Welcome to the thirty-eighth installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This Friday Jerry Bulone and Trevor Magnotti sit down and discuss the latest trending topics concerning your Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA. The combination of rotating RDE duos answer three questions regarding the hometown Wine and Gold and two questions surrounding the league.
Today the discussion revolves around end-of-the-season grades, future expectations for Dion Waiters and Andre Drummond, players backing Coach Scott, Western Conference playoff race and predictions for Defensive Player of the Year.
First Question: If you were to grade the Cavaliers season, what letter would you give them?
Jerry Bulone: C-, and I feel I am being very kind. Lets look at what we accomplished Tristan Thompson, and Kyrie took good second year jumps in their development, we acquired another 1st round pick, Spieghts, and Ellington, and Waiters and Zeller appear to be for the most part “as advertised”. However that’s where the positives end. The Cavs continue to blow lead after lead, are the 4th worst team in the NBA and now Coach Scott may finally have to pay. They also failed to unload Gibson, Walton (7 mil expiring contract), or Casspi for any compensation (though I am sure teams were not lining up to acquire them). So there are reasons to be excited about the future of this club, but as far as progress this season we are in the exact spot we were at this time last year—watching ugly basketball and waiting for the lottery.
Trevor Magnotti: C. Given the circumstances, the Cavs haven’t been awful by any means. Any team that loses their defensive anchor 30 games into the season, then has to play large portions of the season without their best player and their second-best perimeter scorer, is going to struggle. I liked what I saw from Irving and Thompson, have a lot of hope for Zeller and Waiters, and the future looks bright without Casspi, Walton, and Gibson on roster, and with the plethora of cap space and picks available. This season wasn’t supposed to be pretty. The Cavs are set up nicely for the future, and that’s what keeps this grade from being lower.
Second Question: Which rookie will have a bigger impact next season: Dion Waiters or Andre Drummond?
JB: I have to go with Waiters. Drummond has been good in spots, however Waiters was at one point a viable possibility for rookie of the year. Drummond was never that, he has mainly come off the bench and is an inconsistent scorer at best. He is a good defensive player averaging 7.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 20 minutes a game, and may end up being the better player, but for now it’s Waiters.
TM: Drummond. He’s going to be a monster defensively, which is huge for this Pistons team that really struggles with the concept. If you can be this good defensively in your first NBA season, while you adjust to the complexities of NBA defense and the extreme talent increase on the offensive end, it typically shows up that you’re going to improve into an even better defensive player in your second season. I mean, look at this comparison in per 36 minute and advanced defensive stats. Drummond is already arguably a better defensive player than Dikembe Mutombo, one of the greatest defensive centers ever, was in his rookie season. Waiters has the potential to be a really good scorer for the Cavaliers, but generally guys that are this good defensively in their rookie year (And Drummond’s only 19!!!) turn into defensive studs. Put it this way; I think Waiters has the potential to be an All-Star. I think Drummond has the potential to be Defensive Player of the Year.
Third Question: How important is it that players like Tristan Thompson are endorsing Coach Scott during this tough end-of-the-season stretch?
JB: I don’t think it is that important, I mean don’t get me wrong, it can’t hurt but at the end of the day, I think Chris Grant and company already have their mind made up. When you start listening to players that’s when you get in trouble, and Grant is too smart for that. Bottom line this is a results based league, the players may say they have Scott’s back, but when you go out and blow a 20 point lead with nine minutes left in the game, actions speak louder than words. The notion that Scott may get fired is far from ridiculous, it’s a real (and I think likely) possibility.
TM: It’s nice to see. I agree with Jerry that it likely won’t have bearing on what the Cavs’ front office decides to do, but still, when a coach is on a hot seat, it’s better to see guys like Thompson being supportive of the coach rather than have the players blast the coach or avoid questions about it. I think Byron Scott is the right person for this team, for now. And really, if the players want him here, I think that management would be silly to cut ties with him while the players stick behind him.
Fourth Question: Lakers or Jazz?
JB: The only reason this even matters to me is because of the Cavaliers pick. The Cavs will drop 13 spots if the Lakers do not get in. My gut tells me the Lakers will sneak in, by the skin of their teeth, however I think Utah is the better team, and they are younger (a lot younger). I heard Charles Barkley on the Dan Patrick show talk about this very question, and as always he had a very strong opinion. He basically said, he never cares about who wins the eighth seed because “they ain’t gonna do nothing anyway, and this year is no exception”
TM: Neither? I guess I want the Lakers in because of the Cavs getting their pick, but I really dislike watching both teams. The Lakers are a freaking circus, and I don’t want even more coverage of this team than we get now. That, and Kobe not making the playoffs would be hilarious to me. The Jazz, meanwhile, aren’t entertaining at all to watch, and coach Tyrone Corbin’s lineup rotations are hilariously bad. Seriously? Marvin Williams has started 26 more games than Gordon Hayward this season? Honestly, the Spurs are going to steamroll whoever makes it in as the 8th seed, but there’s more in it for the Cavs if the Lakers get in, so I guess they’re preferable.
Fifth Question: End of the season awards: Who do you think will win Defensive Player of the Year?
JB: I am going to go with Serge Ibaka. He has always been a great defender and is leading the league in blocks with over three a night. Howard is still probably the better overall defender, but this year Ibaka has been a little more consistent (and far less dramatic).
TM: Marc Gasol, and I will not accept any alternative. Gasol’s defensive prowess isn’t quantifiable in the box score, but I encourage you to watch a Grizzlies game in the playoffs and focus on Gasol. His defensive rotations are superb. He’s a brilliant on-ball defender in the paint. His rebounding positioning is amazing. His team gives up almost seven more points/100 possessions with him off the floor. Gasol is the best defensive center in the league this season, and is my pick for Defensive Player of the Year, as well as my All-NBA 1st Team center. the guy deserves it.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Jerry Bulone and Zak Kolesar have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”