We're two games into the Las Vegas Summer League, and the Cleveland Cavaliers look very strong. The Cavaliers have beaten the Jabari Parker-led Milwaukee Bucks and the San Antonio Spurs so far, and are one of six 2-0 teams so far at LVSL. Under David Blatt's direction, the Cavs are playing with a very cohesive offense and focused defense, and they've been getting very strong contributions from most of the roster. Yesterday afternoon, the Cavs ran the Spurs off the floor, with Will Cherry, of all players, going off in the second half.
Tonight, the Cavs will look to solidify a top seed in the LVSL tournament with a third win against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers went 4-1 in Orlando Summer League, and beat the Utah Jazz 74-70 on Saturday night. With their army of second-round picks from the last two drafts, the Sixers should present an interesting challenge for the Cavs.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Philadelphia 76ers
When: 8:00PM ET
Where: Cox Pavillion -- Las Vegas, Nevada
How Can I Watch: NBA TV or NBA Summer League Live
Through two games, the differences between Mike Brown and David Blatt are obvious and a cause for optimism. Blatt has moved the Cavaliers into the modern age of NBA basketball with his offense, which has looked somewhat Spursian through two games, even with a group of young and less talented players than he will have in the regular season. We have not seen the vast number of isolations and mid-range shots that plagued the Cavs last year; instead these have been replaced by solid perimeter ball-movement, a tendency to focus on three-point attempts and shots at the rim, and a ton of off-ball movement by perimeter players. The Cavs have averaged 23 three-point attempts per game, which is three more attempts per game than the Cavs attempted last season in 8 less minutes of game time. The offense is everything that it was advertised to be when Blatt was hired.
No one has benefited from Blatt's presence more than Anthony Bennett so far. Bennett has looked very solid through two Summer League games, Bennett's averaging 14 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, and while a lot of that has to do with his improved conditioning, Blatt has been using Bennett in exciting ways that have made him even more effective. It seemed at times last season that Brown wanted Bennett to be a spot-up shooter, and he spent a lot of time standing around on the perimeter with no real involvement in the offense. In LVSL, Bennett has been placed all over the court. He's gotten looks from the wing, in the post, and at the high elbow, and has even been given chances to create on the ball. The results have been fun plays, like Bennett getting nice looks off screens or, from last night, POINT BENNETT!
Bennett's use in the offense is also likely an indication of some of the ways Blatt may use LeBron offensively, so pay attention to where Bennett is setting up offensively tonight.
Matthew Dellavedova and Will Cherry have also benefitted from the looks they've gotten from Blatt's offense. Delly has been spending a lot of time on the ball, and while he looked slightly uncomfortable at the point against the Bucks, his game against the Spurs was sublime. Delly took a backseat to Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, and Cherry yesterday when it came to scoring, but was a total game manager instead, finishing with 7 assists and only two turnovers as he was able to create nice looks for the rest of the team from the point. Cherry, on the other hand, showed why he might be a candidate for the team's third point guard role; he exploded for 21 points against the Spurs, and was able to create good looks on and off the ball out of PNR looks. Cherry was very quiet in the Bucks game, however, so it will be interesting to see what he can do for an encore tonight.
The Philadelphia 76ers don't have Nerlens Noel with them in Vegas, so my dream of watching Bennett outperform Noel will have to wait until the regular season. The Sixers played similarly to how they operated last season in the Jazz game, allowing their on-ball guards to create a majority of the offense. Former Tennessee guard Jordan McRae and Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick each finished with 20 points Saturday night, and Kilpatrick seems to be the main threat for Philly. Delly's defense of Kilpatrick and Wiggins's defense of McRae will likely go a long way in determining the outcome of the game.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction: The Sixers have looked good in Summer League so far, but the Cavaliers have looked just as good and have more NBA talent. I expect Wiggins and Delly to corral Kilpatrick and McRae en route to a comfortable 71-65 win for the Cavs.
UPDATE: Sounds like Nerlens Noel will play. That's pretty cool.