After last week's debacle and tonight's borderline disastrous early performance against the Wizards, this could have potentially been the most depressing mailbag ever written. However, luckily you guys sent in some non-Cavs questions for me to answer which makes my life a bit easier.
But let's start with one Cavs' question.
How bad is Kyrie at getting through screens while guarding the ball?
This is something that's been fairly clear since his career started, and he is still young, but it is rather disconcerting that Kyrie Irving hasn't shown any real improvement at getting through screens. I'd have to really look at it further to give you an exact breakdown as to why he's so bad at it, but right now I feel comfortable saying he is just bad at it and we should take that as an assumption for the next point I'm going to make (I'll take a hint and look into why he's so bad at this and get back to you).
Given that Kyrie is so poor at getting through screens, and that Andrew Bynum is so bad at having to step outside of the paint, and that Anderson Varejao is slowing down, and that it's best possible defense against side pick-and-rolls, and that...well you get the point. Given that all these things are true, wouldn't it make much more sense to ICE side pick-and-rolls? The Cavs have the personnel to where this not only makes sense, it's really just the rational thing to do. This would really limit the amount of times that Irving needs to go over and/or fight through screens because that's just not how you ICE on side PnRs. I know it's against Mike Brown's philosophy, I just think it really makes sense for this team to consider it.
On a scale of 1-10 how concerned are you with Bynum's retirement talk and apparant sadness concerning his physical state right now? Do you think him just quitting through the year is a real concern, or was this all more of a lobbying effort to get more PT?
Well, I don't think it was really a ploy to get more playing time. I just think that Varejao started slow, and given his penchant for random injuries it makes sense to slow him down and sit him on the bench. Plus, I think the idea is that Varejao's energy off the bench can be infectious to the rest of the bench unit once he really gets back into game shape.
As far as the actual retirement thing goes, I'd say I'm at about a 5. There's literally no chance in my mind that he's quitting midway through the season. He's shown enough to where that full $12 million salary is going to get exercised no matter what. Remember, on December 15th free agents that signed over the summer become eligible to be traded. That $12 million potentially expiring contract is a MAJOR trade chip if the Cavaliers want to make a big move (Rudy Gay, anyone? *Exorcist-style vomits all over the four corners of my bedroom*). He'd essentially be giving up an easy $6 million by quitting. He may march to the beat of his own drum in a lot of ways, but Andrew Bynum isn't dumb enough to turn down $6 million, and I hope the front office isn't dumb enough to cut him so they don't have to pay him $6 million.
However, I say I'm at about a 5 because I think this does create real questions about what the Cavs do with him in the offseason if he's still feeling this much pain and doesn't believe he'll ever be 100% again. This offseason, a lot of the discussions concerned the extremes of the situation. Most of us thought that either Bynum would be this guy who plays 65 solid games at 100% and fully healthy or that he'd only play ten games before breaking a hip or something. The idea that he could be this 70% of his old self-type healthy player never really came up. If he really never can come back to 100%, and if he's only going to be this 20 minute-per-game guy the rest of his career, is he worth that $12 million salary next year? It's an interesting discussion that is disconcerting, yet ultimately one that probably plays itself out throughout the year.
How concerned should we be with Kyrie's slow scoring start? His numbers aren't bad, but a lot of people were expecting him to take The Leap. Can he still and what will he have to do differently to get going?
(Conor sent this last week, so to be fair to him he may no longer feel this way after both Wizards' games)
It's just a ten game stretch as far as I'm concerned. He's pulled himself back up to around 40% shooting (still a disaster) after the last two games. He'll play through it and get better. It's worth mentioning though that sometimes his release seems to be rushed in comparison to what it used to be. I can't really say if that's a conscious decision on his part to try to quicken his release or not, but it happens from time to time.
I do think there are legitimate questions about whether or not "The Leap" statistically will happen this year from Kyrie, and I'm not sure they have to do with things in his control. We all wanted to see Kyrie make the leap with his defense and passing. Given the roster construction, I'd be surprised if we saw a leap in assists, normal or hockey-style. I know he's up around that seven-per-game mark right now which would be a career high, but guys are killing him with missed shots and I'm not sure that's going to improve a ton. Also, the Cavs just generally are -- unsurprisingly given their lack of off-ball movement -- 26th in the NBA in assists right now. It's an uphill battle there for him. Obviously, that defense hasn't quite been up to par yet either, but his effort occasionally looks improved on that end. With Mike Brown around, I have faith that it comes along soon. I still have complete faith in Kyrie. We just may not see it statistically this season.
Rank the current FX series.
OOOO this one is RIGHT in my wheelhouse. What a great question.
1. The clear number one choice is Justified in my mind. There are so many reasons I could give you why this is the case, such as the writing being spectacular, the world being one of the most fully developed yet interesting in all of television, or the supporting characters being totally unique within the space that they occupy. The real reason for me though is that in all of television, there is no single leading character on television that is more enjoyable to sit down and spend an hour with than Raylan Givens.
His wit is unimpeachable, his quick draw with his gun makes him unkillable, and his personal imperfections make him relatable. I wish that everyone in television could write characters like Elmore Leonard and Graham Yost did with Givens. Also, there's no better relationship on television than the one between Tim Olyphant's Givens and Walton Goggins' Boyd Crowder. There just simply isn't. The chemistry between the two characters, clearly on opposing sides of the law yet with a mutual understanding of friendship, veritably crackles when they share the screen together. Justified is generally one of the few shows on television I would recommend to everyone and anyone without a second thought or regret.
Let's just rifle through the rest quickly until we get to other big one I want to discuss:
2. The Americans: This show did what Boardwalk Empire tried to do but failed: recreate a dangerous world from a past time that was both interesting and beautifully made. Boardwalk failed on the interesting part despite luring actors like Buscemi, Shannon, and Graham. The Americans does not.
3. Louie: There is just literally no other comedy like it on television. It's like watching an indie movie every week. It also has a heart and warmth to it at the center because of Louis CK that many other dramatic comedies don't.
4. The Bridge: Another great opening season for a new show. I actually think this could potentially leap up this list in the next couple seasons as well. Bichir and Kruger gave such excellent performances every week this season, and the subject matter really improved as the season progressed.
5. Sons of Anarchy: This is the other one I really needed to talk about. Let's hit the good first: Charlie Hunnam consistently gives one of the most underrated performances on television. It's such a tough needle for him to thread as the emotional center of the show that's in a biker gang, but Hunnam really straddled that line between tough yet sensitive perfectly. If the show was better, I would probably have consistently made arguments for him to be nominated for an Emmy.
Here's the problem though: he lost an awful lot of that character sensitivity last season with Opie's death (we're a full year past when it was aired, I have no problem "spoiling" this). He's becoming more hardened with the years, and I get that the point is to make him turn into what Clay was, but it's not within the character of the Jax that has been previously expounded upon.
Oh yeah, and it's also worth mentioning that Kurt Sutter doesn't have a subtle bone in his body. He tries to one up himself with something more absurd and more absolutely ridiculous every season. First it was a rape in season two, then it was a stolen baby, then it was Opie's bludgeoning, now it's a school shooting in the first episode of this season. Nuance and character detail has never been Sutter's strong suit as a show runner, but through the first four seasons he at least provided enough of it to keep me interested. He lost me as a live viewer midway through last year, and has completely lost me as a viewer until the show ends for now. It's past its prime, and probably should have only gone five seasons as opposed to seven.
6/7. Archer/It's Always Sunny: These two shows have just honestly never been my brand of comedy. It's okay, I get why people enjoy them, it's just not for me. Although I am willing to give Always Sunny another shot at some point. Archer is just that one show that I'll never get. I've seen something like 15 episodes and just don't understand why people love it.
8. American Horror Story: Again, this one isn't for me. I'm not a voracious horror watcher. I've seen two episodes of it, it's just not something I want to indulge in. Given that this is a personal list, it slides in at the bottom.
I'm not going to jump into shows like Wilfred or Anger Management or anything like that. Also, FX's brand as a whole is becoming something I don't particularly understand because of FXX (specifically, what does this channel appeal to? The younger demographic? FX already is the younger demographic channel. The branding and marketing is puzzling), but ultimately John Landgraf is still one of the greatest television geniuses of our time. He'll figure this out, and FX is positioning itself to become a VERY large player in the streaming market if they and Fox as a whole play their cards right with The Simpsons' library purchase. I would probably argue that FX will be the most interesting case study of TV channels over the course of the next five years, and I'm excited to see what's in store for them.
Tell me about evaluating players for college action as opposed to projecting them for NBA success.
For me, first and foremost, it's about seeing specific projectable skills. It's why, for instance, I'm so high on Gary Harris comparatively and yet may not love Wayne Selden nearly as much. With Harris, his shooting is clearly projectable, and his defensive tenacity is there, whereas with Selden he's just a man among boys right now physically. With Sam Dekker, I see a guy that I know will shoot threes, he'll rebound offensively, and he'll consistently make the right decision moving the ball, whereas with someone like T.J. Warren I see a superior athlete that may never shoot enough to be anything more than a defensive 3 that plays strong in transition. Finding those specific skills, especially for role players, is key.
Then it's all about projectability, which is such a loaded term. It's why people are looking at Joel Embiid as a potential top 5 pick ahead of Aaron Gordon. NBA coaching staffs will always trust themselves to make a player out of someone like Embiid that has superior athleticism at 7'0 tall, despite the fact that he's not nearly ready to step onto an NBA court and compete. I don't necessarily agree with the people who have ranked these two like this either. This "projectability" thing is also why I still have Andrew Wiggins ahead of Jabari Parker on my board. I love Parker's skill and think he's more "can't miss" than Wiggins is, but Wiggins is just such a freak athletically that if he ever gets a jumper it's literally over. If he becomes a 39% NBA three point shooter, it's over, he's a top 2-3 player in the league. Guys will have to close out on him way too hard, and he'll just beat them athletically to the rim and finish once his body fills out. Parker is my favorite prospect, but Wiggins is unequivocally in my mind a better one, despite the fact that Parker's athleticism is underrated (as I've been saying for about four months, by the way).
I hope that gives a little insight. It's way too long of an answer for a mailbag, and I tried to break it up into a broadened way.
You're stuck on an island, forced to live with one of two things: my photoshops, or Mike Prada's puns. Which do you choose?
Jordan is unquestionably one of my favorite people in the basketball twitter community, and if you don't follow him already you should @JordanSWhite. One of the nicest people in the world, and I look forward to he and Robby Kalland's podcast this all-star weekend in the accents of old Jewish mothers discussing basketball. Also, I've slightly altered this question because Mike is by far the more ridiculous pun master of the two. Trust me on this.
The reason this comes up is that Jordan is the proprietor of awful photoshops. I cannot emphasize enough how much crap I give Jordan for these. Like, I just....here are examples: Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C.
Okay so the last one sold me. If you have bad photoshop recommendations, you should feel free to inundate Jordan's mentions with them. I'm actually not even going to answer the question, I just really hope that Cavs fans inundate Jordan's mentions so that he has to waste his time making more bad photoshops.
I think that's actually all I'm going to answer this week because I'm at about 2500 words already and I can't envision any of you people actually getting to the bottom of this post. If you did, holy crap, hats off to you. Seriously, keep sending in questions. I need them to sustain my awful writing.
I'm not sure whether or not I'll give you guys a Thanksgiving mailbag or not. My lean on that would be yes because I hate family functions as much as every other awful, curmudgeonly human in America, and am always looking for something to do to get out of them. But we'll see. Either way, mailbagFTS@gmail.com or my twitter, @Sam_Vecenie. Send questions, and we'll see what happens.