavs team early this season. However, he and Joe Harris will find themselves on the outside looking in when Kyrie and Shumpert return from injury.

The Cavs’ backcourt is easily the deepest in the entire NBA and the depth in the front court is solid. The Cavs bench has been greatly improved from last season to this season. Hopefully this year, it will turn into what Cleveland has been wanting since 1964, a championship.

Kevin Love emerging early in the season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outlook

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

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

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

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

Quick thoughts:

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

Brendan Haywood Trade Sets Up Potential Cavs Moves

The Cavs finally made their move that will be the catalyst for moves both in the near and not so near future.

On Sunday, the Cavs traded Brendan Haywood(‘s contract), Mike Miller, and two future second round picks to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Cavs got cash in return.

But that’s not all the Cavs were able to get out of this trade. They also got tax relief and two TPE’s (traded player exceptions) worth $10.5 million and $2.94 million via Haywood and Miller, respectively.

All three things are different kinds of assets for the Cavs to use.

Cash is always a cool thing to receive in a deal, even though it’s just a throwaway term in situations like this.

The Cavs won’t get “cap relief” so much as they will get “tax relief.” This trade doesn’t bring the Cavs under the salary cap, which is okay because that wasn’t a goal at all this offseason. In fact, it was the goal of the Cavs to pretty much ignore the cap and focus more on the luxury tax, which is a secondary reason why this trade was constructed the way it was.

The more a team pays over the luxury tax line, the more said tax is. Getting rid of Haywood’s $10 million unguaranteed contract and Miller’s almost $3 million contract lowers the amount the Cavs are over the tax line.

As we saw less than 24 hours later, this trade is what could have been partially responsible for holding up deals with the Cavs’ own players.

This is probably the only deal out of the three – along with Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith – that wasn’t done up to that point solely because Haywood was still a Cav. In hindsight, it’s pretty clear no contender, or any team, was going to offer Delly something close to the Mid-Level Exception. The Cavs were seemingly waiting for the tax numbers that went along with Delly’s contract to be lowered via unloading Haywood.

And for what it’s worth the holdup with Tristan and J.R. seem to be different circumstances.

With Tristan, it looks as though it’s prolonged posturing. Thompson reportedly turned down four years worth $52 million dollars during the season. There’s little doubt he’ll be looking for more. From a Cavs standpoint, they may just be seeing how long this thing can go without having to offer him close to or actual max money.

In J.R.’s case, it’s more posturing, but the Cavs certainly have the upper hand. He turned down a player option worth $4.6 million and probably would have signed with another team already if he could have.

When it comes to re-signing with the Cavs, he may not necessarily be asking for more money, but rather for more years. J.R.’s been open about his desire is to stay in Cleveland, and I don’t think that’s B.S. He played comfortably here and has the backing of the best player of this generation in LeBron James. It makes sense for him to want to be here for an extended period.

On the other side of the coin, the Cavs would probably prefer something like a two-year deal with a club option. While Smith delivered as desired in the regular season, he showed too many instances in the playoffs of why he’s been shipped multiple times in his career.

Back to the Haywood trade…

The primary reason this trade was done was for the Cavs to get the TPE(s). The Mike Miller TPE was just the cherry on top.

Miller, who turned 35 in February, was a contributor in his lone season in a Cavs uniform. However, it was mostly in the form of being a great teammate and locker room guy. Unfortunately, he was unable to provide the level of sharpshooting ability he’s showed throughout his career, and even as late as a couple years ago in Memphis.

Then there’s the Cavs’ huge TPE. It’s so big that it’s the largest active trade exception in the NBA.

What these traded player exceptions allow the Cavs to do is to make deals without having to match up salaries with their trade partner. Normally, a team would have to be under the cap – before and after the trade – to receive more incoming salary. This is why Portland was one of two teams, the other being the Philadelphia 76ers, to take on Haywood (and Miller) without having to give up anyone. Both teams are well under the cap.

Say the Cavs wanted to trade for a player with a ~$9 million contract and just want to send picks to the other team. The Cavs are allowed to use their $10.5 million TPE to absorb this player. Whereas if they didn’t have this exception, they would have to at least closely match the outgoing and incoming salaries.

Side note: you cannot combine traded player exceptions. The Cavs cannot acquire a player making $12 million this year and use both exceptions on him. They have to be used on separate players.

It is possible the Cavs never use either TPE, but of course it’s useful to have. The other option was flat out cutting Haywood, since the Cavs couldn’t find any other available players to attain for him.

Haywood-Weapon

While it would’ve been nice to acquire a player like Wilson Chandler (before his extension) for Haywood, there is a potential financial advantage to acquiring a TPE rather than a player right now.

Again, trading Haywood straight up for another contract, the Cavs would’ve been forced to match up the salaries, enabling virtually no tax relief.

Of course trading Haywood for nothing gives the Cavs much tax relief now, but could also do so later on. With this humungous TPE, the Cavs aren’t forced to get a player worth $10.5 million. They could be forced to look for bench help and find a player they like making $5-$8 million. They couldn’t fit him into the TPE gained from Miller, but he would be allowed to fit into the Haywood TPE.

After that, the Cavs would still have the difference of the TPE and that player’s salary for this year leftover.

Who they will actually look to acquire has yet to be determined. Like all things, this picture will look clearer as we progress into the year.

Before last season, David Griffin was able to pull off multiple trades, which led to the Cavs acquiring a $5.28 million TPE for trading Keith Bogans. This allowed the Cavs to absorb the contract of Timofey Mozgov.

Preceding this move was the acquisition of Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. The former’s contract was taken on using Anderson Varejao’s disabled player exception.

Sure, Varejao’s exception wasn’t a TPE, but the principle is the same. These are assets for the Cavs that are good to have just in case. And for teams over the cap, and especially over the tax line, this is a good thing to have in their back pocket.

The Cavs already brought on new players in the form of Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson. So the hope might just be that they don’t have to use either TPE. But the point is, they are there if they need them.