Welcome to the twentieth installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” Every Friday Chris Manning, Dan Pilar and I 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 Tyler Zeller’s return, Kyrie Irving’s scoring habits, Anderson Varejao’s future, the New York Knicks’ fast start and how new Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni will benefit the team’s success.
First Question: Once he returns, how much will Tyler Zeller’s presence help this struggling Cavalier bench?
Zachary Kolesar: Zeller will be returning on Saturday for the home game against the Dallas Mavericks, just in time for him to save the joke that is the Cavaliers bench. The Cleveland extras only managed to account for six points on offense in their last game against the Brooklyn Nets, and two of those points were due to a goal tend. Zeller will be able to fill the void that has been missing whenever Andy needs to take a breather from the many exhaustive efforts he has had so far this season. The bench is a total disaster right now, but Zeller will be able to get things back on track, especially from a defensive standpoint.
Chris Manning: I think Zeller is going to help a fair amount upon his return. He has played with a lot of energy thus far this season, and I think he would be getting even more praise if fellow rookie Dion Waiters hasn’t been playing so well. Also, Zeller being out means Jon Leuer gets regular minutes. Leuer has some potential as a stretch four, but I would take Zeller over Leuer every day of the week. Zeller also is part of the Cavaliers third best line up, which consists of Kyrie Irving, Daniel Gibson, Alonzo Gee, Anderson Varejao and Zeller.
Dan Pilar: Zeller will be sporting a Rip Hamilton mask on Saturday and under that he will have a black eye. With his return, I don’t see our bench getting any worse, right? Our bench scored six points in Brooklyn…SIX POINTS!!! The writers here at RDE were only a bucket each away from six points. Zeller struggled until he got to Los Angeles and scored 15 points before getting popped in the face. If he doesn’t improve our bench, ohhh lawwd it’s going to be a long season.
Second Question: How long can Kyrie Irving remain atop the premier scorers in the NBA?
ZK: I predicted before the season started that Kyrie would be putting up 20+ points per night. Right now he is fourth in the Association in scoring (averaging 24.3 points) behind Kobe Bryant, James Harden and LeBron James. I was expected a leap in Irving’s game on defense, but offensively he has been nothing short of a superstar. With Cleveland’s leading scorer last season now on the bench for the Lakers, Kyrie will keep up the 20-point performances on a daily occurrence. He’s here to stay, folks.
CM: As long as he wants to I think. He has the ability to score, whether it is through shooting or driving for layups. Consider two of the point guards he has played against thus far: Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Paul is one of the best defensive point guards in the league, and Irving lit him up for 24 points. Against Williams, Kyrie scored 34 and was sensational down the stretch. So, as far as I am concerned, Irving can remain a top scorer as long as he wants to.
DP: Well if the bench doesn’t improve at all, we’re going to need him to remain atop of the NBA scoring list. He is averaging just over 24 points per game. Right now he ranks fourth, above player like Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. I see him averaging around the range of 22 points, but you know Anthony and Durant are going to move up the scoring ranks. They’ve done this for years. 26-27-28 points is average for these guys. Irving is still getting to know the NBA and what it’s like to be a star in this league.
Third Question: How would you assess Anderson Varejao’s play and the future he has with the team?
ZK: This question has come up a lot, especially as of late, and it was brought to my attention yet again this week. At 30 years old and playing at the highest level he has ever reached in the NBA (averaging 15.9 points, 13.7 rebounds), I say that you see what offers you can get for Wild Thing around the All-Star break. Varejao is playing out of his mind right now, but from a business standpoint it may make more sense to pile on another draft pick and beef up a bench that is currently at the center of Cleveland’s problems right now.
CM: Anderson Varejao is having a career year, and the core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Varejao has kept the Cavs competitive at times. At this time, Varejao is is shooting 60.8% from the field. My hope is that the Cavaliers decide to keep him long term. He is a big piece moving forward not only because of his skill, but because he can be a good influence on Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Samardo Samuels. It would take a lot for me to approve of any trade that sends Varejao out of Cleveland. He is the kind of player you want around a young team.
DP: Varejao has surprised us all with his play, especially his performance in Brooklyn. Trading a player like Varejao is tough. He brings so much more to the table other than what is on the stat sheet. Not saying his stats aren’t great, but his energy isn’t a statistic on most team’s stat sheet. To me, Varejao is priceless. But my mood may change if he were to go down with an injury. Trading doesn’t guarantee we’re going to get a younger player to replace him. It just guarantees a draft pick, where it is on Chris Grant to pick the right player.
Fourth Question: The New York Knicks improved to 6-0 last night. What are your thoughts on their scorching start?
ZK: The Knicks took home a hard-fought victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Texas on Thursday night, and still remain the second-best offensive and defensive team in the league in regards to points. The season is young, but the Amar’e Stoudemire-less Knicks are turning heads in the East as legitimate contenders. Even without Jeremy Lin, New York point guard Raymond Felton has blossomed into everything that they wanted him to be. Jason Kidd is still making noise as a backup and they have shot a collected 42.8 percent from three. J.R. Smith alone has made a blistering 73.7 percent of his three-point attempts. This Knicks team is dangerous, and the Heat better beware.
CM: I have been blown away by the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony has suddenly become less selfish, and his play at power forward has made me question whether Amar’e Stoudemire is even a good fit for this team. They beat the Spurs last night, and to me, that was a real indicator that this team is for real. They had to dig deep and mount a comeback in order to win a game on the road against a real contender. I have my doubts still, mostly relating to Amar’e and their age, but it is going to be fun to watch the Knicks play against elite teams like Miami and Oklahoma City.
DP: Good for them. Doing it without (one of) their $100 million men, Amar’e Stoudemire. They’re shooting absolutely lights out from three-point range. It is hard to trust a team that relies on the three as much as them. However, they are only allowing opponents to score 89.8 points per game. For the most part, this is a very veteran team with plenty of post-season experience. If they can get the
“Phoenix Suns Stoudemire” back, this is going to be a team that goes deep into the playoffs.
Fifth Question: Does Mike D’Antoni give the Los Angeles Lakers the best chance to win an NBA Championship?
ZK: The best offensive system for the Lakers right now out of the three options (Princeton, Triangle and D’Antoni) is D’Antoni’s up-tempo and quick shooting offense. Steve Nash was isolated in Mike Brown’s plan and the Triangle would have just made matters worse for him. If you have a guy like Nash in your lineup, he needs to be utilized to his fullest potential. The Lakers will be at their highest level of competitiveness when Nash’s involvement in the offense goes up. The Lakers will thrive in a system that allows you to shoot early on in a possession.
CM: Originally, I would have said no considering Phil Jackson is still out there. But after talking to Zak about this, I think D’Antoni is a great fit. It all relates back to Steve Nash. Nash needs to be comfortable in order for him to be successful, and he knows D’Antoni’s offense like the back of his hand. I am sure Kobe Bryant is going to play well in any system, and I think Dwight Howard is going to flourish as well. I’m excited about the Lakers again, and I am looking forward to seeing how this all plays out. I really think this is Kobe’s last real chance at a title, and watching this unfold is going to be a lot fun.
DP: Why would D’Antoni give the Lakers a better chance of winning than Phil Jackson. Dude has a championship for each finger, and then one (who knows where he puts that one). I really believe the Lakers hired D’Antoni because they wouldn’t have been able to afford Jackson. They have to pay Mike Brown not to coach and you know Jackson was going to cost a pretty penny to come back. I know LA has all this money and everything, but they need to re-sign Dwight Howard, they’re probably going to trade Pau Gasol and I think they need some sort of scoring threat off the bench other than Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks. But you know Steve Nash has to like that hire. I guess if your point guard/floor general is happy, then you made the right decision.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Chris Manning, Dan Pilar and Zachary Kolesar have to discuss at the “Weekly Roundtable.”