Jared and Matthew Talk Cavs
I’m trying something a little new today as my friend Jared Donnelly (@jdonnelly32885 ) e-mailed each other back and forth a few times as we tried to figure out just what is wrong with the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s been 22 games and the team just hasn’t found a way to be competitive night in and night out. Jared has a very high basketball IQ and mine is, well, not as high as his, but we were both able to put forward some coherent thoughts about the team and here is what we came up with. Enjoy!
The first e-mail received was from Jared and the subject line read “Black Eyed Peas”
Jared Donnelly – Let’s get it started in here.
Matthew Van Wormer – This is a phenomenal way to begin this back and forth. I’m using that in the final product just so you’re aware.
Now, on to the issue at hand. The Cleveland Cavaliers have some serious problems in their locker room and on the court. First, there is the Bynum conundrum. He’s been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team which may or may not include sleeping with the wife of an assistant coach (Why do player controversies in Cleveland always deal with someone sleeping with someone they definitely should not have slept with? Mothers, wives, etc. It’s a little troubling). Trade talks with the Lakers have stalled which does not help matters at all. The number one pick is averaging 10.5 minutes and 2.5 points per game. What is the deal with Anthony Bennett?
JD – I am simply not buying the idea that Bynum slept with a coach’s wife. Maybe that’s me being naïve, but I refuse to bite. The problem with Bynum is the same as it has been since the last injury that he suffered in LA, the same problem that plagued him when he was traded to (and never played for) Philly. He simply does not love basketball. He does it because he is good. And because it pays him. That’s all. I also have a suspicion that he has some mental health issues that have gone unchecked, untreated, and ignored. I don’t mean that in a negative connotation. I feel badly for the guy. My issue is this. I think that a lot of issues in the locker room with tension can be eased in a simple way. Pick a rotation, stick to it. Good teams rotate in and out a MAX of nine guys. Those nine guys know their roles, know the minutes they will get, and can settle into a rhythm much easier. This team has none of that. And that starts with one guy: Mike Brown. There is no better example of this than Anthony Bennett. How do we know he isn’t any good? He gets no chance to settle in as I mentioned. Brown did this with guys like Sasha Pavlovic (whom I referred to as Minutes as a result). He did it with Shannon Brown. Now, neither of those guys lit the world on fire post Cavaliers. But both filled roles that were defined by coaches with a clue. And both were productive in those roles. I still think AB will be a nice player. Maybe not a stud. But a nice player for a lot of years. Maybe I’m insane.
MVW – I think anyone who knows you would agree with that final statement (I keed, I keed!). But you are right on with the rotation aspect of things. I’d think after 32 games Mike Brown should know who should and shouldn’t be getting minutes. I won’t bother talking about the obvious guys (Irving, Waiters, Thompson, Varejao) when it comes to this issue. Let’s look at the “role players” on the team and decide what they have or haven’t earned. Then we can look at the best starting lineup for the Cavs. I’ll go first.
Jarrett Jack – I like the leadership he brings when he is on the floor. He filled in nicely last night for Kyrie (7 assists, 1 turnover) and seems to make good decisions for the most part. In the rotation.
Alonzo Gee – This season has been an abortion for Gee so far. Out of the rotation.
Earl Clark – See Gee, Alonzo. Out of the rotation
Matthew Dellavadova – I think this kid has earned every minute of playing time he has received. He plays good defense, hits shots at the right time and is an all out hustle kind of player. Every team needs a Delly. In the rotation.
C.J. Miles – Are you kidding me? Why Not!? In the rotation.
Tyler Zeller – He had moments last year where he looked like he could be a force if he got a little “Tyler Hansbrough” in him. He is incredibly soft but I feel like he can be effective. Last guy in the rotation.
Anthony Bennett – ????????????????? Who knows? Why don’t we know? When will we know?
JD – Quickly here…my guy in LA is saying that the Cavs are “outright laughing at the Lakers” when they ask for Karasev. That is what is holding up a deal. When the Cavs drop another 8 of 10 games coming up…Karasev had better get some minutes.I think that Jarrett Jack has done a nice job in general. Love the fact that he knows who and what he is, and just does that every minute on the floor. An underrated defender as well, which helps when he is on the floor in the small lineup that I love with TT, Andy, Dion, Kyrie, and Jack.CJ Miles has been a lot better this year. More efficient and makes an effort to move off of the ball more. I enjoy what he has brought this year. He won’t ever be a defender, but he isn’t a liability. I like Why Not this year.Alonzo Gee is awful. “BUT HE’S A GOOD DEFENDER!” No. He is not. And stop it.Earl Clark has been good in spots, but I want his minutes to be AB’s minutes. He will knock down the occasional corner three, and he runs the floor well. Which is underrated as it forces the D to matchup quickly, instead of setting themselves. The fact that the Cavs have exactly one consistent scorer (Irving) means teams run a lot of zone. Players that run the floor make zone D tough. Thus end the nerdy portion of the Earl Clark section.
Tyler Zeller was fine last year. He got 8 and 5 on a bad team while battling injuries. As a comparison, the guy who the Cavs almost took 1st overall, Alex Len…can’t even get on the floor let alone make an impact. I think the “soft” label is unfair. He takes a ton of charges and is a pest on the block. Varejao has done that for a decade…and is constantly hurt, and nobody has ever called him soft.
Again, Bennett needs a chance. He needs to be allowed to make mistakes. He needs to be able to play without looking over his shoulder. I want him to get Earl Clark’s minutes. Or, at worst, split those minutes with Clark. You cannot develop if you aren’t allow to develop. It sounds silly…but it’s that simple.
MVW – Karasev. How did I forget about the Russian??
So, based on your analysis, combined with my more limited knowledge of this team, I’m thinking this should be the starting lineup, assuming 100% health within the ranks.
PG – Kyrie
SG – Waiters
SF – Bennett
PF – Thompson
C – Varejao
Assuming an increase in production from Bennett, I really like this lineup. I think it could potentially be a Top 10 offense in the NBA, again, assuming Bennett gets much, much better.
Then, off the bench we’re looking at Why Not, Jarrett Jack, Delly (best nickname on the team, by the way) and Karasev/Clark/Zeller in some kind of mini-rotation I guess
Either way, we’ve got some pieces that need to either play or be moved and I think we have some very attractive pieces in Delly, Miles, Clark and Zeller. Moving Karasev or Bennett is admitting bad moves so I don’t see the front office doing that. But it does create some interesting trade scenarios.
First, what do you think about my starting lineup and rotation? Then, what options do the Cavs have with the non-starters?
JD – I like that lineup a lot, actually. People don’t realize that simply because someone starts, it does not mean they have to finish games, or even play huge minutes. Bennett has not been good off of the bench. Try him as a starter. The only thing I would say is I might like Waiters off the bench better. That puts us here:
Waiters is more of a dynamic scorer in more ways and you need that off the bench. Where Delly is a better spot up guy, and the only true defender the roster has, which the initial lineup seemed to lack. I think you roll with Jack, Zeller, Waiters, and Miles as your main rotation guys. I’m not worried about getting Karasev a ton as of yet. Let him fill in in spots here and there and see what happens.
I think that the depth of the team should be a strength, honestly. And it likely would be if MB had any idea how to manage a bench. Depth works when your depth has roles. Cleveland’s has none.
Also, friend, don’t sell yourself short on your basketball knowledge or your knowledge of this roster.
MVW – Now that we have the starting lineup and rotation squared away, what does the trade market look like for the Cavs? I don’t think they are one or two moves away from contending in the playoffs (probably more like one or two years) but I have to think there are some things this team could do to improve, get a decent draft slot, still make the playoffs and prepare for 2014/15 and beyond. I know you’ve got some feelers out in NBA Trade land so I defer to you, solely, on this one.
JD – I heard this morning that news about the Lakers and Karasev. The Lakers are basically under the impression that the Cavs need to move Bynum more than they need to move salary. They could not be more wrong. They are also convinced that the Pau Gasol deal is the best one. I think that they are wrong. The Cavaliers have no less than two other deals they are mulling over and trying to decide by the end of this weekend, or they will hold on to Bynum and mitigate their damages with an attempt at reconciliation. Luol Deng has long been a target of theirs, and the Bulls are in the same boat as the Lakers.
I think that the Cavs would rather have Gasol than Deng. Why? Deng plays the same position as a talented individual in Miami. Gasol/Irving/Number 6 is a nice trio, and an established winner like Gasol would ease some tension 6 might have in terms of a return. A trade for Deng, in my eyes, would signify panic. Making a move to make a move.
Keep an eye on the Brooklyn situation as well. I am not convinced that a KG or Paul Pierce won’t be made available if an unprotected pick is involved. Most teams will not do that. The Cavaliers might, if it is NOT a 2014 pick.
MVW – Ok, let’s switch gears since you brought it up. What do you think the likelihood is of King James bringing his court back to Cleveland? I for one do not think it is going to happen. I will feel even stronger about him not returning to Cleveland if Miami wins their 3rd straight championship, Mike Brown continues to be the head coach of the Cavaliers (should have hired Dambrot) and the Cavs don’t get a high lottery pick. I think those three factors will determine whether LeBron comes back to Cleveland or not. Would I like to see LeBron back in Cleveland? Absolutely. Anyone who says otherwise would have their mind changed the first time Kyrie ally’s and LeBron oop’s.
Did he burn us? Yes. Did it hurt? Yes. But in the end, his return signifies the best chance we’ve had at a championship since he left. I’ll let you give your thoughts and barring another fantastic topic, I think we can wrap up this experiment that, I feel, has gone very, very well!
JD – I really think that he is coming back, and the little bit of intel that I have echoes that. It seems to be the worst kept secret in the NBA. All that Cleveland has to do is apologize as an organization. That should be read as “Dan Gilbert needs to rectify any damage done by that ridiculous, childish display after The Decision”. I also have word that when Dion was complaining, he was essentially hauled into the office and told “chill out…here is what is going on…he’s coming back”. Now, I don’t know how exactly true that is. But I do believe there was a conversation to that effect. “Hang in there, get better…its going to be OK, and we will need you”. Whether it be in a trade, or to help lure LeBron…they need Dion Waiters. If the Cavaliers didn’t think he was coming back, it makes no sense to trade Bynum for Gasol. I believe that they are trying to get him in here, learn the system, learn the city, and understand that 6 will lengthen his career and ensure his legacy as a champion once he gets here. Mike Brown being the coach does not matter. There was no rift. The Cavs didn’t fire him because they thought it would keep LeBron here. They did it because he was simply not progressing as a coach, and the roster was no longer progressing as a whole. If anything, familiarity, and a coach that trusts LeBron to basically run the show at times is exactly what he is looking for.
I have enjoyed this immensely. And I am honored to be able to contribute to your outstanding blog.
MVW – This has been great and we kept it under 2,500 words. Bill Simmons should take note, unless I’m completely bored on a Friday afternoon at work. Thanks again to Jared for joining me on this. Judging by the outcome, I don’t think it will be the last time we get together for something like this!
Picture via Bleacher Report