RAISING THE CADAVALIER - many, many thoughts on the Cleveland Cavaliers by ROBERT ATTENWEILER

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2012/11/03

2 of the roughly 358 Things I Think…

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About the Cavs first 2 games.

The start of the NBA season began for me (and, let’s be fair, for millions of others) a few days later than it should have. With Hurricane Sandy plunging me into a dark, cold, connection-free existence of reading books by candlelight like some petty 18th century criminal (or, let’s be fair, some 18th century king) the 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers campaign kicked off about an hour before their second game, at home against the Chicago Bulls. And, through the magic of a still maddeningly inconsistent NBA Broadband experience, I did some watching and rewatching and here, viewership, I am with you again, as it should be.

I will keep these brief because a.) two games tell you very little about the big picture stuff of a season and b.) everyone’s already written stuff about these games … so, you know, there’s that. So, welcome to the 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers season here at RAISING THE CADAVALIER (which will be our third season covering this blessed little filthy child of a basketball team that I love so dearly) and here are a couple things that may not (or, let’s be fair, may) have been said yet.

1.) Anderson Varejao’s single greatest basketball skill is his ability to execute a reverse lay-up off a pick and roll. Yes, Andy has many great basketball skills and, often, I’ve found myself wondering what this team will look like once they trade him (because I’m resigned to that happening by the 2013 draft). His activity and rebounding and defense and … activity are such great teaching points for everyone on this team but especially a couple of offensively limited, but athletically gifted, big men (okay, mainly one of those big men, Tristan Thompson, but we’re willing to make the reach and say Samardo Samuels might be, in a very basic way, if not in a basketball way, considered athletically gifted). But watching Andy work the pick and roll with Irving and Waiters, even against the Bulls, Andy’s reverse lay-up seems like his most indefensibly weapon. That might, in fact, be the team’s most indefensible play. If this team can consistently get Andy buckets like this – and can figure out a way for Thompson to excel in this area, as well – they’ll be able to get easier baskets than they have been able to the last couple of years.

2.) These are the things I like most about Dion Waiters: a.) I do believe he can get past a great variety of NBA players and I like his instincts – especially passing – once he’s past the initial defender b.) he seems like he’ll be an above average on-ball defender and, maybe, he’ll break the curse of Syracuse players not being able to adjust to the man-to-man pro game c.) it actually looks like someone shoots him in midair every time he takes a shot – like there is a sniper in the rafters whose only job is to shoot Dion Waiters when he takes jump shots – that’s how awkward his shot looks. Luckily, though, some have gone down. I might just start calling him Bulletproof, though and d.) I mentioned this during Summer League – I think Waiters has amazing body control for a slasher. In Summer League, he was trying to finish a drive when a defender slid in front of him and Waiters seemed to pull back to avoid making enough contact to commit an offensive foul. He also converted the shot. In the Wizards game, it was Bulletproof driving through the defense, jumping, finding that he’d jumped just a bit early for a slam and half-rolling/half-willing the ball through the hoop. I’ll admit, I look for reasons to like this guy. But, so far, he’s giving me enough. Very excited to see what/if anything he can do against a less-than-interested defender in Monta Ellis.

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2012/09/01

Cavs 2012-13 Roster Outlook Pt. 1: This makes sense HOW?!

Trying to figure out how the Cavs 2012-13 roster will eventually shake out leads one to dark, unfamiliar places. How else would you describe the walk you have to take when asking the inevitable Will they go with Donald Sloan or Jeremy Pargo as Kyrie’s back-up question? Or maybe they’ll keep both. Is Daniel Gibson still on the roster? How does Michael Eric make this team even as a project? Jon Leuer?!?

You stare at this roster enough, the backwards-talking midget appears and, the next thing you know, you’re losing days, then weeks, then months only to wake up in ill-fitting clothes wondering why you smell of Harangody.

It may be that kind of season, viewership. Still, let’s give sense-making a try.

The following players are on the books for real real. Like guaranteed money real (via HoopsHype’s salary page): Anderson Varejao, Luke Walton, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Omri Casspi, CJ Miles, Tyler Zeller, Luke Harangody, Jeremy Pargo, Leuer and Eric.

That’s 12 players waiting on guaranteed money. One slight wrinkle in this is that, as of last year, NBA rosters can carry 13 active players instead of the 12 they could previously. The team may also have 2 inactive players on the roster, one of whom can be sent to our D-League affiliate, your Canton Charge, at a time (note: I am reciting this rule completely from memory, so I might not have it spot-on. Still, the information was not falling all over itself to let me find it and this seems correct – so, enjoy swapping “reporting that you can trust” for “writing that means well”). So, we’ve got 3 more players to come from the pool of: Daniel Gibson (team option at $4.8 million), Alonzo Gee (qualifying offer for $2.7 million – rumored to be signing a 3-year/$10 million dollar deal), Kelenna Azubuike (team option for just under $1 million) and Kate Moss … er, I mean, the now so-waifish-he’s-practically-see-through Samardo Samuels (team option for $854,389).

Now, no one’s been saying “Boobie’s outta here,” which makes some sense. Not only is he the longest tenured Cavalier after Varejao, Boobie actually does something on his better days that no one else on this roster (or maybe just no one on this roster not named Kyrie Irving) can do with a degree of purity: shoot. That being said, Chris Grant sure hasn’t ignored the 2-guard spot this off-season by drafting Waiters and signing the swing-man, Miles. And as much as no one is talking about Gibson being gone, there’s not an awful lot of talk of him as an actual existing entity either. Still, safe money’s on The Boob being on the final roster.

Same for Gee. Eventually, he and his agent will have to accept the fact that Landry Fields money only (and inexplicably) happens to Landry Fields. Yes, Alonzo, you’ve worked really hard to carve out a place for yourself on an NBA roster. Unfortunately, that place only pays between $2-3.5 million. But, on the flip side, you have the chance, even if everything else goes wrong from here on out, in excess of $10 million before you’re 30. Not a bad pay-off for all that hard work, huh?

Which leaves us with Azubuike who, if you listen to the endless stream of positivity that has become Off-Season Byron Scott, is fully-healthy and has a chance to return to the form that made Cavs fans regret giving up on him years ago.

Then, Donald Sloan, by all accounts, will also be invited to training camp.

Of all those players, the least likely to be with the team when it opens the season are Azubuike and some combination of Sloan and/or Pargo.

All of this uncertainty is actually pretty smart on the part of Chris Grant. They don’t need to pick up Boobie’s team option until he gets into camp. If something were to happen to one of the unsigned players before the start of the season – accidents and legal run-ins do happen in professional sports – the team wouldn’t be on the hook for that player and would have other options already in-house at the position.

If, say, Samardo has gain back 50 of the 11,000 pounds he lost this summer, you can cut the cord and only have the picture of him in the team’s swimsuit calendar to remember him by.

And, finally, if, say, Azubuike looks great – but maybe he doesn’t look like he’s in the team’s long-term plans – well, let’s just say that Chris Grant has never said no to a second-round draft pick for a fringe roster player – and Azubuike is/was good enough to get that (and me with all this practice spelling Azubuike…).

So, barring any moves outside of re-signing Gee and picking up the options on Boobie and Samardo (if he performs), we’re looking at a roster like this:

Tier 1 (The Rotation – the players who the team counts on to play every game): Irving, Waiters, Gee, Thompson, Varejao, Boobie, Miles, Zeller, and Slo-go (my Sloan/Pargo hybrid).

Tier 2 (The Fringe – the players who could see some occasional action): Casspi, Samuels, and Walton.

Tier 3 (The Charge – these players will bounce between the 13th active player, the inactive list and your Canton Charge): Michael Eric’s biceps, Leuer, and Harangody.

Welcome, viewership, to you far-from-complete-but-I’d-be-willing-to-bet-some-small-amount-of-money-on-it 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers!

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2012/04/08

Tristan Thompson and the Problem of the Hickson Mirage Pt 2

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I won’t bother burying the lead here: it’s all going to be okay.

Or, if not okay, then, at least, it will not be what it was before (which, I suppose, does open the door for “worse” as well as “better,” but let’s turn that frown into slightly-less-frown and put our faith – or our slightly-less-doom – in the “better” here).  Just because Tristan Thompson is seeing minutes at his out-of-position, does not mean that he is a soon-t0-be-castoff like J. Jellybean Hickson was at this time last year (though we didn’t know it at the time).

The biggest thing Thompson has going for him is that he is a rookie. As such, he is under contract for, at least, three more years.  And, while we have all grown to have fan-crushes on the Toronto Tornado, to a fan, no one is sitting here telling you that they expect Tristan Thompson to be a star.  Some people think he will be really good, but most experts talk about him aiming for a 12Pt/10Reb/2Blk career … which, if you think of it, probably is attainable and probably would be just fine. The Hickson Promise, though, had us thinking bigger. He will forever go down as the player who – according to legend – Danny Ferry would not part with to bring a less-broken-than-now Amar’e Stoudamire to the Q to run with LeBron and Shaq (or, more accurately, to run with LeBron and wait for Shaq to catch up … eventually … in fact, in the fast break I’m running in my head they’re still waiting, waiting … waiting – ah, there’s Shaquille!) and even though the Suns dispute that they were ready to make that trade, there were games where the Hickson Promise would just rush to your head same as if you’d consumed an entire package of Peeps.

The problem was two-fold: we thought Jackie J. Hickson was better than he was and he thought he was too.  I don’t think it was J. Jerry’s fault. It was clearly our fault.  Our fault and our fault and our fault.  When we as the collective fanbase buy in to a player so, we have learned, unrealistically, that player’s going to buy into himself just as much, if not more so.  As Hickson’s role would change as Chris Grant and Byron Scott brought in players who could remember plays (although, the player that Hickson was swapped for caused a stir mid-season by admitting that he didn’t know all of the plays.  That’s irony … or miragery … or just funny) and who would not look like they were playing Marco Polo on defense and who had that switch inside them capable of being flipped into the “Understanding the Nuances of Winning Basketball” position, Jabberjaw Jabberwocky Hickson would, no doubt, pout.  By that point, he would believe he was a certain caliber of player and it would be the fans that, given time to have some buyers remorse, would think that notion exaggerated.  By then, it would no longer be our fault that Hickson (I’m giving up the J’s for the rest of the post … I do have some sense of the limits of your patience) inflated his own value.  It would be all on Hickson. Of course, it would be all on Hickson.  We would not remember our role (or management’s role) in getting to this point.  Just another deluded player that we were right about all along.

By then, though, we would also be paying Hickson about $12 million a year.

These are the types of decisions that should make us optimistic as fans of this franchise going forward.  Chris Grant seems to know that a rebuild is a rebuild is a rebuild – and that it’s not that he inherited all bad players from Danny Ferry, but that our perceptions of many of them were clouded with what they could do on a veteran-laden team led by the best player in the game.  That situation tends to make people look good.  Stripped of that situation, Hickson was a player who had ability (just look at his recent stretch as a Trailblazer), but who had to be constantly prodded by Byron Scott to reach anything near his potential.

Tristan Thompson – for lack of a more meaningful term – “gets it.” He seemingly wants to play defense.  He seemingly wants to guard the rim – and rebound – and dunk – and, yes, he seemingly wants to shoot from places and with a frequency that he shouldn’t right now – but, should he continue to develop, he has the potential to be a player who, like Anderson Varejao, is arguably overvalued, but … you know … unlike other players, properly so.

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2012/01/21

FORESIGHT IS ALWAYS 20/200 … or, it’s never too early to start thinking about how bad we might still get

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Just when you thought you were done seeing those “worst loss in franchise history” things…

Well, let’s hope that was the “aberration” Byron Scott said it was and look at the bigger picture.

At 6-8, the Cavs have wins against the Pistons, Bobcats (twice), T-Wolves and Suns – and competitive showings against the Pacers and Lakers (though not, unfortunately, in two against the Raptors).  So, they’re beating the teams they are (at least, mostly) better than and showing the resiliency to not roll over against the league’s elite (remember, Bulls game = aberration).

Kyrie Irving is playing better earlier than many people thought.  Anderson Varejao is being a particularly good version of Anderson Varejao.  Antawn Jamison is finding ways to be effective/inefficient.  This team is a professional basketball team again.  In fact, the only people more excited by the way the Cavs are playing might be D.J. Augustin and D.J. Augustin’s agent.

Of course, going forward, there are still plenty of things waiting to upset the apple cart of good feeling (and piss on all of the apples and then set the cart on fire) and get us right back to NBA bottom-feeder (instead of hovering-just-above-the-bottom-feeder).  And I’m not even talking about the schedule.  I’m talking about the trading deadline and/or the off-season and what we’d look like without Varejao, Jamison and Ramon Sessions.

1.)   Varejao: What’s that?  You’ve heard that the 2012 NBA Draft is deep with delicious, delicious talent? You’ve heard that teams have been inquiring about Andy and that a deal could net the Cavs an additional pick which would be better than nothing considering Varejao will be past his prime if/when the Cavs are ready to contend again?

But you also like that the Cavs look more active defensively this year (outside of certain aberrations) and think there are things the younger bigs (Tristan Thompson, in particular) can learn from Varejao? Well, spit out that cake.  You cannot have and eat, y’know?  Here’s the thing (and it’s been written about, I’m just agreeing): there is no sense in trading Varejao if the only thing you’re doing is getting a younger (and quite possibly worse) player.  If you’re trading Andy mid-season, he’ll be going, no doubt, to a contender – so your precious added draft pick will likely be in the mid to late 20s.  And, while this isn’t written in stone, I’m betting that Anderson Varejao is going to be better even 3 years from now (when, hopefully, he’s able to come off the bench again at power forward and slow down his career odometer a little) than the players available with that pick.  Again, not stone writing here – but I’d be willing to lay valid currency on it.  And I’m not sure that half of a shortened season is enough time for him to impart on Thompson the types of “how to succeed as an NBA hustler” lessons.  Give him, at least, a full season.

Might there be a trade proposed in the off-season that makes sense?  Sure. Off-season deals are the ones when you’re more likely to see a decent or up-coming player get moved for the piece that is Anderson Varejao – or a team making the move thinking it will contend but then actually sucking – the deals that, with some luck, end up looking a little better than you first thought.  But Anderson Varejao for late first round pick (even a 2012 first round pick) ain’t getting us any better and sooner than Anderson Varejao.  And, you know, we’ve already got him.

2.)   Jamison:  Well, things couldn’t all be hopeful-outlooky…  Antawn Jamison is (understandably) the focus of the vast majority of fan frustration this year. We’re not frustrated with Irving or Thompson.  They’re rookies.  We’re not frustrated with Varejao.  He’s busting his ass out there and being productive.  Maybe we’re frustrated with Casspi, but he’s still too new (and we were already so used to being frustrated with the guy we traded for him).

Jamison is a former All-Star who – for better or worse – is going to wind up taking most of the shots not falling into the box score under “Irving, Kyrie.”  And, you know what?  He should be.  He’s the only person on this team with a proven track record as a scorer on the pro level.  And, you know what else?  He hasn’t been terrible this year.  He’s averaging 16.1PPG and 5.8REB and, yes, while you don’t want your starting power forward shooting 41% from the floor, Jamison’s always going to shoot way too many 3s and long 2s, bringing his field goal percentage well south of what you’d like from his position.  He’s put up some stinkers (and has been destroyed by big, physical frontcourts since he got here) but, as has been pointed out, when the Cavs are successful, they’re usually getting good games from Irving and Jamisonand that’s the problem.

As a Cavs fan looking forward, I (and I believe everyone else, Jamison included) would love to see him traded to a playoff team for a first rounder.  Using exactly the same logic as with Varejao, Antawn Jamison is (most, most likely) going to be less serviceable three years from now (to the Cavs, anyway) than Player X drafted in the 20-30 range.  But, there are also 25 games this year after the trade deadline.  So, no one should complain about the number of wins we’re getting early.  If Jamison gets moved at the deadline (which, again, is the right move … or a right move) this team will likely go from “not good” to “baaaaaad” real quick as teams play “5-on-Kyrie” until the end of April.  Now, what team needs Jamison?  Does any team need Jamison?  That remains to be seen.

3.)   Sessions:  Ramon’s lost a little of the luster he had early in the season when he was hitting(ish) his 3s, seeming to care just a smidge about his defense, and teaming with Irving to form one heck of one point guard.  He’s still shooting a career high from 3 (31%), but you’d love a little more distance between that number and his overall field goal percentage (32.5%).  I don’t think I’m going out on too long of a limb in saying this: Ramon Sessions is a top-10 back-up point guard.

And that’s great.  The Cavs need top-10 players everywhere, so if their back-up point is one of the better back-up points in the league (and it’s fair to say that Sessions is), then we don’t have to worry about that and we can get back to the business of replacing our bottom-10 starting 2, 3, 4 … well, I don’t have to tell you.  Sessions is still a pretty young player (25), so there’s still the chance he can improve and still be playing at his peak back-up years when the Cavs next start considering the playoffs.  And he’s an upgrade over who many teams have coming off the bench, so there’s going to be rumors about Sessions out there.  I could go either way with this one.  Again, having Sessions keeps us strong at a very important position.  But, you can find guys who can replace enough of what he brings so that (for a team that’s not very good, remember), you won’t be losing a ton of games on account of this one move.  And if you trade him and wind up getting a player you think could start in this league … well, that’s a whole lot of hypothesizing that’s probably not useful at this point.

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2011/12/10

Thoughts on The Beard…

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Thanks to Brian Windhorst for shining a light on why the “Cavs to amnesty Baron Davis” rumor – though lacking a fair amount of competitive basketball sense – refuses to go away.

Apparently, it’s Davis himself who has continued to fan the flames, hoping to find his way off the Cavaliers roster and onto another one more … what’s that word … oh, yeah “good.”

This makes sense if you’re Beardly because, even though this year’s Cavs team will not be as bad as last year’s (presumably), you (Beardly) are probably not going to be around by the time this thing fully turns itself around.  The team has already drafted its point guard of the future (oh, he of 11 NCAA games) and you are still (arguably) a top-10 (to 15) point guard when you’re healthy, so you can imagine that it doesn’t look to too appealing to spend your last two years in your relative-prime (Beardly is only 32 – or, to put it another way, about 17 years younger than Steve Nash) to be the mentor to a 19-year old rookie and the team’s de facto 2 guard.  We’re seeing the same thing from the recently amnestied Chauncey Billups, as he’s telling teams to back off the waiver wire and let him become a free agent.

The difference is that Chauncey has already been waived – and was a casualty of the amnesty clause so that the Knicks could get far enough under the cap to sign Tyson Chandler.  The Cavs, in regard to Baron Davis, have no such Tyson Chandler on the radar. Were they to amnesty Baron Davis, seemingly, it would be so that he doesn’t become disgruntled and a bad influence on the team’s young players.  That is how much the Cavs seem to fear Disgruntled Baron – they would rather pay him the nearly $29 million remaining on his contract (minus whatever he would get paid by the team that picks him up) to not bring that bad attitude (which, it should be noted, we have never actually seen from Baron since coming to Cleveland last year, but that is as part of the BD myth as the beard and the belly).

Part of me gets that.  But that part is not as large as the one that thinks that caving (that’s right, I said it – boom!) to Beardly’s wish to play elsewhere is not good for the Cavs because of (to steal a Stern-ism) “basketball reasons.”

How can you part with a top-10 (or 15) point guard and get nothing in return except for the ability to pay him to help another team win games.  What other team, you ask?

The Lakers were the talk several weeks ago, but it looks like they’ll be getting a certain veto-inspring star after all.  The Knicks just signed Mike Bibby and (if I understand how the amnesty waiver system works – and I admittedly DO NOT KNOW how the amnesty waiver system works) won’t have the money or room for Beardly.  You could see him having some value for the Celtics, Thunder and Grizzlies as a back-up.  And, I repeat, he could still start for over half the teams in the league (give or take a quarter of the teams in the league).

So, no perfect fit, right?  I’m not … I’m not forgetting anyone, am I?  There’s no team out there who could use another player with some star-level talent to help round out a team with an abundance of star-level talent?  Oh, yeah … them.  Clearly, Dan Gilbert wants no part in paying Beardly to increase the Miami Heat’s chances of winning a championship.  Gilbert would rather, I’m guessing, eat his own face.  Or maybe he’s just hoping to drive Baron to pout and gain a ton of weight before waiving him hoping that he’ll be in Miami for exactly 48-hours before getting tired by all of the “Wait, which one is Eddy Curry?” comments.  Maybe…

If I were Chris Grant, I think I’d approach Beardly in a way probably very similar to the way Chris Grant has already approached Beardly: “Hey, Baron, we understand that you want to play for a winner.  You helped yourself by coming in last year and playing well and helping the team win some games.  If you keep with us and keep that up, we will find a contending team to take you on either at the deadline this year or next year.”  Clearly, that’s not what Beardly wants to hear – since it clouds what would otherwise be a very easy solution.  But Grant (and Gilbert) must have the guts to put up with Davis until they are able to acquire more assets (or even just asset) in parting with him.  We still don’t have much value on this franchise.  Baron Davis has value.  The Cavaliers must figure out how to maximize that value.

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2011/11/28

AND WE’RE OFF…

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Well, that was fun, right? BRI, flex-cap, super-max-rookie-contract-extension… Every single last wonderfully, dripping piece of legal or financial jargon that had us all in knots of anticipation about what each new day would bring. Decertification, competitive balance… Days where I got to read that wonderful word “escrow” were, by far, my favorites. Now we just have basketball to talk about – that boring, boring game of basketball – and those lock-out days of yore are just a sweet memory. Here’s to hoping that some B-issues get in the way and we can keep the lock-out dream alive!!

Ahem.

Well … um … yes, clearly that sucked. But we are now (by all reports) less than a month away from seeing real unionized basketball players playing for actual NBA teams (sorry, Canton Charge, you had me for about 7 hours…) and that calls for a quick look-ahead at some of the issues facing your 2011-2012 Cleveland Cavaliers.

1.) Amnesty, shamnesty… There are already reports that the Lakers are hoping that Baron Davis is a victim of the new amnesty clause that allows teams to waive a player with an undesirable contract. The team will still have to pay the remainder of said player’s contract, but the contract would no longer count toward the team’s salary cap. Said player would then, clearly, take the league minimum to get a ring with the Heat, Lakers, Thunder, Mavericks or Knicks (who will not be netting said player a ring, but you get the idea). So, after an off-season griping about competitive balance, the owners who have mismanaged their team in giving big contracts to currently unproductive (or underproductive) players can sit back and see a Heat team starting Baron Davis, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Eddy Curry with Brandon Roy and Elton Brand coming off the bench (but no longer Mike Miller who will, himself, likely be an amnesty casualty). There are ways this clause can be useful to teams (who can exercise it at any point during the new CBA, though only on players signed before July 1, 2011) but not for the Cavaliers. Yes, Baron Davis makes a crap-ton of money over the next two years. It’s definitely more money than his on-court production warrants. And, it’s been argued, no owner would want to have Beardly’s bad attitude and overall … well, fatness … negatively affecting his young team if he didn’t have to. However, as far as my eyes could see, Baron Davis was nothing but an asset when he got to this team last year. Remember how the Cavs actually started resembling a competitive basketball team at points once Beardly’s leadership and *ahem, again* talent came on board. Oh, and there was that number 1 overall pick that came with him.  But the point is that if I’m Dan Gilbert I a.) just belched up a handful of gold dubloons … sorry, it’s reflux and b.) don’t see the point of paying a good player to play for someone else. Sure, the team that picks up a member of team amnesty will be taking the amount of his new contract off his previous team’s books, but it just doesn’t make sense for teams who don’t have to get below the cap to sign a big free agent. And that’s not us.
That’s why the same thing goes for Antawn Jamison. Both he and Baron are still more talented than many other points on our roster, so keep them, hope that Byron Scott keeps telling his young players to ignore Jamison when he gives them defensive tips, and use them in trades down the line to continue to improve the future of this team.
Not to tip my hand too much, but I’m a little obsessed with our getting one more first round pick in the 2012 draft. In fact, with the lock-out on, I spent most of my free time reading articles about how stacked this draft is likely to be (though not so likely if the NBA, as part of their B-list of issues, raises the minimum draft age). If the Cavs can have a top-5 pick (based on their own performance) and another one in the 10-18 range, that’s a lot of added talent over the past two drafts. Now, that pick may come through Sacramento making the playoffs *cough … cough…* or it could come by some team needing Jamison to shore up their push for the playoffs. We can’t assume that all rival GMs just became smarter because of this new CBA. In fact, whether this deal makes for more good moves or bad will be interesting to see once free agency and trades can begin again on Dec. 9.

2.) Health… Now there is the possibility that the Cavs caught a break with the delayed start to the season. There were reports that, while healthy enough to play, Kyrie Irving’s bum toe would not be fully healed until mid-December … exactly when he is now going to begin playing competitive professional basketball. I don’t think I’m nervous about the toe, but I have been making jokes like “Now that there’s a season, we can just sit back and wait ‘till Kyrie’s toe explodes” which maybe proves otherwise. Besides “The Toe” (sorry Mr. Groza), we’ve got Anderson Varejao coming back from his injury last season (where he missed enough time for me to do a double-take to make sure I spelled “Varejao” correctly) fully healthy. Likewise for Omri Casspi. While, Semih Erden just had surgery on his broken thumb, so we’ll have to wait at least 6 weeks to see if he’s worth anything at center for us. Other than that, there are no reports that Baron Davis has ballooned to 312 pounds during the summer+, but we’ll just have to wait and see on that.
3.) Not Jonas… I think I have a reasonable expectation for Kyrie Irving’s play this season. That’s not saying he’s always going to play as I imagine, just that I think he’ll shoot pretty well, show some rust, struggle against the stronger/faster guards, but have some games where it will make sense why he was the number 1 pick (of that draft, anyway) and we’ll be happy to have him. Tristan Thompson, though, is a bit more polarizing. Now, I said after the draft that Chris Grant’s got me drinking his juice a little bit, so I’m willing to see what he thinks he got in Thompson. If I’m a betting man, though, I bet the rookie’s gonna go through some rough patches this year even if, in the end, he proves to have been the right pick at 4.
I’ll also be looking to see 1.) if we have enough competent players to actually run Byron Scott’s Princeton Offense this year (not that I could necessarily recognize it) and 2.) if we can shore up our … how shall we say … impactful (negatively, but still…) perimeter defense.

Basketball is back, boys and girls (even though basketball never left, just this particular professional version of it … okay, I’ll shut up now)!