The Cleveland Cavaliers are finally getting good at making their wins against the Detroit Pistons entertaining to watch. Or at least, entertaining early on . . . before fans watching at home decide to pick up a multi-tasking activity to do on the side.
Unfortunately, this epiphany came after the Cavaliers played the Pistons three times in the span of one week.
(Correction: Upon actually doing the research, it turns out it was the Cavs’ third Pistons game in just over two weeks . . . no matter how much it seems like the Cavs have been playing against sexy Swede Jonas Jerebko every single night.)
The final score was 104-79 . . . and for once, the destined-to-be-lopsided score actually did end up lopsided, and it didn’t just become lopsided in the final four minutes. No. For unknown reasons (that I am very thankful for) the Cavs seemed wholly interested in winning this game . . . and doing it right.
That, as out of the blue as it was (against a bad opponent that they’ve already beat two previous times this month), was . . . well, semi-shocking.
Here are a few other semi-shocking happenings:
#1.) Leon Powe led the team in scoring.
That is not a typo; I did not accidentally mistype “LeBron James led the team in scoring.” Leon had 16 points (on 5-of-8 shooting and 6-of-10 from the line). He also had seven rebounds and a steal.
In my opinion, this was a breakout game for Leon. I know that’s easy to say after he does something crazy like leading the team in scoring, but I had been hesitant to join all the excitement over Powe.
While I was very impressed with how he looked so soon after some major knee operations, it’d seemed like he was a long way off from being comfortable enough to be a legitimate rotation option for the Cavaliers. Apparently, he’s much closer than I realized.
He played tough, and even drew two charges.
There were five other Cavaliers in double-figures: LeBron – 15 points, Delonte West – 15 points, J.J. Hickson – 13 points, Mo Williams – 12 points, and Anthony Parker – 11 points.
#2.) Anthony Parker scored 11 points.
Leon Powe leading the team in points with 16 would have been a Vegas-busting bet. AP scoring in double-figures, though, wouldn’t be that far off . . . these days.
AP hadn’t scored over 10 points in his previous 10 games. He was only averaging 6.0 points in March, with a cold 36.8% field goal percentage, and a freezing cold 30.3% from beyond the arc. Not the best numbers from your starting shooting guard . . . regardless of what kind of option he is in the offense.
On Sunday, he looked comfortable both looking for his shot and for his teammates. He had five assists, which was also a number he hadn’t reached over his past 10 games.
#3.) Speaking of looks, why isn’t Antawn Jamison getting any?
Out-of-towners got the Chicago feed on NBA League Pass on Friday night. And one of their announcers was ripping the Cavs for not making Jamison more of a focal point in the offense. At first, I scoffed.
Clearly, this dude was just looking at stats, and hadn’t really seen much of the Cavs this year . . . both their successes in balanced team play (like they did against Detroit on Sunday), or their troubles in solidifying set plays within what has been a turbulent roster over the past two months.
But maybe he has a point.
Not sure what’s up, but in the last two games, Jamison has only shot the ball 10 total times. Against Chicago, he was 1-for-4, and against Detroit he was 3-for-6. A lot of those shots came on mop-up duty and bail-out shots . . . meaning that he’s having virtually no plays called for him. If any.
In Chicago, he still had nine rebounds (in 27 minutes). Against Detroit, he only had two (in 24 minutes).
Two games is nothing to lose your lunch over . . . but you do have to wonder if there’s some sort of conscious effort going on that’s temporarily squeezing Antawn, if it’s purely a meaningless coincidence, or something else.
#4.) Darnell Jackson may have scored his last two points as a Cavalier.
The Cavaliers can begin talking to Zydrunas Ilgauskas today . . . and if things go as expected, things will go very quickly. That means the Cavs are about to lose someone from their current roster (to make room for Z). The only options are Darnell, Danny Green and Sebastian Telfair.
(And because of his position and contract status, Darnell is the most likely to be let go.)
If it is the end for Darnell . . . well, at least he got into the game. He played just under five minutes, and had two points (on free throws) with a turnover.
In fairness, unlike the rest of the Cavaliers, Darnell was on the second night of a back-to-back. He played in a D-League game on Saturday night . . . and had a huge stat line. In 41 minutes, he had 32 points (on 14-of-21 shooting) with 11 rebounds, two steals, and a block.
That monster line was almost identical to his only other D-League game this season. In 42 minutes in that one, which happened on February 25th, Darnell scored 34 points (on 14-of-22 shooting) with 12 rebounds, four steals and a block.
You probably couldn’t have two lines that similar if you tried. It could also either be a testament to D-Block’s potential . . . or his dominance at that level of play. If he must leave, I’m sure he’ll catch on somewhere.
#5.) LeBron had zero turnovers . . . for just the second time this season.
With everything that LeBron does for the Cavs, it’s hard to rip him for turnovers . . . especially considering how much he handles the ball, and all the plays he tries to create with phenomenal passes.
But on Sunday, he had zero turnovers (in 31 minutes) for just the second time this season. The other time happened in the home, losing streak-busting win over New Orleans last month. He played 44 minutes in that one.
A long, loud, Internet-crazed week fat with Cleveland Cavaliers speculation . . . and lean on Cleveland Cavaliers information . . . is finally coming to an end.
And now that the trade deadline is only a day away (synchronize your clocks; time’s up Thursday at 3:00 P.M. Eastern) things are starting to come into focus. At least, for now.
Here are a few things that have become clear:
#1.) The Cavs’ first choice, now, is a trade with the Phoenix Suns for Amar’e Stoudemire . . . but the trade is only their first choice because it is such an insane steal that they can’t not want to do it.
I don’t have any inside knowledge, but I’d guess that Amar’e turned up when GM Danny Ferry was canvassing the league for possible trade partners weeks ago. It wouldn’t have been a huge surprise that Amar’e was available, but Phoenix’s clearance rack price no doubt was.
#2.) The Cavs’ first choice is really Antawn Jamison. He’s a more natural fit, and with the imploding state of the Washington Wizards, there was a real belief that he could be taken for Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ expiring contract. And that’s the only thing Ferry wanted to spend on this shopping trip.
Negotiations with the Wizards, though, were always expected to be a trip since Washington apparently still has that irritating vendetta with us. Ferry probably wasn’t looking forward to pursuing business with Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld . . . and covertly taking his temperature on a potential Z buy-out.
Would the Wizards really keep Z just to screw over the Cavaliers? It seems a little hard to believe . . . until you consider just how much of a favor a buy-out would be. Sure the Wizards could save some coin, and they may not really want Z as a player . . . but they’re going to be a player short (at least on a straight-up / picks trade) and they’d be trading another one of their Big Three, without anything in exchange for the fans that are coming to the Verizon Center to see “the Wizards.” And yeah, they’d also be doing the Cavs a big-time solid by cutting Z loose.
By the way, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson (who has been feeling his face for almost two years now) were just traded to the Dallas Mavericks over the weekend.
That means that aside from Jamison, just three players are still playing for the Wizards from the 2007-2008 team (when the Cavaliers booted them from the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive year). Those players are: Nick Young, Andray Blatche, and Dominic McGuire.
Only Blatche is still there from the first two years . . . and GM Grunfeld. So, if Jamison is coming to Cleveland in a trade, and they bait-and-switch to keep Z because of this blood feud . . . it would only be executed on behalf of Blatche, Grunfeld himself, and the Wizards fans that are still paying attention.
[Man, if this happens, then I will feel a little rivalrous.]
Then, Washington was reportedly demanding J.J. Hickson, which just became a problem.
#3.) J.J. Hickson came out of nowhere in mid-January . . . and finally started to look like he was “getting it.” His hustle was sure, the effort was continuous, his ‘concentration’ and ‘alertness’ switches were flipped to “on” . . . and his positioning, both on offense and defense was sharper.
Not only that, but the kid was playing with an edge and confidence that he’s never shown. He was contesting shots, both with horizontal and vertical athleticism, he was calling for the ball on cuts and fast-breaks, he was finishing stronger than ever, and was ready to make defenses pay for leaving him.
Before that, he looked like a perfect trade chip. He was a raw player, with an unknown ceiling, who played well in flashes . . . but seemed to need a lot of minutes to fully mature. He put up good numbers in November when Shaq was out, but it was his emergence in the last month or so (beginning, at least notably, with his 11-point, 14-rebound game against the L.A. Lakers on January 21st) that seemed to cause the Cavs to cool on trading him.
Obviously, he’s nowhere near as good as Antawn Jamison overall, but with the Cavs searching for longterm running mates to pair with LeBron . . . and not many means of obtaining them (at least in the near future) . . . J.J. started to look better and better. (And speaking of looking good, it was the on-court chemistry with LeBron that really seemed to throttle J.J.’s confidence and production.)
Ferry probably decided to put Grunfeld on ice for a while, and talk with other teams that may have a piece that would not require J.J. And that, in middle of last week, is when the Amar’e situation blew up.
Amar’e may not be what the Cavs were looking for . . . and he’ll force them to give up (at least) J.J. . . . but he’s such a tremendous steal for the price, that Ferry had no choice but to make him option #1.
And after a week of hyper non-activity, that’s where we are.
#4.) According to our very own beat-writer extraordinaire Brian Windhorst (of the “Plain Dealer”), the Cavs are in a holding pattern . . . awaiting word from Phoenix. From everything we’ve heard, the Cavs have offered everything they feel they can for Amar’e, which is believed to be Z, J.J., (at least) a first round draft pick, and possibly Danny Green.
And that’s likely the best they can do, considering the fact that they’re 66% of the way through a title-contending season. (In other words, they can’t afford to give up any real talent at this time.)
So unless we hear otherwise later, if this deal doesn’t end up happening, it isn’t because of a lack of effort from the Cavs. Instead, it was just a balk from the Suns, which may or may not have been the case when the Cavs talked with Phoenix about Shaquille O’Neal in last moments of last year’s trade season.
As far as we know, the deal is still on the table.
Phoenix is reportedly stalling while trying to work something out with Miami or Philadelphia or any other team willing to give them more than cap relief, a pick and J.J. Hickson for Amar’e. But so far, the Cavs offer is the only one that can get the Suns under the luxury tax threshold. So they have that going for them.
Since it sounds like Ferry is willing to be patient with Phoenix, buckle up, there’s a good chance this thing may go down to the wire. The Cavs may also have set up the framework for at least one back-up plan that they could make at the last minute if Phoenix flakes.
As of early this morning, the latest word is that the Cavs spent a lot of time talking to the Wizards yesterday . . . and according to Yahoo! Sports that they made “progress” on deal for Jamison that would notinvolve J.J.
Washington would give up Jamison and Mike James . . . a bottom-of-the-barrel, $6.5 million point guard, whose contract, thankfully, comes off the books after this season. Cleveland would give up Z, Jamario Moon, (at least) a first round draft pick, and possibly another young player.
To be clear, no one’s saying that deal is in the bag or anything.
Again, I don’t have any inside knowledge, but you can assume that Ferry will have ongoing talks with a number of teams up to the deadline. But remember, don’t be bummed if nothing is consummated. We’ll be OK.
And now, a few random highlights from elsewhere on the Internet . . .
#1.) If you’re game for more Amar’e risk/reward talk, Truehoop’s Kevin Arnovitz put together this great video from a recent game, in which he points out Amar’e's strengths and weaknesses. It’s a must see:
#2.) Michael Curry at the Cleveland.com blog, Cavs HQ, points out a potential parallel between Stoudemire and the Shawn Kemp disaster. He also argues:
“Amar’e Stoudemire is selfish, injury-prone, underachieving and overpaid. That doesn’t mean that the Cavs should not trade for him, and it doesn’t mean that he will be a disaster if he comes to Cleveland. But it’s important to keep all of those things in mind as the Cavs consider just how much they’re willing to give up to add Stoudemire to this team. It is also fair to consider that, if Cavs GM Danny Ferry and Suns GM Steve Kerr are unable to arrive at a deal by Thursday’s trade deadline, that it might end up being the best thing that ever happened to the Cavaliers in both the short and long term.” [Full Story]
#3.) Last but not least, WaitingForNextYear put up a fascinating statistics-analysis post comparing Stoudemire, Jamison, Indiana’s Troy Murphy, Z, and J.J. Hickson in categories like shot selection, scoring, defense / rebounding and intangibles. Check it out. [Full Story]
Amar’e Stoudemire to Cleveland Speculation Surfaces . . . So Why Can’t I Get Excited About the Trade Deadline?
There are 24 days until the NBA trading deadline.
I know this because when I woke up this morning, I opened the #24 window on my NBA Trading Deadline Advent Calendar.
Pretty exciting right?
Well, at least it’s supposed to be. (That’s why I have the NBA Trading Deadline Advent Calendar in the first place. No one enjoys counting down to something inconsequential . . . like Groundhog Day. Ooooh, snap! I know, cue the rage.)
Plus, there’s a decent to more-than-decent chance that something will happen . . . to some degree . . . because of the “all-in” mode that the Cleveland Cavaliers are in right now. On top of that, it looks like they’re actually in a good position to do a little thievery.
Are the Cavs one puzzle piece away? Is that puzzle piece out there? And if the missing piece is discovered (say, in the collection bag of a household vacuum), would the Cavs be able to acquire it with reasonable (or more than reasonable) expense and without creating too much of a dust-up?
(Because the Cavs have company coming, and they need to have the house ready . . . regardless of whether or not the puzzle is finished.)
See? How can you not be feeling the early pangs of NBA Trading Deadline excitement?
Here’s a list of the Cavs liquid assets:
In Zydrunas Ilgauskas, they have a large, $11.5 million expiring contract. (They also have a bigger one, at $20 million, in Shaquille O’Neal . . . if you’re someone who believes they’d be open to trading him.)
In J.J. Hickson, Daniel Gibson and (apparently) Jawad Williams, they have young talent that is ready to make an impact on most teams.
In Darnell Jackson and Danny Green they have intriguing prospects that have already made significant steps toward becoming NBA players. And speaking of horizon assets, the Cavs also have their full set of future draft picks that they’d be able to trade if necessary.
In Danny Ferry they have a creative General Manager, who has made big, bold, and well-thought out moves in the past . . . and who is well aware of the stakes LeBron’s uncertain future has created.
And . . . here’s the big one . . . in Dan Gilbert they have a passionate owner who’s willing to invest whatever smart money is required in order to bring a championship to Cleveland, and to retain LeBron.
And there has already been a lot of speculation on several potential targets: Antawn Jamison, David West, Troy Murphy, Andre Iguodala, Corey Maggette, Andre Miller, etc.
All that being said . . . what if I’m not excited? If I don’t feel the pangs. Is that bad?
Maybe it’s still too early for me . . . or maybe the right name hasn’t been seriously (and at least somewhat legitimately) discussed yet . . . or maybe something’s just wrong with me, and I should get it checked out.
For example: Last night, “Cleveland Plain Dealer” beat writer extraordinaire Brian Windhorst reported that there was credible word that the Cavaliers have (at least) had trade talks with the Phoenix Suns regarding Amar’e Stoudemire . . . with Golden State and Minnesota also in the picture.
“The natural trade that makes sense here would be Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson for Stoudemire. The Suns could also ask for draft picks. The Cavs and Suns talked about Hickson [in] the O’Neal deal but the Cavs wanted to keep him. So the Suns have a history of interest in Hickson.
“Straight up, this type of deal would save the Suns around $3.4 million off their payroll ($6.8 million including luxury tax). However, the Suns currently are a little more than $5 million over the luxury tax line. It is then possible they could then negotiate a buyout with Ilgauskas and get below the tax, which would probably enable such a trade to save them around $10 million in real money.” [Windhorst Beat Blog]
[Hit up that link. Brian talks about how Shaq and Amar'e have already been teammates, somewhat unsuccessfully, in Phoenix . . . and about how an extension for Amar'e, who can opt out of his contract this summer . . . would play a part in this deal, if it got real.]
But, I don’t know if I’m feeling this right now.
In addition to the Shaq + Amar’e workability and the contract situation, there’s also chemistry and personality issues. He currently averages over 14 shots per game, but can he be cool with being the second to fourth option on offense? Will being on a title-contending team inspire him to pick up his effort on the defensive end, or will he initiate breakdowns in the Cavs’ rotating help defense?
He’s also had some health issues in the past. A few years ago, he had microfracture surgery on his knee . . . and last season he suffered a detached retina, an injury that could have threatened his career.
Assuming the trade is as billed, the Cavs would lose Z (for at least 30 days, if not permanently) . . . and J.J. Assuming the trade will require more talent than that (which seems realistic from the Suns’ perspective, considering it’s possible that Amar’e doesn’t leave Phoenix after the season), the Cavs would also lose another player.
OK. Before you worry about my sanity, yes . . . if Phoenix offered Amar’e straight-up for Z and J.J., Phoenix agreed to buy Z out, Z agreed to come back, everyone involved thought Amar’e could play with Shaq in Cleveland (and some serviceable defense) and Amar’e agreed to some sort of extension with the Cavs . . . you just have to do this deal.
Even if one of the above doesn’t happen, you strongly consider it.
Amar’e is a star, and would definitely make a huge impact on the team. This should be an exciting possibility . . . but for some reason, I’m thinking about the “huge impact” from the other side.
I’m thinking about all those things that need to come together just to make a trade like this work . . . and that’s before you have any idea whether it’ll be a success, a wash, or a detriment.
In any potential trade, there are two intangible things to think about:
#1.) As of yesterday, the Cleveland Cavaliers (34-11) have the best record in the NBA. Obviously, it’s January . . . and the team hasn’t always looked as dominant as that record would suggest. Still, they do have the best record in the NBA.
(And yes, I realize this was the line of thought that may have stopped us from making a trade at the deadline last season. Notice I still didn’t delete it.)
#2.) With the uncertainty surrounding LeBron, you want to be cautious about trading for contracts that limit your future flexibility and trading for old guys. I believe LeBron will be thinking most about future championships this summer. So ideally, you’d trade for someone who could be a part of a young core with LeBron.
Amar’e (27) would be a fit there.
And he may be “the piece” . . . or a ”the piece” . . . I mean, you’d think he would be.
But you just never know. (For the record, even though both Phoenix and Cleveland are reportedly putting feelers out there . . . it definitely doesn’t mean anything serious yet. There may not even be a trade to be made there.)
That’s why I think I haven’t become too excited about the trade season yet.
Maybe I’m sensing some of the pressure that Ferry is under (not necessarily to make a deal, but to to make sure that whatever you do is the right thing to do) . . . and feel a little queasy about the goodness or badness of “huge impacts.”
Fortunately, it seems like the stars are aligning in a way that Ferry may be able to snag a nice piece in one of those “financial cap/tax relief deals,” without giving up much of anything at all.
If that ends up being the case, something tells me my excitement will be building.
Shaq Has a Few Dings.
Shaquille O’Neal missed his fifth straight game on Saturday night. As of late Sunday night, his status for Wednesday’s game in Detroit was unclear, which isn’t exactly surprising; the Cavs are tight-lipped about how tight their lips are.
Officially, I believe, the Cavs say Shaq has a strained shoulder . . . but late last week, Mike Brown described him as just having a few “dings.” He said:
“We’ll keep taking it day-by-day. I’ve pulled him out of practices, a couple practices. It might be because he has a few dings here or there. ‘Hey, big fella, sit down.’ He has a ding, yes. (???)
“It’s early in the year. In my opinion, it’s an opportune time to let him get some rest and let him get his body back. I’m not thinking he has to play X-amount of games. I’m not thinking he has to practice 75 percent of the time.
“It’s nothing scientific. I’m not that smart.”
My desk, which is made of some fake wood (with a real wood-sounding name), has a few dings, my 2007 BMW 5-Series has a few dings . . . the Libery Bell has a few dings . . . and now Shaq has a few dings.
[And by BMW 5-Series, I mean my 1992 Honda Accord LX. The "LX" is for luxury.]
This Mike Brown quote is fun, but I’m completely with the Cavs here. Yeah, it’d be nice to have Shaq in games so we can continue to work on our intra-lineup, on-the-court chemistry.
But that time will come. More importantly, we want to make sure that Shaq is healthy and rested for our bigger games later this season . . . and the playoffs, of course. A little caution in mid-November is fine.
Fun with (Slightly) Taking Things Out of Context, Target: Mike Brown.
Does Mike Brown look at rookie Danny Green and think: You know, I might be better at basketball than he is? Well, not exactly . . . but he wouldn’t be surprised if others might. He said:
“You look at Danny initially and you’re like, ‘Man. I’m quicker than him. Or I can jump higher than him. I might be able to even shoot better than him. But then the more you’re around him and the more you watch him, he does a lot of little things that just wow you.
“He’s a little quicker than what you think, a little stronger than what you think, a little bigger than what you think, a better shooter than what you think, better off the dribble, a better passer. [...] He has impressed me so far for a young rookie, especially a second-round pick, and I’m glad that we picked him. He’s an NBA player. No question.”
Just for the hell of it, is there any player-coach tandem that Mike Brown and Danny Green could smoke in a full-court game of two-on-two? I think even Hank Egan and Daniel Gibson would have the edge on The Coach and The NBA Player (for lack of better nicknames).
What about athletic trainer Max Benton and Jamario Moon? If Benton has a decent lob pass, they should be fine. On the flip side, Michael Malone and Delonte West (circa 2007) would be pretty tough.
But here’s the real question: Is there any five-man Cavs team . . . of players only, if you like . . . that is a lock to dominate the two-man tandem of LeBron James and (his) coach Chris Jent???
If it were my call, I’d go small, and just hope to out-do them with 3-pointers. Let’s do Boobie, Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Anderson Varejao and . . . Danny Ferry.
Who Is the Screeching Woman That Gets Picked Up on the Court Mics at The Q???
A woman’s voice was picked up on (what I assume to be) the on-court, hoop mics at The Q during Saturday night’s win over Philadelphia. And she was awesome!
In the third quarter, when the Cavs were down by two or three, the woman became very frustrated. She loudly and distinctly shouted, quote, “C’mon you guys! Let’s go! C’mon LeBron!!!”
It might not seem exciting in print, but her tone was great: She was clearly fed up. And maybe it worked. Maybe she should sit closer to the bench.
Her voice popped up several times on the “Fox Sports Ohio” feed. One time, she was yelling about a foul that she didn’t see . . . that they were apparently not re-showing on the score board, and another time she was warning someone not to step on her pizza.
[This is a regular feature called "The State of the Cavaliers." In it, we'll rank each player on the roster, based on recent on- and off-the-court production, news, and intangibles related to the Cavs' quest for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.]
Since our last State of the Cavaliers on November 3rd, the Cleveland Cavaliers have proved that their first two wins (in Minnesota and against Charlotte at home) were not merely the product of a lost team playing lost franchises.
Instead, those wins proved to be a springboard for a team that was re-grouping from a weak 0-2 start. Over the past two weeks, the Cavs have posted a 5-1 record . . . and are suddenly 7-3, placing them back in the mix atop the Eastern Conference.
It hasn’t all been pretty; the offense was extremely flat in the irritating loss to Chicago at home . . . and the defense, especially late in games, leaves a lot to be desired (specifically, good defense). But the Cavs current work-in-progress-ness is much more reasonable and palatable than it was two weeks ago.
The crowning moment has been how the team was able to capitalize on a four-day break to execute a two-game all-Florida sweep, which produced solid, back-to-back road wins over Orlando and Miami.
This return to form makes it a little easier to get a feel for where the Cavaliers are at this stage . . . and we’re going to break that down right now in our third State of the Cavaliers rundown.
[Up to date, through Sunday, November 15th.]
Here’s the complete list. Each player’s previous rank and average rank are in parentheses . . . because, as they say, too much information is good information. (?)
#1.) LeBron James. (Prev: #1 / Avg: 1.0)
LeBron was the only Cavalier who didn’t need an extended preseason. And now that the rest of the team has noticed that the NBA season has started, LeBron is showing that he’s there to be their superstar.
In the past six games . . . after the Cavs’ reset at 2-2 . . . LeBron has averaged 29.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game. But the story, as usual, ishow he’s doing it.
In New York, he catapulted the team out of the gate; in Miami, he went toe-to-toe with Dwyane Wade . . . and trumped him; he was an unstoppable force while closing out the Utah game; and he came just a whistle tweet away from bailing the Cavs out against Chicago. Can you say MVP?
#2.) Mo Williams. (Prev: #4 / Avg: 5.3)
After a sluggish start, Mo has returned to his all-star form . . . and in related news, the offense has, too. In the first four games, he shot 43%. In the past six, he’s shot 52%. In those games, Mo has averaged 18.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists.
Mo’s official coming out party (or so I’d like to hope) came against Orlando, where he looked like Mitch Richmond in “NBA Jam”. He connected on his first three shots . . . the ball seemed to glow in his hands . . . and then he was making everything. [You can read more about his night, here.]
In his last three games, he’s averaging 25 points, 5 assists, and is shooting 58.5%.
#3.) Anderson Varejao. (Prev: #3 / Avg: 5.0)
Andy has averaged 7.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists over the past six contests.
Four games ago, Andy was bumped to the bench . . . not because of his play, but because Mike Brown wanted to give J.J. Hickson some regular, scheduled minutes every game. Coach also wanted to re-team Andy with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and give the bench a shot in the arm.
And it worked. Since then, the Cavs are 4-0, and J.J. has been given an opportunity to blossom . . . which, so far, he has. And Andy is providing the second unit with some much-needed toughness, continuity, and yes, “energy.”
His shot attempts are down over those four games . . . but as a reserve, he’s shooting 62% (8-of-13).
And something for the “team player” files: Did anyone hear a single complaint from Andy when he was moved to the bench?
#4.) Shaquille O’Neal. (Prev: #7 / Avg: 5.3)
It doesn’t sound like Shaq’s “shoulder injury” . . . the reason he was held out of the Utah game . . . is anything serious, so we’ll go ahead and place him where he deserved to be up until then.
We brought Shaq in for more than just stats. We want him to be a tough, intimidating paint presence on the defensive end. And on offense, he’s a big target under the basket for LeBron . . . he’ll draw fouls . . . and he’ll split the opposing team’s attention away from the Cavs shooters.
Shaq’s infusion into the team is still in development, but the early returns are good. On Wednesday, Dwight Howard put up half the numbers we saw in the playoffs last year . . . and on offense, Shaq has made at least 50% of his shots in his past six games.
Over that time, he’s averaging 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
#5.) J.J. Hickson. (Prev: #8 / Avg: 5.0)
Check this: In the first six games . . . before J.J. was inserted into the starting lineup . . . he was averaging 6.5 minutes per game, and 1.5 shot attempts per game. Yeah, that’s attempts.
In the four games since, he’s averaging over 26 minutes, 13.3 points (including his back-to-back career-highs of 18 and then 20 points), 3.5 rebounds, and he’s shooting 59% from the floor.
LeBron and Mo have been finding him for wide open dunks and lay-ups, and J.J. has some promising finishing abilities. He’s also shown some good post moves.
The next step in J.J.’s crash course is going to be improving his rebounding and boxing out . . . and getting him to the point where he’s comfortable within the team defense.
#6.) Anthony Parker. (Prev: #5 / Avg: 5.0)
If it weren’t for 3-pointers (and in the case of the Utah game, clutch 3-pointers), Anthony would be closer to Delonte West than the Top Five on this list. But 3-pointers do count . . . for more than 2-pointers, as a matter of fact . . . and that’s a good thing for AP, because he can’t make those.
Interesting Fact: Anthony is 14-of-24 (58%) from beyond the arc in his last six games. In that same period, he’s just 3-of-17 (17.6%) from inside the arc. Expanded out: AP has hit 60% of his 3-pointers over the whole season, and 22.5% of his 2-pointers.
This is either just an anomaly . . . or Boobie is contagious.
#7.) Daniel Gibson. (Prev: #6 / Avg: 6.3)
First off, while we’re here: Daniel has hit 46% of his 3-pointers over the whole season, and 25% of his 2-pointers. Fortunately, 73% of his shots are from beyond the arc. Boobie had a rough game offensively in Miami last week (where he shot just 1-of-7) but overall, he’s having a strong season.
That being said, there has to be a way to get Boobie six to eight three point attempts every game. That’s where he can thrive . . . and honestly, right now that’s the only place he can thrive.
With Delonte West out indefinitely, Boobie is going to get 20+ minutes a game. The Cavs really should take advantage of his time on the floor and try to get him some deep looks. Otherwise, isn’t he playing a lot of fairly empty minutes?
#8.) Jamario Moon. (Prev: #10 / Avg: 7.0)
Over the past four games, Jamario has averaged just under 20 minutes a game . . . that’s a big improvement over the three games before that, when he was getting under 4 minutes a game.
And Jamario has looked good . . . especially rebounding the ball. With Jamario and J.J. playing increased minutes, it gives us more athleticism on the boards. Shaq and Z may be huge . . . but they aren’t going to be leaping for many rebounds this year.
Over the last four games, Jamario has averaged 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds.
#9.) Zydrunas Ilgauskas. (Prev: #2 / Avg: 6.3)
For whatever reason, Z was the only Cavs player that played better in October than in November.
In his first four games, Z shot (a team-leading) 54%. In his next five, he shot just 4-of-31, which is 12.9%. Z showed some signs of breaking out of it in Saturday’s game against the Jazz . . . making four of his 10 shots. But then again, that’s the game he started in place of Shaq.
Z will regain his touch . . . although the team could probably help him out by calling some plays for him when he comes into the game.
#10.) Delonte West. (Prev: #9 / Avg: 11.3)
Due to the uncertainty surrounding Delonte, he probably should be at the bottom of this list. And I wouldn’t have any problem putting him there . . . except with the “uncertainty,” there’s always the chance that he could play, which beats everyone from here on out, who hasn’t played.
Before mysteriously disappearing from the active list last week, Delonte had cooled down after his spectacular first game back. He always supplied good defense and posted solid +/- numbers, but in his last three games he averaged just 3 points on 22% shooting. He’s now missed three games since then.
As far as we know, he’s still day-to-day at this point.
#11.) Leon Powe. (Prev: #11 / Avg: 11.3)
Can’t wait to see Leon on the court . . . but he’s still a long way away. He’s recovering from an ACL replacement and a microfracture procedure on his knee. Last we heard, he was ahead of schedule and could be back on the floor as early as January. (Although, February is a more realistic expectation.)
#12.) Danny Green. (Prev: #15 / Avg: 13.7)
Danny made his NBA debut in Miami last Thursday night.
It was everything he always dreamed it would be . . . assuming that he always dreamed it would be less than a minute long, and not require him to do anything whatsoever.
#13.) Darnell Jackson. (Prev: #12 / Avg: 12)
Darnell has played a few seconds in two of the last six games, but didn’t make a dent in the stat sheets. The Cavs have a fairly light schedule throughout the rest of November . . . so if they can continue to improve and take care of business, they might build up some leads big enough to get Darnell some playing time.
#14.) Jawad Williams. (Prev: #13 / Avg: 11.3)
Jawad last entered a game two weeks ago against Washington. He was in for two minutes . . . and fouled somebody. It’s unclear if he needed to shower after the game.
#15.) Coby Karl. (Prev: #14 / Avg: 14.5)
Coby hasn’t played in the past six games. On the bright side though, he’s still on the team.
Until next time, Go Cavs!