Cavaliers

Cavs Friday Five: It’s getting real close to panic time

Mike Brown frustrated
Mike Brown frustrated

Angry, disgusted, confused. Pick your adjective to describe the start to the 2013-14 season.

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how the Browns just needed to hold my attention until the Cavs tipped off. Two weeks later and the narrative has made a complete 180. These midweek basketball games are becoming chore to watch. A pulling of weeds until we can let loose and watch the Browns challenge for the division on Sunday. It’s amazing how fast a narrative can change. After getting throttled by the 76ers a Friday ago panic in Cavalierland had set in. However, the following night as I sat in the Q, drinking beers beers with my dad (there’s no greater joy as a son than to provide the man who’s given you so much a cold one), and watched Kyrie blow by Michael Carter-Williams for a double OT game winner it seemed like everything was going to be all right. Then came a tough loss in Chicago, utter embarrassment in Minneapolis, and now I’m one loss to the Bobcats away from spending my Saturday morning looking at NBA mock drafts and watching highlights of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle.

1. It’s not just the fact that the Cavs are losing, it’s that they look as if they’re out for a Sunday stroll instead of busting their asses trying to win a basketball game. After the loss to Minnesota, Mike Brown sounded off, “I saw some things that make me think that this team has some fight and some character, I saw it tonight. I saw some stuff on the court, some stuff on the bench, listening to guys talk and how they feel. We like some of the things that were being said, things that were said on the bench, some of the things done on the bench by most of the guys.”

Hearing that statement disgusts me because what I saw on Wednesday was Kevin Love beat every Cavalier down the floor on back to back possessions, catch the ball inside the restricted area, and have about as easy of baskets as you can find. I saw a team that was -23 in fast break points and let Ricky Rubio dance around the court like he was a teenager in the Spanish B League, including a nutmeg of Jarrett Jack. Playing defense largely consists of concentration and effort and judging by the 109 points per game they’ve given up over their last five I’d say we haven’t seen much of either.

2. Lance Stevenson, Kevin Martin, Gary Neal, Tony Wroten, and Corey Brewer. I can assure you that none of those names will be fresh on the minds of fans as they fill out their All-Star ballot this year, but that motley crew has managed to combine for an average of 22.6 points on 52% shooting against the Wine and Gold.1 All five operated primarily on the wings, coincidentally where the weakest group on the Cavaliers’ roster lies. CJ Miles has played well in spots this season and Dion has had a few nice scoring games, but however highly we’d like to think of them they’ve been outplayed by Stevenson, Martin, Neal, Wroten, and Brewer and that makes me sad.

3. Can we give Anthony Bennett the ball? Yeah he’s struggled, he’s missed shots, he’s looked lost. But can someone feed him the ball once when he’s rolling off a screen. Just once? Or how about running the offense through him for a couple possessions. The offense is 4th worst in the league at 92.8 PPG, take away the 127 scored in the double OT win against Philly and that drops their average to 88.5 which would be dead last in the league behind the winless Jazz who average 89.6 a game. What do you have to lose?

Bennett is 15th among rookies in usage percentage. It’s more important for the team to try and develop the number one pick than perfect Mike Brown’s offensive “system”. If four guys are going to stand around and watch Jarrett Jack chuck up an 18 footer, why not throw it in to Bennett at the high post and clear the floor. He may end up being a major bust, but let’s see what the kid’s got. I like to believe the talent he showed in high school at the basketball factory Findlay Prep, and at UNLV wasn’t a complete facade and that Chris Grant wasn’t completely dooped. Give the ball to Bennett and let’s see what he can do. Can the offense get any worse?

love-kevin-smiling

This is what the face of a superstar looks like.

4. Kyrie has had a couple nice stretches this year. He played like a star in the 4th quarter of the failed comeback against Milwaukee, and once again with his 39 and 12 against Philly in double OT, including the game winner. Outside of that and he’s been bad. He’s 6th in the NBA in usage percentage which is no surprise, but thumbing down the list of the league leaders in Player Efficiency Rating and you won’t find Mr. Irving until you reach number 102.2 That’s right the guy who is using the 6th highest amount of his team’s possessions in the league is playing at the same level as names like Tony Allen, Marcin Gortat, Jordan Hamilton, and Greivas Vasquez.

Mike Brown deserves plenty of blame, no doubt about it. But as long as the guy we chanted “MVP” for on opening night keeps shooting 37% from the field, 73% from the line, and turning it over 3 times a night this team is going nowhere fast.

5. Rookie Update

The consolation in Anthony Bennett being non existent is that no other rookie is really lighting it up. Michael Carter-Williams is off to a good start, but he’s cooled of late. M-C-Dub has the 76ers at 5-4 thanks to his 17.4 points and 7.6 assists per game. The Sixers seems content with letting Carter-Williams run wild with the keys of the offense, however in his last five games the Syracuse product is shooting just 37% from the field and averaging almost 3 turnovers per contest.

Like Carter-Williams, Oladipo has been given all sorts of freedom. His 10.4 PPG in his last five aren’t anything to write home about when you consider his porous 35% field goal percentage. OKC’s Steven Adam’s, the 12th overall selection out of New Zealand, turned some heads with a 17 point, 10 rebound double double last week. The 7 footer is very raw, and looks a bit awkward, but with Kendrick Perkins decaying a rapid pace, Adams could work his way into meaningful minutes as the season progresses.

The Cavs’ Anthony Bennett is averaging 1.4 points and 2.9 rebounds a game, and ranks first among all rookies in making fans scratch their heads.

The Moneyball

In case the Cavs do end up losing to Charlotte on Friday night, and you also are driven to consuming copious amounts of alcohol, here are some videos of Wiggins, Parker, and Randle to feast on for Saturday morning.

 

Photo: Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
Photo: Jim Mone/Associated Press

  1. Excluding the lesser of the two games for both Wroten and Brewer against Cleveland []
  2. Of all players who have played at least 100 minutes so far this season []

  • BenRM

    “(there’s no greater joy as a son than to provide the man who’s given you so much a cold one)”

    AMEN, dude!

  • Jeremy Campbell

    When are we going to admit that maybe Mike Brown’s great coaching record was not the result of great coaching but the product of coaching potentially the greatest player of all time? I just threw up in my mouth a little bit on that comment.

  • cleveland_endures

    Am I crazy for thinking it’s better to be terrible again this year? At best, this team is an 8 seed. Wouldn’t it be better to add Parker, Wiggins, or Randle instead of getting obliterated in the first round by Indiana or Miami?

    Chris Grant hasn’t made the best possible picks in his drafts (other than Irving), but he’s also been stuck with three really weak ones, and Its possible that he’s drafted three role players and Irving with his four picks. That’s not a championship foundation. We have a franchise player (even if Mike Brown’s offense is destroying him), just need more around him.

  • cleveland_endures

    I’m willing to say that Brown’s success in Cleveland was completely LeBron, but also not willing to put him as “potentially” the greatest player ever. He’s got a long way to go to pass MJ, Russell, Magic, Bird, or even Kobe.

  • Jeremy_K

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the LeBron era Cavs seem about this bad at the beginning of the season that had all those trades (including Wally Z)? Didn’t it take that team several weeks to gel all the new players together before the team started looking like what we expected in the preseason? No one expects this team to be a 1 seed finals champion. We only expect them to figure themselves out enough to get at least an 8 seed. Sure, a 4 seed seemed attainable and hopeful after game one. But we have a lot of unknown pieces trying to fit together under a new coach this year. It is not time to panic about not getting the 8 seed yet. I’m sure Mike Brown knows the same thing, which is why he’s not grinding his team’s un-veteran morale into a pulp after every single loss.

  • BenRM

    That’s a really good point. I do remember them taking about a quarter of the season to start playing well together.

  • BenRM

    I’m fully on board with giving AB15 more minutes, especially when the Cavs are getting scorched anyway.

    1) It’ll get him into shape.
    2) It increases his opportunities to start making things click
    3) It might get him out of his head if he knows he has more than a few minutes to get it going.

  • tsm

    Having seen all of the above play, Oscar should be on that list. Only guy to average a triple double for a season. Also, having seen all of them, LeBron has the most physical talent of anyone who has ever played. Of course, your point is that his deeds have not yet matched his talent, and I agree with you. I don’t think he can win 11 titles like Russ, but he could get to 6 with the right teammates over the next 5-8 years.

  • Steve

    When there’s actually evidence of that? Lebron was a great player, but he wasn’t the player he is now when Brown first got to coach him.

    Remember, this team won just 45 games over the last two seasons combined and desperately needed to spend the entire summer being taught that defense actually matters at this level. Anyone who expected this team to stroll to a playoff spot may have had some rose glasses on.

  • boomhauertjs

    Loved the Moneyball. #Riggin4Wiggins #Sorry4Jabari

  • cmm13

    The same day we admit that there is truly a sports curse surrounding all Cleveland teams.
    Only we would have 4 first round draft picks in the 3 years and have 0 superstars to show for it.

  • cmm13

    Agreed, LeBron wasn’t “potentitally the greatest player of all time” while in a Cavs uniform.
    The hype surrounding him may have been saying so, but his down to the wire play in Cleveland said otherwise.

  • cleveland_endures

    Oscar was the real deal. Should have mentioned him. And can’t forget about Wilt or Kareem or Dr. J or Mark Price.

    And I still hate LeBron, but I honestly think he’s the greatest athlete in the history of sports. 6’8” 260, and that kind of speed and athleticism? He’s a freak.

    But 6 titles? Eh. He’s honestly (he said so himself) been lucky with the first two. Four more would be a lot, unless he goes to LA and teams up with elite players again, which wouldn’t shock me.

  • Steve

    “Potentially” is always a loaded term.

    I guess I wanted to make the point that Lebron is an even greater player today than when Brown first got him because of all that Brown instilled in him, especially on the defensive end. Lebron was a whatever defender, who took some plays off, and now he’s a defensive machine. And when your star buys into defense that much, it turns you from a maybe-we-can-a-series team into an actual contender.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    When are you going to admit that Mike Browns coaching is all about defense…and that he took a huge collection of defensive-deficient pieces and helped mold them into a great defensive unit despite having virtually zero rim protection? Big Z was not a rim protector. Shaq (when he got to us) was a defensive liability. Ben Wallace was clearly on the downside. Anderson Varejao doesn’t really alter shots. Despite that (and some very weak defensive wings a la Mo Williams, Wally, etc…) we were always a very good defensive team.

    That wasn’t because of Lebron. In fact, at times, it was despite Lebron.

  • cmm13

    very true, and to become the player he is now he needed to get out from Brown to allow his offensive potential explode to match the defense Brown built in him.

  • Vernon Chiow

    Cavs need to wheel and deal now…..get Omar Asik and Harrison Barnes if we are going to move forward…why the freak not……I see good futures in both……I would in a minute….picks are no guarantee to this point…..5 first rounders in three years and probably missing playoffs if no change…..I do not see good team chemistry on the offensive end…..

  • Yup

    Really? They busted their ass in Chicago. These panic posts are becoming really tiresome. I understand people have a hard time grasping how long an NBA season truly is but there is no one in the East except Indy playing well. The records indicate as such. Det and Wash were picked by many pundits to finish ahead of us yet actually sit behind us. Of these 3 teams which coach would you think will turn it around, Brown, Wittman or Cheeks? Yeah. Exactly. Chill out…

  • Steve

    Lebron has been the preeminent offensive player in the NBA since Brown’s 3rd year, leading in PER every year since 07-08 and tops in offensive win shares in four of hte last five years. That may have happened with or without Brown, but Brown didn’t stunt his offensive potential.

  • YeahImFromOhio

    Little short-sighted, no? Most everyone would consider Kyrie a star on his way to becoming a superstar, if he isn’t one already. Thompson is turning into a very good player, and Bennett has played less than a month of NBA basketball. Forgot Dion. He’s also becoming a very good NBA player.

    Zeller, ugh.

  • cmm13

    I didn’t say Brown stunted his growth, I said to become tops in offensive win shares (as you’ve pointed out) and realize his full offensive potential he needed out from under Brown and even Danny Ferry.

  • LBJ

    Mike Brown coach of the year!!!!!

  • Steve

    He was tops in win shares and PER under Brown. He’s made a few more shots, but to do so, he’s given up a bit of usage rate and assist rate. It’s all netting out to about the same production. Good on him to still be the best offensive player in the league when he finally has someone on the roster who can take some possessions from him, but I’d heavily be that would have happened under Brown and Ferry as well.