The Cavs have won four out of their past five games and times are seemingly happier. Allow me to put a damper on this happiness with my curmudgeonly tendencies.
(Some of these questions are backed up from the last couple of weeks).
Should the Cavaliers consider trading Kyrie Irving?
-way, way, way too many people in my Twitter mentions over the past three weeks.
Kyrie had a bad start to his season. There just aren't any ifs, ands, or buts about that. But in what realm is trading Irving a good idea? Why are people so down him? I get that he's not shooting well (we have evidence to the contrary that he is a good shooter), and that he can sometimes pout and give less than 100% defensively. But let's take a look at what Kyrie Irving is capable of doing.
-Since the inception of the NBA, there are three guards that have averaged 20.5 points per game and 5.5 assists with a true shooting percentage of 55% before turning 23. They are Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, and Kyrie Irving. Paul and Rose had their seasons at age 22, Kyrie his at age 20.
-Since the inception of the NBA, there are three guards that have averaged 39% on at least 150 three-pointers with 1.5 steals per game before turning 23. They are Stephen Curry, Hersey Hawkins, and Kyrie Irving.
-Maybe you like advanced stats. Since the inception of the NBA, there are three guard seasons where players have a PER of 21.4, an AST% of 32.5, and an eFG% of 50% before turning 23. They are Paul and both of Irving's first two seasons.
So yeah. We're watching what could become a legendary point guard in Irving. Let's slow down a little bit and enjoy the ride, considering he's still only 21 and could accumulate even more of these seasons in the next two years. He's been pressing so far this season with the increased expectations both surrounding him and the team, but on Tuesday he showed that he can literally carry a team to a win by himself.
You do NOT trade that guy. You build around him, and make the pieces fit around him.
If you had to guess right now, do the Cavaliers trade their 2014 first-round pick?
That's a fun question that I really hate answering, mostly because I'm concerned that it's a realistic possibility. There are way too many examples of a general manager panicking and moving a first rounder because his job is on the line. And make no mistake about it: Chris Grant's job is on the line this season. They need to show progress in the wins column, or else he isn't returning. In my opinion, it probably takes 35 wins to save his job. That would require the Cavs winning 45% of their games for the rest of the season, or winning 7% more often than they have already.
It's entirely doable with the current roster. Having said that, pressure is a funny thing. Grant might want to do something drastic to improve his chances to get there, including moving that pick. Keeping in mind that the Cavs have the Sacramento and Memphis first rounders coming eventually, it may not even set the Cavs back that much. There is no circumstance where I'm putting anything less than full lottery protection on that pick, but Grant may feel differently. I will be very angry if he moves that first rounder with minimal protection because it would be careless. But for the right package, it wouldn't surprise me if it was moved. I'd put the odds at 25% that Grant moves the pick. I can't see the scenario right now, but it's possible.
What would be your ideal trade for the Cavs if they had to make one?
This is a really hard question right now for the Cavs because they have so many assets, but there aren't a lot of available solutions. Omer Asik doesn't particularly help the Cavs. Jason Thompson is going to make one hell of a third big for a contender, but he's redundant in a lot of ways with Tristan Thompson. Jarrett Jack's presence means the Cavs won't be active in the backup PG market.
I know I'm going to get bitched at for this, but my ideal target would be Arron Afflalo. He's a hard-nosed defensive player that can shoot threes when he's asked to take a step back into a complimentary role. But this season, he's proven that he can actually take a bit of the burden of creating offense upon himself. He's averaging 21 points, four assists, four rebounds, and a steal per game so far this season for the Magic. I imagine his usage rate would take a step back here from its near 25% right now, but he's the guy that would fit next to Kyrie Irving. Bring Waiters off the bench as the sixth man, cast Jack off into oblivion, and now you've got your team.
He has three years remaining at ~$7.5 million per season. That's the perfect salary range for the Cavs to come up with a multitude of offers including pieces such as Anderson Varejao, Jack (no way the Magic take him back), Anthony Bennett (can't see them wanting him with Harris and Harkless already in the fold), plus Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee. My offer would be something along the lines of Varejao and a top 16 protected 2014 first round pick that becomes a top 5 protected 2015 pick if it does not transfer this season.
The Magic consider this because:
-First round picks this year are valuable. I don't love the depth of this draft as far as definite NBA players, but it's going to have quite a few home run guys that the Magic can take a shot on. Next year is a weaker draft, but they get potentially a higher pick if things don't work out in Cleveland.
-Gives them an "expiring" deal (Varejao would be on the hook for 4M next season if they cut him, but given that they aren't a contender or most likely a player in free agency next season, that's probably fine). Varejao himself is also a valuable piece to a contender this season. A three-way trade may be most preferable in this regard.
-Saves them about $10 million if they use the Varejao opt-out.
-Helps them tank. I like the core of this team a lot, but it helps them bottom out further to try to get their star. Victor Oladipo, Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, and Nik Vucevic are all awesome pieces, but that's a team with a ceiling without a star. The Magic don't get that star this season unless they bottom out. Trading Afflalo is a big piece of that.
I don't know that that's enough from the Magic's side to make this deal. But it's a thought and I would welcome it from the Cavs' perspective. That kind of leads into my next question...
If Varejao and Thompson cannot often play well together, aren't the Cavs better off trade Andy before he misses another entire season?
Well let's take a look at their on/off stats and take a look at the first hypothesis of whether or not they can play together. All stats will be courtesy of NBAWowy.com, and all will be over the course of the past two seasons combined.
-When Thompson and Varejao play together, Varejao averages 1.02 PPP with a 25.2% defensive rebounding rate, and a 19.2% overall rebounding rate. Thompson averages .96 PPP with a 17.6 defensive rebounding rate and a 15.1% true rebounding rate. Overall, the team averages 1.03 PPP and gives up 1.06 PPP.
-When Thompson is on the floor and Varejao is off, Thompson averages 1.02 PPP, a 23.7% defensive rebounding rate, and an 18.1% true rebounding rate. The team averages 1.03 PPP and gives up 1.09 PPP.
-When Varejao is on the floor and Thompson is off, Varejao averages 1.08 PPP, a 30.5% defensive rebounding rate, and a 19.2 true rebounding rate. The team averages 1.03 PPP and gives up 1.10 PPP.
So it would seem that the Cavs are pretty much the same offensively no matter who is on the floor, but worse defensively when the two of them are apart. However, I think it does seem that Thompson is offensively stunted by Varejao being on the floor. Thompson also averages about 3 fewer rebounds per 100 possessions while Varejao is on the floor, but Varejao more than makes up for that when they're on the floor together. I'm not actually sure that I can definitively say that the two of them can't play together. It looks awkward, but Varejao can stretch the floor enough. Thompson just needs to play more assertive when Varejao is on the floor.
I actually have no issue at all with trading Varejao. In fact, I think they should trade him and get value out of him while he's healthy. I don't think that the fact that he can't play with Thompson though is why.
What are your thoughts on Sergey Karasev's ceiling as a defensive player?
That's kind of an odd question. He's clumsy in a lot of ways, doesn't have great length, and hasn't looked particularly athletic. But recently, somewhat un-athletic shooters have shown the ability to defend just through their innate knowledge of shooter patterns off-ball and because they normally have higher cardio from running off screens constantly. It's part of the reason that Kyle Korver has become an above-average defender in the NBA. Other examples include J.J. Redick and Gordon Hayward as guys who have worked hard to shore up that part of their game.
So my guess on this is that I don't think he has high defensive potential at all. However, the template is out there for him. He needs to get stronger and into slightly better shape -- that will happen as he continues to play in the NBA just through strength and training programs -- as well as learn further offensive intricacies. The potential is there, but my guess is that he's always a somewhat substandard NBA defender based on what I've seen from his athleticism and coordination. That's a prediction, but it's not at all one I'm necessarily confident in considering Karasev is only 20.
If the Cavs had drafted Nerlens Noel, would they have signed Andrew Bynum?
I honestly have no idea. I guess I can play the guessing game though.
My assumption here is that the tests done on Noel's knees pre-draft didn't go particularly well, and showed that he'd be out until about at least February, maybe the entire season. Therefore, I'm not sure that there would have been a difference as far as the Cavs were concerned. If they thought that Noel was the best player in the draft, I think they would have taken him. Given what his tests probably showed, I don't think he would have precluded a signing from the Cavs' perspective. Maybe Bynum would have looked at the Cavs differently with another center in the fold, but after the Cavs would have explained the situation I think he would have signed anyway.
So sure. Logically it makes sense that he would have signed anyway. But I can't actually know that.
Doesn't appear that the Cavs will recoup the J.J. Hickson draft pick from the Kings (6-13) this year. When do you see it happening?
Ahh, yes. The mythical Sacramento Kings draft pick from the legendary Hickson-Casspi trade of 2011. With the Rudy Gay trade for the Kings, this has actually turned into a topical question. The rules on that pick transferring to the Cavaliers go like this:
-Top 12 protected this season.
-Top 10 protected in the 2015-2017 Drafts.
-If the Kings are still awful, it becomes a 2017 second round pick.
First and foremost, if the Kings are still one of the ten worst teams in the NBA in 2017, they can keep their first rounder. I'll mostly just feel so bad for them that they deserve it. I don't mean that as a dig or anything at them, but it would just be awful to have to lose a first rounder for Hickson and still be awful six years after the trade.
Second, let's assume it's not happening this season. They're in the sixth pick position right now and play in the Western Conference. I don't see any way that team finishes ahead of Golden State, Memphis, Minnesota, Dallas, Denver, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, the Clippers, San Antonio, Houston or Portland. That's already 11 teams -- three of whom cannot make the playoffs -- meaning they're already at the 11th spot if everything goes right.
Third, there's the possibility that Gay opts out after this season. I know he'd be passing up $19 million for next season, but we know that there's a chance some team would consider him at 4 years, $44 million on the open market. It might be more worth it to him to lock up that financial security. So this deal really may not even matter in the grand scheme of how the Cavs' pick is affected.
Finally, let's do a prediction that won't particularly mean anything because this Kings roster is not going to look anything like it does right now in about a year's time. I'll guess it transfers in 2016. Mike Malone is a decent coach, the front office there is much improved, and the Maloofs are no longer around. There is quite a mess to clean up here, but I'll say they can do it by 2016. Why not.
Would the Cavaliers be amenable to playing "Calvinball?"
Yes, the Cavaliers should absolutely start playing Calvinball. For those unfamiliar with Calvin and Hobbes, Calvinball is a game in which the participants just make up the rules as they go along. If the Cavs do that, they can gain a marginal advantage on their opponent by being the only people who know how to score. However, it may eventually become an issue that you cannot replicate the same rule twice. After all, there are only so many plausible actions on a basketball court without getting the fans involved. Therefore I'm not exactly sure Calvinball is legal, but it would be fun for a single game.
In honor of Kyrie's new Foot Locker commercial, what are the sexiest basketball sneakers in all of the land?
That's such a great question. There are two shoes this year that I love, both of which are Jordan Brand. The first one is the Melo M10. Luckily, Matt Moore of CBSSports was tweeting about them earlier today, therefore I can just embed these tweets for you to show how beautiful they are.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>Melo M10's in red/black <a href="http://t.co/PdNokLKB7m">pic.twitter.com/PdNokLKB7m</a></p>— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) <a href="https://twitter.com/HPbasketball/statuses/410908265132728320">December 11, 2013</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>Jordan Brand's Melo M10's in blue <a href="http://t.co/u4okAcu9Wu">pic.twitter.com/u4okAcu9Wu</a></p>— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) <a href="https://twitter.com/HPbasketball/statuses/410908192785178624">December 11, 2013</a></blockquote>
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Second, I really like the Blake Griffin Super.Fly 2s.
I'm the furthest thing from a sneaker head. I like simple shoe designs. Sometimes I get a little bit crazy with the color, but mostly simple is better for me. And I love these two shoes.
Didn't get to a lot of questions this week, but I'll try to catch up next week seeing as how I'm at about 3000 words. I need way more funny and random questions next week because this one ended up being way too Cavaliers-centric for my liking. As usual, send them to mailbagFTS@gmail.com or to my Twitter handle, which I will shamelessly plug here as @Sam_Vecenie.