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

Posts Tagged ‘dion waiters’

NBA Basketball,Uncategorized

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.

Misc,NBA Basketball

2012/10/22

Cavs 2012-13 Roster Outlook Pt.2: The Assets Phase

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Much of the talk about the “Oklahoma City Model” of team building centers, understandably, on Sam Presti’s drafting of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden – all top level NBA talents — in three consecutive drafts.

The amount of attention that their three draft day home runs makes sense, because (as any NBA fan — perhaps, especially a Cavs fan — knows) you need 2-3 high level NBA players to compete at a high level in today’s NBA. But a GM getting his franchise’s cornerstone, buttress and gorgeous bay window all through the draft – meaning that he doesn’t have to part with any additional resources (i.e. money or other good players) – frees that GM up to maximize Phase 2, The Asset Phase.

See, OKC had another lottery pick in that incredible draft run from 2007-2009 (that also got them Serge Ibaka, though later in the 2008 draft at #24). Jeff Green was taken with the 5th pick in the same draft where Kevin Durant went #2. Originally the Celtic’s pick, #5 went to OKC in the draft day trade that sent Ray Allen to Boston. Green has developed into a nice player, but he’s never really lived up to the promise of a top-5 selection. So, why aren’t we saying, “Gee, Sam Presti nailed those Durant, Westbrook and Harden picks. But, clearly, he’s fallible. Look at Jeff Green”? It’s because Presti’s draft success in 2008 and 2009 allowed Green to not have to be a big-time player to justify his selection. He was no longer part of OKC’s 2-3 star future. Jeff Green was now an asset and he let Presti go out and get Kendrick Perkins from the Celtics when his team was one very wide body from taking the leap from up-and-comer to contender.

All this is to say that, while local and national writers spend quite a bit of time connecting Chris Grant’s rebuild of the Cavaliers with what Presti did with the Thunder – and Cavs fans spend a lot of time wringing their hands about if the trio of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters will develop into as strong a foundation for this team as Durant-Westbrook-Harden – what Grant is doing with The Asset Phase of the rebuild is almost more interesting.

Assets, to think of them very generally, are not things that increase a GM’s chances of success as much as they are things that decrease the terrifying prospect that every decision they make has to be the right one. Assets are wriggle room – and with enough of them (be they draft picks, promising young players on rookie contracts, diamonds in the rough and, while less so now, big-money expiring deals) a GM should have a much longer length of rope, even if the results are that he still hangs himself with it.

So, in Presti’s case, downgrading Green from “Top-5 pick(!)” to “key asset” was fine because he’d found the stars he needed elsewhere – and it allowed him to cover over another of his rare draft whiffs (or, to be more fair, while the jury may still be out on the long-term success of center, Cole Aldrich, he was not good enough fast enough for a Thunder team ready to take the leap and needing a quality center) by turning Green into Perkins. The lesson, clearly, is this: in the NBA, if you manage your assets well and hit well enough on enough of them, you receive what few GMs really have—the necessary ability to fail.

If you’ve paid even modest attention to Chris Grant’s tenure with the Cavaliers, you’ve heard the same words over and over: “assets” and “flexibility.” And when we look at the team he’s assembled – talented young players like Irving, Thompson, Waiters and Zeller – we spend, perhaps, too much time inventing scenarios in which they all achieve the ceilings of their draft day promise or they just fail miserably. What has to be kept in mind is the middle ground – the Asset Phase – where a talented young player, even if he does not become Serge Ibaka or Russell Westbrook still has value and can help this team going forward (of course, they help them much better if they all just become All-Stars, but y’know…).

That’s also why Grant is being smart about bringing in undrafted players, like Kevin Jones or Michael Eric (or, in the past, like Samardo Samuels, Alonzo Gee, Donald Sloan or Manny Harris). While the odds are against these players reaching the promise or performance levels of a player picked high in the draft, the risk is very low and the reward, should the organization be able to develop this player into someone who can help the Cavs or (sometimes more importantly) interest another team, is very high. The true payoff of this is down the line when you can see if, say, Samuels is included in a draft day deal that helps net us a higher pick – or Eric develops into a rotation big, soothing the sting when Grant trades Varejao – or if Gee is included in that Varejao trade, getting us something more (another player to develp, more picks, etc) back. And, maybe, none of those things happen. Likely, none of those things will happen. But Grant is lengthening his rope – bringing in high-level talent, as well as developmental projects that should (should) allow the team, once it’s ready, to be competitive in the long term because they’ve done enough that’s smart to allow or make up for the riskier moves.

Or maybe I just want Waiters to be as good as Russell Westbrook. Yes. That would do, as well…

NBA Basketball

2012/08/07

Doing Danny Ferry’s Porch…

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Scott Henkle and I attended the NBA Draft (and wrote about it here). Henkle, then, trumped me one better by goin’ out west and watching himself some NBA Las Vegas Summer League action – specifically, the Cavs team where he anticipated seeing Kyrie Irving and the other 2/5 of our likely opening night starting lineup. He wrote about the experience of summer league for The Classical. We played dueling laptops to talk about his Cavs-centric observations:

Robert: You saw the third and fourth games in person, right?

Scott: Fourth and fifth. And I watched one and two on TV. I never saw three.

Robert: Okay … so you never saw the one where Waiters remotely resembled a professional basketball player.

Scott: No. I don’t believe that happened. I saw Waiters dribble to the three point line a bunch of times, take three steps in, pass, and then stand there waiving for the ball at the three point line.

Robert: You’re describing a solid NBA skill!

Scott: Then I saw him smile his charming-devil smile at everyone while sitting the bench

Robert: And how about his awkward-as-hell jump shot?

Scott: I barely saw it!

Robert: Really? He shot, like, 700 times a game. He was, like, 3-700 every game.

Scott: Like Kobe. But without the good parts. And Kobe wasn’t taken as high.

Robert: So, you’re saying Waiters should end up better than Kobe.

Scott: There’s no doubt. But my summer league experience was not about him, because I missed that one game that you said he was good in [and they rested him the last two games].

Robert: Fine. But I have a sneaking suspicion that even if Waiters turns out to not be as good as we’d like, talking about Dion Waiters is going to be really fun. I’m already crossing off the next three years of my life. I won’t be able to get anything else of substance done. But… sorry, what can we take away from this summer league for the Cavs?

Scott: I think, there’s really only two real basketball things that you can see in summer league. First, you can see someone who is faster, stronger, etc. in ways that don’t depend on defense. Case in point: Damion Lillard. He could have done what he did with no one on the court and I would have said fucking hell that guy’s good!

Robert: Please tell me the other thing you can tell is motor.

Scott: The other thing is comparison– looking at players taken earlier, later or not at all. In this regard our boy [Waiters] did not come out well against the other guys we might have picked.

Robert: And you can compare fat Samardo to slim Samardo.

Scott: Who I would like to marry, by the way. He is 94% head at this point. He still has a fat man’s head.

Robert: And still a fat man’s ass, if you can believe it.

Scott: Oh yeah.

Robert: He now has legitimate “hot woman curves”

Scott: Hot woman curves, lady shoulders… What is it with you?

[Editor’s note: “lady shoulders” comes from many previous conversations we’ve had about players lacking broad shoulders – in my defense, the official term is “Chris Bosh shoulders. This, as it turns out, is one of my biggest worries about Tyler Zeller. Total Chris Bosh shoulders.]

Robert: But, to your point about comparison … I read this [link to article] which takes some quotes from David Thorpe to say the only real red flag – especially for rookies – in the summer league is lack of hustle. Or, I believe he said “motor.”

Scott: Basically people—our friend Adam is a big one–love to do [the comparing]. That’s just fun for fans. And why twitter was invented. But I feel like I watch a lot of basketball and can, at this point, judge talent okay for a regular person and still I wouldn’t base anything on what I saw there. [pause] Except for Lillard.

Robert: Right. Because none of these players will have the same role come the regular season – not even Lillard (who Terry Pluto has been crushing on since February).

Scott: Right. Role playing is not highly valued there. Which brings me to… are we going to give a contract to Michel Eric?

Robert: You saw him in person. You tell me? What’s your scouting report?

Scott: I’m going to do your woman curves thing and say, “That man’s got some fine arms.” He’s like Ben Wallace. No offense, but an NBA body, for sure. There’s a place for a guy like that.

Robert: Yeah, just looking at the pictures of him in all the “who the hell is this guy” articles … well, you said it: those are some fine arms.

Scott: But he may not be a fit for a team that’s likely to average16 more points than Kyrie scores per game. Is that a stat? “Points over Kyrie”?

Robert: Yes, but it’s one of the advanced stats that I don’t understand.

Scott: Of the guys not [guaranteed to be] on our team he was the only one I liked. Turns out being tall is a real advantage in the NBA.

Robert: How about the guys who should be on our team next year: Tristan, Samardo and Zeller?

Scott: Zeller was the one I paid the most attention to. I like him. He’s solid. He’s in the right place. He moves smoothly and he runs well. I’m not making any super-predictions, but he’s solid.

Robert: I agree. I didn’t trust all of that “he’s great in transition” talk as … well … he’s a 7ft white guy.

Scott: He still is a 7ft white guy. But for a 7ft white guy… he’ll be trailing along nicely when Kyrie gets to the rim.

Robert: Zeller will probably struggle defensively against some bigger guys, but I can see him working into a Kurt Thomas-y guy. Save, of course, Zeller’s Chris Bosh shoulders… and lack of obvious crazy.

Scott: Who do you think he’ll struggle against?

Robert: Tyson Chandler will kill Zeller.

Scott: Yes.

Robert: Cousins will kill Zeller.

Scott: But what about, say, the Lopezs?

Robert: Brook Lopez might be Tyler Zeller’s dream match-up, right now. The additional upper body weight of Robin Lopez’s hair, though, might be tough for Zeller’s shoulders to handle.

Scott: Now you’ve crossed the line, sir.

Robert: But, I think Zeller looks like he could absolutely be a top-8 rotation player on a very good team, agree?

Scott: Oh, yeah. Wait. Do you mean a contending team? You mean the Heat?

Robert: He would absolutely be in the Heat’s rotation.

Scott: The 7ft white guy thing is pretty old fashioned.

Robert: 7 footer who can run with them in transition, rebound and hit an outside shot to open up the lane.

Scott: Sounds very 2000. Windhorst says the heat are going smaller. Mugsy Bogues is gonna be at the four for most of the year.

Robert: But he could play in that system, is all I’m saying. The Heat are going smaller because their best big might be Eddy Curry.

Scott: I agree.

Robert: You talk a lot about the experience of summer league in the Classical piece. Anything Cavs-centric that you want to tell that you had to cut from that?

Scott: Well, I got rejected by Ilgauskus. He was the first cavs-ish person I saw, and I more or less blanched and was all star-struck, and Adam pushed me to go up to him and I did and I was up there with my arm half around him (well, his thigh) and then he said ‘no no pictures’ and I walked away with my head down.  Like a child.  I thought it was me, but then I saw him reject a ten year old kid.

(pause)

Also, I think he weighs 17 pounds.

Robert: Gotta be kind to those feet of his. The docs say they can’t structurally support anything even closely resembling a healthy grown man’s weight. How was meeting Danny Ferry?

Scott: That was funnier. Adam shouted to him – and Adam has this whole thing about trying to force me to take pictures with people, which you probably already sense – but I’d just been rejected by Z earlier in the day, so there was this incredibly awkward moment with Ferry where I was like, “Is it okay? Is it okay?”  and he just wanted us to take the damn picture, and certainly did want to talk about whether it was okay. He had the smile on already and everything. And then Adam paused to look over the camera and  explain to Ferry:  “My brother-in-law did your porch.”

(pause)

Adam’s brother-in-law is a contractor in Cleveland.  But still.

(pause)

I do not know if Danny Ferry knew exactly what to think about that.

Robert: Is it still Ferry’s porch? Does he still live in Cleveland?

Scott: I would guess no? And that was the part I thought was the most confusing. Danny Ferry had no reason to think we were from Cleveland. Maybe Adam said it but, you know, Ferry was trying to make the experience as quick and painless for himself as possible.

Robert: Danny Ferry does not care where you are from.

Scott: Absolutely not.  I would guess Danny Ferry does not think about me much at all.

You can follow Scott Henkle on Twitter (@scotthenkle) or by just keeping a reasonable distance behind him. He also met Byron Scott.