The season is right around the corner. There are no more international competitions. No distractions to keep Cavaliers rookies Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev, and Carrick Felix from focusing on this years task at hand. It's not easy to step into the NBA and contribute, and there will be bumps and scrapes along the way, but I have a player for each young man to study that will help them get started on the right foot.
Now, it's important to note that when I say "player X should study player Y", I'm not saying that they will or should have spitting image careers. I'm just identifying similar traits and these these players can do to have an impact. Please bear that in mind.
The Player: Anthony Bennett - PF
The Assignment: David West - PF Indiana Pacers
The Traits: Pick and Pop, Physicality, Intensity
Far from being a #1 pick, Pacers big man David West still has a lot that he can teach our #1. Measuring a bit larger than Bennett (6'9, 7'4 wingspan to 6'7, 7'1) West counters his floor bound nature well on both offense and defense. Defense is probably the best place to start, because those are the biggest concerns with Bennett. The most impressive thing that West does, in my opinion, on that end of the floor is his constant banging. Every minute that he is on the floor, he puts his large frame to good use, and it wears opponents down. It takes time to learn the system, and understand defense. We saw it with Tristan Thompson, Blake Griffin is still trying to figure it out, and JJ Hickson probably never will. Hitting your man repeatedly however, does not. On a roster with Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, guys that are also physical, and play at a frenetic pace, having to deal with the 240-60 pound Bennett banging away at them, as well as (hopefully) a 280-300 pound Andrew Bynum doing the same will wear down even the best front courts. Doing this of course, will require the non-stop motor that West has as well, which is another huge concern.
Offensively, that same motor and toughness needs to carry over. Movement, battling for position, and bone-jarring picks are all prevalent in West's game, and it serves him well. The thing that stands out of course, is the crisp, reliable jumper that extends out to about 18 feet. Again, West is by no means quick or all that athletic anymore, but by putting a pounding on his man, setting a great screen, and knowing where to be, he gets himself a bounty of open looks every game. More than anything, this is what I would like Anthony to focus on when getting started on offense. Yes, he has amazing tools, and certainly a great handle for a man his size, and those will only be amplified by mastering the pick and pop. Once his jumper is feared, he will be able to dribble past the oncoming defender and jam with impunity.
The Player: Sergey Karasev - G/F
The Assignment: Peja Stojakovic - G/F (retired)
The Traits: Hunting, Sniping, and Smarts
One of my favorite players from one of the most fun basketball teams I've ever seen, Peja is exactly the type of player that Karasev needs to be in his first year. A 6'9 right handed sniper, Peja was the prototypical player for a Kings roster led by Chris Webber and Vlade Divac. Always on the hunt for his shot, and with opponents paying so much attention to the aforementioned bigs, a wide open Peja 3 was a familiar sight. Though not the most athletic, Peja had a great feel for exactly when to step away from his man that was shading towards the ball, and the perfect, hair trigger release to bury the ensuing shot. Obviously, this was also dependent on the great passing of C-Webb, Divac, and Bibby. I LOVE Karasev's ability to replicate this. The Cavs have two guards that can get to the rim almost at will. They have a great passing big man in Andy Varejao. On pick and rolls when the action is focused on Kyrie, Andy, Bennett, Bynum, etc, Karasev will have great opportunities to find soft spots away from his man and fire away, something he was very adept at in the Russian National Team tape I watched. If Sergey keeps moving, hunting, and thriving in the Chaos that this Cavs offense hopes to create, he will have a great rookie year.
The Player: Carrick Felix - G/F
The Assignment: Tony Allen - G/F Memphis Grizzlies
The Traits: Chaos, The Art of The Grind
Felix's ability to hit a 3 point shot will be important, but we are going to ignore that for this exercise. If he is going to make an impact on the court in year one, Mike Brown will want him to excel on defense, and there is no better study than the GrindFather, Tony Allen. The first trait I listed is chaos, because that is what Allen creates. Every possession, he is all over the place, constantly harassing passing lanes, entry passes, and anyone brave enough to dribble. At times it almost seems as if Allen is offended that the opposing team is looking to score, and that mean streak is something Felix definitely needs. More of a lanky defender than the bull in a china shop that Allen is, the 6'6 Felix has the physical tools to guard the 1 through 3. If he can focus every ounce of his energy on that, and on smothering the ball when the opponent has it,I think Mike will be able to find some time for him.