Before free agent acquisitions C.J. Miles and Jarrett Jack came into the picture, the Cleveland Cavaliers guard core was looking pretty ugly with one true solid ball handler in Kyrie Irving, an unproven shooter in Dion Waiters and a sliding combo guard in Daniel Gibson. Now, it seems like all of those problems are deep in the team’s past. Jack is going to be able to give Kyrie the ability to play more off the ball, our star player is going to be able to rest with confidence, our starting two guard will (hopefully) come into the 2013-14 more disciplined and our wing off the bench in Miles will be an above average perimeter contributor. These are all a part of best-case scenarios, as nothing is guaranteed until the ball is officially in the air. However, the Cavs look promising (for once) on paper, and there’s reason to talk about it because there is very little to talk about at this point in the offseason. A guard rotation of Irving/Waiters/Jack/Miles has the possibility of creating limitless scoring opportunities, although these men will definitely be tested on the defensive end. The scoring and distribution is down pat, and the numbers from last season prove this despite Jack not being a member of the quartet yet.
Statistically off the bench, C.J. had a season not to be ashamed of last year. In a per 40 minutes situation, Miles posted the best scoring numbers of his career (21.4) and the top player efficiency rating (15.38). What he is going to have to improve on if this rotation wants to work fluidly is his shot selection. On three-point attempts, Miles shot 38.4 percent. That was by far one of the highest marks of his eight-year career, and that was with putting up 5.0 shots from that length. That’s not going to work in this new offense, so Miles is going to have to be much more consistent from long range or stick to attacking the bucket if he wants to maximize his playing time.
Despite struggling earlier on in the season with his stroke, Miles finished the year with a 41.5 field goal percentage and ann 86.9 percent mark from the charity stripe. These are respectable numbers granted the ups and downs that C.J. experienced in his first campaign in Wine and Gold. Miles will benefit from other weapons being added to the Cleveland arsenal, leaving him lower on the priority list for opposing defenses. The one man that will help his long range in terms of hooking him up with open looks is Jack. This second unit backcourt will be one of the strongest points off the bench this upcoming season.
What is most intriguing about Jack from the stat sheet is his ability to find the open man and create buckets. Last season, Jack posted an assist ratio of 28.5, meaning that that was the percentage of Jack’s possessions that ended in an assist. He also recorded his second highest points per 40 minutes, with a mark of 17.4.
The most lethal part of Jack’s offensive game lies in his mid-range game and beyond. From the left shoulder, Jack shoots a smoldering 51.1 percent. That’s not saying his 44.8 percent from the right should isn’t anything to write home about, the further out you go out on his shot chart it gets more impressive. From the top of the three-point arc last season Jack shot 42 percent and also shot 47.1 percent from the right corner. His long-range game paired with that of Kyrie’s will make Irving-Jack one of the most lethal offensive guard tandems in the Eastern Conference. He has trouble with finishing, but that won’t be much of a problem with efficient slashers like Irving, Miles on Waiters in the guard rotation.
Waiters, however, may be the biggest question mark out of the guard rotation. His 14.7 points per game was an impressive average for a rookie, but even though he flourished on the scoring end of the floor, he’s going to have to obviously make improvements on the defensive end and become a more efficient shooter. Dion ranked 161st out of 177 players with a 45.1 percent efficient field goal percentage and ranked 270th in true shooting percentage with a mark of 49.2 percent. To put that into perspective, Alonzo Gee came it just above Dion with a true shooting percentage of 50.5 percent. So it’s not justifiable for Cavs fans to be mad that Waiters was left off of Bradford Doolittle’s list of top 10 SGs for the 2013-14 season with some youngsters such as Bradley Beal and Klay Thompson earning spots or honorable mentions.
The aformentioned players are the guys that Dion is supposed to be competing with for NBA supremacy, and during his short time in the League thus far, he hasn’t been able to live up to the hype. Remember now, the hype surrounding the former Syracuse sixth man is different, as Waiters comes from a background in heralded coach Jim Boeheim’s system in which he sports a zone defense and he had Dion coming off the bench during his two seasons. Now even though a lot of us feel that Dion is better suited for this destination in his current situation, the shoe just doesn’t fit at the moment. As far as the guard rotation goes, this team will have to make due with what it has, but the bigger question marks rest on the shoulders of a breakout season from the Cavs’ shining sophomore.
The one player we haven’t touched a lot on happens to be the one that takes most of the attention on the court away from others. We know Kyrie’s problems stem, like Dion’s, from the defensive hierarchy, but that’s what Mike Brown was brought in to fix. You see the 55.9 effective field goal percent, 21.3 points and 9.1 assists given up per 48 minutes, but what he lacks on defense he more than makes up for on offense. His clutch scoring — 53.8 points per 48 minutes in clutch time — led the league with dominant show stoppers such as Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant trailing behind him. Because of this talent to totally control the outcome of the game by overloading defenses in the waning moments of a game, Kyrie will continue to be the glue that holds this guard rotation together. As of now, this group looks like it’s going to be one cohesive bunch.