The Cleveland Cavaliers got off to a slow start in NBA Summer League. They took on the Los Angeles Lakers and struggled to score until several minutes into the game. Nobody could hit a jump shot, or finish a layup, or play defense without fouling. Eventually, they got it going and ended up beating the Lakers, 70-62.
It was nice to watch some basketball again, but we were quickly reminded that the quality of basketball at Summer League is typically fairly bad. It's painful to watch guys like Dion Waiters make the right passes and then be rewarded with their teammate shooting a brick. And then on the next possession Waiters is less likely to make the right pass and instead opts for a fadeaway jumper. It's pretty frustrating, but it was only the first game and they have all week to get better.
One of the main (read: only?) positives that I saw in this game was the tenacity of Carrick Felix. The Cavaliers' 2nd round draft pick (33rd overall) was really aggressive, played solid defense, and was relentless on the boards. Basically, he was exactly as advertised. Again, it's just Summer League but he guarded both shooting guards and small forwards. On offense, he made precise cuts and didn't shy away from contact. I was already pretty excited about what the Cavs saw in Felix that made them draft him so high. His performance only reinforced that. I hope he gets plenty of opportunities to show what he can do this week. He seems like exactly the type of player that Mike Brown will love.
Neither Chris Quinn nor Matt Dellavedova showed much of anything at the point guard position. Too often they dribbled at the top of the key, waiting for something to happen instead of initiating the action themselves. Both struggled to maintain their handles when pressured by the defense. Overall, it wasn't good. Hopefully they're able to show us a little bit more as the week goes on.
The focus of this week should be on the Cavaliers' two 1st round draft picks from a year ago -- Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller. Both look like they've spent a lot of time working on their bodies this offseason; Zeller looks stronger, Waiters looks trimmer. But neither really asserted themselves in the game. Maybe that was a result of playing with guys that they've never played with before. Maybe that was just getting back to live-action speed. Regardless, it's not something to be overly concerned about. Waiters struggled with his shot all night and was met by multiple defenders virtually every time he touched the ball. Zeller was solid, if not dominant. He knocked down a couple of jumpers and finished some layups off of nice feeds from Waiters. It was fairly clear that Waiters and Zeller were comfortable with one another on the court. Again, that's not unexpected -- they've been teammates a year now and probably met some of these other guys just a few days ago.
- Jermaine Taylor showed that he has some decent shooting range and overall offensive skill. No idea if he's got a chance to make the roster but he's worth watching.
- Kenny Kadji was a mixed bag. He's clearly skilled with good size. But too often it seems like he's a split-second behind the play.
- Justin Harper was once an early second-round pick and has good size and range. He's probably still talented enough to play in the NBA. He'll get more chances later this week.
The Cavaliers' next game is Sunday at 8 PM Eastern against the Memphis Grizzlies.
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