Welcome to the sixth installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” Every Friday Chris Manning and I, along with our newest Roundtable member Dan Pilar, sit down and discuss the latest trending topics concerning your Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA. We answer three questions concerning the hometown Wine and Gold and two questions surrounding the league.
Today we will be discussing the Cavaliers most recent free agency signing (hint: Michael Eric), which players are shoo-ins to be starters next season according to Byron Scott, when Alonzo Gee will accept his qualifying offer, how each team made out in the Dwight-mare and where the trade puts the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference.
First Question: What do you think of the Cavaliers signing free agent center Michael Eric?
Zachary Kolesar: I’m not sure I like this pickup, solely due to the injury risk that Eric brings to the table. The difference between the levels of worry with Kyrie Irving’s previous injury troubles and Eric’s previously fractured right patella is that big men like the former Temple Owl usually don’t come back 100 percent from most injuries. Irving may not be durable his whole career, but he can bounce back from injuries rather quickly without losing too much pop in his step. He averaged 4.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in the Cavaliers Summer League this year, and turned the head of Byron Scott.
Chris Manning: I like that the Cavs went out and signed a young center prospect. I don’t know much about Michael Eric, but he is 6’11 and you can’t teach size. The best part about this move is that the Cavs have a relatively deep roster up front. Currently signed to contracts are Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Samardo Samuels, Tyler Zeller, and Eric. That may not be an elie group of players, but it is deep. As for Michael Eric, let’s see if he makes the team. If he does, let’s see what he can do. It wouldn’t shock me to see him the D-League playing for the Canton Charge come November.
Dan Pilar: He’s definitely a project player. He played in an underrated conference in college at Temple who sent four teams into March Madness. Reports out of Summer League have said Eric was really impressive on the defensive end of the court. Despite only scoring four points a game, his effort on the defensive end was enough to win a contract. I can see him sending most, if not all, of the season down with the Canton Charge. It sounds bad, but it would be a waste having his raw, athletic ability sitting on the bench every game. Send him down to the D-League and let him develop.
Second Question: Byron Scott recently said that Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving are the only lock-ins to be starters this season. Do you agree or do you have other players in mind as well?
ZK: I think Scott is pretty accurate with his statement about Varejao and Irving. No other player on the roster, Tristan Thompson included, has earned a starting role. Thompson still has a lot of developing to do in his defensive game, a place where he struggled last season. I think he will make a great starter someday, but he needs to earn his role in training camp if he wants a starting spot come late October. This will make for a very interesting training camp, especially with it being a Byron Scott-run camp.
CM: This whole group should be a major storyline to follow this season. Seeing as Varajeo is the only sure starter, who Byron Scott has starting and getting playing time up front will be interesting to watch. I agree with that statement. Irving and Varejao are the only players that deserve to be declared starters, as they are the best players on the team. The Cavs also lost starters in Antwan Jamison and Anthony Parker to free agency and retirement, respectively. The roster is wide open, and so are the starting positions. If I were Scoot, my lineup would look like this: PG: Kyrie Irving, SG: CJ Miles SF: Omri Casspi PF: Tristan Thompson C: Anderson Varejao. These are the five guys who have seemed to been putting in the work all offseason, and also should be ready to play. If Alonzo Gee signs soon, maybe but him in for Miles, but that is the only change I would make. Rookie Dion Waiters is supposedly out of shape, and he thus should be eased in as rookie. Let Coach Scott ride him, and adjust him to the NBA, and then have him start.
DP: Scott’s comments don’t surprise me. He is a tough coach who makes you earn every minute of playing time. Nothing comes easy with him, just ask Samardo Samuels. After Waiters performance in Summer League, he knows there is still a lot he needs to work on before the season starts. I would imagine Tristan joining Kyrie and Andy in the starting lineup, but that may be by default.
Third Question: Do you think Alonzo Gee will sign his qualifying offer and if so when?
ZK: I think that without question Gee will sign the $2.7 million qualifying offer that the Cavaliers gave him, even though he was looking for a long-term deal. No other team has expressed interest in investing in Gee, and he said he would most prefer to play in Cleveland. He likes it here, and I think he can win a starting job if he comes into training camp fired up about the C.J. Miles signing. I think sometime in the next 10 days is a fair guess.
CM: I have no clue if he will sign. I hope he does, and seeing as he has no other offers on the table, he kind of has to take it. And for this career, the sooner he signs it the better. He’ll get into camp on time, start working with the team sooner, and be able to focus on basketball. Gee should realize that if he has a big year this year, he’ll be in line for a big deal. He has to earn the money he wants, and the only way to do that is by playing basketball. His refusal to sign his contract also can’t be helping him in the eyes of the Cavs leadership. If they were happy with him, they probably wouldn’t of signed CJ Miles. So, overall, it’s in Gee’s interest to get into camp.
DP: Unless he gets a long-term offer elsewhere, which I don’t imagine he will, Gee will definitely be on the Cavaliers roster this year. I can’t imagine him missing any days in training camp over this, so I would imagine him waiting as long as he could up until training camp.
ZK: I think every team besides the Orlando Magic “made out” in the Dwight Howard trade. I know they got a young talent that they pushed for in Moe Harkless, three future first round picks and multiple second round picks, but they didn’t get a player that will put them in contention for the playoffs like Pau Gasol. Instead they handed over Howard for no superstars. I think the Philadelphia 76ers had the best deal in the trade, gaining center Andrew Bynum. Center was a position that the Sixers didn’t have an elite enough player at.
CM: Every team did well except Orlando, which makes absolutely no sense. They gave up Dwight Howard, their first franchise player since Shaq, and got nothing in return. They didn’t even get protected draft picks. So, if I were to grade them, they would get an F. The Lakers obviously get an A for landing Dwight Howard, and creating a big three of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Dwight Howard. The Sixers also get an A for getting Andrew Bynum, giving them a young big man whose stats are very close to Howard’s when you break them down. Denver gets a C for actually getting a solid piece in Al Harrington and not just being ripped off like Orlando. So, overall, know this about the Dwight Howard trade: Orlando messed up big time. Orlando fans must feel so betrayed right now. Good luck selling tickets next season, Magic ownership.
DP: I think every team did great except the Orlando Magic, but that is what they get for waiting so long. They received six players, and only two averaged more than 10 points for their NBA team last year. They dished out bad contracts, but they also brought in two pretty bad contracts with Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington. They also received three first round draft picks and each pick will be in the mid to late 20′s. Those are not picks that can rebuild your team, just picks you can use as assets to trade up.
Fifth Question: Do you think the Howard trade puts the Los Angeles Lakers as favorites in the Western Conference?
ZK: I think that this trade makes the Los Angeles Lakers the team with the best starting five in the Western Conference. I know they have a pretty potent bench, but I don’t think the Lakers will be using their bench much. Steve Nash is one of the only players that can play the facilitator role, so he will be getting extra playing time. With that said, I also think the Lakers will make it back to the Western Conference Finals. Whether a team like the Thunder or Spurs can stop them will be heavily looked upon come the regular season.
CM: Forget the Western Conference – the Lakers my favorite to win the whole thing. The already play Oklahoma City tough, and adding Dwight Howard gives them an edge that the Thunder can’t match. When they play the Heat, whose going to defend Howard? Udonis Haslam? Dexter Pittman? I don’t think so. This trade puts the Lakers as the favorites to win the Larry O’Biren Trophy come June. The Heat are still the Vegas favorite at 2-1, but the Lakers are not far behind at 3-1. I cannot wait to watch any Lakers-Heat, Lakers-Thunder, and Lakers-Spurs game this season. All should be hard fought, and coming down to wire. But as I said, I think the Lakers should win it all this season. Kobe Bryant is going to get that sixth ring this season. Mark my words.
DP: This is a very good question. They just added the most dominant center in the game and also added a two-time MVP point guard. And to be honest I don’t think it will make them better than the Thunder. The Thunder have two good big men in Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. Perkins has experience defending Howard when he was in Boston and was pretty successful. They may finish with the best record at the end of the regular season, but don’t believe they will be able to compete with the athleticism Oklahoma City has, in the playoffs.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Chris Manning, Dan Pilar and Zachary Kolesar have to discuss at the “Weekly Roundtable.”
Topics: Alonzo Gee, Anderson Varejao, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bynum, Byron Scott, Denver Nuggets, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, Los Angeles Lakers, Michael Eric, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Temple, Weekly Roundtable