Tag Archives: Roy Hibbert

Trying to Forge an Identity in Indiana

In recent years, the Indiana Pacers have had a strong, recognizable identity. With players like David West and Roy Hibbert in the starting lineup, the Pacers ran a deliberate offense built around set plays. Defensively, they played aggressive, effective team defense and had the benefit of stellar rim protection from Hibbert.

Once David West opted out of his contract and decided to sign with San Antonio, Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird decided the team should go to a more uptempo style. He proceeded to trade Hibbert and make numerous other tweaks to the roster to suit the style he wanted the team to play.

The plan hit a snag early on, when Paul George balked at playing “small ball” because it could mean he’d be spending significant time at the power forward position. Despite this, Bird and head coach Frank Vogel went ahead with the plan.

Initially, the Pacers really took to the new style, getting off to a fast start as the season began. Over time, however, the Pacers have slowly shifted back toward a bigger, more traditional lineup. One of the reasons for this has been the emergence of rookie center Myles Turner. Turner can run the floor and shoot well from the outside, allowing the Pacers to space the floor and play more uptempo, but still have plenty of size in the lineup.

As long as Turner is starting and playing well, Indiana has the best of both worlds when it comes to meshing their old and new styles. The problem here is that the Pacers are caught in the middle – Bird maintains his interest in playing faster and smaller, while Vogel is more comfortable with a bigger lineup, although he does use a smaller lineup from time to time.

Flexibility is a good thing, but only up to a point. The Pacers don’t have an identity right now…no one from the outside really knows what they are, and those within the organization are just as unsure about what kind of team this is or what direction they are taking.

Another consequence that has come from the attempted style change is that the Pacers’ defense has become very inconsistent. At times, their defense has been among the best in the NBA, but other times, their defense has been very porous.

The team is now in a position of having no direction or identity on either end of the floor. On top of that, the individual roles of the players are in flux as well.

In the early part of the year, Paul George was the team’s go-to guy in late-game situations. He wasn’t coming through, and the Pacers were losing nearly all the close games they were involved in. Of late, Monta Ellis has been moved into the “closer” role, but the results haven’t been much better.

So, the team is grasping at straws trying to find a guy who can hit big shots in crunch time…and that situation also creates uncertainty in terms of leadership among the players. NBA teams tend to function best when they have a go-to guy and/or established leader, and Indiana has neither at this point in the season.

Despite all this uncertainty, Indiana is still having a better year than they did in 2014-15. The team shows a lot of promise, but their performances have been up-and-down and they’re hovering just above the .500 mark as a result.

In order to get the most out of this roster, Bird and Vogel need to settle on a rotation and offensive style of play. The inconsistency in the style of play and inconsistent results go hand-in-hand…and establishing an offensive identity will help the defense perform more reliably as well.

Leadership is a more organic parameter, but generally, your best player needs to be your strongest leader. Paul George is still evolving in that role, and has struggled at times to carry the burden of leadership. This element is a shared responsibility among Indiana’s players right now, and the Pacers won’t reach their potential until that area is solidified.

Going into this season, everyone knew this team would be a work in progress. Now that we are about 50 games in, however, the issues they need to work on and resolve have been identified. If the Pacers can make further progress in these areas by April, they’ll be a tough out when playoff time rolls around.

The Lakers’ Major League Collapse

Movie quotes are a form of friendship identification for me. If I spout off a line from “Tommy Boy” and you have no idea what I am talking about, we have to re-evaluate the grounds of our relationship. The sports movie that I most quote is a comedic classic with top-notch actors and great plot. “Major League” is the comedic sports movie EVERY person should watch when able. It has everything. Loveable losers, villainous owners and hijinks abound make this a great watch any time (only on channels allowing swearing, the PG version is lame). There is a team in the NBA that reminds me of the lovable Cleveland Indians of “Major League”, but without the winning. The LA Lakers are going nowhere fast and have a cast of characters worthy of a movie script. The line from “Major League” that pops into my mind when thinking of the Lakers this season is “a bunch of has-beens and never was.” This describes the Lakers roster minus a couple players. Let me break down this analysis cast member by cast member.

Kobe Bryant as Jake Taylor
Jake is the older, injured catcher leading a team with emotion and smarts. He solves problems in the clubhouse no coach or admin wants to touch. Kobe is the older, injured leader of the Lakers. Both Kobe and Jake’s bodies are falling apart and they are ready to walk away from the game. Kobe is trying to have fun with a young team and lead them while not wanting to kill everyone for not being better. The flaw in this comparison is everyone likes Jake.

Jordan Clarkson as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn
Ricky is a raw talent. He has control issues and doesn’t always fit in. His talent needs guidance and when he gets it he is a true star. Jordan Clarkson is a second round pick (by the Wizards) that flashed stardom last year and was named first team all-rookie. Despite his rookie year success Jordan doesn’t fit in with this team. The Indians featured Ricky the next year, the Lakers are pushing Kobe and Deangelo Russell combo. This could be a huge mistake for the Lakers moving forward.

Roy Hibbert as Roger Dorn
Roger Dorn is a veteran third baseman with an inflated sense of self. He is also deathly scared of using his body to make a play at third. A fear he conquers and becomes a valuable asset and cornerstone to winning. Roy Hibbert is a veteran big man with an inflated sense of self and fear of getting dirty in the post. He is the tallest player on the court most days and isn’t even the rebounding leader on his own team (Julius Randle has him beat by nearly 3.5 rebounds per game). Similar to Dorn, if Hibbert can learn to clang and bang on the inside he would be a valuable part of the Lakers and their rebuilding.

Julius Randle as Pedro Cerrano
Pedro Cerrano is the hot-headed power hitter with a hole in his swing. He can only hit the fastball and looks to everything from Jesus, voodoo and golf head covers to help. When he figures out the solution to his deficiency is in him he becomes the terror the Indians need. Julius Randle is not a one trick pony like Pedro is, but he hasn’t figured out pacing, team basketball or how to fit in quite yet. Julius was taken out of a game recently (after 16 minutes of total playing time) and was not a fan. This led his coach, Byron Scott to say, “He’s got to grow up. Simple as that. I think the main thing I don’t like is when you take him out of games, how he reacts sometimes. I chalk it up to immaturity and just being inexperienced in this level. It’s going to happen again. I’m going to take him out of other games that he’s not going to like.” Similar to Pedro, Julius can be the terror they need. He has the talent and the aggressiveness Hibbert is missing. He just needs to understand his role and the solution is in him.

Jim Buss as Rachel Phelps
Rachel Phelps is the owner of the Indians. She wants to move them to Florida and tries to sabotage the team so they lose value and must move. The team rallies around her plan and wins despite her. Jim Buss is in charge of basketball operations for the Lakers. He doesn’t want the Lakers to move, he isn’t purposely putting a poor product on the court and the team is definitely not rallying despite him. He is the person in charge of this group of has-beens and never-was and that is a good enough reason to cast him in this role. “Major League” is a great movie. It is funny, exciting and lively. The Lakers are…not any of these things and if they don’t land a free agent to pull them out of their current state the sequel will not be worth watching.

How Far Have Paul George and the Pacers Come?

The Indiana Pacers’ 2014-15 season got off to a horrendous start long before a regular season game was ever played. All-Star forward Paul George broke his leg while practicing with Team USA that August, and knowing he would likely be out for the year, the hopes of challenging for an Eastern Conference Championship seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye.

Indiana held it together as best they could, but without a force like George and the impact he makes on both ends of the court, the Pacers finished the year 38-44 and missed the playoffs.

During the offseason, power forward David West decided to opt out of his contract to sign with a team he felt had a chance to compete for a championship (San Antonio). Once West was gone, President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird decided that the team should go to a more uptempo offensive attack. Roster moves were made to accommodate this change in philosophy: slow-footed center Roy Hibbert was dealt, and fleet guard Monta Ellis was signed. Other role players were added to the roster that fit Bird’s vision of how he wanted his team to play.

As the 2015-16 season approached, no one knew how long it would take for the Pacers to adapt to this new style, assuming they ever did. And with Paul George coming back, would he ever be the player he was before the injury? 28 games into the season, we now have answers to these key questions.

Indiana got off to a slow start, losing their first three games. Even so, there were signs that playing at a faster pace had promise. The offensive execution came along more quickly than expected, but the vital element was finding a way to play sound defense while “running and gunning” on the offensive end.

The Pacers had been known as one of the best defensive teams in the NBA in recent seasons, and they needed to balance that with an increased emphasis on scoring. Things started coming together a few games into the season, and the results have shown up in the win column.

Even on the heels of a three-game losing streak, Indiana stands at 16-12, good for 7th in the Eastern Conference. Many pundits saw this as a rebuilding year for the Pacers, and the expectations were frankly pretty low. However, the coaching staff and players have really embraced the new style of play, and it’s been effective thus far.

So, just how much progress has the Blue and Gold made since last season? The improvement has been significant, but this team is not ready to contend in the East. There is still too much inconsistency on the defensive end – when the Pacers are on point defensively, they are very good. When they have lapses in concentration and allow other teams to score too easily, they’re average at best. They’ve found a winning formula, but keeping it up game by game is a work in progress.

The Indiana Pacers have made great strides and show potential to be a threat down the road, but what about the face of the franchise, Paul George?

George was an All-Star and seemed on the cusp of even bigger things when he went down with that gruesome injury in the summer of 2014. George’s comeback has been even more dramatic than the improvement of the team…he’s not only back, he’s better than ever. He is still playing defense at an elite level, but his impact on the offensive end has actually increased since his return.

George is averaging career-highs in points (25.0) and rebounds (7.9) per game, and his assist totals (4.1 per contest) are as high as they’ve ever been as well. This would qualify as a step forward and a “career year” under normal circumstances, but for this level of performance to come after a serious injury like the one he suffered? This is the stuff inspirational Hollywood films are made of, almost too good to be true.

The Pacers aren’t quite at an elite level as a team, but their star player seems to have reached that height individually. Paul George’s reemergence this season has been extremely important to the fortunes of the Indiana Pacers not only in the present, but in their hopes for the future as well.

It should be a fun and interesting ride over the next few months…stay tuned.

Indiana Pacers: A State of Flux

A lot has changed since the 2014-15 Indiana Pacers ended their season just short of a playoff berth last spring. Gone are veteran power forward David West and defensive-minded center Roy Hibbert. The style of play has also changed, going from a deliberate pace to a more uptempo approach. The other thing that has changed? The team is winning.

Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird was planning to make at least one more run with the core group he had after the 2014-15 season. However, David West chose to opt out of his contract to sign with the San Antonio Spurs (at a greatly reduced salary). Once this domino fell, Bird decided to reshape the team in order to play the uptempo style that he prefers.

In order for the Pacers to play at a faster pace, plodding center Roy Hibbert had to go. He was given, er, traded to the Lakers during the offseason. Now, some players needed to be added that would fit the uptempo game. The most significant of these additions was Monta Ellis, a 6-3 combo guard who is an accomplished scorer and underrated passer. A younger, more athletic center was brought on board when Bird drafted 6-11 Myles Turner out of the University of Texas. There were several other minor player additions made, all with an eye toward playing at a faster tempo.

The big question now would be: after missing nearly the entire season recovering from a gruesome leg injury, what would the Pacers get out of All-Star Paul George?

George was a bright, up-and-coming talent who had already achieved All-Star status after being drafted by Larry Bird in 2010. While practicing with Team USA on August 1, 2014, George suffered a severe leg fracture, causing him to miss all but the last six games of the regular season. After a lengthy rehab process, would Paul George ever be the player he once was?

We now have the answer to this, and it’s an emphatic no. Paul George is not the player he once was, but incredibly, he’s better. So far this season, George has averaged 28 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game. He’s also shooting an impressive 45% from 3-point range. Add to that the stellar defense he plays every night, and it would be fair to say that George has come back with a vengeance.

There was talk before the season started that George would be moved to power forward in this new uptempo scheme, but that hasn’t been an issue for him or for the team. While George is spending some time at the ‘4,’ it’s not dramatically changing the way he plays…he’s still showing the all-around game that he’s always had, but he’s doing it even better in this system.

pg and cj miles

A guy who deserves a lot of credit for Paul George’s performance so far this year is C.J. Miles. Why? Because C.J. has been willing to take on the daunting task of defending the opposing team’s power forward when that player has superior size and has a post game. Miles is three inches shorter than George, but he’s battling with those big men for the good of the team, and so far, it’s working.

It’s usually difficult for a team to find any success with multiple new players and a new offensive system, but after a slow start, Indiana is really taking to the uptempo approach. It’s a fun system to play in, and the Pacers have a roster stocked with guys who are well-suited for a faster style of play. As much as their offense has improved, their strong defense from last season hasn’t fallen off very much, and that’s a real key to why this new philosophy has been successful.

And, the most important piece to this puzzle has to be Paul George coming back and playing at a superstar level after suffering such a devastating injury. Pacer Nation would have been thrilled if George had just returned to his prior All-Star form, but he’s a better and more dominant player now than he ever was before.

Indiana found out this past Tuesday night just how far they have to go to get to an elite level, however, falling at home 131-123 to the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. The Pacers are now playing a similar style to that of the Warriors, but the Warriors do it better than anyone. The Indiana Pacers are clearly on their way up, but they haven’t reached the top of the mountain yet.

The Pacers have been one of the surprise teams of the league thus far, and the future looks bright as well. They should continue to get better at executing this offense as the season unfolds. The main concern, other than significant injuries, would be maintaining their defensive focus in such an offensive-oriented system. If they can do that, Indiana will be a tough “out” for anyone they play once the playoffs begin.

Should the Cavs trade for Roy Hibbert?

Late last week, General Manager David Griffin and the Cleveland Cavaliers made a flurry of moves in order to improve cap flexibility for the future.

They first traded for Boston Celtics swingman Keith Bogans and two future second round picks in exchange for John Lucas III, Dwight Powell, Erik Murphy (all three whom they got from Utah for Carrick Felix back in July), Dwight Powell (sad face), and the Cavs’ 2016 and 2017 second rounders. Two days later, the Cavs flipped Bogans (as well as a 2018 second rounder) to the Philadelphia 76ers for a protected second rounder in 2015.

These two moves enabled the Cavs to get a $5.3 million trade exception for Bogans. The financial aspects of these moves are pretty complicated and hard to explain, so I’ll defer to guys like Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com and Bryan Toporek of Mid-Level Exceptional who did a great job of spelling out why these trades were made.

In short, the Cavs want flexibility in terms of who they can sign; not just in terms of getting big money guys, but also one’s who make one or two million if they want to sign someone mid-season.

The Cavs already have Brendan Haywood’s $12 million unguaranteed contract as a trade asset for next year. Combined with Bogans’ contract, the Cavs would’ve had around $16 million in unguaranteed money between the two of them. However, due to weird cap rules, if the Cavs traded Bogans later than they did, they would’ve only been able to acquire contracts that were worth at least $3.4 million. The Cavs want the option to be able to sign any different amount of contracts with that $5 million of space. Besides, it was unlikely Bogans would’ve been able to contribute much to this team anyway. So having him on the team just for his contract wastes a roster spot.

The obvious potential suitor for this trade exception is a center, since the Cavs only glaring weakness on the whole roster is rim protection. Indian Pacers big man Roy Hibbert could be such a target for the Cavs; his name was heavily thrown around after the second of the Bogans trades.

Even if Amico’s above tweet is true (which I believe it is), let’s play along with the Hibbert-to-Cavs possibility.

Should the Cavs do it? Could the Cavs do it?

With the trade exception, it seems like they’d be able to, but if you look closer at who you could trade for Hibbert, it gets difficult.

Roy Hibbert makes about $30 million over the net two years – that’s a big contract. When you trade for big contracts, you need to give up a big contract or contracts that add up somewhere around the contract you’re acquiring.

Right away, you rule out eight players on the Cavs that are making less than $3 million this year. You also have to take out Hawyood because his contract is extremely valuable as a trade asset, but only for next year.

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Then you take out the Big 3 – LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving – for obvious reasons.

This leaves you with Anderson Varejao (making $9 million), Tristan Thompson ($5 million), and Dion Waiters ($4 million).

The Cavs almost certainly aren’t trading away Thompson, a Rich Paul client who also represents LeBron.

That leaves Waiters and Varejao as the only likely possibilities that could be traded for Hibbert. This traded works financially, but should the Cavs do it?

Once again, I’ll have to defer my answer, this time to Dunder Mifflin Regional Manager Michael Scott:

For a good part of his career, Hibbert has been a dominant big man, with shot blocking ability only mirrored by Dwight Howard and Serge Ibaka. Like I stated before, this is exactly what the Cavs need.

But throughout the entirety of his career, the thing Hibbert might most be known for is his inconsistency. Matt Andreason of SB Nation’s Indy Cornrows wrote a great preview on Hibbert. In it, he expresses the grief Pacers fans have to deal with, even though Hibbert is a fine talent.

The biggest takeaway from that piece is that Hibbert, while he has bad stretches, his output is pretty consistent month-to-month. You could probably find a bigger discrepancy from game-to-game. My stance on him is he’s consistently inconsistent.

Specifically, if we look at his blocks last year, we can see the inconsistencies he has. In his first 13 games, he averaged 4.3 blocks per game – this included seven games in which he had at least five blocks. From his 14th game to his 48th, he averaged just 1.7 blocks per game, including 20 games with one or no blocks. From his 49th game to his 66th, he averaged 2.5 blocks. Finally, from his 67th game to his 81st (he missed one game), he averaged 1.3 blocks. In the playoffs (19 games), he averaged 1.4 blocks per game.

To be fair, last year was arguably Hibbert’s worst year as a full-time starter. There are peaks and valleys throughout the season with Hibbert, probably none more than last year.

But that’s just the thing. If you acquire Hibbert, which one are you getting? Are you getting the 2.6 blocks from 2012-13 or are you getting the one from last year, the one that averaged 2.2 and disappeared for much of the playoffs?

In truth, you probably won’t be getting either. My guess is you’ll get somewhere in the middle. Is that worth the $15 million per year you’ll have to pay him the next two years? In a vacuum when you look at what the Cavs need, maybe. But when you look at what you’re giving up, to me, it’s not worth it.

Varejao may not block shots and is getting older (who doesn’t, technically), but he played in the most games last year since his 2009-10 season and is still a terrific rebounder and energy spark. Plus his improved shooting is a plus to any offense.

Waiters is an up and coming player entering his third year. I talked about his possible emergence here, so no need to go into detail with him. Playing next to LeBron alone should be enough to up his game.

Not to mention, the Pacers might want a first round pick in return for Hibbert. He’s just not worth all of that.

(Side note: I get that first round picks aren’t all that valuable to the Cavs, but they can be to other teams. That’s why saving them for more useful trades is smart.

Even if there weren’t better moves out there right now instead of Hibbert, it’d be best to wait. Once teams start losing and are more willing to give up their bigs, that trade exception can be better used on a cheaper rim protector.

It’s just not worth it to me to give up players/people like Waiters and Varejao for Roy Hibbert when all you really need is rim protection.

Cleveland Cavaliers Win Lottery, Again

There is no roller coaster ride better than Cleveland sports. For proof of this, look at what’s happened in the month of May alone. The Cleveland Browns had an exciting first round of the NFL draft, landing two top prospects and a future first round pick in 2015. This was followed by news that star receiver Josh Gordon reportedly failed another drug test and is on the verge of a potential indefinite suspension from the NFL. The Cleveland Indians, who’ve been up and down all year long, started to look like they were getting things together only to be swept by the Oakland Athletics while being outscored 30-6 in the series. They followed that up by winning a three game series with the Detroit Tigers, baseball’s best team record-wise. The Cleveland Cavaliers fired their head coach (Mike Brown) following a disappointing season and only had a 1.7% chance of landing the number one overall pick in the draft. Around 8:30pm yesterday evening it was announced that the Cleveland Cavaliers won the draft lottery – giving them the number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. This is the third time in four years the Cavs will be drafting number one overall, and unlike previous years there appears to be much more talent at the top of this year’s draft class. Here is a quick look at what the Cavs might do with pick number one, in no particular order.

Andrew Wiggins – SF Kansas

WigginsAndrew Wiggins was thought of by many as the preseason number one overall pick, and for good reason. Wiggins is extremely athletic. He runs the floor smoothly and he can jump, reportedly posting a 44” vertical at the NBA Scouting Combine. Wiggins measures in at 6’8” and right around 200 pounds. While he may be a little light he has a good frame to add some bulk. He has the potential to be a very good two-way player in the NBA because of his quickness, length and athleticism, but he does have some limitations. His ball handling skills are basic and he can struggle to create his own shot at times because of this. During the season questions also arose about his mental toughness and whether he was consistently aggressive enough to play the NBA game. Still, his athleticism is nearly impossible to ignore. Last season for Kansas, Wiggins averaged 17.1 points per game to go along with 5.9 rebounds. He posted a 44.8 FG% and shot 34.1% from behind the three point arc.

Jabari Parker – SF/PF Duke

ParkerPhysically, Jabari Parker is similar to Wiggins in that they are both 6’8” and have a 7’ wingspan. The most noticeable difference however is that Parker weighs in at 240 pounds, giving him a considerable size advantage for a small forward (which is what he projects as in the NBA). Parker may not be as athletic as Wiggins but that doesn’t mean he isn’t equally as worthy of the top pick. Parker is a very good scorer and because of his size and shooting ability can score from anywhere on the floor. He is also a strong rebounder and players very well in transition. He attacks the basket and can finish around the rim. Because he lacks great athleticism he can struggle on the defensive end of the floor. Laterally he doesn’t move that fast and he isn’t as explosive as an Andrew Wiggins. Parker does have a strong work ethic and could possibly develop into a solid NBA defender, but he will never be successful if he has to guard the opponent’s best offensive player. Some scouts do think of him as a “tweener” as he may not be big enough to regularly play power forward and might not be quick/athletic enough to regularly play the small forward position. Others compare him to Paul Pierce, who isn’t considered very athletic. Last year at Duke, Parker averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He shot 47.3% from the floor and 35.8% from three point distance.

Joel Embiid – C Kansas

EmbiidTo get it out of the way early, most of Joel Embiid’s weaknesses as a prospect are due to lack of basketball experience. A native of Cameroon (central Africa) Embiid didn’t start playing basketball until 2011, instead playing volleyball and soccer. Embiid is extremely raw, but he is also a very athletic big man who is already showing some talent in his very short basketball career. As you would expect of a former soccer player, Embiid moves and runs the floor very well making him an asset in transition. Because of his size (7’ 250 pounds with a 7’5” wingspan) he is an asset on defense as a rim protector. He also uses his size very well in the low post, bodying up defenders and bothering them with his long arms. Offensively he also shows some talent in the low post. He has utilized multiple moves (drop step, hook shot, up and under) and regularly finishes lop passes with ease. He does need work on both ends of the floor however. Offensively he needs to polish his overall game and be more aware of game situations. Despite his size he could also stand to be a bit more aggressive around the rim. Defensively, he struggles when he is not defending the ball. Embiid needs to learn when to help and not to leave his man open for an easy dunk. There is also the injury concern. He missed several games late in the season with a stress fracture in his back. Andre Drummond has overcome a similar injury but Cavs fans from the late 80s and early 90s will think of Brad Daugherty when it comes to centers with back issues. The question for Cavs GM David Griffin (and other GMs should he not go number one overall) is: are Embiid’s injury concerns worth the risk. Last year at Kansas, Embiid averaged 11.2 points per game to go along with 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. He posted a 62.6 FG% and shot 68.5% from the free throw line.

Trade the Pick

Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota TimberwolvesThe Cavs will undoubtedly explore all of their options with this asset, and one of those options could be a potential trade. Being that Cleveland’s roster already consists of two number one overall picks (Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett), and two number four overall picks (Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters) Griffin and the front office may elect to try and bring in a max deal worthy veteran to add to their young team. Multiple options exist, the most enticing being Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love. Love is set to be a free agent at the end of the 2014-15 season and there are no indications he wants to stay in Minnesota. The T’Wolves will have multiple suitors no doubt, but a major factor in any potential deal will revolve around whether or not Love will sign an extension prior to the trade so the Love recipient can avoid a Dwight Howard situation. Other potential trade options are Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Indiana’s Roy Hibbert, both of whom have contracts that expire following the 2014-15 season. Aldridge has been linked to the Cavs before, but he will be 30 when his contract expires, making it difficult to potentially give up the number one overall pick for him. Hibbert is younger but issues with consistency make a trade for him risky as well. The ideal trade situation here is Kevin Love as he is only 25 years old and would in theory pair extremely well with Kyrie Irving. Getting Love would also likely cost the Cavs a young player (Dion Waiters or Tristan Thompson).

The Cavs got very lucky landing the number one overall pick in a draft class that has some very strong talent. The question now is not who is the best player overall. Instead, the Cavs must determine which of these three players is the best fit for their current roster.

All-NBA Teams: Properly Timed Edition

I’ve written columns in the past that detail my quibbles with the NBA.  Hell, the first words I ever wrote for this site were a list of things that bug me about the league.  If you were to go back and look, you’d see that those words were written in late February.  Now I don’t remember exactly what the weather was like that day, but it’s New England, so it was cold.  Today being a 70 degree early-June day, I’ll mention only 1 quibble: why not wait until after the playoffs to name All-NBA teams?

This isn’t a huge quibble.  It’s not like I’m talking about how David Stern doesn’t care that 1/4 of the sports fans in this country think his sport is at least partially rigged (completely unscientific estimate – in my experience it’s higher than that, but I generally hang around malcontents).  It’s not like I’m wondering why the NBA can’t keep a damn official in a video booth so they don’t have the 3 on the floor standing around with their hands on each other’s backs watching a freaking video monitor for 5 minutes at a time while we’re trying to end a game.

As I said, minor quibble.  I think the playoffs, and how far teams and players go, should factor into All-NBA voting.  I get why they don’t want to vote after the Finals have finished – fans generally don’t care about the league right then.  But why not right now?  Why not vote for teams once you have the Finals match-up set, and post the results at some point before game 5?

The goal of every player is a title, and how far a guy goes in the playoffs should matter.  A lot.  Kobe Bryant over Tony Parker on the first team seals this thinking.  Who cares that Kobe had a great regular season?  Tony Parker has arguably been the second best player in the entire NBA (the argument is that he might in fact be the best) at the time when it matters most.

So here are my teams.  They’re somewhat stat-based, somewhat feel-based, and I would say that the playoffs factor 25% into each decision.

All-NBA Emeritus Team

Kevin Garnett

Paul Pierce

Because it’s my column.  Can it.  You’re lucky I didn’t put Avery Bradley on my 3rd team, just because of how silly he makes Dwyane Wade look every time he guards him.

All-NBA First Team

Chris Paul – This one stays.  Second in the league in assists (Rajon Rondo bested him by more than a full assist per game; I don’t care if he didn’t play half the season).  Third in the league in Player Efficiency Rating.

Tony Parker – Took his team to the Finals.  That bumps him up from the second team.  Replacing Kobe is a nice bonus.

LeBron James – Um, yeah.

Kevin Durant – Again, yeah.

Tim Duncan – Could be Duncan’s final appearance on this list (although I probably would’ve said that 5 years ago, too).  Has there ever been a guy better at filling whatever role his team needs?  I wasn’t alive for the John Havlicek Celtics, but I don’t think anyone’s played as many different roles on a team during my lifetime than Duncan.  From the David Robinson years, to the time when he was the primary focus of the offense, to the Tony and Manu years, to the Tony years, Duncan’s always been about winning.  Love this guy.

All-NBA Second Team

Stephen Curry – He deserves this.  If you’re going to tell me that Russell Westbrook belongs on this list, then look at their regular season stats and tell me Curry’s not real close to him.  Then factor in that this guy might have been the best player in the NBA during the playoffs (sure he tailed off toward the end, but he was the best at one point), and Curry’s here.

Russell Westbrook – Toughest call on the list.  Sure, I hate Kobe, but he had one of his best seasons.  Problem is that Westbrook is one of the best players in the league, and his value was made perfectly clear when he went down.  Maybe the Lakers with Kobe don’t get swept by San Antonio, but they definitely don’t win.  Westbrook’s injury probably changed the Finals.  Kobe goes.

Carmelo Anthony – Seems like every All-NBA Second Team has a stat-monster who can’t ever win.  While I was looking that up, I came across the shocking reveal that Vin Baker made two All-NBA teams.  Goodness gracious sakes alive (copyright John Wooden for perhaps the best expression of surprise and incredulity I’ve ever heard).

Paul George – George gets a bump from the third team to the second because he’s been a top 5 player during these playoffs.  While we’re here, here’s that list: LeBron James, Tony Parker, Paul George, Stephen Curry, Nate RobinsonRoy Hibbert is #6.  Chris Bosh is below Chris Andersen.

Marc Gasol – Defensive player of the year.  I think he’s battling Joakim Noah for the first team next year.

All-NBA Third Team

Kobe Bryant – Great year for Kobe, but it wasn’t better than Paul’s or Westbrook’s, and if you factor in the playoffs it’s not better than Parker’s or Curry’s either.

James Harden – Breakout season.  Should stay on one of these lists for the foreseeable future.

Blake Griffin – Playoff performance hurts him a little, but he had a very decent year statistically.

Joakim Noah – I’m bending the rules and calling Noah a power forward.  C’mon – I showed tremendous restraint in leaving the NBA’s assists leader off these lists, give me this one.  He’s a game changer on defense and, along with Gasol (and Vlade Divac), is blazing the trail of the NBA’s new big man – the facilitator and defender.

Roy Hibbert – Another beneficiary of waiting to name these teams.  Hibbert makes this team ahead of Dwight Howard, and it’s not close.

So there you go.  The big winners of waiting to name the teams are Paul George, Tony Parker, and Stephen Curry.  The big losers are David Lee, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard.  Who has a problem with this?

Spurs in 7.

Thoughts on the Pacers, the Indians, and How They Connect.

Tonight could be epic, so this piece I’m writing is going to be, well, epic… at least in terms of length. (I’m sorry, I like to write, ok!)

Anyways, tonight there are two things on my agenda:

  1. Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees on ESPN at 7:00.
  2. Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat on TNT at 8:30.

I will be flipping vigorously back and forth between games starting at 8:30, and I am more than excited about it.

While the night could potentially end in disaster with both the Heat and Yankees winning, I would CERTAINLY take a win in one and a loss in the other. No way do I believe that the Pacers and the Indians will win tonight. That would just be far too good.

Anyhow, I’m going to take on these two topics, so here goes nothing.

Tonight could be historic in terms of the NBA. The Indiana Pacers, potentially, could defeat the Miami Heat and take their place among the greatest upsets in the history of sports.

Tonight, not only are the Pacers preparing to battle the Miami Heat, they are preparing to battle forces beyond their control as well. No, not the half-empty crowd in the American Airlines Arena at tipoff. Not the “all-white-everything” that has become the motto for the Heat throughout their playoff runs. Not the distraction of a 75,000 dollar fine that was completely unnecessary, (“no homo” simply means, “I’m not gay, though”. If he would’ve put it that way, it would be a non-issue. But, I digress.) No, no, no.

David Stern, the NBA, and the media would all be facing a nightmarish scenario if the Heat lose tonight.

I can assure you, right now, that the NBA is doing everything it can to set up a Miami Heat victory tonight. David Stern is calling up the refs, “reminding” them that “this is a superstar’s league, so call it that way”. They already set up a diversion for Indiana by fining Hibbert. I’m sure if an Indiana Pacer looks at LeBron the wrong way he’ll be given a tech. These things are already in the works, and they are all in the way of an Indiana Pacers NBA Finals appearance.

With San Antonio already in the Finals, the NBA NEEDS a big market team like the Heat competing for a championship so it can bring in some money. If Indiana magically pulls out the win tonight, you might as well kiss the cash goodbye because nobody, (most people now-a-days are front-runners), will watch. Period, end.

Could you imagine a Spurs vs. Pacers NBA Finals? For those of us that enjoy basketball at it’s purest level, it would be glorious. No egos, no attitudes, just plain, solid, fundamental basketball. For the rest of the front-running world, it would be torture.

But it won’t happen, unless the Pacers pull off some sort of miracle.

LeBron will most likely go crazy, a-la last year’s Game 6 in Boston, which is difficult enough to beat by itself. Then, the refs will call ticky-tacky fouls all night long against the Pacers. Finally, close game or not, someone is going to get ejected on the Indiana sideline for something asinine like standing on the court or making an illegal substitution. The Heat will win easily, just like David Stern wanted.

While the Heat have a legitimate chance of getting swept in the Finals by San Antonio, that doesn’t matter. As long as the Heat get there, Stern will make his money and be more than happy.

While the Heat losing in the Finals would provide amazing amounts of hope for LeBron’s 2014 return to Cleveland, which I understand many of you would not enjoy, for reasons beyond my wildest imagination, it would offer so much more hope if they didn’t even have the chance to compete. With Wade losing a step each time he touches the court to Chris Bosh inability to make any sort of physical contact with an opposing player, LeBron is already by himself. Remember that he left Cleveland to have “help” to win an NBA Championship, or “nine”. If they fail this year, things should only get worse next season and LeBron’s 2014 departure will be imminent. And glorious.

The NBA, however, will provide the help that LeBron has always yearned for, so the Pacers challenge awaits them tonight.

Beat the Heat, beat David Stern, beat the front-running world, beat the best player in the world while he’s in “beast mode”, beat the refs, and beat big markets and your in. It’s as difficult as that.

They won’t do it, but it’s always fun to dream right?

Before all of this happens, the Indians game will be on. Nasty Masty will be taking the hill against veteran Andy Pettite in Yankee Stadium. It will be the first return to the Bronx for Nick Swisher since he joined the Indians and will most likely be an emotional night for him.

When thinking about the Indians, I think of something that the infamous Hiram Boyd brought up on a weekly radio show I put together with Jake Dungan for the Indians Baseball Insider Radio Network.

Hiram brought up a trade that the Indians should explore that sends Tribe prospects Francisco Lindor, Danny Salazar, and Shawn Armstrong to Kansas City for James Shields.

While I hate this particular trade for some reason, I think Hiram brings up a valuable point. The Indians need to sacrifice the future in order to win now.

In Cleveland, draft day is one of our favorite days of the year. It brings us hope for a bright future, something that has always alluded our beloved city for so many years.

Finally, I think the Indians have arrived at that future and we’re staring at it so hard, that we’re almost missing it.

The Indians farm system, outside of Lindor, is essentially depleted. The talent simply isn’t where it used to be. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any Vinnie Pestano’s or Carlos Santana’s making their way to Cleveland anytime soon.

The Indians roster is the best it has been since the 90’s, (If you want to argue about 2007, contact me on Twitter @H_Grove. I’ll be glad to tell you that 2007 was a fluke.). The Indians spent money that they have, quite literally, never spent before. They didn’t spend that money for the future. They spent that money for now.

While the Indians are certainly a decent team, I don’t think anyone would consider us legitimate World Series contenders as of right now. The starting rotation has been surprisingly good, the runs come and go in what seems to be a wave-like pattern, but our supposedly “tremendous” bullpen has been lackluster.

The Indians desperately need a good left-handed reliever. They would also benefit greatly from an elite starting pitcher and an added bat.

So my question is this: why not get these pieces and get rid of guys like Lindor, Salazar, and Armstrong?

Francisco Lindor could be a stud elsewhere, but who cares? If the Indians can get a top of the line guy for him and in turn become a legitimate contender, then who cares? Don’t you think that it would be worth it to make a World Series run without Francisco Lindor than to watch Francisco Lindor sit in a lineup of crap a la Jim Thome in 2002?

If you get the right piece, Lindor, Salazar, Paulino, or any other minor league prospect should be dispensable. That’s the nitty gritty of it.

The problem becomes who that missing piece should be. Maybe it’s a bunch of smaller pieces that bring us to contention. Maybe it’s one stud. Who knows, but I know that piece is out there somewhere.

Maybe the Indians should consider bringing back Cliff Lee for a final-go-round as a member of the Cleveland Indians? Maybe Shields is the guy like Hiram said? Maybe, it’s Derek Holland from the Texas Rangers or Matt Moore from the Tampa Bay Rays?

Maybe it’s a couple of hitters, like Aramis Ramirez and Norichika Aoki from the Brewers? Maybe it’s a couple of lefty relievers to fill out the ailing bullpen. Who knows?

The point is that the future should not inhibit the present, especially in this case.

The front office has built this team to compete this year, next year, and maybe the year after. There are key guys that could stick around, like Mark Reynolds and Ubaldo Jimenez, if a couple of moves are made in order to help this team move itself into “legitimate contender” status.

Can you imagine being in October for the next couple of years. It could be magical. This team is like any we’ve seen in Cleveland for a very long time. We have a brilliant, energized, and experienced manager. We have high-profile stars and under-the-radar professionals. We have role players that are making the most of a second chance and formerly overrated guys who are living up to the hype.

It’s time. We can worry about the future when it arrives. Let’s live in the present and seize the opportunity in front of us.

We must sacrifice the future to win now, or we, as a collective Tribe Town, will always regret it.

So as you watch the Tribe and Pacers tonight, give this piece a little thought. Remember that, in both cases, you could be watching the future unfold right in front of you. With a Pacers W, LeBron could be well on his way back to Cleveland. With a couple of moves, the Tribe will be back in World Series contention.

The Pacers might not have a chance, thanks to the greed that is the NBA, but the Tribe certainly does.

In both of these cases, the future is right now.