Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cavaliers midterm grades

Monday's lackluster loss against the Magic marks the halfway point of the Cavaliers season. Right now, they are 24-17, putting them on pace for 48 wins, slightly behind last year's total of 50, but more than enough to remain competitive in the sluggish Eastern Conference.

There have been peaks (a season sweep of the Spurs) and valleys (losses to the Hawks, Bobcats and Knicks). The Cavs have drawn the ire of many fans because they have developed into a frustrating, tease-and-falter kind of team. For stretches, they look like a team that could challenge for the conference crown. For stretches, they look completely disinterested and utterly inept on the offensive end.

It's time to hand out midterms for the Cavs, a team that has proven they are very good, but have some significant flaws they will have to wrestle with all season.

Shannon Brown (R)
2.5 PPG, 1.4 REB, 0.7 AST
The curse of the Cavs' first-round picks lives. Injuries and poor play have hindered every recent Cavs first-rounder besides LeBron James. On the heels of Chris Mihm, DeSagana Diop, Dajuan Wagner and Luke Jackson, Brown has had his rookie season sidetracked by a deep bruise on his leg, which he reportedly suffered when he was inadvertently kicked during a Dec. 29 practice.
Brown told reporters the bruise bled into his bone marrow. Yummy.
Grade: Incomplete

Dan Gibson (R)
3.9 PPG, 1.4 REB, 0.8 AST
He has shown flashes of becoming a productive player down the road, but right now, Mike Brown sees him as a change-of-pace player, someone to go to if the regular rotation isn't producing.
His performance during Larry Hughes' injury earlier this season make the Cavs' brass sit up and take notice. But right now, it's a flirtation as opposed to a full-blown romance.
Grade: Incomplete

Drew Gooden
11.6 PPG, 8.6 REB, 0.51 BLK
He is the poster child for a tantalizingly-talented yet inconsistent squad. It's probably the way he is going to be for his entire career.
When he puts his mind to it, he can be a borderline-dominant low post player. But his mind is only there about half the time. Some nights, he just doesn't have it and ends up on the bench for the final three quarters.
His newfound jump shot range has been a pleasant surprise.
Grade: B

Larry Hughes
14.6 PPG, 3.6 REB, 3.3 AST
A favorite fan and media target because of his large salary, lukewarm stats and fragile frame, he still manages to find ways to contribute most nights. Unfortunately, he falls into the same jump-shooting habits of his teammates when everyone, including himself, knows he is at his best when driving inside.
Some of that has to do with the fact that he is playing on two injured legs, and probably will be for the rest of the season.
I am a defender of Hughes because I like his versatile game and willingness to play second fiddle to LeBron. But I'd feel a lot better if they had a ready-made insurance policy on the roster.
Grade: B-minus

Zydrunas Ilgauskas
12.0 PPG, 8.1 REB, 1.34 BLK
He still looks like a mismatched part that Mike Brown doesn't quite know what to do with. When the game turns into a track meet, he can't keep up. But when the game turns into a halfcourt meat grinder, Ilgauskas can still contribute by drawing fouls and getting to the line, yet Brown routinely doesn't play Ilguaskas much in the second halves of such games.
The Cavs are still better off having a 7'-3" center with the skills of Ilgauskas than to not have him, but it would be better if everyone could come to an agreement on how to use him.
Grade: B

LeBron James
26.8 PPG, 6.7 REB, 6.1 AST
He has stepped up his defense from past years, but like so much of the rest of the team, it comes and goes. His fatigue from more than a year of nearly nonstop basketball shows when he stops driving to the hoop and starts settling for outside jumpers, which sets the tone for the rest of the team.
The mere fact that he is still producing at a near-superlative level is a testament to his incredible talent.
Grade: A-minus

Damon Jones
8.2 PPG, 1.3 REB, 1.7 AST, .404 3PT
There isn't much to analyze about Jones' game. When his three-balls are falling, he's doing good. When they're not, he's not doing good.
Having said that, it is good to see him actually trying on defense this season.
Grade: B

Dwayne Jones
0 PPG, 1.0 REB, 0.0 BLK
His lone claim to fame: Getting activated ahead of Scot Pollard for a game several weeks ago.
Grade: Incomplete

Donyell Marshall
7.0 PPG, 4.4 REB, 0.60 BLK, .336 3PT
He started the season with the positive intention of returning to the type of inside-out player he was in his heyday. But old habits die hard, and Marshall is back to being a three-point gunslinger, with head-shaking results.
As Marshall was struggling through last season, one Cavs beat reporter suggested that Marshall put on about 30 pounds and prepare to finish his career as an inside banger. It's starting to sound like sage advice, because his perimeter game is deteriorating rapidly.
Grade: C-minus

Ira Newble
0.7 PPG, 1.3 REB, 0 AST
Remember the good old days when Newble was the Cavs' starting two-guard? Neither do I. The less he's on the floor, the better.
Grade: D

Sasha Pavlovic
4.5 PPG, 1.8 REB, 0.8 AST
Somewhere, rattling around inside Pavlovic, is an electric offensive player. I'm afraid he won't reveal himself until next year, when he is playing elsewhere.
Pavlovic is easily the second-quickest player the Cavs have in the open floor behind LeBron. But he has zero ability to finish at the rim right now. Some of the ways he botches plays near the rim are almost comical.
At the moment, he is nothing more than a tease.
Grade: C

Scot Pollard
0.1 PPG, 1.0 REB, 0 BLK
There must have been a disconnect between Danny Ferry and Mike Brown when Pollard was signed. If Pollard knew then what he knows now about his playing time, I doubt he would have agreed to play here.
Grade: Incomplete

Eric Snow
4.9 PPG, 2.5 REB, 4.6 AST
Similar to Marshall, Snow is much of the time attempting to fill a role for which he is ill-suited, be it through choice or necessity.
Snow should be the wise owl on the roster more for his veteran guidance than his playing skills, which are eroding. Instead, he is relied upon to be the facilitator of the offense and a legitimate scoring option, which he has shown he can't really do.
The Cavs can do worse than having Snow as their starting point guard. But if they want to reach the uppermost echelon of NBA teams, it appears they need to do better.
Grade: C

Anderson Varejao
6.9 PPG, 6.3 REB, 0.48 BLK
Often, players who do the flop are derided as pathetic Euro-softies who can't play any actual defense. But Varejao has turned the flop into an art form.
He has arguably the worst hands in the league. Every time he reaches for the ball, it's a 50-50 proposition of whether he's going to secure it or fumble it to an opponent. But his unique talent for floppery makes up for it. At times, it seems like he can almost draw offensive fouls at will.
Every good team needs a specialist like Varejao. He's part of the puzzle, and needs to be inked to a new deal this summer.
Grade: B-plus

David Wesley
1.7 PPG, 0.8 REB, 1.0 AST
The highlights of his season are limited to one half against Golden State. Whatever Ferry was trying to accomplish with this signing, it hasn't happened.
Grade: F

Mike Brown, Head Coach
His relentless hammering on defense has finally started to sink in. The Cavs are among the best statistical defensive teams in the league, and showed an ability to be a lockdown second-half defensive team during a two-week stretch early this month.
But while he harps on defense, he continues to let weeds grow under the offense. Brown committed a sizeable blunder by not hiring an experienced offensive assistant this past summer, and the team is now suffering because of it.
Emphasizing defense is great, but not at the expense of the offense. Hopefully that's a lesson Brown is learning right now.
Grade: B-minus

Danny Ferry, General Manager
The moves he's made since the end of last season have not whipped the fans into a tizzy, but that's by design. After several straight offseasons of upheaval, Ferry wanted to stabilize the roster and fill in around the edges.
So far, the only addition in that time period to contribute significantly is Gibson.
The burden is on Ferry to add the point guard and veteran scorer that can really take the Cavs to title-contender status. If he can add one of those pieces before the trade deadline next month, he'll be doing good.
Grade: B

Dan Gilbert, Owner
He's added tons of bells and whistles to The Q and ratcheted the bar for the Cavaliers as an entertainment experience higher than ever before. He is also planning a new Cavs practice facility in Independence.
He gets docked points for canning the well-respected Michael Reghi as the team's TV announcer in favor of Fred McLeod.
McLeod has a polished delivery and is knowledgeable, but too often comes off with the personality of a TV host reading lines off a teleprompter, which feeds the perception that he is nothing more than an organizational mouthpiece.
All in all, an unnecessary move by Gilbert. But it's the only real black mark on an otherwise stellar revitalization of basketball in Cleveland.
Grade: A-minus

1 comment:

Ben said...

I'd give Hughes a C+ for injuries and free throw problems (65.7% compared to 75% career). His settling for jumpers isn't fun to watch either.

I'd give Z a B+ for his improved defense and bouncing back from a slow start.

Coach Brown? C+ at the highest. LeBron's minutes are way too high (I'm going to bitch about this from here on out, just a heads up), they blew games versus Seattle, Atlanta and Charlotte and didn't show up for a couple games. Not devising an offense that maximizes the skills of LeBron (or even figuring out how to use Zyrdunas regularly).

The rest of them I agree with