Many people have varying opinions on the job Chris Grant has done with this incarnation of the Cleveland Cavaliers but one thing nobody can deny is he has a knack for accumulating assets. The assets that are the most important to whether we become a middle of the pack playoff team or a title contender are the first round picks we have drafted over the past three years. Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev.
In the fan podcast's we touched briefly on what we would like to see out of these players but I wanted to dive just a little deeper and keep track of each of our first round picks and how they are developing and where they could use improvement. The purpose of this article is to set the baseline to track where they were at from the last time we've seen them play.
I'm going to start with the most fun review to do. Kyrie Irving is good at basketball, this isn't exactly going out on a limb. He's a very efficient scorer with one of the tightest handles in the league and is an incredibly good shooter both off the dribble and in catch and shoot situations.
There are a few areas where I would like to see growth in his game however:
Turnovers - I'd like to see Kyrie improve on his turnover numbers. His turnover ratio actually improved last season from 12.6% to 11%. Part of this was a result of him having a season in the NBA under his belt and limiting the amount of lazy or inaccurate passes on the perimeter than ended up getting picked off as well as being able to see the floor better. I think the next area of his game that could use some improvement that would help limit his turnover numbers would be how he runs the pick and roll. While he improved last season he still didn't always use the picks properly or would force in a bounce pass to the roll man which can be tough to gather which resulted in turnovers. Hopefully Andy can stay healthy and Tristan and Bennett can prove to be competent roll men to help out Kyrie as I feel this has been a need for the team for as long as Kyrie has been here. How those bigs preform could have a large impact on Kyrie's T.O. numbers for the year.
Defense - We all know Kyrie needs to improve on the defensive end of the court. But the first thing I'd like to see out of him is his effort improve. He's shown flashes of being able to play defense in chase down blocks and steals and even bearing down and staying in front of his man when the situation called for it (usually against a marque player which nobody can really stop in the league). It's hard for me to go in depth breaking down all the places he needs to improve on defense when I really don't think the effort is there. Until he starts trying on defense it's useless to try and cover what he's doing on that end. So defensive effort would be one of the key things I want to see out of Kyrie this year.
The final thing I have to say about Kyrie is I'd like to see him use the players around him properly. I think we've all seen Kyrie make the right play in the past only for Alonzo Gee to launch a three that hits the side of the backboard. I'd like to see him display the play making we've seen in the past with the weapons he has now. His assist numbers should be around 8-9 in my opinion if this team is going to be firing on all cylinders. I haven't had an issue with his assist numbers the past two years but now I think we'll see what he can actually do finally break through. I won't classify it as an area of improvement until I see that he can't do it with the tools in place.
Tristan is all things that are good in the world however if you want to nitpick here's where I'd like to see improvement out of him.
Offensive Awareness - Pretty broad category and I touched on some of the issues above. But I'd like to see Tristan become more proficient in the pick and roll game. He can do this by improving his spacing between him and the ball handler once he has rolled to the basket as well as not bringing the ball down after the catch once he has received the pass. This is true for all his cuts to the basket as well. Him catching it and going up immediately and utilizing his great leaping ability would cause the rate at which he finishes at the rim to skyrocket (also helping Kyrie's turnover numbers as they usually credit the turnover to the guard if the big bobbles the catch and has it stripped).
Weakside help - Tristan regressed last season on his help defense as he focused solely on becoming a strong man defender. I feel he accomplished that but this year I'd like to see him mesh the two and become a true defensive force. Luckily I think Mike Brown will be able to help Tristan figure it out and we'll see him emerge as a true all around defensive force.
The Mountie - Tristan has taken to call his push shot "The Mountie". This is beyond awesome and I'd like him to continue to making that push shot as well as about 35-40% from the 12 foot range. He shot almost 35% from that range last year in a small sample size and I'd like to see him maintain that and even improve over more attempts. I'd also like to see him shoot in the high 60's on his free throws at least.
Shot Selection - I want to see few to no shots off the dribble. Dion proved himself to be an effective spot shooter last season but what drags his numbers down are the sideways scissor-kick 18 footers that make us all suicidal. He needs to be able to take and make a pull up jumper from mid-range but as soon as the north south drives turn into east and west I'd prefer to see him pass the ball and the team look for a better option not dance with the ball and launch a bad shot. A 60/30/10 distribution of shots at the rim, three point line, and mid-range with Dion would be fantastic.
Defense - No surprise a team that struggled as much as we did on defense last year would have all three of their top picks needing to step up their defensive games. Dion does have all the physical tools to be a good defender and at Syracuse he showed that in his second year in a defensive system he could be a terror on that end. While there may be some transition with Mike Brown it's still his second year playing man defense. He will need to consistently show effort on the ball and awareness off the ball. Hopefully this will lead to him getting burnt fewer times in the coming season.
I don't think he's going to have a large role this year but I think he's a smart and mature player that will make the most of his time riding pine. I'd like to see him hit his mid-range jumper with consistency this year and I'd like to see him continue to work on his body and add strength. He won't be an average defender until he adds more upper and lower body strength. Still think he becomes a valuable part of our rotation moving forward. This will just be a transition year for him.
Contrary to reports out there Anthony Bennett has not yet played an NBA game so we don't know what will and won't translate. What I'd like to see out of him is for him to be a good pick and roll/ pop player on offense. Space the floor and attack the basket in a bench role. If his rebounding on the offensive end translates it gives the Cavs one more relentless rebounder creating multiple opportunities for the Cavs. With Andy, Tristan, and Bennett the Cavs are going to be a very annoying team to play against. I'd also like to see Bennett improve his footwork. People talk about foot-speed all the time but the difference between getting beat or beating a man anywhere on the floor usually comes down to footwork. Bennett played a lot in the post and as a result doesn't have great footwork on the wing even though he is plenty athletic. While it's debatable what position Bennett will end up playing in the NBA what isn't debatable is that he will spend a fair amount of time away from the basket. Improved footwork will help him succeed in the NBA whether it be as a stretch 4 or a 3 in the future.
As far as his defense goes it remains to be seen how bad he will be. I think he's a smart kid and considering he hasn't played basketball for very long it seems like he's picked up the game insanely fast. Hopefully he excels in training camp and can at least get where he needs to be positionally down before the season begins.
Like Tyler I don't see a massive role for Sergey this year. What I want to see out of him is to make 3's when he's out there and to display smart passing. I think in the bench minutes he's out there he will help keep things fluid by making the right play and will establish himself as a threat that needs to be covered from deep. Think that's about all we can ask for from him.
Anyways that's my TL;DR write up on our first rounders. I'll be trying to track these players and see how they progress throughout next season more in depth once their numbers start rolling in. Hope you enjoyed it.