Bill Simmons: Cavs offseason was “mystifying, confusingly entertaining”

In the second half of his two-part recap of the NBA off-season, Grantland.com’s Bill Simmons calls the Cleveland Cavaliers’ summer the most “confusingly entertaining” offseason plan in the league. From the NBA Draft to their free agency plans, Simmons enters the 2013-14 season wondering what, exactly, the Cavaliers have in store.

One of the movie’s most confusingly entertaining scenes (Jack and the Duke pretending to be FBI agents and fleecing Red out of his $20 bills)5 goes to our most confusingly entertaining offseason plan: basically, everything the Cavs just did. They went into this summer with buttloads of cap space, the no. 1 overall pick and three more draft picks (no. 19, no. 31 and no. 33) … and somehow ended up with a second power forward who doubled as the most shocking no. 1 overall pick since Kwame Brown (Anthony Bennett); a slightly overpaid third guard (Jarrett Jack); someone with a good chance to be Yaroslav Korolev 2.0 (Sergey Karasev); the immortal Earl Clark; and The Artist Formerly Known As Bynum. Yikes. Although I guess I should thank them for making me audibly gasp on live television with that Bennett pick — I feel like I’m a part of history! My high-pitched gasp will live on and on and on!

What should they have done? I’m confining my Wannabe GM rants to the footnotes. Just know that, one month ago, I would have picked their roster over any other lottery team’s roster. Not anymore.

In the footnotes, Simmons sticks to his draft-night guns and says the Cavaliers should have selected Indiana’s Victor Oladipo with the first-overall pick while trading the 19th pick to Houston for Thomas Robinson. He would not have signed Jarrett Jack (who is essentially the consensus top pick-up for the Cavaliers this off-season), preferring to use the second-round picks on an off-guard. He also mentioned a route that would completely bust all future salary cap space that included signing forward Paul Millsap (who would also be a “second power forward”) and trading for either Robin Lopez, Pau Gasol or Nikola Pekovic.Simmons added that Andrew Bynum, Cleveland’s ultimate acquisition, “lingered on the market for weeks like a foreclosed house.”

[Related: Is Dion Waiters primed to make the leap?]

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I wouldn’t give up a 1st round pick but I would have done Varejao for Gasol straight-up. I say would because this was before the selection of Bennett and signing of Bynum. Now the point is mute.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m big on Karasev mark that down!

  • mgbode

    I don’t think LA would take the injury risk of Andy or the extra year on his contract when they think they can convince anyone to just sign with them. But, the Irving + Andy pairing is something to consider. No matter the reason, they worked extremely well together. Why mess with it?

  • Brian Wellert

    If Bynum plays this season, I wonder if we will see a dip in Andy’s performance similar to what we saw with Pau last year. Not hatin, just wondering aloud…

  • mgbode

    in the counting numbers, yes, it is likely. however, it is also quite possible that the efficiency and per-min becomes even better (or remains the same).

    also, it’ll be interesting to see how many minutes they play Bynum and how many with Andy. 96 minutes to dole out between Thompson, Andy, Bynum and Bennett (not to mention Zeller). I’m guessing Bynum doesn’t get more than 20min/game just to preserve those knees.

  • mgbode

    realize that is a 1yr / $20mil rental for Pau.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    You should know by now money, particularly someone else’s, is no matter for me. I wanna win and I wanna win now not a month, six months or a year NOW! But like I said it doesn’t matter now.

    That being said a healthy Varejao would be available this coming season.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I still love Simmons and have been following him and reading his articles for the better part of a decade. He’s absolutely fantastic on the ESPN NBA studio show. With that said, his ideas have gotten a little more ridiculous over the past couple years. As he’s added to his empire, he’s lost the ability to really spend time digging into his thoughts. He’s still incredibly plugged in to what the Celtics, Clippers, and Lakers are doing, but he doesn’t really seem to get what the Cavs needed to do over the offseason.

    First and foremost, they needed to add a defensive presence. I wish I could explain just how awful the Cavs were as a team defense last year, but the stats should probably do enough of the talking. That was the reason for bringing back Mike Brown as head coach and was the thinking behind the Andrew Bynum deal (which was honestly such a one-sided win for the Cavs, I’m not sure how anyone can think it was a mistake). It was also the reason that the Cavs drafted Carrick Felix with one of their 2nd round picks rather than going with some of the more fun offensive possibilities there (keeping Allen Crabbe, drafting Isaiah Canaan, Tony Mitchell, etc). Gasol and Pekovic are nice offensive players (also represented in their PERs), but neither are shot-blockers/rim-protectors like the Cavs needed. So I completely disagree that Irving + Pau = top 5 regardless of anything else.

    As for your comment “Bennett is not fun to watch”… are we watching the same Bennett? He’s nowhere as polished of a player as these guys were, but he has the size and athleticism of a young Charles Barkley or Larry Johnson. Watch his Draft Express video linked below… I’m not sure about you, but I have a blast watching him!


    Also, thanks for coming to comment here, I really enjoyed reading your exchange with mgbode! Good stuff.

  • mgbode

    I could watch the “finishing ability – above the rim & through contact” section of that video all day on repeat. He definitely has his holes, but hopefully we can mask them well enough.

    And, agreed on the welcoming to Brian. Meant to do that yesterday before getting caught up in the exchange. Always good to have more opinions and challenge each other to prove ours (or disprove).

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Last season when you watched Andy play, there were tangible reasons for the increase in output other than just playing alongside Kyrie. He quietly extended the range of his jump shot (he doesn’t really jump, more like bunny hop, but you know what I mean) to the point where he was consistently hitting from 15 feet and in. When teams started realizing that they had to guard him out there, he was able to take advantage with a shot-fake and drive to the hoop, where he was a solid passer and finisher. And of course, his increased offensive rebounding numbers are another reason for the offensive boost. So in my opinion, the “Mitch Richmond Effect” is a valid hypothesis, but I saw more than just that.

  • Yup

    So ALL of Andy’s stats jump are due to Kyrie? Really? Even the increased rebounding? Fascinating…

  • Brian Wellert

    Thank you for the welcome, both of you!

    I do agree on Simmons. Like I said, he is a fan and his style is entertaining, even when his substance is not.

    I do like the Bynum signing. Obviously a healthy Bynum would make a huge defensive impact, but lets not judge the roster too harshly on the defensive end. Just bringing Mike Brown back will make a major difference with this roster. The team was completely lost on that end of the floor last year and he won’t let that happen again.

    Irving/Pau in a pick & roll would be devastating. Mike Brown could mask the inherent defensive issues. That pairing would put the cavs right near the bulls in the east, behind the heat and pacers. It works in my head at least. Hard to prove otherwise.

    I’m not seeing the Barkley comparison to Bennett. Once again, you are talking a tenacious player in Barkley whose athleticism is out of this world. As Tim Grover echoed similarly, Barkley may have been one of the most athletic to ever play the game. I could see Grandmama as a good comparison, but I think Bennett has a better stroke.

    I do have problems with Bennett’s game though. There are many things he got away with in college. He, imo, is not that good of a ball handler. Fine for facing up another (college ability) big from 18′ but not for spending much time on the wing or dribbling in the open court. For being only 6′ 7″, he should have much better control of the ball and be able to keep it much lower than he currently does. His passing, well..let’s just say he doesn’t seem to really see what anyone else is doing when he has the ball. You combine those things, and it is a recipe for bad shot selection and high turnover rate. But, he hasn’t played a pro game yet, and I don’t think he is a bad pick. As a fan of watching the game though, I can see someone going for Mclemore or Oladipo right now over Bennett.

    As far as Andy goes, the 15′ jumper and shot fake have always been his cup of tea. Not to say he hasn’t improved those but the improvement I noticed, when he does move to the high post, he is making the decision faster on what to do. He is not allowing the defense to adjust. Previous years, when he finally did make up his mind to drive, if the lane was cut off, his only option was a turnover or a forced pass baseline, which, the turnover may not have been credited to him, but was a result of being bailed out.

    I like Andy as a player, but he is a complementary player. I have not seen him make a large enough improvement in his game to become a floor leader or consistent game changer, like Pau. Now, if Bynum works out, Andy is the perfect compliment to rotate with Bennett. Really, that is all that matters, moreso than individual talent is the balance of the roster, and I think the Bynum signing solidified that (outside of the complete lack of “proven” shooting).

  • Brian Wellert

    Sorry, but I did not see an unexplainable uptick in his stats outside of rebounding. His minutes went up, so did his shot attempts (3) which equated to 4 more ppg. That is a direct result of more minutes. His rebounding rate went up considerably but his sample size was so low (25 games) we have to assume it would have normalized over the course of the season.

  • mgbode

    his ast% went up at the same time as his tov% went down. that was a big part of his improvement IMO.

  • mgbode

    good thoughts. the main difference we have is that I don’t think Pau is a consistent game changer anymore. I think he is moving into the realm of his career where he is also a complementary player. on the rest, I more or less agree.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Good points. As for Bennett, again, I’m not sure if we’re watching the same player. If you watch some video (and I’ll admit, you probably haven’t had reason to get into a ton of video on this one particular guy) he’s an excellent dribbler in the open court, particularly for a power forward, and showed the ability to pass to the open man when streaking down the court. When I watch him, he’s just an explosive athlete and compares favorably to Barkley. The one thing that Barkley had that Bennett didn’t show in college was a relentless motor. In my opinion, everything negative that can be said about Bennett is tied to “laziness”. That’s never something you want to hear about a player coming into the NBA draft and was reason #1 why I initially didn’t want Bennett as a Cavalier. However, it’s not always as easy as saying that he’s lazy in his freshman year of college, and that’s what he’ll always be. That was the knock on Andre Drummond coming out of UConn after his freshman year, but he didn’t look lazy playing for the Pistons. But that’s picking at nits… you like him for x reasons, I like him for x and y reasons.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Agreed, also as you said before, the reality of the NBA is that the Cavs aren’t winning a championship next year regardless of whether they add Pau for 1 year or not. If they are trying to be legit contenders in a few years, the only difference between the two scenarios is that in one of them, the Cavs lose a draft pick. Either way, I think it’s unlikely they would re-sign either Varejao or Gasol. So after next season, the Cavs may buy out Varejao for $4 million to add cap space and he may become a Laker anyway 🙂

  • mgbode

    I think that he was referring to the fact that once Bennett gets the ball in the paint, he is a bit of a black hole and going up for the shot. I think I remember a few instances where he panic-passed out of those situations too, but it’s been too long to say that with any authority.

    on dribbling, I don’t think it’s a strong or weak part of his game. it should be good enough as long as he’s careful with the ball in the paint.

    Laziness is definitely THE key factor there and Drummond is THE counter-example. Except, I’m not so sure that laziness doesn’t also mean “conditioning,” so that would be a worry as well. Hopefully, it’s not an issue with Bennett and Mike Brown will let us know (without even telling us – cannot wait for the first time he rips those glasses off with a “what the?” look at a player he’s pulling off the court).

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Gotcha, I didn’t really notice a propensity for panic-passing, but as a freshman I can see how that would be something he dealt with. As for him being a black hole, I am guessing that this was both true and by design. College coaches love to showcase their best talent, particularly at schools that don’t often have players drafted in the top 10… when they get drafted high, it gives the coach a better chance to land future top talent.

    I’m actually thinking that Tristan Thompson is the biggest motivator for Bennett. The other Canadian on the team is a friend, but is also the guy most likely to stop Bennett from getting minutes. Thompson is a noted gym rat and is also the guy most likely to go face-to-face with Bennett in practice. Thompson’s going to set the level for Bennett… he’ll either work hard to get up to that level, or he won’t see much of the court.

  • mgbode

    my biggest worry is that we will see our PFs and wish that somehow we could combine those strengths because then we’d have something great.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Valid fear, absolutely.

  • Ed

    The point is that Jack and and Waiters are redundant. There is no reason to give a 30 year old third guard a four year deal. That’s more than likely dead money in two years for a player you already have. Millsap was younger and was only for 2 years $19 million. He’s a legit starting 4 in the league, 15 pts 8 rbs a game. Since you don’t have a true starting SG, you draft Oladipo, who at worst is Tony Allen –absolute lock-down defender at both guards and most small-forwards.

    You trade the 19th, and either the 31st or a future #1 for Pau, and sign a guy like Dorrell Wright who can shoot to play the 3.

    All of a sudden:

    Millsap/Tristan Thompson

    Pau Gasol/Varajao
    ^^That’s a 3/4 seed.

    Instead of:
    ^^ That’s not very good at all.

    Maybe you don’t follow Bill’s exact plan, but I think the point is that the Cavs had a lot of options and possibly made the worst combination of realistic moves possible.