Tag Archives: Miami Heat

The Indiana Pacers and Crunch Time Failure

The Indiana Pacers have made progress this season, one could say significant progress from this time a year ago. One area where they are struggling this season, however, is coming out on top in close games. Indiana hasn’t won a game decided by three points or less since early November…that’s over two months and 29 games ago. In that same span, they have lost four such games – three of those coming in the last two weeks. One benchmark of good NBA teams is typically a good record in close games.

The theory here is that there are a lot of closely contested battles in professional basketball, and those teams with the most experience, heart and will to win tend to make plays in “crunch time” and find a way to win these nail-biters. The Pacers are not doing this so far in 2015-16, and it has been a particular thorn in their side recently. Indiana lost a game at home to Sacramento on December 23 (108-106) after leading very late.

A week later, Chicago continued the trend, holding the Pacers off 102-100 at the United Center…and earlier this week, the Pacers blew yet another late advantage, eventually falling to the Miami Heat 103-100. The specific reasons for these failures have varied. One game it was failing to make an offensive play as time expired. In another, it was failing to get a defensive stop as time expired…and poor fourth quarter free throw shooting was the culprit in yet another of these close defeats.

The thing that ties all this together is mental toughness, which is why true upper-tier teams come up with that key rebound, make that key steal or hit that game-winning shot more often than not. The Pacers still have a chance to get there, but their recent failure in these situations just further proves that despite heading in the right direction, Indiana is not displaying the qualities of a contending team at this juncture. It should be mentioned that coaching plays a role in this as well.

The Pacers have relied heavily on forward Paul George in these end-of-game situations, and that approach has been too predictable. A bit more creativity from head coach Frank Vogel would give his club a better chance to make plays late in games…”give Paul the ball and everybody else get out of the way” is not the work of a master strategist. Another interesting area of strength/weakness for the Blue and Gold has been the amount of rest between games.

On two or three days rest, the team has a .778 winning percentage so far this year. However, when they have to play back-to-back games, they’ve only won at a .286 clip after not having time off between contests. With the Pacers going to a more uptempo offense this season, those results are predictable…it takes a lot of energy to play fast on offense and also defend well on the other end of the court, so Indiana is finding it tough to keep up the pace if they haven’t had time to recover between games.

To a degree, players can try to push through that fatigue, but the Pacers have a deep roster, so a coaching adjustment should help. When Indiana has a back-to-back coming up, coach Vogel would be wise to use his bench more liberally in the first of those ballgames – the winning percentage in the second of those contests would likely increase. NBA basketball is a game of constant adjustments, both within games and during the course of a long 82-game season.

For the Indiana Pacers to move up a notch (or two) in the Eastern Conference, improvement in the areas discussed here – late-game strategy, execution and desire, as well as more adept management of players’ minutes – would go a long way toward that goal.

Stan Van Gundy: Chugging Through Doubt

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Everyone has heard this phrase or experienced it in life. You see something at a thrift store, clearance pile, garage sale or even from the literal trash and think, “ I can use that.”

The sports version of this is the favorite of fans. When a player from a small school, NBDL, the end of another team’s bench or Europe rises up fans flock. See Linsanity. What about the coaching version of this? Why don’t we celebrate this? Why no Stottsmania or Whittsanity? I feel this is a good time to celebrate one coach rising out of the coaching rubble to lead a new team despite doubt and questions from the outside. This one’s for you Stan Van Gundy.

A very brief history. Stan Van Gundy came into the NBA through the Miami Heat system. Pat Riley was president and hired SVG in 2003 to run a team that featured a rookie sensation from Marquette…Dwyane Wade. A team Pat stepped away from abruptly. The next year Pat Riley wanted to win another title and relieved Stan of his duties after taking the Heat to the Eastern Conference second round and adding Shaq in the offseason.

Two years later the Orlando Magic hired Stan to lead their team or more importantly their star player Dwight Howard. His teams experienced great success with 5 playoff appearances and one Finals appearance in 5 years. Despite the success Stan was fired amidst rumors that Dwight Howard wanted a different coach leading the team. We know Dwight didn’t stay, the Magic have been terrible ever since and Stan stepped into the background.

Then the Pistons came calling in 2014. They needed a coach to lead and a President of Basketball of Operations to get the team back on track. They hired Van Gundy for both. This is his opportunity to lead a team without a President waiting to take over, a star player putting a power play on ownership or another factor getting in the way of what SVG does best…coach. The roster moves Stan Van Gundy pulled off this offseason seem to be working. Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum lowlight the players gone and Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova are the building blocks of the new Motown Pistons.

This team seems to represent all Stan Van Gundy has been working for since his Miami days. A big man working the post and 4 shooters ready around him. Andre Drummond is a true star in the making. A team that can win in the regular season with Reggie Jackson shooting and penetrating, but can slow it down and pound it inside when the playoffs come around. This season and this team also show Stan’s patience and silence prove his decisions and attitudes correct. Shaq could have been the most dominating player in NBA history IF he had put the work in off the court. The work Van Gundy would have pushed and Shaq would have pushed back to the point that Van Gundy was pushed out. Dwight, just like his idol, did not like Van Gundy’s pushing and also pushed Stan out.

Now Stan is the only one pushing. He is the judge, juror and executioner of the Pistons roster and philosophies. This feels like a moment most would respond with a middle finger, a nasty letter or a big, fat “I told you so” for the two franchises that previously scorned you. Stan just stands on the sidelines with his golf shirt, sport coat and arms crossed…coaching a team he can be proud of. He is just doing what he has wanted to do since 2003.

The NBA’s Usual Suspects

The sun coming up and going down, the moon taking the sun’s place, getting old, having a crush, embarrassing yourself in school, standing in line, the weatherman being wrong, the weatherman being right,eating too much at Thanksgiving, my daughter getting her way and taxes. All things we know we can count on.

The NBA season has ups and downs, twists and turns, surprises and disappointments. It is the ultimate reality show,but it also has things you can count on day in day out, game in, game out. Here are some of those guarantees:

-The Spurs will be in title contention and no one will favor them to win it.

-Dwight Howard is overrated. Houston is not looking like the Western Conference finals team of last year and Howard not competing or responding  to adversity is apart of this…again. The Lakers know this.

-Defense wins championships. Teams want to play faster and score more but the teams that grind together win together.

-The East is top heavy and the West is deep. Cleveland, Toronto and Chicago are the top three teams in the East….Toronto is #2…enough said.

-Kobe Bryant will shoot

-Stan Van Gundy will prove he is a great coach. Ask the Orlando Magic.

-Dallas will be in contention for the playoffs despite never landing a star in free agency. Deandre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Deron Williams (the first time), Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, Chris Paul and Lamarcus Aldridge all met with Cuban and passed.

-Rick Carlisle will prove he is a great coach

-Lebron is still the premier player in the league. Sorry Brow, Durant and Steph. He is just getting worked into shape for the postseason

-A young Eastern Conference team will make the playoffs, give their fan base hope and then crash and burn. See the 2015 Brooklyn Nets, 2014 Charlotte Bobcats, 2013 New York Knicks and 2012 Orlando Magic.

-A team will fire a coach mid season despite the team being awful. I would guess George Karl or Randy Wittman are the number 1 candidates

-Alternative jerseys will be hit or miss. SLEEVED jerseys? C’mon Adidas. Nike should get the contract for NBA jerseys just for that reason alone

-Carmelo Anthony will learn what Lebron learned when he made the Decision. A team compiles trophies and an individual compiles numbers

-Seattle will be sad during basketball season

-A team with great promise will let us down. The Big 3 Heat, The Big 3 Celtics and The Shaq/Kobe/Malone/Payton Lakers are examples. The 2015 Clippers or Miami Heat seem to be on that track

-Coaches will deadpan answer mid-game interviews in hope the NBA doesn’t require it. The NBA will respond by not responding 

-Shoes will get uglier and more expensive

-Players will get more athletic-The Brow, Karl Anthony-Towns and Andre Drummond are leading this charge

-Injuries will derail teams. Golden State losing Klay Thompson broke an historic winning streak. 

-Teams pacing themselves will be strong at the right times. Cleveland and San Antonio seem to have the right idea thus far.

-The Sixers will…you know there are some things you just don’t try to understand.

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.

Comparing Miami to Cleveland is Apples to Oranges

Narratives are the new thing. People push them along and others make fun of their existence. The obvious narrative coming out of South Beach after LeBron James made his decision to re-join the Cleveland Cavaliers public was that he did not like playing for a franchise where he was held accountable. The narrative about James in Cleveland is that he runs the show. He plays the role of star player, coach, GM and team president.

In Miami, it is said that Pat Riley runs a tight ship. His posse was in for a big surprise when upon signing there in 2010, they were not given the best seats in the arena. Team planes did not leave when LeBron James wanted them to. Erik Spoelstra was given a vote of confidence and it was abundantly clear that Riley would not fire him to keep LeBron James happy.

The-Great-NBA-Coach-Pat-Riley-Net-WorthThis was quite different from life in Cleveland. There are reports that team flights were delayed so James and his friends could spend time in desirable cities. His friends sat in great seats. Mike Brown was fired (before being fired and rehired and fired again) in an attempt to have James play for the franchise.

It is told that LeBron James left Miami so he could have rampant control. He was tired of Pay Riley telling him no and to “get a grip.” He won his titles, so it was time to go home, make a lot of people happy and control things from top-to-bottom.

At least, that’s the narrative that Heat fans tell themselves so they can sleep better at night.

It’s a nice little story and I would probably buy it if I were a Miami fan. There is also probably some truth to it, but this narrative ignores one major truth: LeBron James was under contract with the Heat for four years and he left at literally his first opportunity to do so.

It is a lot easier for a team to tell a player how it is when they have him under contract for four years.

The Cavs do not have that luxury. LeBron James has set up his contract where he can leave after one year if he is so inclined. There are many reasons for why it is set up this way and control of the franchise is one of them. Having said that, it is likely pretty low on the list. The biggest purpose for this is the new TV deal that will be in effect in the 2016-2017 season. It is reportedly worth $24 billion and will have an astronomical effect on the salary cap and max contract amounts.

LeBron James is going to opt out of his contract and sign a new one under the new terms. That doesn’t mean that the threat of him leaving isn’t there. The Cavs absolutely need to keep their star player happy. They should put their foot down when they can. David Griffin did so as much on Sunday when he called the “narrative” surrounding David Blatt “ridiculous.” However, comparing the way Pat Riley handled having a superstar of LeBron’s stature to Cleveland’s is like comparing apples and oranges. It simply is not fair to criticize Cleveland’s handling of LeBron James when they have seen what life in a post-LeBron James world is like. Comparing how one team treats their star player who is under contract for four years to one that has him for one year seems like an obviously bad comparison. Then again, people love to lionize Pat Riley and make him out to be this mythical figure that can do things that mere mortals can only dream of.

It’s probably time for people pushing this narrative to get a grip.

Around the Association: Merry Christmas

First off before I release any rankings, I would like to say to all of those reading to have a joyous Christmas with their families. It’s a special time for me and I want to share the Christmas spirit with you all and I hope you enjoy your Christmas traditions, new and old, and celebrate a great day with everyone. Merry Christmas!

NBA Christmas Gifts

The 2015 Ford F-150: Golden State Warriors (22-3)

Ford

The Warriors are the shiny and sexy new team in the NBA and continue to have success without the defensive presence of big man Andrew Bogut. The Warriors have topped out at number one each week of the NBA season and don’t seem to be pressing the brakes out of the top spot anytime soon. Sure, the Grizz loss was valid, but not enough to drop the Dubs from #1. The bench has plenty of horsepower headlined by rising star Draymond Green and other key component Marreese Speights, but these two can only give so much as others seem to sputter.

 

Microsoft’s Xbox One: Portland Trail Blazers (22-6)

Xbox
Yes, the Xbox One was 2013’s big gift and both the Xbox and the Portland Trail Blazers were just scratching the surface of potential. With new upgrades and game styles, both find themselves in great positions this time around Christmas again. The Blazers had an awesome start in 2013, but this season may trump last season’s early success, as they could arguably be considered the second best team in the Western Conference. The Blazers are known for their high scoring offense, but the defense has been phenomenal ranking third in defense just behind Golden State and Houston.

 

Stocking Stuffers: Phoenix Suns (15-14), New Orleans Pelicans (14-13), and Miami Heat (13-15).

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 3.40.36 PM
All three teams are around a .500 record and all three are capable enough to give a few smiles when being pulled out of your stocking on Christmas morning. Phoenix has young talent and continues to develop, but the Western Conference will not get any easier as they still continue to struggle. Fortunately, the Suns grabbed Charlotte and New York out of the East before Christmas. New Orleans is attractive and won’t be the gift that gets put in the corner Christmas afternoon. New Orleans has a strong point with also young talent and a superstar in the making. This stocking stuffer could be valuable in a few months. Miami has potential and are still attractive even without LeBron James. I mean they only have three less losses than the Cavs right now. So, there’s that.

 

The Gift Card to the Local Bar: San Antonio Spurs (17-11)

beer

Even though it’s nothing special, but just something an in-law could grab quickly due to frantically rushing through gift shopping the day before the family gathering, it’s still effective and comes into play at the right time. The Spurs haven’t been anything special in 2014 with some great wins, but also some weird losses. The Spurs have suffered four overtime losses in the past month, but like that gift card or drink, the Spurs will come in the clutch when it matters most.

 

Clothes… (from a kids’ point of view): Boston Celtics (10-15)

kid

They are never the gifts wrapped in the Toy Story, Cars, or Barbie wrapping paper (if they were, your parents were just cruel), but just a white box in the plaid paper. The clothes are never the highlight of Christmas morning, but are appreciated later in the year. The Celtics dealt Rajon Rondo to Dallas for a great trio of players: the much-improved Brandan Wright, the veteran point guard Jameer Nelson, and the young effective power forward Jae Crowder. No matter how much you hate the gift of new blue jeans and a polo top, they are always around and come in handy, whether you want to admit or not. The Celtics are a legitimate playoff contender in the East, and so am I! 😉

 

The One I am Going to Leave Behind: New York Knicks (5-25)

Ugly-Christmas-Sweater-6th
The gift of giving is great and all, but just some cash will do sometimes instead of giving out a Christmas sweater, socks, or chocolates. New York is the one gift you want to forget you ever got. New York leads the league in losses at 25 and they are 4-16 in games decided by single digits. It might be the time to take the gift back (hopefully you have the receipt) and get some in-store credit to gain a high draft pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Jalil Okafor would look mighty sweet right now in orange and blue.

NBA: Around the Association

Curry #2

Player Breakdowns

All-Star Synopsis:
Stephen Curry, Warriors

The rumors are true. We really could be embarking on America’s next big time super star. Stephen Curry has improved his game from all aspects including on the defensive side of the court. Curry has wowed us in year’s past, but this season could be even more special for the young upcoming poster boy of the NBA. Yes, we’re only a couple of weeks into the NBA season, so I will not try to overreact too much but here is Curry’s 2014 stat line: 27.7 ppg, 7.2 apg, 6.3 rpg, and 3.5 spg. Curry is also shooting at a high percentage from the field at 49% and just under 41% behind the arc.

Curry’s biggest improvement has come on defense in which he averages 3.5 steals per game. Curry has shown elite defense versus some of the league’s best including Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Goran Dragic, and Eric Bledsoe. His defense has grabbed the attention of those who cover the sport and Curry has some big plans for himself:

Curry Tweet

Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
The Knicks are struggling out of the gate and their all-star forward cannot seem to find any rhythm. Carmelo Anthony has been no stranger to bad shots and low shooting percentages, but he always seems to get around the terror and be productive. This season is a little different. The Knicks new triangle offense does not center around the seven time all-star, yet is “supposed” to find the best scoring options based off pick and rolls and passing the basketball. Both of these new styles to the Knicks may have Carmelo in a rut. Melo pointed out the team struggles in an interview with the New York Post, “We can’t move forward until we get the basics down,’’ Anthony said. “Some nights we have it down, some nights we don’t. It’s going to be a little bit inconsistent until we get the foundation of the system down and we can add things we have to add on” (full article here).

Melo Tweet

It’s safe to say that Carmelo has to get comfortable with this new offense and that is expected. What is not expected is Melo’s awful shooting percentage and not draining open shots. Melo has had a horrible four game stretch, which could possibly be his worst stretch in his twelve now thirteen year career.

Melo Tweet #2

Rookie Rundown:
Elfrid Payton, Magic

Rookie Elfrid Payton did not have much waiting time to begin his rookie season with the offseason departure of Magic great Jameer Nelson and the injury to Victor Oladipo. Payton leads all rookies in assists per game, but still has yet to find his stroke on offense shooting just 37%. Payton’s ugly percentage is no surprise. The rookie point guard, though, continues to control the tempo of the offense and is heavy in the passing end and is constantly contributing on defense, which is a luxury for NBA rookies. Payton recorded seven, seven, nine, and seven assists in his first four games as a pro while also averaging 1.5 steals per contest.

KJ McDaniels. 76ers
KJ McDaniels flew completely under the radar in the 2014 NBA Draft falling to the 76ers in the second round (32nd pick). McDaniels could be a future gem for Philadelphia who has flirted with potential young stars, but none have reached the star power one could hope for. McDaniels has wowed followers with his ability to shoot threes with a high percentage (31.3 3P% career at Clemson). McDaniels’ ability to score and block shots as a wing makes him an asset to this degrading Sixers squad.

It’s a little shocking McDaniels has yet to break the starting lineup, but I expect the change to be made in the near future as McDaniels is the best wing defender and overall best wing player the Sixers have on its underdeveloped roster.

Flying Under the Radar:
Dwyane Wade, Heat

The moment LeBron packed his bags to head back to Cleveland the Heat have gone extinct, well, at least from a media perspective. The Heat (5-2) quietly put together a nice first season stretch with wins over Toronto, Washington, and Dallas. In those games Dwyane Wade has been on a tear playing his best basketball since maybe even before LeBron showed up. Wade has showcased what the ten time all-star is capable of when healthy. Wade on the season averages 19.7 ppg with 6.9 apg and 3.4 rpg. Wade is shooting 50.9% from the field and an even 40% from three point range (29 3P% in career). Wade’s impressive performance against Minnesota on Saturday displayed the much-improved shooter and also passer (25 points & eight assists).

He’s also breaking records:Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 5.57.04 PM

Kyle Korver, Hawks
Kyle Korver owned the Knicks Saturday night in Atlanta on every angle of the court. Korver scored a season-high 27 points (6-9 3P) and also had three blocks. Korver’s stock market indicator is soaring with three 20 point games to start the season. Korver struggled with an illness this past week, but still managed to score a combined 47 points in that stretch knocking down a combined ten three-pointers (61.3 3P% on the season!).


Team Outlooks

Top Dog:

Stephen Curry on his team and new coach a few days before the first game of the season:

http://youtu.be/ioRCDUeYHfA

Golden State Warriors
New head coach Steve Kerr has this team playing at a high level despite the turnover issues. Stephen Curry has been lights out and Draymond Green has been the man of the hour filling in for the injured David Lee. We know the scoring ability for the Warriors is top notch, but the defense is what has this team buzzing as the Warriors rank first in the league in defensive efficiency. The Warriors proved to be the elite power this past week with wins over Houston, Portland, and Los Angeles (Clippers), even though falling to the Suns Sunday night 107-95.

Gaining Some Buzz:
Sacramento Kings
DeMarcus Cousins may have finally busted the seams as he playing the best basketball of his young career. The Team USA tag team of Cousins and Rudy Gay are playing smart basketball with more focus and the whole team is buying in as Carl Landry says here: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:11839760

The Pits: 
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are and will be the laughing stock of the entire 2014-15 NBA season. Sure, Kobe is one of the league’s biggest point getters, but the offense is insufficient and so is the defense. To be honest, the Lakers were at its best when Jeremy Lin was running the offense this past week. Yeah, that ain’t good.

Kyrie Irving Showed What He Can Do With Talent Around Him

No James, no Durant, no Love, no George, no Griffin, no problem. Cleveland Cavalier Kyrie Irving helped lead team USA to a gold medal victory in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in a 129-93 thrashing over Serbia. Irving had a game high 26 points along with going 6/6 from three. This performance, along with others, helped earn him the tournament MVP. Not bad for a point guard that isn’t a winner, eh?

This was the first real chance we all got to see Kyrie lead the floor with competent players everywhere he looked – much like he’ll finally be able to do this year. Being awarded the MVP, averaging 12 points, 3.6 assists and 2 steals a game while shooting 14/23 (61%) behind the arc shows that he wasn’t just a guy on the team. He was THE guy on Team USA. This says a lot about his talent since he was surrounded by the likes of Stephen Curry, James Harden (kinda), Anthony Davis, and Klay Thompson.

Over the last three years, Irving has had the pleasure to play many minutes with guys like Alonzo Gee, Omri Casspi, a 35-year-old Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, Earl Clark, and *gulp*… Andrew Bynum. Arguably the best teammate with him the last few years has been Anderson Varejao, but he’s only played 115 out of a possible 230 games during that stretch – including the lockout shortened season in 2011-12. And Kyrie and his drafted-to-be partner in crime Dion Waiters have had trouble meshing together on the court. With all these struggles and the lack of talent, the Cavs have gone 78-152 (34% winning percentage). But because he was the number one draft pick in 2011 and was/is expected to be the next big thing, the losses have all been unfairly placed on his shoulders.

Don’t get me wrong, Kyrie has definitely committed his fair share of mistakes and he does deserve some of the blame for all the losing that’s been going on recently. But what else would you expect from a 19-year-old coming out of college with only 11 games to his Duke career? In hindsight, you would’ve probably wanted him to go through all those growing pains back then rather than right now with championship aspirations.

Unlike on Team USA, Kyrie won’t be (arguably) the best player or leader on the team. Both of those distinctions will go to LeBron James. And in terms of talent and not pure total statistics after the season is all said and done, Kyrie still probably isn’t even the next best player on the Cavs; that would go to Kevin Love. Love’s role in previous years may be reduced, but in terms of raw talent, I would think Love has the edge right now. This isn’t a knock on Kyrie either. He’ll likely have his best season of his young career, if the FIBA World Cup showed any indication.

As for Kyrie’s role on this year’s team, I expect it to change a good amount, but I don’t think his usage will decrease all that much. He’s still going to be the one bringing the ball up the court for the most part. And with all the floor spacing and defender-demanding his teammates bring to the table, this should open up more shots for Irving.

With starters like LeBron, Love, Dion (hopefully) and bench players like Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, and James Jones, Kyrie should have plenty of room to either pull up and shoot from deep or drive the lane. The former is what I think we’ll see a lot more of, considering how consistent his shot has been throughout his career, even extending to as far back as his days at Duke to as recently as his play with Team USA.

(Nice stat from David Zavac at Fear The Sword.)

His 3PT% did take a hit last year at 35.8%, but he’s still shooting a sweet 37.8% for his career. And not to just completely ignore last year’s numbers, but last year was one for the ages, in a bad way.

But let’s go back to Kyrie’s usage. In his three seasons in the NBA, his usage percentage has been at 28.7, 30.2, and 28.2, respectively. To see how much of an affect bringing in LeBron and Love will have on his future usage, I look at the Miami Heat’s “Big 3” usages individually. In this scenario, LeBron is obviously LeBron, Kyrie is Dwyane Wade, and Love is Chris Bosh. The Cavs 3 won’t have the exact same roles as the Miami 3, but their usages should be similar since they’re all high-caliber players. LeBron’s usage should stay about the same as it has for most of his career. From 2005 up to now he’s always hovered between 30.2 (2012-13) and 33.5 (2007-08).

As for Love, the past three years he’s had usages of 28.8, 28.9, and 28.8 – very consistent. When Bosh left Toronto, he did so with a 28.7 usage in his final year. In his first year with Miami, that dipped to 23.5. Overall in Miami, his average usage was 23.2, a big difference from his 28.7 in his last year with the Raptors.

This brings us to Kyrie. In Wade’s four years with Miami previous to LeBron signing, his average usage percentage was 34.9. In his four years with LeBron? 30.2, 1.2 off of Kyrie’s career usage. Looking at this data, I don’t see why there’s any reason for Kyrie’s involvement in the offense to significantly go down despite being the third best player on the floor with the starters.

With Kyrie getting so many minutes with LeBron and Love, I expect his game to improve immensely. This should be the best year of his career, especially as it pertains to his percentages. His role may change a bit, he’ll actually have a ton of competent options to pass to and he won’t be called upon as much in crunch time. But he won’t be buried just because he’s playing with two other superstars. The talented free agents/acquisitions brought in for this year should skyrocket his play, just like it did with Team USA.

Waiting on Ray Allen

Ray Allen, formerly of the Boston Celtics and more recently the Miami Heat, has yet to make a decision on whether or not he’ll continue his professional basketball career. It’s commonly thought that if he does choose to play this upcoming season, it’ll be with the Cleveland Cavaliers and his former Heat teammates LeBron James, Mike Miller, and “James Johnson… James…. J.J.” aka James Jones.

It’s also been reported that Allen could sign with the Spurs or rejoin his former coach with the Celtics, Doc Rivers, and go to L.A. to play with the Clippers. Allen’s been a hot commodity for Cavs fans ever since signing LeBron James became a “legit” possibility.

Since then, the Cavs have gone on to trade Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev, Tyler Zeller, Carrick Felix, and Andrew Wiggins for cap space, the right to some players that will never play for the Cavs, John Lucas III, Erik Murphy, Malcolm Thomas, and Kevin Love. They have also signed sign LeBron, Miller, Jones, and Shawn Marion. This is a much different team even as far back as only 2 months ago since the Allen rumors started. That the interest in him is still relatively high tells you how much this team values its shooting and how positively viewed Ray Allen is, even at the age of 39.

However, I’m not too high on signing Ray Allen for a couple reasons – one of which is not basketball related, which is okay since I’m a fan. There are also obvious positives I see that come from signing Allen that I will look at too.

Negatives to Ray Allen

Let me start with the most trivial reason that doesn’t affect the basketball court at all and just rubs my fanhood the wrong way.

From 2007-2010 the Boston Celtics were one of the Cavs’ biggest rivals, both Championship contenders. Cavs fans hated “The Big 3” consisted of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Allen with a passion, but some, like me, respected them. I loved how these old guys were acquired and won a championship together just before their respective careers flamed out.

After their fifth year together, Ray Allen decided to end things, declining a 2-year, $12 million dollar deal from the Celtics to sign a 3-year deal with the Heat for the veteran minimum. There’s signing with a championship contender as an aging veteran to win the ring you never won, and then there’s leaving your teammates high and dry. I feel like Allen did the latter, bolting to Miami for a ring he already had instead of showing loyalty to the Celtics, especially Pierce and Garnett.

I know I live in a fantasy world where I love athletes actually showing loyalty instead of “ring-chasing,” but what Allen did rubs me the wrong way, irrational or not. Not to mention Allen joined the team that Celtics were foes with, who two years in a row they failed to beat in the Eastern Conference playoffs. For this reason, I wouldn’t be surprised if Allen went to the Spurs, even though most think he’ll play with the Cavs, should he stay unretired.


After all the offseason moves the Cavs made, the roster looks a lot different since the beginning of the Ray Allen rumors. Here’s the current look of the roster:

PG: Kyrie Irving, Matthew Dellavedova, John Lucas II

SG: Dion Waiters, Mike Miller, Joe Harris

SF: LeBron James, Shawn Marion, James Jones

PF: Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Malcolm Thomas, Dwight Powell, Erik Murphy

C: Anderson Varejao, Brendan Haywood, Alex Kirk

As you can see, the Cavs are loaded with every position at least 3 players deep. However, you can factor in that at least two of the three players the Cavs got from Utah in the Felix deal could be traded for rim protection. Also, Kirk, Powell, and most relevant for this situation, Harris will almost certainly spend time with the Canton Charge this season. So what could the roster look like at the start of the season should Allen be signed?

PG: Kyrie Irving, Matthew Dellavedova,

SG: Dion Waiters, Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Joe Harris

SF: LeBron James, Shawn Marion, James Jones

PF: Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson

C: Timofey Mozgov, Brendan Haywood, Alex Kirk

In this scenario the Cavs acquire Mozgov for the non-guaranteed contracts Lucas III, Murphy, and Thomas. Alex Kirk and Joe Harris would be the nightly inactives and getting Mozgov would enable Varejao to play more power forward.

These moves also mean Matthew Dellavedova is basically the only reliable option behind Kyrie to handle the ball. At the same time, this probably means a playing time decrease for Delly with Ray Allen now needing minutes. This could increase the amount of time Dion Waiters comes up the floor with the ball, not ideal. With the stacked amount of shooting guards, it would force the Cavs to limit the amount of time they’d be able to throw Delly out there and control the floor. This isn’t a deal-breaker in signing Ray Allen, it’s just something to look out for should a deal consummate.

Positives to Ray Allen

He’s arguably the greatest shooter in the history of the game. Even as he’s about to enter his 40’s next year, he’s shown he can still shoot at a respectable clip. He’s a 40% career 3-pt shooter, shooting 37.5% with the Heat last year. He’s also shot 40% in from deep in the playoffs for his career, 38.8% last year. He’s taken and made the most 3’s in NBA history (7429, 2973). All this and you can still see stories of him being the first to show up and take jumpers in that respective night’s gymnasium.

The man is shooting while the Knicks’ dance crew is practicing… There’s no one else in the stands.

He doesn’t offer much, if any, defensive help, which is a bit of an issue on this team. But he’s a guy that’s been around for years as an all around offensive stud early in his career and a sharpshooter for the entirety of it.

It’s obvious what Ray Allen brings to the table and it’s evident that he can still do it, even if he decides to retire. By all accounts, he’s a good teammate, he’s a “clutch” player, and he seems to always be in the right place at the right time. If anything, he’ll be most valuable to this brand new team in the playoffs as the Cavs go for their first championship in team history.

Kevin Love is a Cleveland Cavalier

The Kevin Love deal is finally…

Andrew Wiggins draft day smile

https://twitter.com/TH_Da_06er/status/468447672807206912

https://vine.co/v/M9MVd97BpzU

 

…official.

 

What a long, strange trip it’s been. In the end, the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to get the highly coveted Kevin Love. All it took was the last two first overall picks in Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins and future first rounder via the Miami Heat (the Timberwolves also got a $6.3 million trade exception). All in all, both the Cavs and Minnesota Timberwolves are pretty ecstatic with what they got.

The Philadelphia 76ers were also technically involved in the trade, receiving the pick previously stated. The deal included the discarding of Thaddeus Young for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved.

Let’s start with the obvious; the Cleveland Cavaliers are championship contenders right away. This is something that I thought was true with or without the addition of Love. Late in July, I went into detail about why I wouldn’t have traded Wiggins for Love. Regardless of my opinion on that specific subject, I still think these next two years the Cavs are better off having Love then Wiggins (and Bennett).

I was also semi-worried about the draft pick the Cavs were speculated to have to give up in the deal, even though initially I though it was absurd Minnesota would need a first rounder when they’re already receiving more than they should. Nonetheless, the pick ends up in Philly and it was a pick the Cavs were able to shed without severe consequences. This pick (from the LeBron-to-Miami trade in 2010), is top-10 protected in 2015 and 2016 and unprotected in 2017. In short, the most likely outcome is that the 76ers get this pick after this season and it’s a mid-late first rounder. The Cavs also still have the rights to a protected Memphis 1st rounder (unprotected in 2019) and a top-55 protected Boston 2nd rounder – they really wanted LeBron James – for this upcoming draft as well as a top-55 protected 2nd rounder of the Clippers (via the Pelicans) – they really wanted to get rid of Alonzo Gee.

As the Cavs discard yet another player from last year’s team in Anthony Bennett, the roster looks dramatically different/better.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves

(new players in bold)

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Kyrie Irving

SG- Dion Waiters

SF- LeBron James

PF- Kevin Love

C- Anderson Varejao

 

Rest of the roster:

PG- Matthew Dellavedova, John Lucas III

SG- Mike Miller, Joe Harris

SF- Shawn Marion, James Jones

PF- Tristan Thompson, Malcolm Thomas, Dwight Powell, Erik Murphy

C- Brendan Haywood, Alex Kirk

With all the moves the Cavs have made this summer, there still may be one or two they are looking to execute. The three players the Cavs acquired in the Carrick Felix-to-Utah deal could be swapped for a big. Personally, I’d like them to try to keep Lucas because one, he’s the son of former Cavs head coach John Lucas II and more importantly the Cavs lack pure point guard depth behind Kyrie. If worst comes to worst, Delly wouldn’t be a terrible option behind Kyrie, though he’s thought more of an off-ball guard.

The Utah 3 (or 2) would most likely be dealt for a center. I mean seriously, look at the centers on this team right now. One of them is better suited as a power forward, one is 34-years-old and is more valuable as a trade piece for next season, and the other is an undrafted rookie who got this done to him. The Cavs have been reportedly talking to teams about acquiring a starting center. The departures of Spencer Hawes and Tyler Zeller have certainly left a nice gap in the roster.

All that said, in the grand scheme of things, the sparse depth at center shouldn’t be that big of an issue. Though they will lack significant rim protection if they cease making anymore moves, it’ll be arguably the only significant weakness on this team – maybe along with perimeter defense, although Shawn Marion should help in that department.

Love added to the starting lineup of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao gives Cleveland an offensive juggernaut. Not to mention they get to call on the likes of Mike Miller and James Jones to shoot the lights out. Not only is he a great player, but he’s a fit as well. He helps spread the floor with his limitless range, offers excellent passing as a big man, has respectable defense, and rebounds like an absolute pest on both sides of the floor. He’s pretty much the culmination of everything the Cavs are as a team.

 

You didn’t think I’d leave without an Uncle Drew/Wes video, did you?

Get buckets.

http://youtu.be/TZUd9KYn_Rs