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

Posts Tagged ‘Tristan Thompson’

NBA Basketball

2012/11/27

2 Things About the 4 and 5…

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1. I won’t necessarily say I’ve done a 180 when it comes to the “trade Anderson Varejao argument.” I never fully thought it would net the Cavs a player that came close to doing what Andy does – and is doing even more of this season – for this particular team. I did think (and, partly, still do) that the team would feel the need to move him, likely at or around the 2013 Draft. I think he still might be traded at some point while still under this contract to this team because he’ll be coming off this contract right around the same time that the team will be figuring out how they want to divide their duckets among its new core crop. Andy will be 32 and staring at what will likely be his last contract. I don’t see any reason for his production to drop off while under his current contract, so you’re looking at a guy (CBA willing) that could command a 3 or 4-year contract at a hefty clip. This could be like a less crazy, more offensively useful Dennis Rodman hitting the market at right around his prime. That is what Andy is playing like now—and that player is useful no matter what team he plays for and, you’d think, especially if he plays for a team of up-and-coming wing players who might appreciate a good number of their outside misses being snagged. But using him to bring in some additional picks (those LeBron picks won’t last forever … the trick to this thing is to always have some accrued first rounders to look forward to) should the CBA make re-signing Andy less sensible for the Cavs (though, let’s face it, if the Kyrie Era’s getting it done, Gilbert will likely pay), they might see flipping their biggest asset as sensible, if they don’t see being contenders in the next 5 years. The biggest problem is equal value, since the league-wide perception of him is still that he’s a perfect off-the-bench “energy” guy, not one of the best centers in the East playing efficient offense, active defense and just sucking in rebounds.

Meanwhile, watching Andy play this year has been nothing short of amazing. If the young guys continue to progress (i.e. learn to play defense), Andy absolutely has more value here than anywhere else, because of how perimeter and pick-and-roll oriented they are/will be and how fun a Irving/Varejao/Waiters combo could potentially become (and, let’s face it, sometimes is already).

2. Now, Tristan Thompson…? Everyone I’ve either talked to or read can see all the problems with Thompson’s game this season. It’s that obvious: to slow making decisions, still too often blocked, not blocking shots, often out of position, still bad at free throws, still no shot at all. All that said, he’s averaging about 9 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes a night with a PER just a click or two below the league average. His FG% (always one of my worries with him) is up to 47% (needs to get well over 50%) and, even given his struggles, he looks like he could get into the 12/10 range that was reported as the goal he was set by coaches this year. I think the biggest thing with Thompson is that he probably shouldn’t be playing as many minutes as he is right now. The Cavs are tossing him out into the fire and he is getting more than his share of burns. But it’s waaaaay premature to label him “bust” or try to trade him (or even, really, to bring up the Valanciunas non-pick). He’s not an instant player – and non-superstar big men in particular need time. The test with him will be steady progress on his weaknesses – and we’re more likely to see that stuff in March of 2014 or 2015 than in 2013 … unfortunately. But there’s some Kurt Thomas potential to him that I think has value to this team going forward.

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…

Uncategorized

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.

NBA Basketball

2012/03/31

Tristan Thompson and the Problem of the Hickson Mirage Pt 1

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Cavaliers fans have been here before.  Just a year ago, they had a player, an athletic 6’9″ player, a natural power forward in a season-long struggle with any shot outside of 5-feet from the basket, who they shifted over to play center because they’d lost a significant part of Anderson Varejao’s season and were (and continued to be until just recently) staring at Ryan Hollins as their most viable pivot option this side of Kate Moss.

Last year, you might remember this player was one J. Jonah Hickson. And in today’s shrinking NBA where no man may stand taller than 6’11″ and be any damn bit of good (maybe you can be 7 ft, but don’t even think about being 7’1″), he played a good stretch of center for this (if a noticeably worse version of this) team.  In the last 40 games of the 2010-11 campaign, Hickson (yes, the very same J.J. Hickson who was just released by the Sacramento Kings after averaging, essentially, 5 PTS and 5REBS) tore off an All-Starian stretch in the post, averaging 16.6PTS and 11.1REBS.  That’s not bad for an undersized center, you might think.  Byron Scott was finding ways to make J.J. Hickson maximize his positive impact on the game.

Then the season ended.  And Tristan Thompson was drafted.  And Hickson was shipped to Sac-town for a fairly immobile small forward.  And the Cavs lost a significant part of Anderson Varejao’s season.  And Ryan Hollins and Semih Erden might as well be holograms for all they’re able to effect the game (well, positively, anyway … holograms don’t normally fill me up with sweet, frothy rage the way Hollins and Semih “The Sandman” Erden have).  And Byron Scott finally turns to an athletic, natural power forward (6’8″ this time … so, y’know … at least we’ve got getting shorter going for us) to take over the starting center position.  And this player, this Toronto-ian big, this Power T who, we all hope, will be pitying some fools in the NBA for messing with him some day in the very near future, is tearing off his best stretch, though on an admittedly shorter sample size.

So is everything 2012 is 2011 again.  Or better put: how do we know that Tristan Thompson is actually any good?  How do we know he’s not a mirage (not to be confused with being a hologram)?  If J.J. Hickson can stand under a basket and look like a decent NBA rotation big-man one moment and then a hapless scrub the next who, outside of Chris Grant, do we have to tell us that it’s all going to be okay?

Coming up next: Who we have to tell us that it’s all going to be okay…