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Buddy Ball notes: Thoughts on Dion Waiters, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love's defense

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Odds and ends from a crazy week.

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

What's been on my mind during this long layoff between Monday night's incredibly entertaining win over the New Orleans Pelicans, and tomorrow night's matchup in Boston ...

  • I just can't care about the Dion Waiters national anthem stuff. It's weird, but with the stuff the Cavaliers have had going on for the last 18 months does it really even register?
  • I do want him healthy, and it's getting to be time when we really can evaluate what kind of player Waiters can be in this league. It's his third year, he's talked a big game, and has shown flashes of athleticism and the ability to carry an offense for small stretches. I'm not sure if he will play tomorrow night, but with Matthew Dellavedova out the Cavs could sure use him. While it's been hinted at that Waiters is a bit of a hypochondriac, it's hard to question him after Darrell Arthur's cheap shot in Denver.
  • When Waiters has played this year, there've been some struggles, though it's way too early to read into much of anything. He's asked to catch and shoot, and is shooting 38% from three. That makes his 43% true shooting (which is about 10 points below league average) almost incredible. His usage is down, and he isn't turning the ball over at a high rate. He's trying to adjust. It's going to take him time.
  • I feel kind of bad for him. He's a third year pro, top five pick, and has had people questioning him his whole career. In a different world, the Cavaliers put shooters around Kyrie Irving and Waiters and give them a legitimate pick and roll, pick and pop option to let them create. Waiters and Irving could have seen their minutes staggered. We could have really found out what Waiters can really do in a starring role.
  • Instead, Dion is the fourth best creator on his own team (assuming Love's ability from the high post counts). Waiters can earn a lot of money by defending and spotting up and keeping the ball moving. But that's clearly not how he'd like to do it. And I don't really blame him.
  • Enough about Waiters. We have mustache-gate! Yeah, I don't really care about that either. But it's nice to see Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving getting along. Both should be in the Wine & Gold for at least the next half decade.
  • Neither of them are particularly good defenders. I still think Irving can get there, and he goes through entire quarters where it appears he cares, but he sure isn't there right now. Love has been a bit worse than I thought he'd be.
  • It's been six games, so I'm not giving up on him. But too many times he just doesn't challenge shots at the rim at all, or finds himself completely lost on basic sets the opposition runs. It's a new system, and either Blatt hasn't committed to a system, or he wants to switch it up, or it's confusing for all of the Cavs bigs because there hasn't been consistency. So it could just be a process. Still, it's hard to see Love ever being an above average defender.
  • Which leads us to the problem, that we all knew would be the problem: defense. The Cavs are 28th in defensive efficiency thus far according to basketball-reference.com. These guys don't know each other, don't know the system, don't have trust in each other, don't have trust in the system. Opposing teams are also hitting an abnormally high percentage of midrange jumpers thus far. They'll get better.
  • Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson are going to be extremely important. If you read our comments, you've seen some fun, exhausting, and annoying discussions about Thompson's defense. The short answer is that I don't know. I thought he was fantastic in the second half against the Pelicans, but it's just one half of basketball. With a lesser role, fewer minutes, less offensive responsibility he should have more energy to expend on defense.
  • I'd like to see Thompson foul more. I asked Tyler Zeller last year what he was doing to bring down his foul rate, and he basically told me he wasn't. He was a reserve and wasn't asked to play 30 minutes, and he had fouls to give. In Thompson's case, he can make opposing guards feel it when they head to the basket. He can challenge more shots. Of course, you want him to do it in a smart manner, and you don't want to hand out free trips to the free throw line. But the Cavs need to find ways to protect the rim. Thompson is averaging 2.4 fouls per 36 minutes thus far, in line with or below where he's been for his career.
  • Kyrie Irving and LeBron James ran a pick and roll against the Pelicans and it made my mouth water and my heart sing and I mended bruised friendships and composed a sonnet.
  • Each game is not a referendum on Joe Harris, or Matthew Dellavedova, or Waiters, or anyone. There are 82 games. The Cavs shouldn't make decisions based on 20 minute sample sizes. This isn't groundbreaking, but yeah.
  • I'll wrap this up. I'll readily admit that I personally am having some struggles with the transition from lottery team looking for development to being a contender. This is heavy on Waiters and Thompson because I'm still trying to figure out what they are. Focusing on LeBron James and Kevin Love and figuring out how to analyze them is both fun and challenging. It's a fun problem, right?
What are you guys seeing? What do you guys want to see?

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