Dan Gilbert Is Low Hanging Fruit

June 30th, 11:55 free agency officially began with the signing of Doug McDermott to the Pacers. Of course that’s not why we had Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania notifications on every one of their tweets. The big fishes this summer are Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and of course, LeBron James. PG surprised many by being the first domino to fall and rebuking Los Angeles to stay in the small-market of Oklahoma City. As the Spurs and Lakers continue their epic standoff regarding trading Leonard, Bron did not want to wait any longer. At 8:08 P.M the Eastern Conference got just a little more pathetic, it’s best player leaving the conference for the west – more specifically, the Lakers.

Of course, we have to play the blame game. We look in the direction of owner Dan Gilbert – deservingly so. But it’s far too easy and somewhat lacking proper context. It’s no secret Gilbert ousted general manager David Griffin in the middle of an off-season where Paul George could have been had. A deal was in place which would deliver PG to Cleveland without having to part ways with star point guard Kyrie Irving. Except Cavaliers management couldn’t get a commitment from LeBron beyond the 2017-18 season. From that point on we should have known he was just running out the clock.

Gilbert gave up control to LeBron since he returned to Cleveland in 2014 – as he should have. A player like James deserves this kind of control over a franchise. And Gilbert paid his bills, signing Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and J.R Smith to outrageously oversized contracts to appease James. When the last asset of any value left in the cabinet is a middle of the lottery first-round pick I honestly cannot blame Gilbert for not wanting to part ways with a prospect like Collin Sexton for one-year of DeAndre Jordan, who wouldn’t have helped at all against the Warriors in the finals.

We can criticize Gilbert for all the idiotic ways he’s screwed his team up beyond just these last four-seasons. But we can’t pin the Kyrie Irving debacle on him. The Cavaliers should still be a contender for the playoffs with both Irving and Love in uniform – instead of 500/1 odds to win the title according to Westgate.

Gilbert is a petty, cold businessman. LeBron is in the middle of becoming a business. The bottom line always was top-priority to Gilbert. In February he made everyone with floor seats sign a three-year extension.

Gilbert got his team back and made a pretty penny in the time he briefly gave it up, and when LeBron was costing Gilbert money there wasn’t any reason to pretend everything was hunky-dory. A split between these two corporations was always imminent. Let’s hope Gilbert can restrain himself from his keyboard this time.

The Warriors Aren’t Indestructible

I write this as the ceremonies haven’t even began to celebrate the newest NBA dynasty. The Warriors, for all their bluster and talent upfront, were vulnerable this year. Their bench was poor. Stephen Curry started to show his age, looking a step slower than years past.

Revisionist history will claim the Warriors were never in any real danger, even as Draymond Green’s decline as a shooter was apparent to us all. History will omit the musical chairs JaVale McGee and Kevon Looney played in the starting lineup, and the obvious complacency in the Warriors play. The competitive fire just wasn’t there all year. The onus was on the Cavaliers to push Golden State against the wall. But bad decision after bad decision ended any possibly of that.

David Griffin and Koby Altman didn’t think like the Warriors or the Celtics and prioritize wings and youth. They splurged on players like Timofey Mozgov, Kyle Korver, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and J.R Smith at the expense of draft picks and cap space.

All LeBron needed was one good Jeff Green game to get back to the finals. That’s how good he is.

And the Cavs wasted another year of LeBron. The only way he returns next year is if he decides he doesn’t want to baby sit the 76ers, the Rockets cannot fit LeBron into their cap space without sacrificing major pieces and the Lakers poop themselves again. That’s a lot you need to happen to avoid losing the greatest player of our generation for the second time in a decade.

It won’t happen. He’s gone. All that celebrating Altman did after the trades did warrant a trip back to the finals, an aversion of a bigger disaster if they didn’t make it back. It meant nothing to the Warriors. Now they reside in financial Hell. Have no assets. No picks. All they have is Kevin Love who’ll likely assist them in the subsequent rebuild effort.

An utter failure this year has been for the Cavaliers.

See you next year.

The Cavaliers Can Win Without Kevin Love

After a virtuosos performance from Boston in Game 5 how could have we possibly believed the momentum would carry over to Cleveland when the Celtics, quite possibly, are the worst road team to get within one game of the NBA Finals. The home/road disparity between both teams is jaw dropping. Both the Celtics and the Cavaliers aren’t powerhouses you’d expect to meet in the eastern conference final. They’re flawed teams coached by men still learning the game, while the Celtics are young and relatively inexperienced, the Cavaliers are older, but lack the explosiveness they once did to string together two straight quality games.

The George Hill vs Terry Rozier matchup I thought was Boston’s biggest advantage in the series besides coaching. Hill’s been through a lot in his career and isn’t the same fringe All-NBA defender like his days in Indianapolis. In Boston he’s an empty shell who makes Bron pine for the days of whack-job Delonte West:
(3 Games) George Hill at home (per game):
15.3 points, 2.6 assists
(3 games) Away:
5 points, 1 assist
Conversely, the home version of Hill makes LeBron wish he’s given his nutsack in either 2010 or 2014 to have such a quality player in his corner.
It’s no secret Cleveland’s defense is atrocious. Their near-fatal issues are masked when able to rain threes without mercy on their opponent. Made shots means the other team cannot get into a fast break in transition, it also has a correlation to good overall defense… at least for Cleveland. Boston averages a poor 99.6 points in the six-games played, but average 103.6 at home where the Cavaliers splits are 41.2/25.2/78 percent. To hammer the point home Boston points per game drops to 95.6 on the road, where the Cavaliers splits are an amazing 48.7/42.5/79.Since LeBron’s return to Cleveland their best defense has been their offense and that is on full display in this Jekyll and Hyde act this series.
Of course, the Cavaliers will be without Kevin Love the only player on the team averaging double-digits in scoring for the series. For all the doom and gloom of the Cavs being without who’s supposed to be their second best player, this forces the usually inflexible Ty Lue to dig deep into his bench for younglings like Larry Nance, and gives more opportunity to someone like George Hill the Cavs are a drastically different team when Hill is competent, which is why I’ve been so disappointed in Rozier’s efforts to defend him.
The Cavs don’t run a democratic offense, it’s no secret. Everything runs through LeBron and when he’s on the bench it’s generally an unorganized mess. There’s a hidden wrinkle in Cleveland’s wonky structure and that’s they’re better (for whatever reason) with Love off the floor. Currently the Cavaliers are minus-20 with Love on the floor (lowest on team) and plus-18 with Love on the bench (highest on team). The teams offensive rating bounces skyward from 98 to 109.8 in this series.
When Lue inserted Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup for Game 2 it forced Marcus Morris on T.T and Jaylen Brown on LeBron, perhaps that’ll be the matchup for Game 7 as neither Baynes or Horford have proven able to contain the bouncy career-underachiever.
We’ve all convinced ourselves that magical pixie dust will descend from the heavens and make Hill, J.R Smith and Kyle Korver the players they are at home for the final game in Boston. We know LeBron is going to be an unstoppable nightmare, while he too has experienced his worst outings in the Garden, the larger sample size of Bron’s dominance edges out two horrible games. Regardless, the lights have never shined brighter on either Tatum, Brown or Rozier a chance to take on a visibly worn down Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors team hangs in the balance. And while the Celtics have already won a Game 7 with this core of players all playing at a high-level, you can’t help but worry if the specter of LeBron will be just enough to have them quivering by the forth quarter.
If Larry Nance, George Hill and Jeff Green (of all people) get going (and it’ll be simultaneously) then it’s a long night for us Celtics fans as another season comes to a close in a heartbreaking manner. But if all LeBron is left with his himself and a bunch of goofs, like in Game 2, then perhaps we’ll see our young boys on top of the basketball world before the clock strikes twelve on this unprecedented Cinderella story.

The New Look Cavs

By Vinny @sailboatstudios

Visit the @goodtimebball Twitter account.

From constantly working the Trade Machine we now shift to fruitless attempts to getting into the psyche of one Joe Johnson. The Cavaliers dominated the Trade Deadline. Wheeling and dealing everything that wasn’t nailed to the table (LeBron, Love, BKN pick). It was a “Everything Must Go” sale that required collateral. George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Jr. and Rodney Hood are now in Cleveland and expectations have been risen from the dirt by Koby Altman. The Cavaliers tossed out Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas, basically punting on all of what they’ve received from the Kyrie Irving trade – besides the Brooklyn pick.

It’s a tough sell to fans saying the aforementioned names are going to save the Cavaliers season… well, they need to. Course, they have LeBron who’ll be reenergized, reengaged and whatnot. Perhaps they’re now in prime position to win enough games not to drop further than the third seed and then LeBron takes over come playoff time. Certainly that has to be the plan, it happened last year.

Rodney Hood is the wonderful player I’m still shocked Utah traded him for Jae Crowder and the corpse of Derrick Rose. Hood is enjoying career highs in FG (42.4), 3P (38.9), FT (87.6) percentage and points per game (16.8). A starter in Utah and considered a valued prospect until Donovan Mitchell’s ascension ruined his life. In 2015-16 Hood stared 79 games; out of the fifty-nine he was able to suit up for the following year, 55 he started, and this year the number has dwindled to 12 starts. There’s also the issue of his ability to stay on the court, missing thirty-two games his rookie season and twenty-three this season. Course the injuries that sidelined him weren’t ever serious. Just bumps and bruises, but there’s a point to be made that the Cavaliers will need to handle Hood carefully. In Boston Stevens mandates that a player of Irving’s importance is only allowed to play 32 minutes a night and no more. This helps avoid anything cataclysmic *knock on wood*. Cleveland doesn’t have the infrastructure to do this. But, maybe they’ll turn over a new leaf?

On the floor, Hood is a fine shooter and can elevate off the dribble. Unfortunately, consistency isn’t one of his strong suites. For every 12 of 24 or 10 of 18 shooting night, there’s a 1 of 10 and 4 of 17 stinker.

Last year’s Jazz team will never be recognized as anything more than just a forgettable solid team, in part because the core players were never healthy at the same time. But you look at that roster and see the quality of players, none of them outstanding, just solid, helpful guys who’d help you win, that’s what the Cavaliers did to their roster from top to bottom by snagging Hood. They have hope again. And it starts with Rodney Hood.

 

I find it hilarious during Dan Gilbert/Koby Altman’s wheeling and dealings they inadvertently created the necessary cap space L.A pined for to sign to max contract free agents in the upcoming summer. Props to Jeanie Buss or Rob Pelinka… or dare I say… Magic Johnson(?) for managing to get rid of Jordan Clarkson’s contract, due $37.5 million for the next three seasons, and getting a first round pick. Though it did cost them a young, rookie scale contract player in Larry Nance, Jr., the move to take on Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye’s expiring give the Lakers $46.9 million in cap space next summer, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The cap space will increase to a whopping $69 million if the Lakers let fourth-year forward Julius Randle walk in RFA and stretch the $37 million owed to Luol Deng over 5 years, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN.

As for Clarkson the player, arguably negated by the George Hill acquisition… but he’s young, the Cavaliers have no way whatsoever to create cap space; the payroll can exceed $150 million with a luxury tax bill of $100 million if LeBron returns to Cleveland, per Marks. The risk is worth it. Clarkson can play both guards spot, averages 14.5 points on a decent 44% shooting, a good 22.9 AST% for someone who splits time between on and off ball. The biggest asset for Clarkson is his ability to finish strong at the rack, 61% in the restricted area. Compare that to where they were before with an angry Isaiah Thomas and the corpse (I know I said that before) of former MVP Derrick Rose, Clarkson will come across as a godsend to Cavalier fans. His shortcomings on defense are prominent and hard to ignore. Will he even be an option during a Golden State series? Probably not. The majority of these moves help Cleveland escape the East.

Another name trading the glitz and glamour of L.A for the cloudy depression of Cleveland, Ohio, 25-year-old Larry Nance, Jr. Since Tristan Thompson up and died, the frontcourt in Cleveland was going to be the main reason they lost in the first round to either Sabonis or Greg Monroe. Nance’s knees aren’t shot. He can jump, 59 dunks this year; to Thompson’s 27 (its kinda crazy the year before Thompson dunked the ball a total of 122 times).

With Nance the Cavs are getting a strong presence offensively in the frontcourt, Nance converts 60.1% (69.9% in the RA) of his attempts, averages a respectable 8.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 stocks (blocks + steals). Thompson 6.2 points, 6 rebounds, 0.6 stocks. Cleveland won’t have to cross their fingers the old Thompson returns before the end of the regular season. Expect some “Hack-a“ as Nance shoots 63.2% from the free throw line. But, like the Clarkson move it was just something the Cavaliers had to do.

The Cavaliers go from one of the oldest teams in the league to a more younger, bouncier roster. They’re the favorites in the East again, and as a Celtics fan… it sucks.