CLEVELAND - The Cavaliers looked like they had finally turned the corner on this whole rebuild after a 6-3 stint where even a pair of close defeats to Miami and Portland, were somehow impressive. A week and two blow out defeats later, and the optimism buzz surrounding the Cavaliers has all but vanished.
Instead of talking about turning corners, Cavaliers fans are back to slamming the panic button and to be honest it just might be fair this time. It’s often been said that the best indicator for the quality of a team is not win/loss record, but rather their average point differential, the difference between the average points per game a team scores and a team gives up. The Cavaliers average point differential is currently -6.2 which is good for 4th worst in the NBA with only Utah, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia worse off.
It’s now 27 games into the season, and that probably means something.
It wasn’t an absurd notion to think the Cavaliers could try to get away with one more “rebuild” season considering how juicy the 2014 NBA Draft is looking, but Dan Gilbert publicly stated he expects this team to make the playoffs and fans quickly adapted the same expectation. Falling back into the lottery at this point would be a huge mark against management and one might imagine that it could ultimately cost Chris Grant his job. It’s still too early to say the season is a failure, but even limping into the postseason in the flaming shipwreck that is the Eastern Conference Playoff race isn’t an accomplishment Grant could proudly display on his mantle, especially considering the likely result is a four game bludgeoning at the hands of Miami or Indiana.
The idea of having a general manager running my favorite basketball team who is potentially on the hot seat is a disconcerting one. Former Toronto Raptor GM Bryan Colangelo acquired Rudy Gay before last season’s trade deadline in hopes of propelling the Raptors to the playoffs and possibly preserving his job. The Raptors missed the playoffs and Colangelo was promptly replaced by Masai Ujiri who’s been left to undo the mess left by Colangelo.
The point is that Cavaliers fans have never seen “Hot Seat Chris Grant”. No one knows what that looks like. His entire tenure as GM has been a giant expectation free tank-fest in terms of actually fielding a winning product. That’s all changing now and I’m a little worried at what that added pressure will mean in terms of how Chris Grant values future draft picks and if we could see him start dangling one or two in a trade.
I would be shocked if the Cavaliers at this point didn’t try to make a big move, but all their young talent, excluding Kyrie, aren’t exactly at their peak in terms of trade value. The Cavs most juicy trade asset currently is their 2014 first rounder and it is in all likelihood what potential trade partners will target in any deal going forward. That is a scary thought.
Positive Thoughts Only
- The Cavaliers consecutive blowouts against the Pistons and the Bulls coincided with Dion Waiters missing a string of three games to rest his tendonitis. Waiters is the second most talented offensive players on the Cavs currently and posted his best stretch of the season averaging 16 points a game on .490% shooting in the ten games prior to this recent absence. Though there is no set time for his return, it is probable that a decent portion of the Cavaliers recent offensive lull is due to Dion posting DNPs in the box score.
- In other news Tyler Zeller managed to rack up 13 points on 6-7 shooting in 15 minutes against the Pistons. Despite most of his scoring coming in garbage time it was nice just to see him on the court. It’s been disappointing as a Cavs fan not to see Tyler get a chance to improve upon his underwhelming rookie season. The Cavaliers thought highly enough of Zeller to trade up for him during last year’s draft after Dallas selected him 17th overall, and yet he’s been left to ride the bench most of this season.
- Kyrie Irving posted his own version of the flu game in the Cavaliers overtime win over the Bucks when he logged 39 points on 52% shooting. Anyone reading this who has encountered the stomach flu which is currently wreaking havocs on toilets all over Cleveland will tell you, that is quite impressive.
Random Stat of the Week
Intuition would say that Andrew Bynum would look worst in games in which he had the least amount of rest in between. Players’ knees with similar issues to Bynum’s tend to swell up following heavy use, but Bynum thus far this season has actually posted better stat lines the less amount of rest he receives.
Bynum’s per game stats on 0 days rest: 5 games, 15.4 points, .593 FG%, 6.6 rebounds
Bynum’s per game stats on 1 days rest: 6 games, 7.5 points, .465 FG%, 4.7 rebounds
Bynum’s per game stats on 2 days rest: 6 games, 7.8 points, .348 FG%, 6 rebounds
Bynum’s per game stats on 3+ days of rest: 5, games, 5.8 points, .293 FG%, 4.2 rebounds
I have no explanation for why it has happened this way, but the more time between games the worse Bynum is. Just something to keep an eye on.
Giving the Cavs their Holiday gifts
Kyrie Irving – A small forward who can hit a three. Four separate times gainst Detroit Kyrie kicked to a wide open Alonzo Gee in the corner, the easiest three point shot in the NBA, and he managed to go a meager 1-4 on those shots. Gee isn’t the only Cavalier to blame for poor floor spacing but he could certainly be the poster child for it, and this hurts Irving ability to drive as opposing teams continue to pack the paint due to a lack of respect for the Cavs outside shooting prowess.
CJ Miles – A time machine. CJ started the season off on fire coming off the bench, but those days are long behind him and he’s been largely inefficient as of late in the starting lineup.
Alonzo Gee – A new shot release. If you watch Gee try to shoot a three, part of his problem is how long it takes him to ready his shot. Despite Gee’s defender sagging off him heavily in order to provide help defense they are still often provided enough time to run Gee off the three point line, or at least contest the shot, due to how long it takes Gee to release the ball.
Dion Waiters – Some love. Dion gets a lot of hate both locally and national from NBA writers and fans alike, but more than any Cavalier not named Andy or Dellavedova, he at least consistently shows some sort of passion on the floor. Maybe that’s what has been missing these past few games?
Andrew Bynum – A new set of knees. Do I even need to explain?
Anthony Bennett – A hype man. The struggling rookie needs some confidence. What better way than someone following him around all the time telling him how great he is? Henry Sims isn’t doing anything right now, why not ask him?
Jarret Jack - All the mid-range jumpers in the world. Yes. ALL OF THEM. Jarret Jack loves them. He’d probably take one every possession if the coach let him.
Anderson Varejao – A new team? I know that is somewhat blasphemous considering how much Andy means to a lot of Cavaliers fans, but it is frustrating watching this team every night and see Andy consistently head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of energy. The man deserves more and it’d be fun to see him on a good team one more time. Unfortunately I don’t think it is in Cleveland.
The End of December
The Cavaliers close out December with games all against teams looking down at them in the overall standings: Atlanta, Boston, Golden State and Indiana. The Cavs have already faced Atlanta, Boston and Indiana, going 0-3 and recording a staggering average margin of defeat of 17 points in those games. With the Cavs losing what looked like on paper two winnable games against the Pistons and the Bulls, it would be nice if they could at least salvage the month and go 2-2 in these tough match ups. But 1-3 seems much more likely due to the level of the competition and the fact that no one is saying when Waiters is supposed to return. I’d give up every gift coming my way this Christmas for a 4-0 though.
Happy Holidays, folks!