I hope you all enjoyed your All-Star break, the festivities, and managed to find a way to get through a stretch sparse with NBA ball. As always, we’ll take a look here at the week ahead of us, some thoughts from the last week of games, and get together at the end for the shoot around. As always, follow me on Twitter at @GoodBallHunting for new, updates, observations, and information about not only the Cavaliers, but all 30 teams around The Association.
Thoughts From Weeks 17 and 18.
- The guys split the truncated week of games at 1-1, pushing their record to 40-17, good for a three game lead over the Boston Celtics. The Knicks are exactly what we all knew they would be this season, and it was more of the same on Thursday as the Cavs whooped up on the hapless Knickerbockers 119-104. There isn’t a whole lot here to say other than the Cavaliers appear to be fun again, are clicking on all cylinders, and those are not things you can say about Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks. The defense was better, and Tristan Thompson continued to play well in February (more on this later) as he posted 10 points, 14 rebounds, and added in four blocks as well.
- When LeBron doesn’t play, the Cavs lose. We all know this. Kyrie Irving was great offensively, but by the time Jimmy Butler got rolling, there wasn’t anything that could bed one. No 23, no JR, no Kevin Love is never going to be a recipe for success. The Bulls have been hovering around .500 all season long, and despite giving away Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott for essentially nothing, appear like they’ll make a charge at the six, seven, eight range of seeds in the East. A loss to an OK Bulls team by the Cleveland B Team isn’t anything to be worked up about. It’ll be fine.
Week 19 Opponents (Combined Record: 126-110)
- Things kick off with the young Bucks on Monday. This one will be interesting. With reports that LeBron’s status is still up in the air, the Cavs find themselves in a familiar spot, shorthanded, and waiting on some high level cavalry to come in. Keep an eye on Thon Maker, who has been getting more minutes, starting to figure some stuff out, and has a really special skill set for being so you, and so large.
- Wednesday’s contest against the surprisingly content Boston Celtics appears to a more viable ECF preview than any game that Toronto is involved in at this point in their slide. We thought Boston would make a big splash on deadline day, but they love what they have, don’t want to risk breaking up that chemistry, and could well make a run at the East’s number one spot in the next couple of month as the Cavs cruise toward the finish line. IT is a crazy good scorer, but brings little else on either end. The key will be to put him in pick and roll situations defensively and make him defend. Targeting him in this way, may give the Cavs the best shot at slowing him down offensively.
- Difficult week continues with the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta is just 4-6 in their last 10, and have dipped to fifth in the East (at post). Dwight is quietly having a really nice season, and Dennis Schroder is becoming a young exciting point guard. I think ATL will regret not making bigger moves at the deadline, but Ilyasova is underrated, and they basically got him for free (Tiago Splitter and two second round picks).
- Waiters Island, you guys. We can make all the jokes we’d like, and there are plenty, but Dion is turning into a really nice and terribly explosive offensive player. There are even flashes of brilliance on the other end as well, where the Cavs always thought he had potential to be a really nice defender. The story here, however, will be Hassas Whiteside. He dunks everything, he’s humongous, and is a genuinely gifted and nimble offense player around the rim. Maybe the Cavs will have some help underneath by then.
- I know that I tweeted it before, but David Griffin is a wizard. In season this year, Griffin has essentially, when you add everything up, traded Mo Williams, Bird Man, Mike Dunleavy, and a first round pick in exchange for Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Derrick Williams, and likely Andrew Bogut. In terms of assets, Griff basically had a pile of sawdust, some broken rubber bands, and some toothpaste, and he built a sports car with it, all while saving almost 28 million in luxury tax payments. Incredible.
- In February, Tristan Thompson is averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds per game, and shooting a shade over 65% from the field. He’s blocking shots, he’s expanding what he is capable of offensively in rare opportunities that the Cavs need something more from him, and small snippets on national TV games show Tristan being more of a leader than we’ve seen in the past. I know that a section of Clevelanders were shocked, and even some angry, with Tristan’s giant pay day two summers ago. I just hope that they’re watching. He’s worth every penny.