Archives For Cleveland Cavaliers

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With the likelihood of a swap with Love-for-Wiggins at its core looking more likely, a lot of fans have apparently shifted their focus for the time being onto what else will come along with this trade exchanging proven superstar for potential superstar. The big problem with moving Love for a swingman is the enormous hole left at the power forward position, especially given Dante Cunningham’s expiring deal (and whether or not the team exercises its option for him, he isn’t a viable starter). Sure, there’s the potential for Gorgui Dieng to get some minutes at the four as a supersized PF next to Pekovic, which could surely create some excellent and interesting high-low action given the passing skills that Dieng showed off in college, but Dieng is also not an every-game starter at power forward.

So the question becomes who the Wolves can get back in the trade to man the four spot, and it seems like people are waffling over the still-raw-but-possibly-better-than-we-thought-last-year Anthony Bennett or the largely unsung and in some cases unknown Thaddeus Young, who could be routed from Philadelphia should they be brought into the deal.

Now if you know me, you know I like Thad Young. I wrote about him for the New York Times and HoopChalk prior to last season, essentially lauding his evolution into a true smallball power forward and noting that if he could add the 3-pointer back into his game — he shot ~35% in his second and third seasons — he could become even better. (Also worth noting that he was most successful from 3-point range on the left wing — Love’s favorite spot.)

This past season he did re-introduce the 3-pointer, but it didn’t go super well. He only shot 31% from 3-point range, but I think it’s worth remembering that he more or less hadn’t taken a 3-point shot in a game for three years (34 3PA in those three years combined) and that he was on an atrocious Sixers team where the offense wasn’t designed to get him 3-point looks. With seven years of experience but still just 26 years old, I still think Thaddeus Young can be a tremendous player in the league, if not a marquee star.

That veteran experience is what I’m more interested in talking about than his specific game, though. It’s true that Bennett looked much better in Summer League than he did at any point last year, and it’s true that he was dealing with a host of physical issues from rehabilitating an injury to his shoulder to sleep apnea (for which he’s since had surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids). There’s every reasonable expectation that, given the right environment, he can evolve into a very good basketball player.

But that’s the sticking point: environment. There’s a natural tendency to look at a player’s skillset and potential and believe it will blossom one way or another, but it’s more complicated than that. Simply put, if the Wolves are already going to be giving heavy minutes to Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, it’s going to be very difficult to also give heavy minutes to Bennett. Three years down the line, a starting lineup with LaVine, Wiggins and Bennett could be great, but I just don’t think they get there if they’re all having to start this season, or even just play heavy minutes.

First and second year players simply need to be surrounded by veterans to reach their full potential. If this trade goes down and if it involves Kevin Martin and if the Wolves feel they need to start Wiggins over Brewer, that means the longest tenured starter would be Pekovic, with four years of NBA experience. Rubio has three, and just barely given that he’s played 180 games in those three years. Young more than doubles Rubio’s experience and nearly doubles Pekovic’s.

Now obviously the kind of veteran leader he can be matters, but so far he’s shown himself to be quiet and steady, plus he hasn’t needed the team to be designed around getting him looks for him still to be the best player on the floor for the Sixers the last two years.

You need balance on a team, not just to be successful, but to grow. Young versus Bennett probably won’t change the win total of next year’s Wolves very much — and I don’t expect them to be good in the sense of making the playoffs either way — but a team on which Wiggins, LaVine and Bennett are all getting heavy minutes would not only be not very good next year, but it would stunt all of their development. It’s better for LaVine and Wiggins to be finding their feet next to a veteran like Young, even if he leaves after next season by not picking up his player option. If he does leave, that’s nearly $10 million in cap space.

The bottom line here is that playing a bunch of potentially great rookies might work in NBA 2K15, but doing so in the real world not only hurts the team’s present prospects but also their future ones. The Baby Bulls of the early 2000s are instructive here. They were not only a 21-win team in 2002 when they had Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry as rookies plus Jamal Crawford and Marcus Fizer as sophomores, but they stayed bad for years.

No matter a player’s potential, growth curves are not inevitable. Developing one rookie is ideal. Two simultaneously is a challenge but possibly worth the payoff if it works. Giving three young players big minutes is likely to compromise all of their development and hamstring the team for years.

Tyler the Creator, who look very much like Andrew Wiggins

You have most likely seen the reports that the Cavaliers have relented a bit in their unwillingness to include Andrew Wiggins in a deal for Kevin Love. Here is the original story from the Lake Country News Herald:

Up until this point, it was assumed the Cavs wanted to hang onto Wiggins, largely because of comments made by Coach David Blatt. However, a source said James wants the 6-10, 250-pound Love on the roster. And, what James wants, he normally gets.

Cleveland’s original reluctance may simply have been a negotiating tactic–though if it was, they seem to have given up on it rather early in the game–but the lack of consensus around this issue has been shocking to me. Check it out, two out of four Grantland writers and seven out of 12 NBA GM’s would not move Wiggins for Love. Experts! So let me understand this. You would refuse a trade to pair one of the league’s ten-best players (which is, by the way, a statement of fact), a floor-spacing, glass-eating, high-post passing, outlet machine, with LeBron James while both are in their primes.  Which trade would give you the most formidable Big Three in the league (yeah, I capitalized that) and would automatically make you the favorite in the East. And you refuse this trade because one day, when LeBron is in his thirties and has played some 50,000 NBA minutes, Wiggins has a chance of becoming…one of the leauge’s ten-best players? I understand that it’s painful to let a player with as much talent as Wiggins walk–I’d say we Wolves fans know exactly how painful that is actually–but Cleveland really has no choice.

From the Wolves’ perspective, this is the only trade that has a chance of getting them even close to equal value. Klay Thompson is a nice player and everything, and Flip is right to insist that he be involved in any discussion with Golden State. (Although, please, Kevin Love for David Lee, Harrison Barnes and a future first rounder from a team that would likely be picking in the twenties? That is a hilarious joke!) But, as Zach pointed out some weeks ago, that trade feels, at my most optimistic, like a one-way-ticket to possibly competing for the eighth seed. You’ve just given up one of the two best players in franchise history in exchange for a lot of salary and not much hope for getting better.

No thanks. I’d much rather play out the season with Love on the roster and pray that the animal spirits bless the Wolves with some miraculous change in fortune. (It could happen!!!!!) Barring that, a player of Wiggins’ potential–or at least a draft pick that gives you the hope of landing such a player–is the only way to make this completely depressing situation feel even a little ok.

Love

There are going to be a lot of absurd Kevin Love trade ideas over the next few months because I’ve found that people are usually slow to hop on what’s current. Look at Twitter. Twitter was around for a couple of years before people really latched on to it and accepted it as a reality in the social media world. Now? Everybody and their grandmas seem to be tweeting, we’ve got the social media platform in video games, and there seem to be very few people that don’t understand what is going on with Twitter.

I think we’re going to be that way with the Kevin Love trade rumors/offers for a little while. With David Kahn gone, Kevin Love no longer hates the team’s management. I don’t know if he likes Flip Saunders, but I know he doesn’t have contempt for him. Saunders is showing him respect and showing him that he’s the most important part of this franchise moving forward. These were never opinions David Kahn seemed to publicly show Kevin and certainly didn’t show him when he tried to trade him multiple times and insulted him multiples times during contract negotiations over his extension. Considering Love doesn’t have this saturating animosity toward Wolves’ management anymore, it seems unlikely he’ll request a trade any time soon.

That’s not going to stop teams from trying to trade for Love and really they shouldn’t stop trying. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz is reporting that the Cavaliers offered up Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and the No. 1 pick in the draft in exchange for Love.  Continue Reading…

RubioLuke

When you’re a losing team and you have injuries all over key parts of your roster, you need a full team effort to pull out victories. It isn’t getting good performances just from your remaining top players. Of course, you need good games from them but it takes a village to raise a victory, or something like that.

It also helps playing a really bad team. It gives you more and less pressure at the same time, which is an odd thing for a team to manage. The Cleveland Cavaliers are not a good basketball team — at all. They have Kyrie Irving, who might already be a top 5 point guard, and if he’s not then he’s knocking on the door like one of those creepy stalkers in the movie The StrangersContinue Reading…

Ok, so the thing about being the darlings of the NBA, the “League Pass team of the year,” is that everybody is watching when you serve up an uninspired, low-energy stinker to Cleveland, at home, on Friday night. Everybody sees the gaping suck of confidence that is the Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson wing tandem and the slightly embarrassing fact that if Luke Ridnour has an off shooting night (2-11) your perimeter offense becomes an inefficient, unlovely slog.

Everyone gets to see Darko perform one of his signature moves: the inspired, kinetic first quarter followed by a gentle, balmy three-quarter drift back to mediocrity. Everybody watches as your power forwards get twisted into gummy little knots by Antawn Jamison’s old man craft. The nation looks on in horror as Wayne Ellington airballs a wide-open corner three, squandering a brilliant Ricky Rubio skip pass. The basketball world gets treated to a vintage Samardo Samuels/Nikola Pekovic garbage-time wrestling match.

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Notes on a dark Sunday

Benjamin Polk —  January 24, 2011 — 3 Comments

Run Ricky, Run

Question: is it a good or bad thing when the New York Times wonders aloud if the  putative savior of your franchise is over the hill at age 20? “Through 28 games in the 2010-11 season,” says Jonathan Givony in the Old Gray Lady, “[Ricky] Rubio has continued to struggle. He is shooting just 32 percent from the field, including 11 of 61 from beyond the arc, and his team has lost more games in the ACB and in the Euroleague than it did all of last season. Why has Rubio’s development stalled? Will he be able to turn his potential into production?”

Good, sobering questions. The piece also includes a nicely in-depth look at the financial implications of Rubio’s coming decision. Things are definitely more complicated than David Kahn would have us believe. Here’s how the article ends: “‘I’m not focused on the N.B.A. right now,’ Rubio said. ‘Right now, I don’t want to talk and I don’t want to think.’” Oh boy.

Faces of Death

Our sincere hope is that none of us will ever have to experience a basketball season as desperately miserable as the Cleveland Cavaliers 2010/2011 campaign. But if we do, I can only hope that we’ll have someone like John Krolik of Cavs: the Blog to read. Routinely plumbing the depths of a team this hopeless and emerging with sanity and good humor intact is a serious project and Krolik is taking it seriously.

Not only is he summoning up the courage to actually analyze this punishingly irrelevant squad, but check out some of the recent entry titles: Whoever said ‘that’s why they play the games’ was not talking about this game bullets; The Cavs totally would have won this game if they didn’t suck bullets; History is now chasing us, and we cannot run fast enough bullets. He has a post called “Most things in life are less terrible than the Cavaliers.” That’s intense!

Watching Krolik waver between indignation and resigned exhaustion is pretty compelling in a wrenching, Cassavetes-esque kind of way. Cavs: The Blog is a painful place right now, but I suggest you read it anyway.

Apparently the Wolves got some of that much needed composure for Christmas. Either that or they should’ve asked the schedule makers for more games against the Cavs.

Of course this game started off as any other; Luke Ridnour continually sagged off of three point shooters, Michael Beasley mistook activity for achievement and a collective ineptitude was displayed in defending any Cavs possession that required more than one pass. Add these troubles to Kevin Love being lost amidst the forest that is Anderson Varejao’s unkempt mane and our boys were off to an early deficit which presumably would lead to their latest loss away from Target Center. Seventeen first quarter points certainly didn’t seem like the sign of good things to come.

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Far be it from me to add to the city of Cleveland’s misery. It should be enough that their former hometown hero tortured and betrayed them on national television, and then returned home to throw chalk in their faces and mercilessly demolish their team. I’d like to think that we Wolves fans can sympathize a little. But our great divorce was amicable; and our emotional investment, by definition apparently, can’t possibly rival Cleveland’s passion and majestic suffering. None of this, however, can change the fact that the Cavs just lost by 34 to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Just another cruel humiliation to add to the list. Sorry guys.

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