Byron Scott's job is in jeopardy. I don't think we can assume anything less than that at this point. There are obviously questions about his future and even reports indicating that the Cleveland Cavaliers will fire Coach Scott at the end of the season.
The team still has one game left and we figured that the Fear the Sword writers ought to weigh in on the situation before any decisions are made. After all, you know that Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert are anxiously awaiting the insight of part-time bloggers. So I asked our crew five questions about the situation. Here's how we responded to the first couple questions, dealing specifically with how Byron Scott has coached the Cavs so far.
We will also be recording a podcast to discuss a lot of these topics tonight.
1. What is your biggest concern about the job that Byron Scott has done with the Cavaliers?
David: I would have liked to see defensive improvement throughout the season. Dion Waiters has had his hands full learning to play the game the right way offensively, and Tyler Zeller is over-matched, but I didn't see either get better with their off-ball defense. Kyrie Irving got better, at least some of the time, with effort level defensively but never in the team concept. The perimeter defense and the transition defense were embarrassing all season long. Alonzo Gee seemed to regress defensively, and certainly never became a good team defender. I can put qualifications on a lot of this but when you have athletes who can run the floor, and the Cavs do, they shouldn't be getting beat down the floor like they were time and time again.
Conrad: Certainly something related to the defense. I'll be the first to tell you about the need for better defensive talent and continuity, but there were some things that I saw that were really quite inexcusable. It doesn't take a good system or defensive talent to just not leave shooters in the corner for wide open threes. Finding a solution to the 3rd quarter woes would have been ideal as well. I'm not in the locker room during halftime, but it seems as though the team is not ready to play coming out of the break. I'm not sure why that is or if it's even Byron's fault, however.
Angelo: The lack of any semblance of an offensive/defensive system. I have no idea what the hell this team is supposed to look like. With young players that need to learn the game, having some sort of set go-to system can be extremely helpful so they have some sort of role they need to fill. Without it, you get the crap we've seen since March on.
Sam: The biggest concern has to be the total lack of improvement on the defensive end, right? I understand that the pieces just simply aren't there for this to be a good defensive team quite yet (Zeller in the middle, Kyrie and Dion leaving spot-up shooters open like it's in their job description), but Scott hasn't adjusted the strategy of this team either. Too often, I notice too many players below the foul line on the offensive end, which leads to easy transition buckets for the other team.
Ben: Generally just not a fan of his in-game decision making, going back to the 27 game losing streak. That there doesn't seem to be a coherent offensive or defensive system is also worrisome. They also routinely screw up end of quarter situations, not to mention fast breaks. While I know that the talent level has been, um, sub-par, they have had too many no-show games (going back to the second game of the year. So. Healthy). I don't like that they always seemed to play down to the opponents (losing winnable games against teams like the Hornets and the Kings, going 0-4 vs the Pistons). All of these things point to a lack of attention to detail (which was allegedly a problem in New Orleans).
Boosh: My biggest concern is that his systems may be outdated. It's easy to cite his experiences in New Orleans and New Jersey as reasons to have faith, but I'm uneasy with the idea of treating those past successes as concrete evidence of future outcomes. NBA defenses (and with them offenses) have evolved quite a bit in just the last few years. If Coach Scott is rigidly rolling out archaic defensive schemes and offensive sets, then the ceiling for this team is limited regardless of the talent.
2. What have you liked about the job that Byron Scott has done with the Cavaliers?
David: I thought given the pieces he was given that the offense was fantastic. He gives the players freedom within the offense, but as the young guys develop and understand the concept of space, I really felt like the sky was the limit. There was really pretty cutting, Kyrie Irving was able to get guys open jump shots at will and the only problem is those guys names were Tyler Zeller and Luke Walton. Remember Anderson Varejao's passing early in the season? Luke Walton's career came back from the dead, and Shaun Livingston, CJ Miles, and Wayne Ellington have never played this well anywhere else. Tristan Thompson's offensive development has been well-chronicled, but even at the beginning of the year when he was often getting his shot blocked the starting units offensive numbers were pretty good.
The other thing is intangible. I like his style. I like guys who are tough but yet love you. He isn't a screamer, necessarily. He isn't throwing basketballs or chairs. He is firm, has his way, and if you buy in, the results will be pretty good. I love that Tristan Thompson recognizes this. Maybe Kyrie Irving does, maybe he doesn't. I will miss his old school mentality.
Conrad: I really like the individual improvement of guys throughout the season. Tristan Thompson obviously made the biggest leaps, but Alonzo, Dion, Tyler, Andy, and several others all got better under Byron. The team unit (specifically the defense) didn't really come together as we would like, but certain players definitely got better. I also like how he was able to utilize C.J. Miles and Wayne Ellington within the offense. Similarly, Livingston and Walton really seemed to work nicely as part of a second unit. Part of that is that they are veteran players and probably don't need as much coaching, but they really did just come out of nowhere and develop some excellent chemistry.
Angelo: The individual development of both rookies & the veterans that have been brought on board. There's no denying that Scott has been good at getting this guys to learn the game & their own strengths & weaknesses.
Sam: The development of the core has been pretty great, especially that of Tristan Thompson. Thompson has gone from a raw athlete playing power forward to a tough, gritty power forward that is a tremendous athlete. His offensive development has been great to watch this year.
Ben: I really have no idea. I like that he's a former player, I guess. I like that he seems to have a good relationship with Kyrie. Or did, I guess. Tristan Thompson has developed under Scott, but I literally have no idea how much credit Scott deserves for that. I mean, a lottery pick (who came in billed as "raw, good kid, hardworking") worked hard and improved his game, showing growth from Year 1 and Year 2. Is that a credit to Scott? LeBron improved under Mike Brown, how much credit do we give Coach Mike? I'm not at practices, so I really don't know.
Boosh: I've liked how the young players we've acquired have developed under Coach Scott's watch. I hesitate to give him all of the credit for their development, as that suggests that the players don't have the drive to make those strides by themselves. However, it's likely that having a strict disciplinary coach in charge for players' formative years could reduce the likelihood that they become "divas" later in their careers and establish a foundation of understanding that hard work pays off individually.
I'm also a fan of how he will take players off of the leash to maximize their effectiveness. Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving have blossomed with the freedom that they have been given. Unfortunately, this freedom is granted by some unknown criteria, and I'd like to see Tristan get the same benefit of the doubt that Kyrie and Andy have had.
Those are just two of the questions that we discussed about Byron Scott. The next post will include questions about injuries and the state of the locker room relationships. Feel free to weigh in on these questions in the comments.