When big news breaks in the NBA, Right Down Euclid has you covered. In this edition of “Countertop Conversation,” contributors Chris Manning and Dan Pilar discuss the latest injury to Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving.
Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is now out for 3-4 weeks with a left shoulder sprain suffered against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night. Speculation has already begun about Irving being an injury-prone player and how it could effect the Cavaliers moving forward. Below Chris and Dan discuss that topic, as well as what type of player fits next to Irving long term.
Chris Manning; With Kyrie Irving out for 3-4 weeks with a shoulder sprain, it’s quite possible that we’ve seen the last of the young star this season. And if I had any pull within the Cavaliers organization, it would be the last time he plays this season. He’s taken a beating this season and it’s a good move for the future to give him some rest. It’s not worth it to risk him long term by playing him injured – even if he ends up being labeled injury prone.
Dan Pilar: He said last night that it hurt like hell. And I get that everyone wants to shut him down since he’s going to miss three to four weeks. But with shutting him down this season you won’t achieve what you wanted this year – getting Irving and Dion Waiters to gel together. Waiters has played well this season, and we know he can ball, but it just seems like Waiters plays best when Irving isn’t in the game. Which, in a way, is good I guess that we can get offensive production when Irving is on the bench. But it’s more important to get them to play well when they’re in the game together. It will be on those two to get together in the summer and work on their game together.
CM: I couldn’t agree more. Moving forward it’s essential that Irving and Waiters develop into a formidable tandem. As it stands now, Waiters is the right-hand man to Irving. It could turn out to be Tristan Thompson, but I’m not sure he’ll ever develop into a consistent potent offensive threat. He has developed a nice push shot and a hook, but that’s not exactly enough to make him a go to score on the low block. But on the other hand, I still don’t think it’s worth it to play Irving and risk him. He’s the star of this team and truly one of the league’s premier up-and-coming talents. They need him healthy for next season, the year after and so on. Why play him now when these games really don’t mean anything in the long run?
DP: Trust me I get it – we’re still in the rebuilding progress. But when is enough enough? If Irving keeps getting hurt, do we keep shutting him down and keep worrying about a higher draft pick? Obviously a higher draft pick is better, but when is this team going to worry about winning rather than rebuilding? Next year? That sounds like a typical Cleveland fan. And with Irving getting hurt so much and being “injury prone,” do we draft another guard to protect the franchise from more of Irving’s injuries? Or do we just draft based on need? These are the types of decisions that build good franchises, and if they aren’t handled correctly, it leaves you as a bottom dweller and lottery team year-after-year.
CM: I agree with that sentiment about having to know when it the right time to go after contention, but with this year it’s totally worth it to rest him. If he rests for a month, he’ll come back with a whopping five games left in the season. For one, you can’t build chemistry in five games left and it’s likely their real chemistry is going to come from working together in the summer. And to discuss his injuries, I think these are kind of fluky injuries. They’ve occurred in situations that are just freak incidents and it’s not like this is one body part over and over again. That all considered, you draft for a combination of need and skill level. And in my opinion, the player in this draft that fits that the best is Otto Porter from Georgetown – a player Cleveland may not have been the position to draft with Irving in the lineup.
DP: Porter is a good player with great size and athleticism. I really think if Washington picks in front of us, which they currently are, then they will run to the podium to pick Porter. With Georgetown being in Washington D.C., this pick is a no brainer. However, if he is not there for us, we have to look at other players and let me ask you, do we draft based on talent or need? We are in line to sign Greg Oden to go along with Thompson, Zeller and Varejao. Speights can walk at the end of the year. Good chance Chris Grant will draft small-big like he has done in the past two drafts, which I would be a fan of. So many teams are getting out and running and playing with one big man, then surrounding him with four shooters. We even do it late in-game and have Alonzo Gee play the four, so it’s nothing unfamiliar to the Cavs. So drafting another guard might not seem smart now, but could work out in the end.
CM: I’m totally okay with taking another guard, but I don’t think our first pick (or our second potential first rounder) should be used on a point guard. A two guard like Shabazz Muhammed or Victor Olapipo (if available) would be interesting fits on this Cavaliers team. This team should be built around Irving without question. Take players to compliment Irving and have faith that he will be stay healthy. This draft really could be the draft where the Cavaliers start getting young and deep. Two first round picks gives them a lot of wiggle room to either take two players in the first round or package one to get a young talent. Let’s also remember that the Cavaliers will have a lot of cap space to go after a player or they can save it to invest in their core long term. I think the idea of selecting a player who could be a stretch four is ideal, especially if said player can run. That plays right into Irving’s skill set.
DP: I definitely don’t think they should draft a backup point guard; that shouldn’t even be a question. When Irving is on the bench resting, Waiters should be out on the court running the point. He has really impressed while Irving has been injured. Muhammed and Oladipo are both talented players. Their offensive stats speak for themselves. Both of them are around the 6-5 range, which makes me concerned that they can’t defend the small forward position. Oladipo can defend better than anyone in college basketball, but if you look at the Central Division in the East the small forwards are Luol Deng, Paul George, Luc Mbah A Moute and what was Tayshaun Prince, but now Kyle Singler. All of them are 6-8 or taller so they’re already giving up at least three inches.
CM: Which leads me to say that Porter, Alex Poythress or Anthony Bennett are logical picks for this team. Both are bigger and could move Gee to the bench as an ideal role player. The issue there is that Porter is the lone guy of that trio that may be good enough to consistently score from the wing. Let us also remember that at shooting guard, C.J. Miles and Wayne Ellington are both under the Cavaliers ‘control through next season, and both have been good additions to this squad. And I also think it’s worth giving Shaun Livingston a look as a long-term backup for Irving. I think he’s earned it and can be a solid veteran voice in the lockers. Dan, let’s end on these questions: What are the Cleveland Cavaliers without Kyrie Irving? Is there anyone on the roster who even has the potential to fill his already massive shoes and how worried about you about his long-term health? For me, there are some intriguing prospects, but no stars – no one on the roster is close to his level of ability and I’m somewhere in the middle on a scale of 1-10 – even if I sometimes need to remind myself that I don’t live in Philadelphia and Irving is not Andrew Bynum.
DP: I really like all three of those guys you just mentioned. Poythress gets the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist comparison because of the Kentucky connection, but I really see similarities in their game. Both won’t light it up form outside, but are big strong guys who can move really well and defend with the best. Bennett stands at only 6-8, so he doesn’t have great size for a power forward, but he has a seven-foot wingspan ,which leads me to believe he’ll be fine in the NBA.
Without Irving, the Cavs are nothing special. Irving brings that sexiness to the team that puts fear in the eyes of an opponent. And without him, I believe Waiters is right behind him to take over if Irving can’t. He sometimes takes stupid shots, but I trust him with the ball. The next draft pick, whomever it may be, has to be able to defend and hit the open shot. Two things we were hoping Gee could do, but he can’t consistently do both on a nightly basis.