Looking at how the Cavs have fared these past two seasons, and looking at the young talent we have moving forward, it's easy to get caught up in the OKC model. I mean after all, it wasn't all that long ago that Seattle was a team falling apart who had drafted some kid name Kevin Durant.
Now, I know that some people on this board don't like to make these types of comparisons...but because I'm bored (recovering from a minor surgery) I have nothing but time on my hands and an excessive amount of energy that I've used to debate on ESPN comment boards. It made me think...how close are we to the OKC model? Ultimately, we're not nearly as close as we should be...and quite possibly closer than most people think.
Let's start with Kyrie Irving (our superstar in the making.) We drafted him to be the face of the franchise...to be our Kevin Durant. Well, some say he's a better shooting version of Westbrook than he is to being Durant. It's closer than you think when you compare all three players second seasons though. From a Per 36 basis, he's a slightly less efficient scorer/shooter than Durant was (and Durant was basically a sieve defensively back in his early playing days.) By season 2, Westbrook was dishing out quite a few assists...but then again, that's easy to do with when you have Harden (a rookie who was hitting 37.5% of his threes) and Durant (connecting on 42.2% of his threes) on your squad. Overall, Kyrie matches up well somewhere between the two. So while we don't quite have Durant, we do have something better than Westbrook. That's not a bad start. I believe you can build a championship around that type of talent.
So of course, we have to look at Dion Waiters. Oh the talent is so tantalizing that it's sick. But for their rookie years, Dion (despite all the headaches that he has caused us) was actually fairly comparable to Harden...despite the fact that Harden had a Westbrook (in his 2nd season) and Durant (in his 3rd season) already drawing NBA defensive attention. He was allowed to be a better shooter...and he clearly was. But Dion still managed to pace him fairly well. Dion was clearly the more high-useage player and it showed up in his TS%...but overall, these guys actually look like decent comparisons. Naturally, Harden improved and we'll need that type of improvement from Dion next season...but I think we can all agree that this is something that we are expecting.
Comparing Ibaka's 2nd season to TT's second season requires us to remember just what Ibaka truly was so that the comparison can be a bit more fair. To start, Ibaka might not have even been a 5th wheel on those teams (with Durant, Harden, Westbrook and Jeff Green). So his FG% is destroying TT's...because well...nobody expected Ibaka to score. Furthermore, while Ibaka clearly owns TT in the block category, there are any number of easy dunks that he gave up as he was attempting to block everything that came near the basket. He's a much more disciplined defender now...but his second season he was a bird flying at everything. He gave up a lot of points. Seeing Tristan's advanced stats (particularly his rebounding numbers) gives me a lot of hope moving forward. The other thing to really consider is the games started. While both players played in 82 games, Tristan started in all 82 with less talent around him...compared to Ibaka's 44 starts. The 4 extra minutes per game became an extra 350 minutes for TT...which is over 10 games of additional minutes. This was Tristan's first full season after his first full offseason. I really think that with the work ethic he's shown, we've got a gem on our hands here.
The other eerily similar stat between these two teams is the number of wins. Kevin Durant won 20 and 23 games his first two seasons. (The Cavs have 21 and 28...and that includes a lockout shortened season.)
This leads us to finding out other Durant/Westbrook guy. That guy...is probably not in this draft. In fact, at this point, I am fairly certain that this draft is where we really deviate from the OKC model. Instead of getting another dynamic wing, I really believe we are getting another big. I think that with us having two dynamic wings (in Irving and Waiters) we want to cause further matchup problems for other teams moving forward. Whether it's Noel (with us really pushing hard on defense) or Alex Len (who I am starting to believe we are going to take) to make teams pay with a true inside-out game...I believe that the shift will have taken place. There's only so many outside shots...only so many lanes to the hole...and so another big is the likely missing piece to our puzzle moving forward. Dion probably doesn't want to play the Harden-6th man role (even though he did play it at Syracuse).
Yeah - this is probably a disointed read...but I'm on pain meds. So leave me be. LOL