Welcome to the sixty-seventh installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This weekend 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 Andrew Bynum rumors, four-guard lineups for the Wine & Gold, Chris Grant’s job security, the rise of the Raptors and bold predictions for the New Year.
First Question: After the news of Bynum being suspended indefinitely from the Cavaliers, what scenario do you think is most likely involving the seven-footer?
Trevor Magnotti: I think they keep him until the deadline. For all intents and purposes, he’s an expiring contract, and even if the Cavs do end up shelling out $6 million for him if they can’t deal him by next week, they could still use him as a piece of a trade for a long-term piece. Because any team can waive him immediately to save cap space, he’d be very useful for a team like the Lakers, Bulls, Nets, or Thunder, who want to avoid luxury taxes. I think if he’s dealt, it’s likely to be in a deal for Luol Deng or Pau Gasol, or potentially even Paul Pierce from the Nets.
Zak Kolesar: I would love to see something worked out with the Nets, and Pierce does make the most sense because he has already expressed disdain of the mess in Brooklyn. But, as Trevor pointed out first and foremost, the most likely scenario will be that the Cavs will end up keeping him, thus owing him the extra $6 million promised in his contract if he’s kept on the team past Jan. 6. Talks with the Lakers won’t heat up in time before this date, and I don’t think anything was ever going to happen involving Pau. If the Cavaliers are involved in a trade during this season, it won’t involve Bynum.
Second Question: Mike Brown has been experimenting with a lot of four-guard lineups as of late. What are your thoughts of his recent management of the roster?
TM: With the way Andy has been hitting the glass lately, I’m all for it. Varejao’s averaging 14.6 rebounds per game over his last five outings when Brown has thrown most of these guard lineups out there. These looks are also spreading the floor quite nicely to let Kyrie and Dion drive to the hoop, because with four guards and Andy on the elbow, it creates a wide-open lane, which we saw last night when Waiters hit that game-tying bucket on a drive. The top two one-post lineups the Cavs have used over the past five games have been with Bennett, Zeller, Waiters, Jack, and either Dellavedova or Kyrie, and both of these lineups have been net positive lineups in limited minutes. I’m all for using the “four scorers, one post” lineups, especially if Varejao is the five in these sets, because it doesn’t appear to hurt the team’s overall rebounding, and these lineups have worked out okay.
ZK: I don’t think Brown has struck gold by any means yet with his roster jumbling, but I have noticed some things that have been working, but also haven’t been utilized as much as they should. For starters, in regards to the stagnant offensive pace, one player that has helped to energize the movement on offense is C.J. Miles. Miles said himself that he is trying to do different things on the court than what he is normally used to in order to find what will help his team come out on top. Whether this is taking less field goal attempts per game, pushing the pace of the offense by creating turnovers on the defensive end or cutting under the basket to keep opposing defenses busy, Miles has shown that he is taking his role as a starter seriously. I would like to see more four-guard lineups consisting of him and Delly because of their vigor. Any combo of Jack and Waiters, Iriving and Waiters or Irving and Jack paired with the aforementioned hard-working guards and Varejao will really up the offensive efficiency of the Cavs, and isn’t that horrible of a defensive lineup as well.
Third Question: Do you think Chris Grant survives 2014 as GM of the Cavaliers?
TM: I definitely think he should, as I clearly outlined here last week. Grant’s drafting hasn’t been that bad over the course of his tenure, and his trading has been nothing short of wizardry. You can question his work in free agency all you want, but this was really Grant’s first foray into major spending, and he honestly didn’t swing and miss as much as Cavs fans like to believe. I think whether he is or isn’t fired is ultimately up to Dan Gilbert, which I don’t want to predict because we all know Gilbert is impulsive and irrational. However, I fully support giving Grant another summer in his current position, especially if the Cavs aren’t drafting with a high pick again, because I want to see his gameplan with, say, the 10th overall pick.
ZK: A piece that went up today by our very own Mike Schreiner detailing the strengths and weaknesses of Chris Grant’s time with the Cavaliers has me going with a more pessimistic view of Grant’s job security this year. Do we trust the man with another offseason of spending and drafting when this team was supposed to be a close playoff contender by this point in the season? I think his time should have been up by now, and I don’t want him around long enough to see what bizarre move he will make next in free agency and/or the draft in 2014. Free agency in 2013 was the over-the-edge point for me, as the signings of Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark and Andrew Bynum have only produced four more wins than this team had at the same point last season, and that was seven games after Varejao went down with a season-ending injury. I expected to see more improvement from this team thanks to the complimentary pieces he signed in the offseason, but I can’t argue with some of the deals (Clark and Bynum could be gone before or after the end of this season) and trades he has made. But what of them? He won’t get the boot because of the low risks he has taken (sans drafting Bennett No. 1), but I definitely think he should. Results should have been apparent by now.
Fourth Question: The Raptors have been “out here like Michael Phelps” since dealing Rudy Gay to the Kings. How good can this Toronto offense be in 2014?
TM: The Raptors are 8-3 since the Rudy Gay trade, and have beaten the Thunder, Pacers, and Bulls twice over that stretch. In that span, they have been the second-best defense in the league, allowing only 97.9 points/100 possessions, and their offense has been slightly better as well. Their starting lineup since inserting Terrence Ross has been their best rebounding lineup and one of their most efficient offensive lineups of the season. Also, Ross has blossomed in his starting role, averaging 14 points per game and hitting 45 percent from deep since the trade. All of this looks for real, and makes logical sense. The team had no direction on either end with Rudy Gay, and it’s no surprise that they are experiencing much more freedom offensively without Gay’s hulking 30.4 Usage Rating that was 4th in the league. I’m a little skeptical of this team’s rebounding still, and their offense isn’t much better without Gay even if it has improved. They have a rough four-game stretch against the Wizards, Heat, Pacers, and Pistons coming up, and I want to see how they do here before I completely judge them. Remember, the Raptors also looked much better post-Gay trade for a stretch last season. I’m not going to call them for real just yet, but they’ve been fun and look like they finally have direction for the first time in the Demar DeRozan era.
ZK: The Raptors have had one of the most brutal schedules in the Eastern Conference since dealing Rudy Gay, and they haven’t flinched a bit in regards to tanking talks. It’s easy to tell which teams are for winning and which teams would rather take an L to increase their chances of receiving a top-5 pick in this year’s draft. As Trevor pointed out, even though this team is moving the ball around much better than they were with Gay in the lineup, the defense is allowing 91.4 points in the eight games (not including two overtime matchups against the Bobcats and Mavericks) with their acquired additions from the Kings. Only one loss has occurred during that eight-game sample, and over the total 11 games without Gay, point guard Kyle Lowry has upped his APG to 8.7 from a 7.4 season average. Now at .500, the third spot in the East is theirs for the taking.
Fifth Question: With a New Year upon us, what is your bold prediction for the remainder of the 2013-14 season?
ZK: The Oklahoma City Thunder will not make the Western Conference Championship for the second-straight season, even with a healthy Russell Westbrook. Every team currently in the playoff picture in the East will be there in some form or another come mid-April.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Trevor Magnotti and Chris Manning have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”