FanPost

Training Camp Battles: Donald Sloan vs. Jeremy Pargo

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Over the next week or two, I’ll be looking into some of the more intriguing positional and role battles that will face the Cavaliers as training camp and the preseason begin. Within these posts, my goal is to introduce some of the new Cavaliers, understand what’s facing the familiar faces of this team, and seeing who I believe could contribute off the bench this season. The first position I’ll be looking at is backup point guard.<!--EndFragment-->

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Keeping Kyrie Irving fresh over his first full 82-game season could become a factor as the season progresses. Irving missed 15 games last year mostly due to a shoulder injury, and is coming off of wrist surgery this offseason. While there is no replacing the Cavs’ best player, keeping his minutes around the 32-35 per game mark seems to be the safest bet for his continued success during his sophomore season. Bearing in mind that Byron Scott has said that Dion Waiters will see a little bit of action at point guard spelling Irving, the Cavaliers have two other listed point guards on their roster: new acquisition Jeremy Pargo and Donald Sloan.

I’ll begin with Pargo, who has long been someone I enjoy watching due to either my unabashed love of the Gonzaga program or the irrational enchantment I have with all athletic, terrible-shooting point guards not named Rajon Rondo. He was acquired in a trade with Memphis in July that saw the Cavs trade D.J. Kennedy for Pargo and a 2014 second round pick. Since Pargo is a new Cavalier, I’ll give a little more information into his background and abilities in something of a player capsule format that hopefully doesn’t get me sued by Gothic Ginobili and Hardwood Paroxysm writer Aaron McGuire (follow him @docrostov, he’s been doing great stuff all summer).

He is the brother of Jannero Pargo, who has spent the last ten glorious seasons traversing the continent and even making a few trips overseas to ply his trade. Jeremy was a three-year starter at Gonzaga and went undrafted in the 2009 draft. After unsuccessfully trying to secure a contract with both Detroit and Orlando during the Summer League in 2009, he went over to Europe where he signed with Hapoel Gilboa Galil. During his season with Hapoel, he was an instrumental and electrifying part in that team’s shocking run to the Israeli title. Following that wildly successful season, he signed a new contract with rival Maccabi Tel Aviv. He enjoyed a breakout season, where he led Maccabi to the Euroleague finals, was named Euroleague MVP for the month of March 2011, and was named to the 2nd-team All-Euroleague. Also, he was the 2011 Israeli Cup Final MVP. After these accomplishments, he signed a lucrative two-year deal with Maccabi rife with NBA out-clauses, which he exercised to sign with Memphis prior to last season. He’s mostly known to American audiences at this point for a series of ridiculous dunks during his time in Europe, which are outlined here:

Jeremy Pargo - Crazy Dunker! (via zvikaweiss0)

As seen by these clips, Pargo is a phenomenal athlete who combines length and leaping ability to throw down some impressive slams. That athleticism also carries over to his defensive ability, as Pargo is a very aggressive defender who uses his athletic ability to disrupt and frustrate point guards. He is a little bit on the short side at 6’1," but he makes up for it with a 6’5" wingspan that allows him to guard most point guards at an above-average level in the NBA, despite the stats not bearing that out last season.

Offensively, Pargo is a scoring point guard. In Europe, he combined his athleticism with solid shooting (46.3% in 22 Euroleague games in 2010-11) to produce at his best professional level. However, last year he struggled with Memphis at the offensive end. He shot under 30% from behind the three-point arc, and averaged 0.62 points per possession, which is a staggeringly below-average number. While John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating is not the strongest metric by which to judge high-usage scoring guards, his rating of 4.62 (lowest among qualified point guards) is a little disconcerting when considering his possible use for the Cavaliers. Unfortunately though, his shooting does not constitute his biggest issue moving forward. Basic point guard skills eluded him last year. His assist rate was far below the NBA point guard average at 20.9, and his turnover percentage was far above average at 17.5 (sixth highest among the 67 qualified point guards). He had a 1.20 assist-to-turnover ratio, which was good for 76th out of the 80 point guards who played in the NBA last season. Simply put, Pargo tried to do too much with the ball in his hands for Memphis last season. He’s never been the strongest shooter even going back to his Gonzaga days (he has a pretty slow shooting motion that takes time to get loaded up, leading to difficulty with contested jumpers), and his decision-making was among the worst in the league last year at the point guard position.

Bearing all of that in mind, Memphis’ decision to move Pargo seemed to be more a question of depth than of his skill level. The Grizzlies’ drafting of Tony Wroten made the writing on the wall appear dim for Pargo from the start, and the emergence of Josh Selby in the Summer League made the Grizzlies Pargo had become expendable. While they probably would have cut him if they didn’t find a taker, I still have a little bit of faith in his ability to become a third point guard for someone in the NBA. First and foremost, he must improve upon his ball security and decision-making. If he can improve upon that, he has enough athletic ability to stick in the league as an athletic defensive-minded point guard who can get to the bucket. However, therein lies the problem with Pargo; he is not the normal second year NBA player at 26 years old. With his guaranteed contract and Irving’s injuries in the past 6 months, I believe Pargo is likely to stick with the Cavaliers to start the season at least as their third point-guard depending on training camp. It is incumbent though upon Pargo to improve if he is to see any legitimate time this year, and at this point I wouldn’t be surprised to see him cut at some point during the season.

20120319_jla_sn3_329_medium

via cdn1.sbnation.com

The guy Pargo will be battling for that playing time is Donald Sloan, the 6’3" point guard out of Texas A&M who started in Irving’s place last season during Irving’s time off due to injury. Sloan also spent parts of last year with the Hawks and Hornets, but I’ll mostly only be focusing on his time with the Cavaliers, as that is when he received a majority of his minutes last year. Also, since Cavs’ fans know Sloan I’ll only focus on him quickly then move on to what to think about this positional battle.

Offensively, Sloan is also an attack-minded guard, but his NBA play last year was much more balanced than it was both in college and at the D-League level. He wasn’t much better than Pargo shooting last season, and overall isn’t much of a shooter to begin with. His ugly numbers shooting threes last season are well-known (he ended up 2-22 from beyond the arc), but he is effective at driving to the 8-15 foot range and getting a decent look with his herky-jerky dribbling and solid quickness. Sloan also has his issues with decision-making, but here he at least showed to be a little more adept than Pargo did. With an assist rate of 32.2 in his time with the Cavs, he showed a fair amount of proficiency at getting his teammates the ball in a position to score. He also struggles a little bit with turnovers, which in my opinion has to do with the same herky-jerky game that allows him to get to the rim. Despite this though, his assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.18 with the Cavs is a marked improvement for a guy who had more turnovers than assists in his final year at Texas A&M. If he can improve upon this aspect even further, along with possibly improving his wonky shot (at least to the point of becoming an average shooter), he would certainly become a more viable option for the Cavs in the future.

Defensively is where Sloan shows issues. He does not close out well at all on shooters. He either uncontrollably flies out at them, making him susceptible to a pump fake, or more often than not lazily putting a hand up against spot up shooters. In fact, spot-up shooters shot nearly 60% against Sloan last season. One defensive aspect where he actually was solid though was against pick-and-rolls. In pick-and-roll situations last year, he held offensive players to a 0.79 points-per-possession mark, which I think can be attributed to his strong lateral quickness. His sustained strong pick-and-roll defense will be a necessity if he is to achieve success in the league long-term.

When comparing these two players, I think it is clear that neither is a viable long-term backup point guard as they stand right now. Their continual improvement in both the preseason and regular season will be important to the Cavs’ bench this year if they end up as the full-season options. Sloan was not impressive in his Summer League games in my opinion this year (Pargo was dealt to the Cavs on July 25th, and sat out Memphis’ last three Summer League games). When watching the two of these guys play, the eye certainly wanders faster to Pargo. His athleticism leaps off the charts and he is much more capable of making the spectacular play. If you were choosing teams for a pick-up game of street ball, Pargo would be your pick.

But as of right now, I’d give the advantage to Sloan over him for the Cavs. Sloan knows the system better, and he is a smarter ball-handler than Pargo. The biggest thing the Cavs will want from a backup point guard this year will be steadiness. With Waiters seeing a little bit of time at the point guard spot, the explosive offense off the bench will hopefully be covered while he’s handling those duties. The key for the Cavs in the minutes that these guys play will be holding down the fort. This is their weakest bench position. If Sloan or Pargo can come in and give the Cavs some solid, unspectacular minutes, it should be considered a win.

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This is a Fan-Created Comment on FearTheSword.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at FearTheSword

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