So, I've been doing a lot of crazy thinking these last few days regarding this team that so many of us love. Last nights double over time chiller (it's only a thriller if we win) with Portland got me to really looking hard at this Cavs team. It didn't help that I was talking with one of the guys I grew up with last night, and he just drove home so many of the points that Sam Amico's faithful followers seem to pursue. He posed the regular concerns over the TT pick from two years ago. He brought up the same idea of trading Varejao. All the regular fluff that surrounds this team.
So, I want to kind of go through a few things. Of course, my mind is subject to change based on factual data. (Sort of like my initial assessment that Portland was a playoff team last night...what a boneheaded thing to say without looking anything up first.)
1 - Anderson Varejao is a Center, not a Power Forward. Though we're getting to a point in the NBA where it's essentially, bigs, wings and point guards, there still seems to be this belief that we need a big who can make a defensive difference. There's also concern that Andy can't really stop the likes of Howard and Bynum. So what? You know who stops them, they do. That's really about it. Kendrick Perkins has had some limited success guarding them, but he's about as big of a liability on offense as TT is. Nobody can really guard the likes of Kobe, Lebron and Durant either. Some guys are just transcendent. Deal with it. Andy is a 6'11, 260lbs whirling dervish of rebounding awesomeness. He's a high motor guy who gets by with exceptional anticipation, a nice shooting stroke and savvy passing. Those are skill that don't diminish with age. Even when he does start to decline, so what, he can still be a quality bench guy. I think that's something that we are all missing out on.
2 - We wasted a pick on Tristan Thompson. (Or he's not living up to the billing of being a #4 pick.) His game is eerily similar to Dennis Rodman's, a guy who made a living by playing good defense and getting a lot of rebounds. (Of course, Rodman never played with a Center like Andy who could also get a lot of rebounds). Only once did he average more than 10 points per game (his 2nd season) and he didn't start averaging double digit rebounds per game until his 5th season. He was a terrible free throw shooter (58.4% for his career) and basically scored garbage points or points in transition. For those who think I'm saying that TT is going to be a Hall of Famer, hold your horses. All I'm saying is, let the kid develop. Andy didn't become the stud he is today in two seasons; it took him 7. Give TT a little more time to develop. He's raw, but the talent is there. He gets a lot of his shots blocked. That's because he is raw offensively. As he learns a few post moves (having a guy like Z as a part of our coaching staff can only help), that'll happen less.
3 - Dion Waiters is a bust. Well, obviously, you can see his talent. His shot mechanics need some work, and clearly his shot selection (see the final shot he took vs Atlanta as the prime example) also needs some work. But with Kyrie out of the lineup, the last two games he's gotten 7 assists with some very nice drive and kick dishes tossed in there. He's a combo guard in a Wade-esque body. He's got some talent as a defender, his on-ball defense is already at an NBA level (not a star yet, but the potential is there) though his off-ball man defense needs some work. He also needs to work on his rebounding. Admittedly, having Andy with him isn't really helping his numbers, nor is the offensive system where he's expected to get out in transition.
4 - We need another lottery pick to win a championship. Why? Are Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Kyrie Irving not going to improve? Are they stuck in their current spots in regards to their skills? If we were to make the playoffs, will a couple of non-lottery picks (ours and the Lakers) not be enough to get us more talent in a draft deep with small forwards and centers? Do we not have draft picks moving forward as well? The draft is not a science. If we were to get into the playoffs, the thinking is we'll spin our wheels like Atlanta did for years. Good enough to get in, but not enough to move forward. In 2004, they picked Josh Smith at 17. In 2005, they picked Marvin Williams at #2. Then, at #5 the next year, they took Shelden Williams. Picking in the lottery doesn't guarantee you success, or that you'll draft the right guys. They're 05 and 06 drafts they blew the picks. The 05 draft has been discussed quite a bit (passing up both Deron Williams and Chris Paul) but the 06 draft had quite a bit of talent too. Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry. Even Paul Milsap (taken in the 2nd round) are all better than Shelden Williams. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but c'mon. That's two straight years of terrible picking.
San Antonio has regularly struck gold in the draft. Manu Ginobli, 2nd rounder. Tony Parker - 28th. They even drafted Luis Scola and John Salmons (valuable for where they were drafted.) George Hill and Goran Dragic, also Spurs. The OKC Model is not the only model to follow. Since 1987 (the year they drafted David Robinson) the Spurs have picked in the lottery exactly 4 times (to include David Robinson.) They also have 4 championships in the last 16 years. Proper coaching and proper drafting go a LONG ways towards actual success. Consistent lottery picks have done what for the Sacramento Kings? Or the Toronto Raptors? Or the Charlotte Bobcats?
Ultimately, it's up to the FO to bring us the right combination of coaching staff and talent. Every year, there's a guy who sneaks past a lot of other teams. Kawhi Leonard fell to 15th overall in the same draft that Kyrie and Tristan were taken. That means a lot of teams missed on him. It happens. I trust our front office who I think have made the best possible decision these last two years that they could. They brought in the right guys (so far) as players and coaches. Ownership even ensured that we had a D-League team directly affiliated with us, so that we could better control the development of our own players.