Cleveland Cavaliers Mailbag: Discussing Byron Scott, CJ Miles, and DeMarcus Cousins

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I asked for questions about the Cleveland Cavaliers about a week ago and now I'm finally answering them. You had some good thoughts, so I did my best to give my insight and opinion. Check it out.

I don't know how often I'll do this, but I think it will definitely get good conversation going. As I said in the original post, I frequently ignore some things about the Cleveland Cavaliers or the NBA in general. So this was your opportunity to let me know what things you wanted me to cover. I got an awesome response, so hopefully we can do these more often. But for now, your questions.

Question from virtually everybody (paraphrased):

What do you think about (insert trade offer for Anderson Varejao)?

Now, this has been covered at length and will likely continue to be covered until Varejao is either traded or the deadline passes. But for some of the best hypothetical deals, I direct you to the post that David did. Of those potential (and totally made up) deals, I like the deals that involve the Cavaliers getting a young player and/or a pick back. And I don't just mean any young player. I mean a young player with potential plus decent production already. So what does that mean? It means that I like the deals that could include the Cavs getting Kawhi Leonard, Danilo Gallinari, Chandler Parsons, or Nikola Pekovic. Now, I'm not sure if any of those teams would do those deals, but that's the type of player that I would want to get in return. I have already written at length about where I stand on the Varejao-trade argument and I don't think we should be actively trying to move him. He's good enough, young enough, and doesn't have very many minutes on his body. If you can't get a good young player, then don't move him.

The exception to this rule would be if the Cavs could get the Toronto pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder. If they get that pick, it's probably worth it even though the Cavs wouldn't get a semi-established young player in return.

Along those same lines, the Cavs could potentially trade Luke Walton or Daniel Gibson to match contracts and/or take back a bad contract. I'd be perfectly fine with that.

Question from RoyistheBoy:

CJ Miles is known for his inconsistency. How can he become consistent? Does it just take time getting comfortable with the right teammates and system? I'm likening his current situation to J. R. Smith's former self, who has transformed into a consistent player for NY. How did J. R. do it?

I wouldn't make that comparison right away, but the situation's aren't all that different. C.J. Miles isn't nearly as talented as JR Smith, but he could play a similar role. I'll preface this by saying that I'm not convinced this lasts for JR. He's always been kind of a crazy person on the court and could revert to that eventually. But for now, he's playing great and it's something that Miles should emulate. I asked some Knicks bloggers what they thought and it seems that a lot of Smith's success has to do with confidence. Not confidence in himself (JR Smith is not one to lack self-confidence), but rather, confidence in his team and teammates. It seems as though the Knicks are working well as a unit because nobody is afraid to make the extra pass. JR has no problem passing because he knows that he's going to get his opportunities at some other point. In the past, it seemed as though JR would come in the game and chuck bad shots because he wanted to score and prove himself in his rather limited role. But when he knows that his role is well-defined and consistent as the leader of the 2nd unit, he doesn't need to force things.

CJ Miles could embrace a similar situation. Even though he was very good as a starter this year when Dion Waiters got hurt, I think he could do the same thing if he had the confidence to lead the second unit. He doesn't need to force shots because he knows that he's going to get decent looks if he plays within the offense. There's probably a certain degree of getting used to the offense and trusting that he's going to get his opportunities if he consistently makes the right play. And we've started to see that more lately. He doesn't hesitate coming around screens and shoots it confidently off the catch. His game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night (16 points on 9 shots in 21 minutes) is exactly what the Cavs need from Miles.

He's not a better creator than Waiters or Kyrie Irving. But he's a capable scorer if he takes good shots and settles into a consistent and manageable role.

Question from BrianO:

In baseball, there is a way to rate players trade value. WAR scores a players "wins against replacement." Does the NBA have anything similar that can be used to determine AV's actual value in today's market?

There are some "catch all" stats for basketball, but none really do a good job at identifying true value. Much of that comes from the fact that it's impossibly difficult to quantify defense in the NBA. And one player's production is so reliant on his teammates. That said, PER is a pretty good stat to look at offensive efficiency. As far as Varejao is concerned, he's right outside the top 20 in PER for the 2012-13 season. His offensive rebounding really helps that number.

There are some other numbers that kind of try to do the same thing as WAR in baseball. Win Shares from basketball-reference.com isn't a number that I like, but Varejao is 14th in the league in that. Finally, there are John Hollinger's stats for ESPN.com. Value Added and Estimated Wins Added try to quantify player value in the same way that WAR does. Andy is 9th in the league in both VA and EWA.

As I said before, these numbers are useful, but are certainly not the end of the story. It's so difficult to put defense into a stat and we can't really account for the fact that some guys play with Luke Walton and some guys play with Kevin Durant. As with all advanced stats, I suggest using them to supplement other analysis and other stats. Basketball is far too complex to explain with one number.

Question from KyrieSwIrving:

What signs do we have to indicate Byron is the right coach for this job outside of previous stints with NO and New Jersey? How bad does he have to be for the Cavs to convince us that maybe he shouldn't have gotten an extension? Or do you think he's treading water this year on purpose, and thusly don't judge him for his head scratching roster and in-game decisions?

Wow, that's a long question but I bet it's good so you should all read it.

Just kidding, I can handle four lines. Okay, so basically people want to question Byron Scott after what looks like his third consecutive season in the lottery since he took the job. And that's kind of understandable. And I know Cleveland fans love to fire coaches. But in my opinion, I think more patience is required.

Truthfully, I think you answer your first question on your own. What do we have to believe that Byron Scott is the right coach? Well, mostly his past success. He's had success in the NBA before and I don't think he became a crappy coach overnight. Furthermore, the common theme with the Nets and Hornets was an elite point guard (Jason Kidd and Chris Paul). And hey what do you know? We have one of those here as well. Byron Scott has had great success with teams focused on great point guard and I think Kyrie Irving is a great point guard. Kyrie and Byron seem to have a very good relationship and I think that's very important. When I look at his past success and the fact that he's tight with our best player, that's good enough for me. That doesn't mean he gets a free pass forever, but it'll probably carry him for a little while until there are real expectations for this team.

To clear up a point, the organization picked up his option for next season, but he isn't signed after 2014. So he didn't really get an extension (although I suspect he might if the Cavs have a strong 2nd half of the season).

As far as critiquing his in-game decisions and rotations goes, I think it's a waste of time right now. I see people complaining about playing Donald Sloan over Jeremy Pargo. I see people questioning the decision to rest Dion and Kyrie at the same time. I see people questioning the decision to play Luke Walton at all. But really, what does it matter? I've said this before, but: there isn't some secret combination of crappy players that suddenly makes them good. Right now, the Cavs have a lot of bad basketball players on their bench and it's going to be hard to find any sort of consistent success when that's the case.

I think the bottom line is that the Cavs just aren't super concerned about winning individual games at this moment in time. Instead, Byron wants them to get better as a team every night. If that means not calling a timeout during a tough stretch to let them work through it as young players, so be it. It may not be the approach that Doc Rivers takes, but he's in a different situation and has different players. For the short term, it's probably wise to stagger Kyrie and Dion's minutes so that they are rarely on the bench at the same time. But for the long term, it's probably best for them to be playing together as much as possible. Ultimately, we want them to have good chemistry and play together on a playoff team. It just so happens that that means we have to watch an offensive unit led by Daniel Gibson or Donald Sloan at times.

Ultimately, I like Byron and I think he's a good coach. I think he deserves and will get to have the chance to see this rebuilding project through. He's on the same page as Chris Grant and is involved in the draft process. It would seem that Byron Scott is here to stay for the foreseeable future -- and I'm totally okay with that.

Question from WitMi:

Do you think the Cavs really are a player this year in free agency? Or do you think they wait another year?

It probably depends on what you mean as a "player" in free agency. I think they will spend more than last season (it'd be hard not to), but they won't be signing any super huge names. I think it would be smart to target some veterans to help the bench and defense. David West and Paul Millsap are both free agents next year and I'm relatively certain the Cavs would be interested in both. Jarrett Jack is also a free agent and is having a great year with the Golden State Warriors. He'd be a great leader for the second unit. But he's having such a good year, he might not be willing to just backup Kyrie Irving in Cleveland.

Chris Grant and Co. have a ton of cap space and are quite far from the salary floor. There isn't much of a penalty for not hitting the floor, so that shouldn't force them to overspend. But I do think they'll try to fill in the gaps more this offseason. Look at what the Timberwolves and Warriors did to fill out their roster with capable and relatively inexpensive role players. I think the Cavs would be smart to try to do the same thing. This isn't a great free agent class for big names (Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans are some of the biggest names), but there are quite a few good role players to be had. Dorell Wright, Brandon Rush (if he recovers), Carl Landry, JJ Redick, Devin Harris, and Samuel Dalembert are just a few of the guys that the Cavs could/should have some interest in.

Of course, Andrew Bynum will be a free agent. Until we see him play on a consistent basis this year, there's no way I'm signing him to whatever contract it would take to get him.

Question from macdowellm03:

Do you have any favorite draft prospects? I mean aside from Otto Porter.

I do love me some Otto Porter. But he's not really my favorite draft prospect at all. He's just super intriguing and could potentially be a really nice fit on this Cavaliers' team. Right now, I'm on Team Nerlens Noel. I'll definitely write about this in depth as we get closer to the offseason, but I'm all about defense. I think the Cavs have a good amount of offensive talent in Kyrie, Dion, Zeller and yes, even Tristan Thompson. Furthermore, I think offensive talent is easier to find than defensive talent in free agency. That's why I'm leaning towards the big men with good defensive upside like Rudy Gobert and Noel over wings like Shabazz Muhammad and Alex Poythress.

If you're just asking me for my favorite draft prospect and not necessarily the best or one that would fit on the Cavs, I'm going with Ben McLemore. He's a 6-5 freshman shooting guard for the Kansas Jayhawks and he can absolutely ball. Buckeyes fans will attest to this. He was a beast in KU's win at Ohio St. and has seemingly all of the tools. His athleticism is off the charts and he can really shoot the ball. Throw in some ridiculous dunks like this and my love for McLemore is nearing Bradley Beal levels.

Question from macdowellm03 (again):

For NFL information I follow Adam Schefter on Twitter. Do you know of any NBA people I can follow for the same type of information about the NBA?

So if you're looking for "breaking news" types of follows, here's what you do. You can follow a Twitter list like this. It has a ton of people on it, but it will completely cover you for any NBA breaking news.

If you don't want to do that, there's a handful of core reporters that you ought to be following (no order).

@DraftExpress

@WojYahooNBA

@daldridgetnt

@sam_amick

@RicBucher

@SpearsYahooNBA

@ESPNSteinLine

@KBergCBS

@AlexKennedyNBA

I probably missed some, but that should basically cover you. If anyone else breaks news, you'll see it retweeted soon enough. For pure NBA commentary and entertainment, make sure you're at least following these guys (other than me at @conradkaczmarek and the blog at @FearTheSword):

@HPbasketball

@talkhoops

@netw3rk

@teamziller

@MikePradaSBN

There's plenty of other great NBA follows, but this should at least give you a good foundation and are "must follows" as far as I'm concerned.

**BONUS QUESTION**

From me (and lots of people on Twitter):

Should the Cavaliers be interested in trying to trade for DeMarcus Cousins if the Sacramento Kings are dealing him?

The easy answer is yes. Cousins is talented enough and young enough that you can put aside his character concerns. He could be an awesome player to pair with Kyrie Irving. But it's more complicated than that because he does have a lot of baggage and it would require the right coach and right situation to get the most out of him (think Zach Randolph). If Byron Scott feels that he could handle Cousins and get him to use his talent productively, then go for it. I'm not sure what it would take for the Cavs to acquire Cousins and I have no idea if the Kings are even going to try to trade him. Regardless, the bottom line is that I would need Byron Scott to say that he's okay with it before the Cavs made any sort of offer.

This was pretty fun for me and there's plenty of questions that I didn't get to answer. I'll do it again soon if you guys like it. Thanks for the questions and remember that you can always ask me stuff on Twitter or email me at ConradFTS@Gmail.com and I'll try to answer.

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