Tag Archives: Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA Trade talk trumps the Draft

jimmybutllerpodcast

Last week, the NBA world went a little unhinged. Not only did the loaded 2017 draft take place but in the days before, during the show and after, there has been some crazy trade talks as teams do all they can to hunt down the seemingly-untouchable Golden State Warriors.

In all honesty, I felt for the draftees that night that were upstaged by those already in the league. It’s like getting a big birthday cake that your older brother has already taken a huge slice of.

Regardless, with so much news to wade through, here’s a look at what the big talking points in terms of deals done or being discussed could do to the franchises involved.

 

Jimmy Butler heads to Minnesota

Really, Chicago? You couldn’t eek a little more out for a three-time All Star?

On draft night, the Bulls moved their best player in Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In return, the windy city gained a quality starter in Zach LaVine, a prospect in Kris Dunn and they swapped the sixteenth choice for the seventh pick of the draft which became Lauri Markkanen.

The first of those is coming off a torn ACL, the second had a below-par rookie season and the third was essentially a jump up nine steps to get a real boom or bust project. Some fans have already started a petition against the front office and no wonder, the team are now in full rebuild mode but took less of a deal than they were offered last year by the same team.

As for Butler, he goes to a growing team and into a quality coach he already knows in Tom Thibodeau. Alongside the duo of Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, plus a great distributor in Ricky Rubio, the 27-year-old can become the emotional leader on a young squad that could be even pushing for contention in a few years’ time.

 

Lakers dump DeAngelo Russell

Money makes the NBA world go around and for it to finally spin in the Los Angeles Lakers’ direction, they needed to burn some dead cash.

They did so by sending Timofey Mozgov’s massive contract to the Brooklyn Nets, with DeAngelo Russell tagging along in order to make room for new recruit Lonzo Ball. In return, the gold and purple gained Brook Lopez and the 27th pick of the draft, Kyle Kuzma.

A quality first move from the new management team of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, creating cap space for next year in order to chase the likes of Paul George or even LeBron James. It also gives away a player they weren’t developing for one of the better centres in the league, who has expanded his range impressively last season and could even be enticed to stay on and be part of a contender in Lopez.

Brooklyn has to feel decent as well, giving them a potential project in Russell. The former second overall pick will be less under the spotlight at the Barclays Centre and if he can discover his level, the Nets might finally have some kind of piece to build a future around, eventually.

 

Is Phil Jackson trading Kristaps Porzingis?

Someone check on Phil Jackson and make sure he’s not a New York Knicks hating degenerate in disguise.

After skipping an end of season meeting due to frustration, Porzingis is now at least shoppable in the eyes of the former Zen Master. Jackson reportedly was active in finding what deals would be available to ship the Latvian because the 11-time NBA championship winning coach wants to play dictator and all his peons must follow suit.

The kid genuinely wants to play for the Knicks, he loves New York and is a real quality player, yet here we are. The way they’ve treated Carmelo Anthony recently has soured enough people on having Madison Square Garden as their free agent destination and things like this will only exacerbate that fact.

Seriously, if he’s hurting your image because of your ineptitude yet all other 29 teams in the league give you a call to see what you wanted as per The Vertical, then it’s not him that’s in the wrong. The only thing Jackson has done right in the Big Apple is the Unicorn and if he gives him up, the Knicks should throw him out.

 

Could Paul George be a Cavalier?

The great thing about the NBA is that sometimes, something absolutely bonkers happens.

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in discussions with the Indiana Pacers and the Denver Nuggets that would see Paul George match up with Lebron and Kevin Love head to Colorado.

It didn’t go through and the talks were tentative, but this is the insanity that reigns now that the Warriors are all powerful. Other teams are still pining for George, the Lakers and the Houston Rockets being suitors, but there’s still a nervousness knowing he might only be a one-and-done player for anyone outside of LA.

Does he really make the Cleveland Cavaliers that much better, especially if they lose Love? That’s a hypothetical that may never be answered. At least it looks like someone might help ease the pain on the Pacers that 24 will not be theirs for much longer.

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Do the Boston Celtics stick or twist?

WIZARD_CELTICS_BASKETBALL_30602147_t1170 (1)

It has been a pretty interesting week for the Boston Celtics.

On the court, they have reached the Eastern Conference Finals just four years removed from being outside of the playoffs looking in, while off it, their crazy trade with the Brooklyn Nets around the same time has earned them the top pick in a widely perceived loaded draft.

What a time to be in green.

If only they didn’t get blown out by 40 points in their own building by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then see their best player ruled out for the rest of the postseason.

Swings and roundabout. At least they’ve won a game now.

However, that could have been the perfect wake-up call to a team that might got a little ahead of themselves after finishing as the top seed in the East. The Cavs had a pretty poor end to the regular season but have been irrepressible in the playoffs, highlighting the gap that Boston still has to close to get anywhere near a championship.

So, with a handsome wealth of options to go down, which way should the Celtics go to push themselves into that Finals conversation? Do they keep their top tier picks or do they trade them away for proven talent that can match the riches in Cleveland and at Golden State?

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Option one seems to be there forethought at the moment, holding their cards close to their chest. Regardless of which route they will take, unless they have a trade already set in motion, they will pick the best available player with that first pick in the 2017 draft with the view that they can develop him if they want to.

Their actual focus goes beyond that and into free agency. Numerous outlets are reporting Boston’s significant interest in signing Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, a first-time All Star this season and someone who could relieve some of the scoring burden off of Isaiah Thomas’ shoulders.

If Hayward does join, the Celtics have the cap space to make it happen and a better opportunity for him to win a championship sooner, then trading becomes an afterthought. Not only is he filling a hole both on a scoring and quality level, he also plays in the same position of their two rumoured trade targets.

Should the former Butler Bulldog stay in Salt Lake City, then they should be on the phone to other teams. With Jimmy Butler and Paul George both looking like the best options, they should go all in on getting one to boost the Green’s chances against the Cavaliers.

Both are quality scorers over a number of seasons lumbered on see-sawing franchises. Butler is the tougher deal but more likely to sign a long-term contract, George should be easier to move for but there has been much chatter about his desire to eventually join the Los Angeles Lakers, whether he’s traded this summer or not.

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Then the question becomes whether the price to get either of them where they also agree to an extension, will it be worth the price? That first pick in a loaded draft this year could give them an asset on a strong contract that if they are lucky, could contribute from the off.

Add to that the likelihood that they’d have to give away their 2018 pick from the Brooklyn Nets as well and it’s instantly looking more like a poor decision for the long term. With that draft choice likely to be a high one again, why mortgage a potential long-term future that could build another dynasty for a short-term goal?

That tends to be the thinking in basketball, trust the known commodity over the unknown potential when hunting for glory. In the modern era of the number of superstars dictating your number of championships, many feel the Celtics need to headhunt if they want to even think of challenging.

There’s no surprise that their first option is the one they feel strongest towards as keeping their cards in their deck only enhances their chances. Entice Hayward along, add him to Thomas and a solid starting line-up with the hope that the rookies over the next two years can not only contribute but push for starring roles.

Regardless of what happens, it will be an interesting future that could even shape the future of the NBA. When July 1st comes round for free agency, it will become much clearer as to which direction one of the most storied franchises in NBA history is heading.

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Kevin Love is breaking out of his Cleveland funk

kevin-love-cavs-blazers

Love has been excellent and had a real statement performance against the Portland Trail Blazers. Source: Sports Illustrated

Often seen as the third wheel, the one that could be discarded if the cart started rocking, Kevin Love never quite hit his stride in his first two years with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Unable to replicate the form he showed in Minnesota with the Timberwolves and the definitive option C behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, many thought that the power forward would always stay as the odd man out.

However, the first third of the 2016/17 NBA season says different as Love has broken out as a real breakout option on any given night.

The first glaringly obvious difference is the points he’s putting up on every night he’s on the field. So far this season, the former UCLA man has averaged 22.3 points, up a huge six points per game compared to his averages in the first two seasons at The Q.

That added firepower in his game was emphatically emphasised in his first quarter outpouring against the Portland Trail Blazers. Love notched 34 points, the most ever in the opening portion of a basketball and only second to Klay Thompson’s 37 points in a quarter from last year.

He shot 11-from-14, outscoring the entire Blazers team and hit eight of his 10 three-point attempts. Six of those were off assists from James and all but one of the shots he hit were from assists either from James, Irving or Iman Shumpert.

Cleveland Cavaliers

These three finally feel like a real “Big Three”, even after a championship last season. Source: Sports World Report

And it wasn’t all from one spot either, with only two of the threes coming from almost an identical place on the field. Two were from the right baseline, one from the opposite side, two on either wing and one from the top of the key, while only one score came from in the paint.

Love was also a perfect four-for-four from the free throw line, just to add one last superlative to a superb performance. It displayed his ability to shoot from anywhere behind the three-point line, which is rare for a player of his size to hit with such consistency but also highlighted the fact in how Tyronn Lue is trying to get him more involved with the offence this season.

Like previously mentioned, all but one of his shots came off assists, which just tells you a little bit about the Cavaliers offensive movement in the new season. They are moving the ball more, doing that extra pass to find the open man more often than not, which is only to Love’s benefit.

The fact that it was James, who is an excellent passer in his own right, dishing the dimes only serves to highlight how this team aren’t afraid to pass the goalscoring burden onto another teammate. The King saw how hot Love was and when someone is in that kind of mood, keep feeding the basketball until they find a way to stop him.

The Blazers did to some degree afterwards but the damage was already done.

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Maybe the UCLA man got some tips on how to rise from the dead from this man? Source: Sky Sports

His field goal percentage is up to .468 even off more shots, his three-point percentage has lifted from .360 to .412 and he is posting a career-best FT percentage. All of those mean that Cleveland have another great scoring option in the prime of his career, which can only benefit an already superstar team.

However, it’s not just in scoring where Love has evolved with the Cavaliers, his entire game has benefitted from being more involved. He’s averaging 10.7 rebounds per game, the first time he’s averaged double figures since the 2012/13 season, which includes more offensive rebounds than his last two years and he’s also posting a career-high in steals with 1.1 per game.

Maybe it’s a bit of great coaching, Lue has this team playing possibly better basketball than their championship campaign last season and getting Love more involved seems like a no brainer. It makes such a difference to his game overall, with more confidence surging through his veins and that’s only a benefit to the Cavaliers.

It’ll also simmer down any silly trade talk that we’ve had over the last few years. Much like Chris Bosh in that superstar Miami Heat team, the third man is sometimes forgotten but can become someone extra they can rely on when the chips are down.

With another option when times get tough, especially come playoff time, the Cavs can make a real charge at the championship and they have evolved along with their rivals. If the star-power of the Golden State Warriors seems too much for James or Irving on any night, they now have one more trusted option in their arsenal.

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NBA Trade Deadline: Who improved and who disappointed?

After the dust settles from the All-Star Weekend, all the attention turns to the trade deadline and as always, there were plenty of interesting moves made. So who came out smelling of roses and who look to have shot themselves in the foot? Here’s a quick look at three teams who improved and three that disappointed.

 

Improved

Detroit Pistons

Drummond and Jackson are good players who now have more talent around them.  Source: USA Today

Drummond and Jackson are good players who now have more talent around them. Source: USA Today

There’s always one team that likes to surprise us a little at the trade deadline and this year it was Stan van Gundy’s Detroit Pistons. They might just be floating outside the playoffs but with a solid core and some really valuable additions, they look like they could pull ahead in that tight pack in the Eastern Conference.

Tobias Harris is only 23 and can still get better, even though he’s an asset with his versatility already. They then get Donatas Montiejunas, who could still develop into a really good power forward, and Marcus Thornton, who adds to their weak bench.

When they give up a first-round pick and two role players for that much coming in, it’s nothing more than a win. Not only have they got enough to contend for a playoff place this season, they may have set up enough for a strong future too.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Some wil miss the sight of Varejao but the Cavs upgraded with Channing Frye.  Source: The Express

Some wil miss the sight of Varejao but the Cavs upgraded with Channing Frye. Source: The Express

While the reigning Eastern Conference champions gave up a popular player in Anderson Varejao and a conditional first-round pick, they must feel that they’ve added a solid piece in Channing Frye from the Orlando Magic.

There were a few clubs chasing the 32-year-old, including the Los Angeles Clippers, who can work well as a stretch four in the NBA. Some feel that he’s too similar to Kevin Love but that’s exactly why he’s been brought in, he can help that consistenty of emulating Love from off the bench.

With players like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving desperate for more floor room, Frye will give them that. It also takes away some of the log-jam happening under the rim with Tristan Thompson as they look to make a team that can take on the Golden State Warriors in the Finals. Or at least, they hope it will.

Los Angeles Clippers

Green fills a need and is a great pickup for the price.  Source: Sports Illustrated

Green fills a need and is a great pickup for the price. Source: Sports Illustrated

When initial reports had the Clippers flipping Lance Stephenson, C.J Wilcox and a first-round selection for Channing Frye, it seemed like a pretty decent deal. However, when it was announced that they were getting Jeff Green for the first and last of that offer, it has to be seen as a real coup.

Green is a really solid player who could even start at the three for LA, a position of need for the last few years, as well as being able to play at the four when the team goes small ball. He already has a relationship with coach Doc Rivers and to give up a player who contributed very little seems like a bargain.

Adding to that, the pick is a 2019 selection that could even become a 2021 pick, so they could be giving up very little for some real solid production. Especially with Blake Griffin out for a few more weeks yet, Green could be a really valuable addition to compete with the other strong teams out in the West.

 

Disappointed

Utah Jazz

Mack? Really? Why?  Source: saltcityhoops.com

Mack? Really? Why? Source: saltcityhoops.com

The Jazz have a genuine shot of making the playoffs this year but needed a point guard to make more of a contribution. with Dante Exum likely out for the season, they needed a playmaker to help facilitate the likes of Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert.

So they decided to trade for the Atlanta Hawk’s third guard Shelvin Mack. A player who’s statistically worse that their current two fit guards, Trey Burke and Raul Neto, in almost every area. What an incredible move.

Is he good enough to even play? If not, then why did they need to make this move? He may surprise us, he may fall flat on his face. In the end, it looks like the Jazz couldn’t decide whether to stick or twist so just did a twirl for us at the deadline.

Atlanta Hawks

Hinrich has a lot of miles on the clock and has rapidly declined over the past season or so.  Source: Bleacher Report

Hinrich has a lot of miles on the clock and has rapidly declined over the past season or so. Source: Bleacher Report

So as we’ve already mentioned, the Hawks moved on their third guard, which was a decent move. They also decided to keep the likes of Jeff Teague and Al Horford, so their current core remains in tact until at least the summer.

Was it the wisest move to keep Horford, who could go for free in the summer? It remains to be seen, especially if they couldn’t find a good offer before the deadline. However, they decided to make a late move for Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, to replace the departed Mack.

Why? We may never know. They have two really solid guards, but they essentially swapped Mack for Hinrich while also giving up Justin Holiday, who had fallen out of the rotation anyway. This can only be to clear some space and maybe give the team some extra leadership they didn’t really need anyway.

Memphis Grizzlies

Even Courtney Lee was surprised to be traded.  Source: rantsports.com

Even Courtney Lee was surprised to be traded. Source: rantsports.com

What a strange deadline from the Grizzlies, who look to have thrown their hands up in the air and hope they can rebuild again around an ageing Marc Gasol. That seems even stranger when they are sat with the fifth seed in the Western Conference.

We’ve already mentioned the Green trade, which brings in a player that will either be waived instantly or will be a complete gamble in Lance Stephenson. They also gave up Courtney Lee to the Charlotte Hornets for mainly cap space, although P.J Hariston has shown flashes of quality.

Both were third and fourth in three-point shooting on a bad three-point shooting team. Will these moves help keep Mike Conley around in the summer? He may need more than a load of second-round picks to convince him to stay in Tennessee.

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Has the East finally conquered the West in the NBA?

The Cavaliers lead the charge but the rest of the East has improved.  Source: Bleacher Report

The Cavaliers lead the charge but the rest of the East has improved. Source: Bleacher Report

It has been a running joke for almost the past decade that the Western Conference has held complete dominance over the Eastern equivalent in the NBA. Despite the East winning four of the last 10 NBA Finals, they have been demolished in terms of regular season wins and inter-conference games by those that play a little later here in the UK.

However, the balance of power looks to have shifted this year and in striking fashion.

The Eastern Conference have 10 players over .500 this season, similar to what we saw in the West last season, after just five teams managed that total in 2014/15. Whether that record continues will yet to be seen but adding to that, the team with the best record last season, the Atlanta Hawks, are currently outside of the playoff places despite going 14-12.

So how has this happened? The simple maths tells you that teams that struggled with injuries or chemistry last year have managed to pull it together. Other than the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were excellent last season too and could get better, most teams have had something that has changed their season.

Going down the confernce standings, the Chicago Bulls have a new coach that emphasises on offence and that’s getting the best out of the likes of Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott. It hasn’t been a rousing success, they are still waiting for Derrick Rose to return to MVP-like form that he may never reach and Jochaim Noah to find himself, but Chicago were pretty good last year too.

Paul George, a certainty for comeback of the year.  Source: Fox Sports

Paul George, a certainty for comeback of the year. Source: Fox Sports

The Indiana Pacers have been dramatically changed by returning All-Star Paul George, who is really playing on an MVP level.  He’s averaging 26.2 points per game, fifth best in the NBA, along with 7.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists. George put the power forward experiment to bed quickly and he’s proving why they should have never considered it in the first place.

Miami have all their pieces they traded for fit and ready to play. They have gelled well, they play some serious defence again and they have enough firepower to deal with any team. Dwayne Wade is ageless, Chris Bosh is still great, Hassan Whiteside is a monster in the making and Goran Dragic is the ideal point guard to add to that great mix.

Toronto haven’t changed too much, with DeMarre Carroll adding some strong defence, but they need to find more offence from somewhere other than DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. They are possibly the best backcourt in the league and Jonas Valanciunas was growing into a solid piece until his injury, his return might be the spark they need.

The Hornets have just found their chemistry in Charlotte, especially after Lance Stephenson left. Nicolas Batum was always a good pickup, Jeremy Lin is actually playing good basketball and Al Jefferson is still a beast, before his silly suspension, then add the surprise form of Jeremy Lamb.

Orlando were a solid team just waiting to grow. They have three great guards, Nikola Vucevic is a really solid player and their coach is pulling them together. Detroit Pistons are another team that just needed to reduce the log jam as Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson look like pieces for their present and future.

The Magic, led by Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, have been a nice surprise.  Source: sircharlesincharge.com

The Magic, led by Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, have been a nice surprise. Source: sircharlesincharge.com

Teams like Atlanta are just outside, Boston have a good solid team that are well coached and New York have finally found some traction despite their poor record. Even the Milwaukee Bucks, who everyone thought could make the leap, have shown in flashes real brilliance and are certainly a team to keep an eye on. That’s also considering that Washington Wizards have a good team but just aren’t competing right now.

Looking into the deficiencies of the other conference and it’s the usual mix, big teams underperforming and players injured. The Los Angeles Clippers look to have finally got out of their early hump and the Houston Rockets are hanging in there despite still being in a funk.

New Orleans have had an abysmal injury crisis and Anthony Davis is not playing at his full level. Phoenix and Utah have not met expectations, the Kings are good but only on their day and Portland are really missing the star power behind Damien Lillard.

So is the East better now? On current evidence it’s hard to deny. Back in early December, the East was 57-55 on games against the West and that just shows you that the gap is not as big as it looks on paper comparing conferences.

It is good to see both conferences be competitive but at the same time, it is weighed against the dramatically poor starts from the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the real question becomes that come playoff time, can anyone knock off the Cavs? I’m not so sure yet.

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Iguodala reminding us that defence is king

These three helped them in the regular season, but Iguodala's defence helped them win it all.  Source: resetsanfrancisco.org

These three helped them in the regular season, but Iguodala’s defence helped them win it all.
Source: resetsanfrancisco.org

Defence wins championships. It’s a sentence that’s repeated in American Football regularly and it’s shown to be the case on almost every occasion. That also translates well to the NBA and despite the Golden State Warriors’ shoot-happy offence, it’s their defence that won them the Larry O’Brien trophy.

The Warriors offensive prowess is very hard to ignore and took centre stage throughout the entire regular season. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Splash Brothers as they are affectionately known, are deadly from three-point range and can top 40 points on any night if given the chance.

Curry wasn’t just voted as the league’s MVP simply because he’s dead-eye from beyond the arc, he has probably the best handle of the basketball in the NBA and create assists that boggle the mind even whilst watching replays. He’s a true superstar, adding Thompson and the vastly improved Draymond Green to that mix, the Warriors are a potent threat.

However, they stalled against a under-powered Cleveland Cavaliers who lost two of their best three players. Granted, they still possessed the best player in the world but they also missed another key contributor in Anderson Varejao.

Iggy sacrificed his starting role for the better of the team but that didn't stop him from being a key component.  Source: pac12.com

Iggy sacrificed his starting role for the better of the team but that didn’t stop him from being a key component. Source: pac12.com

Many saw the Finals as a cake-walk as soon as Kyrie Irving limped out of Game 1 but LeBron James went up another gear. Role players like Matthew Dellavadova and Timofey Mosgov gave everything and it surprised the Warrior, who lost Game 2 at home and then tumbled 2-1 behind. It was a riddle that Golden State were struggling to overcome.

Then, Steve Kerr made a bold move. Out came Andrew Bogut from the starting line-up, in slotted Andre Iguodala to stop the freight train that was becoming LeBron James. It would have old-school fans turning in their graves, a smaller line-up would have been scariligious to some but oddly enough, it absolutely worked.

It didn’t completely stop LeBron, he still racked up plenty of points but more often than not, Iguodala made him think for a moment longer than before. It cause Cavs coach David Blatt to try and find an answer, like removing Mosgov almost entirely from Game 5 and it failed.

LeBron was special but not enough and was very gracious in defeat.  Source: Sky Sports

LeBron was special but not enough and was very gracious in defeat. Source: Sky Sports

Not only that, Iggy brought a bit of offence to a team that was stagnating and breaking them out of that funk got them the win. Daring to change something, especially to have more of a focus on defence, was absolutely vital and it was even evident in last year’s Finals when Kawai Leonard won the Finals MVP by stopping LeBron and producing on the other end.

There’s certainly a case that had the Cavaliers been fully fit, this would have been a different series. They could have even combated the Warriors small line-up with a huge line-up of LeBron, Kevin Love, Tristain Thompson, Varejao and Mosgov, which would have been an insane match-up.

However, the realisation that defence is key is clear in the NBA once again and a lot of the credit should go to Coach Kerr. No matter how dangerous the Warriors are on offence, it’s their defence that pulled them through the mire and got them their championship.

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