A 3-1 week saw the Cavaliers push their record to 37-16, two full games ahead of the second place Boston Celtics. It was a wild week, so let’s get right into it. As always, stay up to date with all things NBA and the Cavaliers on Twitter by following me @GoodBallHunting.
Thoughts From Week 16
- The Wizards game was probably the best game of the NBA season so far, and definitely the most watchable and entertaining game the Cavs have played since Christmas. The Wizards are the real deal, and hadn’t lost a home game in weeks. Beating a surging team in their own building was a great way to keep the ball rolling in the right direction and let people know that the Cavs are still the best team in the Eastern Conference. It was nice to see Kyrie rebound from an awful game in regulation, and reclaim his status as possibly the best crunch time player in the league, especially with LeBron fouling out.
- I know it will be an unpopular opinion in Northeast Ohio, but it is becoming more and more apparent that John Wall has surpassed Kyrie Irving in terms of being an all around contributor. Still, having Kyrie, Kyle Lowry, and John Wall in any order in the top three makes sense, and the situation is fluid.
- Kyle Korver is getting better every week since joining Cleveland, and that was apparent in the Indiana game. The key has been learning to be patient. In Atlanta, there were a lot of quick hitting plays that directly resulted in one pass leading to his shot opportunity. In Cleveland, however, sometimes he has to make multiple cuts when the ball pops around. The more patient he is, sometimes passing up his first look at the rim, the better his shots will be in terms of their overall quality and how open he is. It was great to see him being embraced by his teammates as well, and that sort of chemistry, as Cavs fans know, is tough to cultivate so quickly.
- It looked like Coach Lue may punt away the OKC game, but instead, he ran The Big Three out there to no avail. Honestly, I probably would have rather seen at least one or two of them rest given the quick turnaround and busy four game week. It is revisionist history to wonder what would have happened with Kevin Love’s knee injury had he sat, but all indications are that this was a lingering issue, and Kevin played well that game.
- Even though new addition Derrick Williams only put in seven points in his 21 minutes, he provided solid fundamental basketball and appeared to continue to be fitting well within the system against Denver. He even handled some ball handling and play making duties. While this won’t be the recipe for his success going forward, it was nice to see that he’s embracing his role after a disappointing start to his career. He’s going to be in Cleveland for the rest of the season, barring anything unforeseen.
- Tristan Thompson is scoring the ball much better of late, and has really started to emerge as someone that the Cavs can depend on offensively. This doesn’t mean they’re ever going to dump the ball to him when they have to get a bucket, but he’s improving as a passer and a finisher underneath, two things that have long been my knock on him on that end. He’ll have to continue to develop on that end and step up a bit more with the recent Kevin Love injury news, but I’m confident that he will continue to make the right play, find his teammates, and we know he’s always going to be a monster on the glass on offense. Solid week for TT all around.
Week 17 Opponents (Combined Record: 50-60)
- With the week shortened with the All-Star break, the first of only two Cavs games this week is against Minnesota. The Wolves are 4-6 in their last 10 contests, but have started to find some things that work. Gorgui Dieng has been great all season for them, and is overshadowed by their emerging young stars flanking him. Ricky Rubio is enjoying a nice season, though not terribly efficient. He’s an underrated defender, however, and as crafty as ever offensively in the pick and roll game with his young and gifted bigs. Lots of ties in this game between the two teams. Williams and Love are former Wolves, and Andrew Wiggins was drafted by Cleveland. Backup PG Tyus Jones was also a Cavaliers draftee, and the Cavs recently worked out new Wolves guard Lance Stephenson.
- The Cavs round out the short week with a home game against Indiana. A solid January has them three games out of the fourth spot in the East, and things appear to be clicking. As usual, Kyrie will have his hands full as PG Jeff Teague navigates the offense adeptly and with great efficiency. The key here is going to be how the Cavalier bigs handle (personal favorite) Myles Turner. As much as we all ragged on Love for his defensive deficiencies, Channing Frye, Derrick Williams, and the like are equally as bad, if not worse, guarding guys in space and knowing when to be switchy on pick and rolls to string guys out, as opposed to sticking with the screener.
- David Griffin continues to work magic with a roster that doesn’t have many assets to do it with. This time, he managed to find someone to help Cleveland when he shipped some cash and the injured Bird Man to Charlotte. The Cavs will never see the second round pick that was sent their way, but who cares? The key to the deal was freeing up another spot so that he could sign Williams for the rest of the season while still having an open roster spot for trades or buyout candidates to firm up the end of his bench. Just call him David Gryffindor (I’m sorry, but how can I not make that joke?)
- There will be a lot of chatter about how Love being out means that Cavs should have, or still should, move him for Carmelo Anthony. Look, this is ridiculous. Love is not only the better player, but the younger one. David Griffin is not going to trade the next six weeks for the next three years of LeBron’s prime. Nor should he. When assets are limited, you have to think ahead. The way things are set up, Kevin and Kyrie will be able to bridge the gap between when 23 isn’t around, or isn’t himself, and when the next stud can come in and play in his stead. Griffin knows that, set this up this way on purpose, and isn’t backing away from it now.
- I think that there is a chance that someone like a Shelvin Mack or even Randy Foye could fill that gap as a backup PG. Either player could be absorbed into a trade exception, would address a need, and appear to be mostly extra for the teams that they’re on right now. Also, keep an eye on the ever evolving situation in Orlando, where the Magic probably aren’t done dealing after a Valentine’s Day deal saw them move Serge Ibaka. I still think Elfrid Payton could be had, but a third team would likely need to get involved since the Cavs don’t have the money or assets to work something out with Orlando directly. At least as of now.
That’s it for this week. Enjoy your All-Star Weekend festivities, keep your eye on the trade market, and don’t fall subject to the rumor mill. Remember, just because the Trade Machine says it works financially, doesn’t mean that it makes basketball sense.