|2013/14 NBA Season|
|January 24, 2014|
|Quicken Loans Arena | Cleveland, OH|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass|
|Brandon Knight||PG||Kyrie Irving|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SG||C.J. Miles|
|Ersan Ilyasova||SF||Luol Deng|
|John Henson||PF||Tristan Thompson|
|Ekpe Udoh||C||Anderson Varejao|
|2013/14 Advanced Stats|
|91.5 (26th)||Pace||93.3 (19th)|
|98.5 (30th)||ORtg||101.4 (25th)|
|108.0 (22nd)||DRtg||107.1 (19th)|
Bad times in Cleveland somehow got worse on Wednesday with a loss to the Bulls--yes, the team that basically threw in the towel by trading all-star Luol Deng to the Cavs. Clevelanders were left to sift through the rubble for any sign of hope, but mostly just seem exhausted about...well, everything with this team.
At 15-27 the Cavs find themselves three games out of the eighth spot (Charlotte), with the Pistons (17-25)--a team that even the 2014 Bucks can beat--also ahead of the them by two games. Chicago (21-20) is even further ahead, having won seven of nine games since the Deng trade. That compares to 4-4 for the Cavs, though it's not really Deng's fault--he's put up 17.6 ppg on 58% true shooting since the deal, so he's been about as advertised.
On the plus side: Kyrie Irving is more or less back to his awesome self after a rough start, and in the process earned his first all-star starting nod yesterday after being named as a reserve last year. Turns out he's in pretty good company:
Kyrie Irving is the 5th youngest player in NBA history to make 2 All Star games. The other 4 are HOFers. Be happy, Cavs fans.— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) January 24, 2014
If you're wondering, the 4 guys who made 2 All Star games at a younger age than Kyrie are Kobe, KG, LeBron, and Isiah Thomas.— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) January 24, 2014
Matchups. After the Bucks' jumbo lineup helped them outscore and outrebound the Pistons on Wednesday, Larry Drew will once again go with a big lineup of Brandon Knight, Giannis Antetkounmpo, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh. I get that he's desperate to stick with anything that gets him a win, but by the same token: seriously?
Deng and most other starting small forwards would seem like poor matchups for Ilyasova, whose primary means of getting shots is by dragging big men around the perimeter. More mobile perimeter players won't have the same problem keeping up with him, and his inability to post up smaller players offensively means that playing him on the wing pretty much neutralizes his most obvious offensive skill. And the problem are likely even more pronounced on the defensive end, where Ersan's lack of mobility would seem to be a major issue.
Those problems should have theoretically been masked somewhat against the Pistons since Josh Smith is also essentially a PF starting at SF, but let's not confuse the Bucks winning with their starting lineup working. The Bucks were -9 in the 11 minutes that Ilyasova, Udoh and Henson played together. Bottom line: Ersan isn't a small forward, and the Bucks didn't play well with him at that spot against the Pistons either.
Starting Udoh again also seems rather silly, considering that a) Miroslav Raduljica was the Bucks' best big man on Wednesday and b) Larry Sanders will be available again off the bench. My opinion: throw all the 4/5 minutes to Henson/Sanders/Ilyasova/Raduljica for the time being and look for someone interested in Ekpe before the trade deadline.
Caron and the kids. The obvious annoyance with winning a game on the back of a struggling veteran? Suddenly that struggling veteran feels entitled to regular minutes going forward. Via Andrew Gruman:
"Our identity is trying to win games," Butler said. "We're still trying to figure it out still, at this point. Guys need to continue to play hard and chip away at it and most importantly stay together.
"All the guys that were down are back now. It would be great to play and see that group out there that was predicted to be out there and play together. Obviously with Giannis so-called emerging and stuff, it would be great to put the group out there with an emerging Giannis and see what happens. We just want to win."
Don't get me wrong: Caron deserved to play big minutes on Wednesday because he was producing. But we have 41 games worth of data showing that guys like Caron and O.J. Mayo haven't produced individually and have had hugely negative effects on the team as well. They've complained about sporadic minutes, not getting into a rhythm, etc., and there's certainly a good argument that guys play better when they have a consistent role. But when you don't produce over a large sample of games you lose the benefit of the doubt; guys like Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo made the most of their sporadic minutes early, so let's not act like their leaping ahead of Butler, Mayo and others on the depth chart is purely youthful favoritism by the organization. They've earned those minutes, too.
That isn't too say Caron or Mayo should be banished to the end of the bench eternally, but you simply can't turn the youngsters into bit players because Butler or Mayo go off once a month. I don't expect that to happen based on the implied "develop Giannis" mandate that Drew seems to be operating under, though there are obvious things to do that would distribute minutes more meritocratically. No one outside the organization seems to have any clue why Luke Ridnour was starting for around a month, and slashing his minutes would mean working Mayo into more lineups once he returns.