Happy (s)Hump Day, sports fan!
It's time for another healthy dose of extremely factual facts, and takesual takes.
Let's start with Tristan Thompson
- One of the great things about social media and the internet is that it's given all of us access to the kind of information and ability to discuss that we could have only dreamed about back in the day. The great part is also the bad part, as we get lost in obsessing about minutia and over simplify things into easy to consume points that miss the bigger picture. Case in point: Tristan Thompson. As he and the Cavs work out the details of his contract, here we are getting lost in silly things.
- "Is Tristan Thompson a max player?" - This is a symptom of not having a better term for these big rookie extensions. Of course Tristan is not a max player in the vein that LeBron James or even Kevin Love are, but nobody is even saying he is, it's just a non sequitur thrown out for no real reason. Ironically enough the thing that makes Tristan's contract make sense, the thing that makes it unpalatable, and the thing that makes people complaining about it confusing are all the same: Anderson Varejao.
- Varejao, who is facing the prospects of never again being a passable NBA rotation player, just signed a 30 million dollar extension. At the time of that signing, he was a mediocre defender, good rebounder, deft passer, and had a decent 15 foot jumper. At the time of earning his original 6 year deal with an AAV of $8 million, Varejao was little more than an elite defender, good rebounder, and roll man. That was 6 years ago, under vastly smaller cap numbers.
- At 24, Thompson is among the league's best rebounders and pick and roll players. Of players with 100 or more possessions as the roll man, Thompson ranks 3rd in points per possession (PPP), FG%, Score Frequency, and drawing fouls. For comparison, Thompson's 1.25 PPP as the roll man and 69% score frequency dwarfs that of Kevin Love, who was used as the roll man more often, with a PPP of .86 and score frequency of 36%. Conversely, when defending the pick and roll, Thompson allows .68 PPP.
- So to recap, in a league where pick and rolls are en vogue, Thompson is among the best offensive and defensive players available, and can switch onto guards as well. Take into account his rebounding and the simulated gravity that boxing him out creates, and that he just saw a very visibly declined 32 year old get a $10 Million AAV extension ... Oh yeah, he also hasn't missed a game in over 3 years ... suddenly the big price tag makes sense and "There are a lot of players like Thompson available for the mid-level" becomes completely asinine.
- "But Tristan is selfish, he needs to just take what they offer and be happy that he is on a championship contender with LeBron." Again, I direct your attention to fan favorite Anderson Varejao. Raise your hand if you think his jersey should be retired one day. Now raise your hand if you remember that he sat out 2 months of the season in 2007 as the Cavs limped out to a 9-12 record, said he wanted to play for literally anybody else, and signed a contract with the Bobcats before the Cavs eventually matched in December of that year. The moral of the story is you won't care any less what he is making or how they got there when they win games.
- "But with the Cavs cap situation, giving him so much money is awful!" You know what really drives a nail into the Cavs cap coffin? Not giving $22 million and $17ish million to Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson respectively, who should account for 60-70 minutes per night at your front court spots. Unfortunately, it'd be Varejao. Take that $10 million out, and everything else makes a ton more sense. Nothing at all against the man --who is wonderful -- or that he got his money, but the only wrench in every Thompson discussion is thrown in by Andy.
Some Free Agency Ideas
- Counting Thompson and J.R. Smith, who I still fully expect to return, the Cavs have 13 players under contract. With Brendan Haywood and Mike Miller's trade exceptions pending, the Cavs will want to ensure they have flexibility with those last two spots similar to the way they had the deals of Alex Kirk and Lou Amundson to burn last season. The use for those exceptions will be receiving a salary dump of some kind, be it getting a useful player from a tanking team, or for jumping into a multi-team deal.
- The clearest path to that is non-guaranteed deals, so the team taking them on can just save the money and roster space, which is the major appeal for luxury tax teams. Is Sir'Dominic Pointer one of those? Maybe. He could sign a non-guaranteed deal or just head overseas or to the D-League for a year of seasoning.
- If the Cavs go the veteran route, getting Luc Mbah a Moute or Norris Cole on a veterans minimum (I don't know how feasible either is) would be a decent route. They probably cannot do both, since I imagine both would command fully guaranteed salaries, but as third string defenders, both would fit an ideal role at the 3/4 and 1 respectively.
- I think this would helpful to Matthew Dellavedova as he seeks a contract next season. He needs to maximize he good qualities and minimize his faults. Making sure he never has to be a primary ball handler goes a long way to doing that. Keeping two NBA veteran points, who both have extensive playoff experience seems wise, as it would let him operate only in advantageous handling situations off of catches and not get into the 4 or 5 situations per game that has him turning his back to the rim at the half court or 3 point line and gets eyes rolling.
- Getting either of those is probably a long shot, given their veteran status and usefulness, and the Cavs need to probably have some sort of emergency center on the roster. Right now there is Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson, and the rehabbing Anderson Varejao, who again, just seems like a long shot to contribute anything. That said, if they think Andy is that emergency 5, this all becomes moot.
- Also, at the risk of getting fired by my notorious UCONN fanboy of an editor: Please stay away from Ray Allen, who announced he is mostly retired EXCEEEPPPTTT for maybe just the right situation.
- As always, remember that these are just my musings and they will be invalidated soon, usually within a few hours of posting!
The Cavs should have 2, maybe 3 Olympians (for Team USA) in 2016
- Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are both headed out to the team USA mini-camp, and there are rumors that LeBron might as well, despite remarks from himself and USA basketball that indicated he was done after his third straight Olympics in 2012.
- It's impossible to peg starters several years out, but there is no reason to think that all three won't make the team if healthy. Irving is fresh off of a FIBA tournament MVP award, and his all around game is perfect for international ball. Love returns from winning a gold medal with the team in 2012, and LeBron is LeBron.
- Either way, a gold seems like a foregone conclusion for the USA, as the shooting and play making available to a team that can trot out lineups featuring 5 of Kyrie Irving, Russ Westbrook, Steph Curry, James Harden, Paul George, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins has no equal in the world. Add in potential reserves like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Drummond (among many more) and team USA is just stacking the deck.
- Even with those three going, I wouldn't expect participation from any Cavs players in the actual camp. Love and Irving are rehabbing, and LeBron is probably a light participant at best with his desire to pack as much rest as possible into his offseasons.
Hopefully that will give you enough to ponder to get you through the day as we crawl closer to the season. If not, hey, we always have more awesome content coming soon.