The Cavaliers have won seven games in a row, so that's pretty cool. They head to MSG on Friday to play the Knicks, where, ideally, they'll win their eighth. It's interesting to feel so optimistic about the team, because, honestly, they haven't really played that well, at least in regards to getting off to slow starts against bad teams and letting them hang around a little too long.
Early Season Optimism
That said, I think the optimism comes from the way they're getting their points. This looks like a professionally run basketball team out there, and the sets they're running are yielding results. I felt as though David Blatt didn't really get a chance to install what he wanted to do last year. At the beginning of the season, they were playing a set of players who really couldn't execute, so, in order to save the season, they had to revert back to LeBron James high pick and rolls. Once the cavalry came with midseason trades, there wasn't enough time to teach the three new members of the rotation sets the team had abandoned a long time ago.
This season, it feels like Blatt has been able to put his stamp on the team. He's using Kevin Love more creatively, and even though his field goal percentage isn't showing it, it's a good thing for the offense. The team's assist rate ranked tied for eighth last year, and it's up to fourth so far in the 2015-16 season. The team is having more of those Spursgasm-esque sequences that go such a long way towards keeping the entire team in rhythm, and it's showing. The role players aren't merely decoys or spacers, but active participants in the offense, and it's seemingly keeping them ready to contribute.
There's some hand-wringing about whether Kyrie Irving's return will put a stop to this, but I don't really share that concern. Mo Williams is hardly a pure point guard. He's taking plenty of off the dribble shots and handling the ball extensively, with a usage rate of 21.5 percent. Kyrie will certainly handle the ball more, and he'll always be an iso-heavy player, but a bit of adjusting will go a long way for him and the Cavaliers offense.
Peanut Butter Delly Time
Speaking of Irving's return, I'm honestly at a loss for what to do with Matthew Dellavedova once Kyrie is back in the lineup. Delly has played incredibly well, and has some of the best lineup data in the NBA this year (SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT.) Not needing the ball in his hands goes a long way, he's defended capably and for some reason, teams will never, ever understand that he's just going to throw the ball to Tristan Thompson for an alley-oop when they run a pick and roll.
It's been assumed that when Irving returns, Mo Williams will take the backup minutes and Delly will be squeezed out of the rotation, but I wonder if that's actually the case. Delly is a David Blatt favorite, and I can't help but wonder if we'll see him play some minutes at the backup SG spot with either Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith handling some spot minutes at the SF, at the expense of Richard Jefferson.
Part of the fun of having depth is that some guys are just not going to get to play. It's going to be interesting to see what that means for everyone's favorite Aussie...or Richard Jefferson, who is an American.
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Timofey Mozgov has had a bit of a rough start to the season, coming off of knee surgery this offseason. He's not as impactful on defense, and he's really struggling to finish at the rim. I cry silent tears every time the Cavaliers run a post-up for him against a starting center.
But, hey, let's pump the brakes on the concern. It's going to be a sec before Mozgov feels right again in that knee. He's a huge dude, and it takes a while to re-adjust. He's got good instincts, is starting to earn the benefit of the doubt from referees on verticality (which is half the battle, sadly,) and it's not like the dude forgot how to finish.
I'm hearing some calls to insert Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup, and to a degree, they make sense. Thompson's lineups have performed better, and Mozgov could hammer smaller, less talented bigs off the bench. That said, I just can't help but argue for the status quo here. You'd imagine Mozgov's performance will trend up, not down. There's going to be some regression to the mean, and I'm not sure it's smart to make rotation or lineup changes while a player is abnormally hot or cold.
- Anderson Varejao doesn't look as dead as I thought he'd look.
- I can't believe I forgot that Mo Williams was good, and I also can't believe I forgot how fun it was to watch he and LeBron unleash the kraken.
- I continue to be more invested in Kevin Love's happiness and production on the court than I am in anything else. He looks so much better, but I really want his jumper to start falling.
- Tristan Thompson, player who shoots 64% from the field, can't keep happening, right? If so, dear god.
- LeBron's jumper is worrying to me. I'd like it to get fixed. Can I help?
- The beginning of this season is so much more fun than the beginning of last season.