The Cleveland Cavaliers are rebuilding. Everybody knows this and mostly everybody is on board with it. This year, however, was thought by many to be a turning point in the rebuilding process. The Cavs were supposed to maybe sort of compete for a playoff spot. Instead, they find themselves near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and fans are kind of freaking out. Over the course of this post and the next post, we at Fear The Sword are going to go through some examples of Cavs fans and try to figure out if their reactions to the young season is appropriate or not.
An obvious disclaimer about these posts is that it's just our opinion. There's no right or wrong way to watch basketball and think about your favorite team, just preferred methods and approaches. The purpose of this exercise is to walk through the arguments, concerns, future outlooks, etc. and see which ones are backed up by facts, stats, and logic. And conversely, to see which ones are based on confirmation bias, regular bias, homerism, or just plain old Cleveland fan paranoia and despair.
The first sampling of Cavs fans comes from Fox Sports Ohio's live chat. Cavs beat reporter Sam Amico runs a chat and takes questions from fans and tries to answer them to the best of his ability. The chat that took place yesterday kind of made Sam Vecenie and I bang our heads against the wall. The questions seemed repetitive and based on "gut instinct." The whole dialogue was an enormous contrast to what we typically experience at FTS, so we felt the need to run through the conversation and break it all down (keep in mind this chat came directly after the Cavs' abysmal performance against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, so we're dealing with some upset fans in the wake of a crappy game). Buckle up, it's about to get weird.
Comment From Matt
I'm beginning to think we would've been better off keeping all 4 of our draft picks. Nothing against Zeller, but the bench stinks!
Kaczmarek: Oh, fun. So right off the bat we're questioning Chris Grant's decision to trade up in the draft and select Tyler Zeller instead of draft four rookies. You'll get no argument from us that the Cavs' bench is awful, but this is a slightly ridiculous way to approach a crappy bench. Zeller has been okay-ish, but he recently got banged in the face by DeAndre Jordan and is playing with a mask. He's a rookie getting used to the NBA and looks like a rookie getting used to the NBA so the obvious way to fix this is...MOAR ROOKIES!
Vecenie: Although, one of the things that makes this trade look a bit worse when you look back at it on paper is that the Mavs drafted three NBA-ready level talents in Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder and Bernard James. Crowder especially has been really solid but having said that, you never actually know what the Cavs would have done with those picks in those spots. Would the Cavs really be better off right now with any combination of Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller, and Tony Wroten (I think all are in the D-League)? Probably not.
Kaczmarek: Agreed. And the hope is that Zeller is eventually more than just bench filler. Are any of the guys that the Mavs drafted anything more than bench players? Who would you have cut if the Cavs did choose to bring in four rookies? Whatever, next question.
Comment From John
Not saying the Cavs are better without Kyrie but the offense has been flowing so much better without him (if we forget yesterday's game)... agree?
Vecenie: /headmeetdesk. HOW DO PEOPLE THINK THIS?! They just scored 78 points against the Suns who just lost by 40 to the Pistons last night.
Kaczmarek: LOL. Yes. The offense is better without their best player. Makes sense.
Comment From Sean
Are there any rumors floating around for Andy? if not and the cavs decide to trade him what do you think we can get for him?
Kaczmarek: Ahhh, our first Anderson Varejao trade question. If you read through the whole chat, there's about 450,204 questions about trading Varejao. We've discussed it at length here and it will continue to be discussed until the Cavs make a decision on it. Here's what Amico says with regards to trading Varejao and any possible rumors.
None so far, Sean. Trading Andy is more complicated than what can be answered in a chat. ... But, I think you're talking about a top-three center in the game right now. So you're partner had better be willing to mortgage the farm.
Kaczmarek: Okay, according to Amico, there are no rumors regarding Andy so far. And apparently this question is too complicated to be answered in the chat (and it kind of is, Angelo and I wrote a billion words about it). So how do you respond to something that's more complicated than just a couple sentences? Simplify it into a couple sentences, duh. I guess he's playing like a top-three center, but that's not his trade value. And nobody is going to "mortgage the farm" for Varejao. This oversimplification just sets off a firestorm of more Andy questions (which Amico continues to field) and some fairly crazy trade proposals. Like the next question...
Comment From RK
I'm increasingly comfortable with the "no-trading-Andy" camp. But if we do, and deal with Denver, is something like Gallinari + Faried -- or Faried + picks -- in play?
Kaczmarek: Amico responds properly to this, I think. He basically says that there's no reason for Denver to do that trade (and he's right). He asks "would that significantly improve them?" (talking about Denver) and that's the question NOBODY thinks about for the rest of the chat. Nobody wonders if the other team would have any motivation to make such a deal. Also: everybody freaking loves Kenneth Faried, I guess.
Comment From Guest
The only player I'd even want back for Andy is faried, he's about the only player that matches Andy's hustle, I'd trade Andy and Tt for him and a protected pick.. Seem fair?
Comment From Guest
I know you aren't crazy about trading Varejao. But if they do (his value has never been higher) what kind of package could they get, and what teams would be a good fit?
To which Amico responds...
I'd want this ... a good young prospect and a lottery pick. But no team that has a lottery pick has interest in Andy. I mean, let's say Charlotte wants Andy. Think they would give the Cavs their lottery pick if the Cavs were so willing to trade him?
Kaczmarek: I don't know how we got to Charlotte, but we did. Would they give us their lottery pick? No, of course not. That's a top-5 pick. And a good young player? Who has that? Why would they give him up for Andy? Ughhhh.
Vecenie: The idea of trading Varejao to Denver will always be out there because of Denver's tremendous depth. Unlike Amico, I do think there are pieces there to get a deal done. For Amico to totally dismiss this idea I think is a little bit insane because there are absolutely pieces to get a deal done. Gallinari and a pick is a deal that Conrad particularly touted, and I think that's a mutually beneficial deal.
Kaczmarek: Oh yeah, the pieces are there. You can mess around in the Trade Machine all you want, but it still doesn't answer if Denver would do it. Which is something people need to consider. And nobody seems to be doing that. Moving on.
Comment From Stephen
Is Andy's great play on the boards masking Thompsons struggles?
Kaczmarek: Woo! Our first Tristan Thompson question of the night. First of all, kudos to Stephen for using a "masking" pun while Tristan has to play with a mask because of his nasal fracture (I'm going to pretend that the pun was intentional). Second, I love the loaded question (these are a theme). The questioning just assumes that Tristan is struggling, as if it's a scientific fact. To which Amico responds...
Sam Amico:No. It's increasing them.
Kaczmarek: Like literally increasing his struggles? Like making him worse? Or like making them more obvious? And what struggles? We never even addressed what these perceived struggles are. I'm so confused.
Vecenie: Man, fans are really concerned about Tristan aren't they? Varejao's play definitely helps deflect some criticism from Thompson, but the guy is 21 years old and 75 games into his career. He's still trying to figure it out and the Cavs' brass knew he was a project coming in.
Kaczmarek: Apparently. And I guess Tristan's rebounding numbers are down, but his rebounding rates are up. I can't really think of another area that Varejao's play would be hurting Tristan's numbers. His defensive rebounding rate is up from 16.8% to 19.4% and his total rebound rate is up slightly as well. OH NO SCARY STATS THAT AREN'T IN THE BOX SCORE. Wait, we've got a ton of Tristan Thompson panic questions coming...hold on tight.
Comment From StephenAre the Cavs worried about Tristan's progress... I think they should be
Sam Amico:That I don't know, Stephen. I know I am.Comment From Chris: do you think Grant regrets picking Tristan Thompson with that 4th pick? Some people say the ceiling is high on him, I just don't see it. How many years do you see the Cavs working with him before giving up on him?
Comment From JoeBWhy do you think Thompson appears to have regressed this year? All physical? Some mental?Sam Amico:Both.
Comment From Charles
When do we say Tristan is a bust? Doesn't seem to have the tenacity or drive. Can't finish at the rim in traffic. Commits turnovers. Can't hit FTs. I feel like we need to see something!
Comment From Paul
i'm starting to become very worried with Tristan. I know still we still need to see more of him, but i'm not seeing the athleticism and power around the basket we were sold on when CG drafted him #4. Seems to lack basketball instincts and quick decisions
Comment From Nick
Tristan Thompson=jeff green both picked 4th overall in the same draft as a treammate superstar...a little comparison?
How is he anything like Jeff Green? What does that mean?
Sam Amico: I agree, Mike. I'd like him to become more of a Kenneth Faried-type, though. By that I mean a little bit more a threat offensively. You can be a "garbage man," like Faried is and still help you team offensively. I'm willing to give Thompson at least until February before I get overly worried, though.
Vecenie: Oh, so you prefer that he can't guard anyone? Cool. I'm glad he expends all that boundless energy on offense because he still can't guard anyone like Thompson can.
Kaczmarek: The Cavs defense allows 13.7 more points per 100 possessions when Tristan is on the bench. Thirteen point seven.
Comment From Dre
What are the chances the Cavs bring ANYBODY in to help(Kmart,D.Fish ect)?
Sam Amico: Clearly, odds against it. But I'm a big fan of doing that.
Vecenie: Thank god Derek Fisher is off the market.
Comment From Matt
I love Andy. Love his motor. Reminds me of one John Simon from Ohio State. Never quits. If we get rid of him don't you think that would absolutely kill the morale and drive of the team?
Vecenie: Wait, what? John Simon? Why does every high motor player need to be compared with another high motor player? Especially one that's 8 years younger than he is? Anyway, this team is young they'll figure out how to play without him.
Comment From Guest
Tt gets blocked on 20% of his shot attempts which is 3rd worst in the nba, only melo and derozen are worse in case anyone wants to know.
Interesting. Who's the guy who lives in a cave that has time to keep THAT stat, I wonder.
Kaczmarek: This actually is an interesting stat (and a concerning one). Tristan gets blocked a lot and I hope he works on figuring out how to finish better through contact and add an easy pump-fake in there.
But Amico is apparently channeling his inner Mitch Albom here and says OMG STATS ARE FOR NERDS! Who's the guy that keeps that stat? It's Joe Treutlein from Hoopdata.com and he doesn't live in a cave, I don't think. He's a really cool guy, actually. And he's incredibly smart. How does one keep such a stat? Well, it's super complicated.
You keep track of shot attempts, right? And you keep track of how many of those go in the basket, right? And then you also keep track of blocks, right? Well, you don't have to -- the official scorekeeper does that. So basically all you have to do is look at how many times Tristan Thompson got his shot blocked (just count). And then comes the hard part. You have to DIVIDE that number by his total shot attempts and you get this mystical stat that the guy in the cave keeps track of. Mind. Blown.
Comment From MattWhats the scouting report on Alex Poythress or however you spell it haha that made him such a high recruit?
Sam Amico:Interesting. Never heard of him. Correct spelling or not. :)
Kaczmarek: How do you not know who Alex Poythress is? You cover a 3-12 team and don't know a consensus top-10 draft pick? Come on.
I think they'd be .500 if they're schedule were reversed, even with Kyrie's injury. And their defense is fine. It's their offense that's been the problem (can't close or score).
Kaczmarek: WHAT!?!?!?! THE DEFENSE IS FINE??? THEY HAVE THE THIRD WORST DEFENSE IN THE LEAGUE! BEFORE THE SUNS GAME THEY HAD THE 18TH RANKED OFFENSE IN THE LEAGUE! THE DEFENSE IS NOT FINE! CAPSLOCK! OUTRAGE!
Okay, I'm pretty much done with this. I'm not sure if we accomplished anything by going through all of these comments and answers, but it just makes me sad. And it makes me happy that we have such intelligent, informed, and patient readers and commenters at Fear The Sword. Like I said before, I can't sit here and say that my way of analyzing the Cavs is better than Amico's or anybody else's, but some of these things are just nonsense. It's reactionary and, often times, based on nothing. It's our job, as writers, to help inform our audience and give reasoning to back up the opinions that we have.
Let's just finish this thing off.
Comment From Chris
Trading Andy is just a bad idea unless your getting some out of this world offer from a team. That could set off a very bad domino affect and like Sam said it would set the franchise back 10 years easily.
Losing one of the top-10 players of all time for nothing in free agency? Sets franchise back 4 or 5 years. Trading a 30-year old center? Sets the franchise back TEN YEARS EASILY. Okay.
Comment From Simon
Do Cavs use cap space next summer or wait one more year and make a run at bringing back LBJ?
Comment From OneSlickDJ
which players (on other teams) will be salary dumps this year at the trade deadline? I am wondering if we can get ANYTHING for Luke Walton....
Yup. These are his readers.