Tag Archives: Cavaliers

Notes From Knicks-Cavs

Last night, the Knicks lost in Cleveland, 91-84. After watching the game, I have a few thoughts to share.

First off, at the end of the first quarter, there were .8 seconds remaining on the clock, enough time for a quick shot attempt. The ball is inbounded to Langston Galloway, but, instead of taking a shot immediately, he takes a couple of dribbles and takes the shot right after the buzzer sounds.

That type of behavior is something I’ve noticed a lot lately. Rather than taking generally futile last-second heaves, players have been messing around just enough that the shot is taken just after the end of the quarter. Instead of mumbling empty platitudes about doing everything possible to win and whatnot, why don’t players actually do that, instead of just pretending to try their hardest for the sake of a field goal percentage point or two?

In addition to Young Kristaps and YK, I may have another nickname for the Knicks’ Latvian star: KPP. I heard it from a friend; it stands for Kristaps Perfect Porzingis. I’ll try it out, and see if it feels comfortable.

Speaking of Latvia, the last time I wrote about KPP (I like it!), about 40% of the hits on the article came from Latvia, so for all my dear Latvian, KPP-loving readers, veiki, paldies par lasījumā, un iesim Knicks!

Young Kristaps had a pair of spectacular plays near the end of the first half. The first was a block of a layup attempt by LeBron James.

There were two impressive aspects to this play. First, the block came after YK read the play perfectly, noticing that Jose Calderon was guarding LeBron, who has fifty pounds and five inches on him, and walled off both the basket and the passing lane to his own man. To find the second thing, rewatch the video and pause it at eighteen seconds: KPP’s head is on one side of the rim and his arm is long enough that he’s able to reach across it to block the shot. That’s ridiculous.

The second play was a confident, swished, buzzer-beating three.

There was no hesitation whatsoever. Even from a few feet behind the three point line, his shot was smooth and unflustered. This play was in line with the rest of the game, as he hit four threes on five attempts.

There was one poor play at the start of the third quarter. On an Irving-Love pick-and-roll, Calderon and YPP both jumped out on Irving, leaving Love with an opportunity to nail a wide open three. I can’t say for certain if it’s the scheme’s fault or the players’, but either way, you can’t trap a ball handler, even if it’s Irving, if it means leaving a good three-point shooter like Love wide open.

The most mystifying part of this game came in the fourth quarter, when Young Kristaps didn’t play at all. Wait a second… He did? Sorry, I must not have realized since he didn’t take a single shot until a last second heave when the game was out of reach.

With Melo out, KPP is the Knicks’ best player—why is he not being given the ball? I understand that it’s never good to force up shots when they’re not there, but he was wide open from three point range multiple times and was ignored in favor of awkward, off-balance, mid-range attempts.

The team ended up scoring twelve points in the fourth quarter. Maybe, just maybe, ignoring Young Kristaps had something to do with it.

It’s especially annoying as the Knicks entered the final quarter tied, on the road, without their best player, against the best team in the Eastern Conference, but gave the game away. The points they left on the table could have given them the game.


NBA Free Agency Winners and Losers

With the NBA free agency season winding down, I decided to stop procrastinating and to recap the ups and down of the hectic free agency period. What better way to do that than with a good old winners and losers column? Let’s start with the most obvious example.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Winners

Gee, I don’t know… They didn’t have that great of a summer. All they got was the best player alive, who, just by being in Cleveland:

  1. Immediately made them into title contenders and
  2. Made all of the valuable veterans chasing rings come to Cleveland

In addition to getting LeBron, they have a bunch of young, cheap, and valuable assets and could get Kevin Love.

As I said, not a particularly good July for the Cavs.

Sacramento Kings: Losers

What the hell are they doing??? Here are two facts that shed light on why the Kings have been consistently one of the worst teams in basketball for the last decade:

  1. They let their young, talented, restricted free agent point guard (Isaiah Thomas) leave for Phoenix so they could instead save money by picking up a career backup (Darren Collison) instead. How much did they save? About a million dollars per year for the next three years (and seven mil in the fourth year). They say they have some advanced stats that show that Collison is better than Thomas, but I, like most observers, am skeptical.
  2. They’re currently ducking the luxury tax line by just under a million dollars. That’s normally fine (for instance, the Thunder are also just under the luxury tax) but they’re spending a ton of money for a lottery team with no upside.

That seems like a loss to me.

Houston Rockets: Losers

Well, the Rockets are still in a good position for the future, with two stars in Howard and Harden, along with plenty of cap flexibility. They have the normal number of picks (the 1st rounder that they traded to the Lakers with Jeremy Lin is replaced by the 1st rounder they got from the Pelicans for Omer Asik) so they’re not completely screwed like the two New York teams, and they’ve got a top-notch GM who isn’t completely incompetent. Due to Houston’s positive long-term outlook, it’s strange to see them on the list as losers.

The reason why their summer wasn’t a success is due to their failed attempts at landing the upper tier free agents available. They dumped off Asik to New Orleans and Lin to Los Angeles to create cap space to sign free agents. That’s normally commendable, but when you miss out on the best free agents, you suddenly find yourself without two valuable rotation players.

Not only did the Rockets miss out on Melo and Chris Bosh, but they also decided not to keep Chandler Parsons. Their plan for free agency was to let Parsons go into restricted free agency, keeping his cap hold at about 2-3 million and to get rid of Lin and Asik, thereby creating enough cap space to sign a max level free agent. Subsequently, the plan was to sign a max level free agent while remaining under the cap. They would then be able to go over the cap to resign Parsons, giving them a big four of Harden, Howard, Parsons, and Bosh/Melo.
Of course, when Parsons signed an offer sheet with the Mavs, the Rockets only had three days to sign a free agent and then to resign Parsons. They were unable to do so, and then, at the end of the three-day waiting period, they simply let Parsons go.

To replace Parsons at the 3, Houston signed Trevor Ariza. Ariza is older than Parsons and is signed to a longer contract, although for less per year, meaning that Houston will have more cap space for additional free agent signings. Ariza, outside of the contract itself, is a good signing for Houston. He shoots 3s as well as Parsons and plays much better defense, which is especially important on a team with Harden, a defensive sieve. Still, he’s not Bosh, Melo, or even Parsons.

Houston came into this free agent period with high hopes, and left with less than they came in with. The team that suffered a first round playoff exit to Portland just got worse. That’s a pretty bad summer.

LeBron James: Winner

Let’s list the four biggest ways that LeBron won the summer, he:

  1. Goes home to Cleveland, erasing much of the pain from his brief defection in 2010
  2. Gets out of a deteriorating situation in Miami, where he would have been stuck with old and expensive teammates, where he would have had to carry his team every night (kinda like the late 2000s Cavs)
  3. Goes to the only place he could have gone to win titles without being branded a mercenary
  4. Gets a team where he either gets to play with a bunch of young stars who can save his legs, or with less young stars and Kevin Love, a top 10 player.

Not too shabby a summer for King James, huh?

Miami Heat: Losers           

Speaking of LBJ, the Heat had a bad summer. They lost the best player on the planet. That alone is enough to make a team a loser. However, outside of losing LeBron, the Heat actually had a surprisingly good summer.

They resigned Dwyane Wade to a more manageable contract. The kept Chris Bosh, who’ll become their new franchise player. If Bosh can keep up his defense while shouldering the offensive burden, the Heat will be in good shape.

In addition to the players they resigned, they also signed a few good free agents. They signed Luol Deng to replace LeBron (if anyone can truly do so) at the 3. They got Josh McRoberts, a 3-point-shooting, floor-spacing big man, who fits well with Miami’s offensive philosophy of passing, movement, and space. They also acquired Danny Granger, a veteran like the Heat have signed in years past, but, unlike those prior veterans, he’s (probably) not washed up.

Although the Heat lost LeBron, they had a pretty productive summer. However, next year they’ll almost certainly get worse after losing their best player and the strengthening of their in-conference rivals. That’s enough to make them losers.

Phoenix Suns: Winners

They are loaded. Perhaps not skill-wise, at least not yet, but there are really no teams out there that have a better long-term outlook than the Suns. You could make a case for the Hawks. You could make a case for the Sixers. But really, no team compares to the Suns.

Last year they won 48 games when they were trying to lose. Phoenix won with a young team that can only get better. They had four first round draft picks in this year’s draft. They aren’t hamstrung by cap concerns. The Suns can resign Eric Bledsoe and will still have max level cap space next summer. Even if they can’t sign a free agent, they can still trade for a star. They have a ton of young, cheap, and movable assets. For a team that’s pretty good already, adding a max level player would make them elite.

Still, that’s their long-term outlook. We’re only looking at this summer, though. They had one notable free agent acquisition, signing Isaiah Thomas away from Sacramento. In Phoenix’s two-point-guard offensive system, Thomas will be a good fit. However, one free agent signing is generally not enough to make a team a winner. In this case, though, it’s what the Suns don’t do (or at least don’t need to do) that makes them winners.

Originally, they offered Bledsoe 48 million over 4 years. Bledsoe turned them down. They moved on and signed Thomas for 4 years and about 27-28 million dollars. The advantage here is twofold. One, they get a cheaper replacement for Bledsoe. Two, they can afford to play hardball with Bledsoe, forcing him to accept less money to come back to Phoenix.

If Bledsoe comes back, great! They have another good player. If he doesn’t, that’s great, too! They have extra cap space to use to improve up and down their roster.

Now, if Phoenix hadn’t signed Thomas, they would have either lost Bledsoe or been forced to give him a cap-crippling contract that would mess up their cap space for years to come, just so they could keep together their core from last year.

The Thomas signing, because of all of these reasons, is one of the most underrated signings of free agency and is enough to make the Suns winners.

Indiana Pacers: Losers

The Pacers stagnated, not signing anyone of great import. However, they lost Lance Stephenson, a brutal blow.

Despite his antics, Stephenson was one of two players on Indiana last year (in addition to Paul George) who knew the definition of the word ‘score’. If you subtract him from a horrendous Indiana offense and don’t replace him with anyone good, that’s a combination for disaster.

Even the Pacers’ vaunted defense will be affected. Stephenson was a big part of the defense with his long arms and physical defense. He’s also valuable on defense because of his ability to guard the 3, in addition to his position at 2-guard.

Stephenson’s ability to create offense along with his flexibility on defense will be sorely missed in Indiana.

Indiana’s loss of Stephenson coupled with the gains other Eastern contenders made this offseason is enough to make them losers.

Charlotte Hornets: Winners

The Hornets (it feels weird calling them that) were the team that signed Stephenson away from the Pacers. It was a great signing for them. Their, at times, stagnant offense gets a big boost from adding someone who can make his own shot and (kinda like a linebacker) is able to bully his way to the rim for easy layups.

Steve Clifford’s defensive system gets another versatile, long-armed defender. Adding another elite defender to a team that was among the league leaders in defensive efficiency last season? That’s a recipe for a top-3 defense.

With an elite defense, a decent offense, and Lance Stephenson (not to mention an NBA great running the show), could Charlotte be turning into Indiana 2.0.? That potential is more than enough to make this a successful summer for Charlotte.

NBA Fans: Winners

We were the biggest winners of all. Let’s just quickly run through all the ways we won the summer. We got…

  1. Two weeks of nonstop excitement, constantly refreshing our Twitter feeds and ESPN to see if an important free agent had signed.
  2. To dream for the future, imagining our favorite team acquiring LBJ, Melo, Bosh, or whoever else.
  3. To see new teams rise, young teams get even better, and established teams get worse.
  4. To feverishly work out trade scenarios on the ESPN Trade Machine that’d net our team Kevin Love
  5. To watch a player make amends for one of the worst things to ever happen to a fan base in the history of sports

It’s been a helluva summer.


The Lottery and the Cavaliers



Well, I was in the middle of writing the Week In Review column about the lottery when I realized that I had enough to say that I needed to devote a whole column to expressing my thoughts on the lottery. Hope you enjoy!

The Cavs won the lottery. This has a lot of ripples, like tossing a boulder into a small pond. Most relevant to me, it’s going to be hard for me to write about how God hates Cleveland anymore now that they’ve won three lotteries in four years. Of course, the only year in the last year that they didn’t win the lottery had Anthony Davis as the top pick, the last ‘sure thing’ superstar center in the draft since 2008 when Greg Oden was the presumptive 1st overall pick (although we all know how that panned out) so maybe God STILL hates Cleveland. We can always hope. Or, maybe, three first overall picks in four years may be compensation from the Basketball Gods for LeBron leaving, and ripping their hearts out in the process. This is all waaay too confusing. Let’s hold off on a decision to make sure that Cavs don’t screw it up, either by taking Embiid and his back problems flaring up or taking a point guard like Dante Exum while somehow forgetting that they’ve already got an all-star point guard (see: Irving, Kyrie). Don’t count out the Cavs from doing something stupid like that, they’re capable of doing anything. They’re absolutely crazy.


Should the Cavs should be rewarded with the first overall pick? They’re incompetent and horribly run, but at least they tried to win this year. They sent picks and Andrew Bynum to Chicago for Luol Deng and they sent a couple of second rounders to Philly for Spencer Hawes, although that evidently didn’t work out too well. The question is whether or not the trying hard outweighs the fact that the Cavaliers are a dysfunctional organization.


This conundrum also applies to the Suns, Bucks, and Bobcats—wait, Hornets. (Quick tangent: As far as I can tell, the whole point of a team’s name is to sound strong and powerful. That’s why you see names like the Giants or the Kings throughout sports. I’ve always thought it amusing when teams use names like the Hornets—am I supposed to be intimidated by a bug? Being the Bobcats was a lot better and moving down the scale-of-scary-names was not a great idea. At least they weren’t as bad as New Orleans, who originally had the name of Hornets and then decided to become the Pelicans.  Wow, I’m scared. I suppose that tangent wasn’t all that quick, but whatever.) We’ll be getting to the Hornets in a bit but I’ll quickly go through the Suns and Bucks.


First, Milwaukee. They tried to win this year and never officially started tanking, but they were led by Herb Kohl who just wanted to make the playoffs. While they wanted to do well, they didn’t exactly go the right way about doing so. Of course, the best thing for them to do to be good is to tank (which is what they ended up unwittingly doing) just showing how weird it is to be in a league in which eight teams were aiming to willfully throw their seasons away in order to get better in the long run and how that strategy actually makes sense.


Now for Phoenix. Phoenix was planning on throwing away their season, but when they were unexpectedly good at the start of the year, the rolled with it and finished with 48 wins which would have made them the three seed in the Eastern Conference. Of course, in the West, they missed the playoffs and ended up in the lottery anyway. How are they not being rewarded for trying their best? To solve this problem, here’s what I propose: a complete change of the lottery system.


It’s always great when a borderline good team manages to acquire a transcendent player to turn them into a very good team. Of course, with the lottery, that never actually happens. Why not change the lottery around? Clearly, you can’t have tanking, nor can you have the elite teams getting even better, so here’s my proposal: You have the same lottery format, but with switched odds. So, this year, Phoenix would have had a 25% shot at the #1 pick. You can’t tell me that it wouldn’t be awesome to see Wiggins or Embiid tearing up the NBA with the Suns next year. Teams couldn’t purposely lose games because they’d be destroying their hopes for the playoffs AND for the lottery. The only potential downside is an eight seed tanking out of their spot for a good shot at the 1 pick, but that’s okay for three reasons: One, rather than having eight teams tanking, we’d only have, at most, two or three. Two, teams attempt to tank out of the playoffs to get into the lottery anwyay. This year the Hawks did their best to get out of the playoffs but they were unable to, due to the incompetence of the Knicks and Cavs. Three, it’d be fine with me if we were improving teams that were already half-decent. Why aren’t we doing this? Get Silver on the line!


The Cavs moving up to number one overall is quite bad for the Pistons as they had a top eight protected pick that they owed to Charlotte in the Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette bad contract swap. When the lottery began, Detroit was in the 8th spot, but when Cleveland moved ahead of them, they moved down to the 9th pick, meaning that they had to send it away to Charlotte. It means that the Pistons won’t have a draft pick in Steve Van Gundy’s first year, something that dampens the excitement that he brought to their organization. On the flip side, the Bobcats are an up-and-coming team and, after adding a high draft pick, they have a chance to get even better. That’s how the lottery SHOULD be, improving teams that are genuinely attempting to get better. Who would rather see a young star having his growth stunted by having to carry a crappy team by himself over a team that’s already pretty good getting two high-ish picks and reinforcements. For me, at least, it’s no contest. Charlotte now, depending on how well they pick, have a chance to improve enough to get the 4th or 5th seed, maybe even the 3rd seed (and if LeBron leaves Miami to go to the West, the two seed). Hell, if Toronto can get the 3 seed, certainly Charlotte with a couple of new, very good, rookies can too.


Other ripples: after destroying its team and MCW’s good habits, the 76ers only have the third overall pick and the tenth overall pick, which they got from New Orleans in the Nerlens Noel and top 5 protected pick for Jrue Holiday robbery—I mean trade. The Cavs moving up affected the Sixers a lot as they moved from the potential 2nd overall and 9th overall to 3rd and 10th.  Kind of sucks for the Sixers and their fans when after ravaging their team and throwing away a season they only get the 3rd pick. It’s great for everyone else though: it shows that tanking doesn’t result in a guaranteed superstar and that the lottery works (although that’s debatable after the Cavs winning three times in four years). Other than that, there’s all the aforementioned story lines in play from before.


Hope you enjoyed and I can’t wait until the draft (I think I’ll even write a running diary for that too).