Group 2: The Cellar Dwellers
27. Cleveland Cavaliers
I.Last Season in Review:
Kyrie Irving is really good. He’s not top 22 in the league good like our jump the gun on every respectable young prospect friends at ESPN have him. But he’s damn good, to the extent that it makes illuminating Cleveland’s ineptitude last season that much easier. Kyrie posted some WoW offensive numbers last year, including 1.01 PPP & 49% shooting in isolation (10th best in the league). Yet, Cleveland still had the 4th worst offense in the league. Not surprisingly, isolation offense and pick & roll ball handler efficiency were the only offensive categories Cleveland was respectable in. They were dead last in post up offense and 28th in pick and roll big man production. Essentially, it was the Kyrie Irving show offensively, and because Varejao only played 25 games, the Cavs were also atrocious defensively. You get the point. Outside of Kyrie going one on one and channeling his inner shooting guard, last years Cavs team was void of talent. Couple no one to pass to for Kyrie with a shameless tanking of 22 of their final 27 games and ergo, the top 4 pick.
In: C.J. Miles (FA), Jeremy Pargo (Trade), Alonzo Gee (Re-Signed), Jon Leuer (Waivers), Kelenna Azubuike (Trade), Dion Waiters (Draft), Tyler Zeller (Draft), Kevin Jones (Undrafted)
Out: Antawn Jamison (LAL), Anthony Parker (Retired), Manny Harris
The Cavs kicked off their trade season by taking Kelenna Azuibuike off Cuban’s hands for what ultimately became Tyler Zeller (the Cavs essentially swapped three picks to move up 8 spots for Zeller). Apparently Gilbert will do small scale trades, just not the superstar variety (and he will hotly contest the legitimacy of anyone who tries the latter, because he has no shame).
The Cavs then signed C.J. Miles, someone who can’t shoot but who keeps taking long jumpers anyway. That should help Kyrie significantly offensively. Good thing it was a reasonable deal (2 years, $4.45M total). They proceeded that signing by bringing back Alonzo Gee on another friendly contract (3 years, 9.75M with the last year only partially guaranteed), and one I like considerably more. Gee came out of nowhere last year to emerge as a solid defender and penetrator. He’s a great athlete who plays hard. He’s also the only good defensive wing player Cleveland has, which makes him valuable. Unfortunately, like Miles, shooting isn’t Gee’s forte, which only shrinks the court more for our young heroine.
Of the small scale variety, the Cavs traded for Jeremy Pargo, a walking turnover machine who is in the NBA because of his scoring, which is a problem because he does so inefficiently. Still, he went to Gonzaga, which is his one saving grace, and for that I’ll grant him a one year pardon to improve. Cleveland also picked up Jon Leuer off Waivers from Houston. Leuer is a solid NBA rotation big who rebounds, defends and thrives in the pick and pop game. Outside of bringing back Gee, Leuer was Cleveland’s best free agent/trade move this offseason, which I daresay is telling..
Grade: D. Bleh..
B.Draft: Dion Waiters (4th Overall), Tyler Zeller (17th overall).
The Cavs shocked the world for the second year in a row (last year it was taking Thompson over Valanciunas) by taking Waiters over other higher ranked prospects such as Harrison Barnes. Waiters has some skill. He’s probably the best dribble penetrator in the draft and can get his own shot off screen and roll or in isolation. He also shot a respectable 36% from three during his last season at Syracuse. Unfortunately, he consulted Ray Felton’s dieting handbook and showed up way overweight to summer league, and blew, so we didn’t get a good look at him on this level. In my humble opinion Waiters needs the ball to be effective, which is a problem considering Kyrie is the far superior player who also needs the rock. To me he’s similar to Tyreke Evans, but with a better jumper. I don’t think he’ll bust, but I’m selling the **** out of him being a top 5 pick. Barnes was definitely the better pick and fit on their team.
Zeller is a career back up center, albeit a solid one. He runs the floor like a gazelle, which is his greatest asset, but he’ll get roughed up in the post against bigger/stronger players. He’s not a shot blocker, so he’ll have to learn how to take charges in order to be effective on that end of the court. Not a sexy pick in any shape or form (Perry Jones was staring Cleveland right in the face as well, though the Cavs are clearly too risk/good move averse to jump at that), but a decent one.
Grade: C. Not feeling it. And since I’m writing it, I should be feeling it..
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Dion Waiters
SF: Alonzo Gee
PF: Tristan Thompson
C: Anderson Varejao
PG: Jeremy Pargo
SG: Daniel Gibson
SF: C.J. Miles
PF: Jon Leuer
C: Tyler Zeller
IV.Cap Situation: $48M
The Cavs have plenty of cap flexibility, and are actually just above the NBA minimum salary floor, in large part because Dan Gilbert is a cheap bastard. Also, the Cavs don’t like acquiring star players (see Andrew Bynum) and instead prefer to play lottery roulette (it looks like to little success thus far). But hey, they’re only on the hook for $40M next season potentially!
You want Kyrie this year obviously, the question is where to take him. I’ve seen him go as high as the top 5. That’s outrageous. Yea his high FG% is great for a point guard, but he doesn’t impact any category enough to warrant a first round pick. The bottom half of round two is as high as I’d go until we saw a dramatic uptick in assists, which will be hard to muster on this team. Varejao, due to his work on the glass and ability to pick up respectable defensive counting stats, is worth a look around the 7th – 8th round. Waiters is really the only other player who intrigues me on Cleveland, but he’s nothing but a late round flier.
When reports out of training camp are that Luke Walton is the standout performer, you know you’re in for a rough season. The Cavs will be bad again. There is no dodging that inevitability. The real question is how much will their young guys improve. Kyrie, for all his offensive exploits, was downright anemic last year defensively (he allowed 52% shooting as a P&R defender & .99 PPP in isolation, both outside the top 195 players in the league). For him to take the next step he needs to improve substantially on that end of the floor (ESPN ranking him ahead of guys like James Harden, a superior offensive player in his own right, because of this was a total joke). Tristan Thompson I think will be a damn solid defensive and rebounding rotation big in the league, but I don’t see much upside. He has the makings of a great post defender, but he isn’t an impact shot blocker, and offensively outside of drawing fouls he’s a train wreck. He wont bust, but he wont be anything resembling a star.
For the Cavs it’s all about the future, and that future depends almost entirely on Dion Waiters unfortunately. To me he’s a perfect sixth man instant offense bench scorer, as was his role at Syracuse. But a franchise cornerstone? I don’t see it. One of these days Gilbert’s risk averse antics (not trying to deal for Bynum, not trading up two spot to land Bradley Beal) will catch up with Cleveland in franchise crippling fashion, if it haven’t already. What the Cavs should do is package their multitude of picks and Anderson Varejao to try to land an impact player who actually fits next to Kyrie. What they will unquestionably do is blow another year and make the wrong draft pick yet again.
Cleveland’s one saving grace is if LeBron decides to return in two years. Editors note: I’m ******* with you Cleveland. That aint happening..
VII.Projection: 28-54 (5th in the Central Division)
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