Weekly Roundtable: Ceiling for Waiters, Zeller’s struggles and rest for Spurs

Jan 7, 2013; Rosemont, IL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller (40) moves the ball past Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the forty-third installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This Friday Trevor Magnotti and Zak Kolesar 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 Dion Waiters’ sophomore season, Kyrie Irving’s Olympic chances, Tyler Zeller’s areas for improvement, who will win between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat and San Antonio’s resting period.

Cavaliers Corner

First Question: Will the improvement that we see from Dion Waiters next season be greater than what he saw with Tristan between his freshman and sophomore seasons?

Trevor Magnotti: This is a tough question to answer, simply because with the coaching change, we don’t know how that will affect what Dion Waiters’ role in the offense will be. We’re definitely going to see better defense from Waiters in year two, that is a given. He also will probably see some shooting percentage gains as he learns better shot selection and becomes more comfortable in the NBA. However, what we saw with Tristan Thompson probably isn’t replicable. Duplicating Thompson’s statistical jumps from year one to year two (I used Thompson’s FG% jump for Waiters 3-point% as well):

12-13 Waiters: 14.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3 APG, 41.2 FG%, 31.0 3PT%, 74.6 FT% 99 ORtg

13-14 Waiters: 21.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 7.6 APG, 45.8 FG%, 34.5% 3PT%, 84.2 FT%, 109 ORtg

So Waiters, with the same statistical jumps TT made last season, suddenly becomes Dwyane Wade. I’m a tad skeptical of this happening in one season, with a new head coach. While I don’t think that’s an unreasonable end goal for Waiters, I don’t see him replicating Thompson’s jumps. Also, that makes Thompson’s jumps that more impressive.

Zak Kolesar: That’s some very good analysis right there. Just take a look at Tristan Thompson’s jumps from year one to year two just for comparison:

11-12 Thompson: 8.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 3.4 DRPG, 43.9 FG %, 25 GS, 23.7 MPG

12-13 Thompson: 11.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 5.7 DRPG, 48.8 FG%, 82 GS, 31.3 MPG

Thompson will continue to improve on these numbers going into next season, and I expect him to be at or just above 50 percent shooting from the field. He will only continue to add tricks to his offense, and that makes him more of a threat down low, which will only help with his field goal percentage. This is because Thompson was much more raw when he came into the league, and new head coach Mike Brown will help Tristan polish his defensive game, which is apparent that it needs fixing. Depending on whom the Cavaliers draft at No. 1, I don’t think that Waiters’ numbers will improve that drastically if they take a guy like Otto Porter in the draft.

Second Question: Do you think Kyrie will make a strong case for starting PG on the Olympic squad this summer?

TM: With basically all of Team USA’s quality point guards nursing knee injuries, the options suddenly become Deron Williams, John Wall and Kyrie Irving. All three have games that would transfer well to the international game, and that’s a solid core to have, even without Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. I think Irving is the best option due to his abilities to get to the rim and from three, and I don’t think he’d have a problem fitting in with elite teammates. Especially after he roasted everyone at the try-outs last year, Irving will get a long look with USA basketball.

ZK: Even though Stephen Curry’s name isn’t being mentioned too much for this spot, I think his performance in the playoffs really helped his chances of landing on Coach K’s squad. Irving has the advantage over a guy like Curry, however, because of his ankle-breaking handles that had players like James Harden and Kevin Durant spinning around on the court last summer and his former relationship with the Duke Blue Devils head coach. I think it will be one of the young guys like Wall or Irving before it would be someone like Deron Williams, but what is known is that guys like Irving, Wall and Damian Lillard will be competing for future PG supremacy in Las Vegas this summer.

Third Question: What should Tyler Zeller be doing this offseason to improve on what he lacked this past season?

TM: Zeller needs to get better defensively. This is not negotiable. If he is going to be an effective NBA player, he can’t be as bad defensively as he was last season. Particularly, if Zeller can get better defending post players like Zach Randolph, he will be a much bigger asset moving forward. He should take some time to work with Mike Brown, a fairly effective post defender himself when he played, and the man who helped Anderson Varejao develop such a solid post presence. On the offensive side, Zeller found a real niche as a pick-and-pop weapon late in the season, as he’s an effective screener and has a decent mid-range game, shooting nearly 36 percent from 16 feet to the three-point line last season. If he can keep working on his mid-range game and the Cavs draft Nerlens Noel, that gives Kyrie Irving two legitimate weapons in high screen situations and makes the Cavs incredibly hard to defend in this offense. If Zeller wants to remain a key part of this team, this is where he should start.

ZK: I think everyone would agree with this thinking. Dan Pilar brought up a good point in his article persuading people to not look in Nerlens’ direction in the draft due to the fact that his less bulky frame leaves him susceptible to Central Division centers like Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe/Andre Drummond (and remember how bad Zeller got torched by Drummond that one night last season?). Those are opponents that Cleveland will be seeing very frequently, so it’s best that Zeller works on getting bigger in the weight room if he wants to survive on this team and at all. We saw his jumper get better toward the end of the season, but now I want to see a fiercer Zeller whenever he bumps with the cream of the centers in his sophomore season. This will only happen if he sturdies up his lanky frame.

NBA Roundup

Fourth Question: Who will emerge victorious in the Indiana-Miami series?

TM: Miami. I think Thursday night’s third quarter explosion from LeBron James and Udonis Haslem was the dagger in this series. Miami completely demoralized the Pacers in last night’s game, and even if Indiana wins Game 6, which I think is highly unlikely, do you really see anyone beating Miami at home in a Game 7? I certainly don’t. I think it’s going to be a question of when Miami closes out this series, not if. They won last night pretty handily without Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh playing that well and got no real bench scoring contributions. We’re getting Heat/Spurs in the Finals, and I’m really quite okay with this.

ZK: I said Indiana in seven, so I’m going to stick with Indiana in seven. However, I agree that you’re right in saying that missing 11 of their 13 shots in the third quarter and allowing LeBron to convert on seven of his 10 attempts from the field should be enough to deflate Indiana the rest of the way, but I think what we saw on Thursday night was LeBron channeling his inner freak. I don’t think this is something that can be worked up every night, even though he is the best player on the planet. With the struggles that Wade and Bosh had in Games 4 and 5 (shooting 46.5 percent from the field this series and shot 33.3 percent over those last two games), it is very possible that this could deter them from winning Game 6 in Indiana. No team in the NBA has dominated the Heat at times like the Indiana Pacers have. Against Miami in the playoffs, Roy Hibbert has averaged 22.6 points and 10.8 rebounds, while shooting 54.7 percent from the field, and David West has averaged 18.2 points and 8.4 points. Going into the series, Hibbert and West coming up big was going to be the key to Indiana reaching the Finals. If they can muster out two more dominant defensive performances and beat up Miami down low in the paint, then I believe that Indiana can win in Miami.

Fifth Question: Is San Antonio at more of an advantage resting right now going into the Finals?

TM: I hate the resting question. I don’t think it matters. In the Playoffs, if one team is rested but the other team is more talented, the more talented team should win regardless. This article from 2009 shows a bit of an advantage but also says that more often than not the team with more rest wins in the Conference Finals. However, it also states that the best indicator of playoff success is an advantage of more than five wins in regular season record. This is probably a little too simplistic, but I’m going off of this: The Spurs have 58 wins. The Heat have 66 wins. That’s a difference of 8 wins, so rest won’t be a factor.

ZK: Nice research. Anyways, I think that Gregg Popovich has had his team in too much of a rhythm for so long that the only thing that matters is that the same consistent team will come out onto the floor every night during the Finals. Tim Duncan puts up drone-like numbers as always, Tony Parker has been a magnificent leader in the playoffs thus far and Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have proven that they can be efficient complimentary players when need be. Sweeping Memphis may have some thinking that it stalled their momentum that they were building up after a tough series with the Golden State Warriors, but the Spurs have been here too many times to let something like rest get them out of their groove.

Make sure to check back next week to see what Trevor Magnotti and Chris Manning have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”

Topics: Cleveland Cavaliers, Dion Waiters, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller

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