What Could Cavs Have Done Differently?

Now that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season has ended with a sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, it is time for a look back at some of the reasons the season was filled with ups and downs.

One of the things that failed Cleveland in the Finals was their defense.  The Warriors shot 51.3% for the four games, and shot 60.5% from inside the arc, a whopping percentage.

Many of these shots were uncontested layups and dunks by the Warriors’ “non-stars”. JaVale McGee shot 16 of 20 from the floor, Shaun Livingston was 13 of 15, Jordan Bell was 10 for 14.  That’s 39 of 49 from that trio alone.

McGee in particular got a whole bunch of easy shots because the Cavs couldn’t defend the high pick and roll, something they struggled with all season.

We have railed all season long about a solid defensive plan for the team, something it could hang it’s hat on.  As we have written previously, this lack of a basic defensive scheme came back to bite the wine and gold in the end.

The failure to manage LeBron James’ minutes also played a factor.  While James wanted to play in all 82 games for the first time in his career, he didn’t have to lead the league in minutes.

That also falls back on the coaching staff’s reluctance to build some kind of offense when The King was sitting on the bench.  We understand the plan was to put the ball in LeBron’s hands and let him orchestrate things, but when he wasn’t playing, there wasn’t a different attack.

That meant the Cavs struggled with James sitting, meaning coach Tyronn Lue had to rush him back in there to win games.

Early in the season, Cleveland was a veteran laden team, with Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Jae Crowder playing key roles.  Rose got injured and left the team for awhile, and Crowder never fit in to the way to play off of James.

Wade initially was a starter, but after a few games, found his niche as the leader of the second unit, and the Cavaliers took off.  We may never know what happened, but when the deals at the deadline were made, they involved Wade going home to Miami, which we feel everyone signed off on.

After those deals, it never seemed like the coaching staff involved or did anything to maximize the talents of Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, particularly the former. Larry Nance Jr. fit in because he’s instinctual and athletic.

And Cedi Osman, another good athlete already on the roster, and a contributor after the deals, never got back in the mix after he suffered a hip injury.

From game 42 through 52, Osman played at least 15 minutes every game, of which the Cavs won eight, and he averaged almost nine points, and 3. 5 rebounds per game.

After the injury, he played more than 15 minutes three times, a win over Washington, the loss to Philadelphia where the Cavaliers almost won after being down by 30, and the last game of the season.

Could Osman’s athleticism and basketball IQ have helped in the playoffs?  We won’t know because he played only in garbage time.

The failure of getting athletic young players like Hood, Clarkson, and Osman, and even Ante Zizic, a former first round pick, hurt the Cavs in The Finals.

These were things everyone was concerned about as the season went on, so much of this is not a second guess.

But if James returns to the Cavs next season, these things need to be addressed for the betterment of the franchise and more success going forward.

Being younger and having a smarter team will help going forward.

JK

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Two Wins Doesn’t Mean Cavs Are Good To Go

For the first time since mid December, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won two games in a row.  The consecutive victories came after coach Tyronn Lue moved Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup and moved Jae Crowder to the bench.

However, any thoughts that GM Koby Altman doesn’t need to make any moves heading into the February 8th trading deadline should be put to bed.  This roster still needs some revamping.

First, the two wins both came at Quicken Loans Arena, where the wine and gold haven’t had trouble winning this season.  They are 18-6 at home in 2017-18, one of the top ten records in the league this season.  The best records are San Antonio (21-4) and Toronto (18-4).

The Cavaliers aren’t too far off that pace.

Cleveland is 11-13 away from northeast Ohio.  Only seven teams have winning records on the road this season, but the Cavs are supposed to be an elite team.  The best records are by Golden State, Boston, Houston, Toronto, and Miami.

Outside of the Heat, those are teams who came into the year searching a championship.

The good teams in the NBA also win big.  The squads with the best records in games decided by 10 or more points are Toronto, Boston, Golden State, Houston, and Washington.  Cleveland is 8-11, in the lower half of the league.

This is not a team that looks like an elite team, at least right now.  So, management shouldn’t look at two victories, one over a Pistons team that has lost eight in a row, as a solution.

This basketball team still needs height.

The Cavs’ only true big men are Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, Channing Frye, and little used Ante Zizic.  None provide a deterrent to opponents who want to drive to the basket.

It is something the front office has ignored since the middle of last season, when Chris Andersen and Andrew Bogut went down with injuries.  It has to be addressed going forward.

We are sure that Lue would also be happy if some of the roster logjams are taken care of.  With Isaiah Thomas back, he has to divide up time for Thomas, Dwyane Wade, and Derrick Rose at the point.  For sure, Wade isn’t going anywhere, so moving one of the other two would clarify things.

Jeff Green has been a godsend to date, averaging in double figures in points (10.8) and is one of the few Cavs playing solid defense, but Lue can’t find minutes for Iman Shumpert, who hasn’t earned them, and Cedi Osman, who has.

And remember, in Sunday’s win over Detroit, neither Thomas, Rose, or Thompson played in the fourth quarter when the wine and gold put the game away.

Lue has problems fitting people into rotations, and the roster may be too deep because the coach can’t keep everyone happy.  Players like to know how they are going to be used, and it is difficult for Lue to make that happen.

So, with just a week ago before the trading deadline, Altman can’t be complacent, he has to realize this roster needs help to get to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year.

General Managers don’t usually get fooled by two games.  Here’s hoping Altman isn’t either.

JK

 

Not Ready To Give Up Hope That Cavs Can’t Win A Title.

Nothing incites panic around the sports city of Cleveland more than a Cavs regular season loss to the Golden State Warriors.

After Monday night’s defeat, the town was filled with talk ranging from the wine and gold having no chance to win a second title in three years to folks talking about how the Cavaliers should deal LeBron James before he can leave in free agency this summer.

Our belief from watching the two games, which were played within three weeks, is right now Cleveland is a little short, but both games were decided late.  The Christmas Day matchup was tied with a couple minutes remaining, while the Martin Luther King Day game was even into the fourth quarter.

It would be surprising if Koby Altman didn’t make a deal before the trading deadline, but everyone assumes such a transaction would involve a fourth star player to add to James, Isaiah Thomas, and Kevin Love.

That may not necessarily be the case.

We believe the team needs an upgrade on the wing, where JR Smith has declined from the title team of 2015-16.  Getting a player like Kent Bazemore from Atlanta (12.5 points, 39% from three, a very good defender) would be an upgrade.

Maybe you could swing a deal to bring Bazemore and C Dewayne Dedmon (10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 41% from three) to the team, upgrading the team at both the wing and getting a rim protector.

Or you good get Nerlens Noel and Wesley Matthews from Dallas, a duo that would accomplish the same task.

Getting players such as these would give Cleveland a better chance against the Warriors because it would improve them, or at least should improve them defensively.

Of course, improving the team’s defensive scheme would be a step in the right direction as well.  If you don’t think the philosophy is an issue, just check the performance of Jae Crowder last year in Boston, and Kyrie Irving’s defense a year ago in Cleveland.

As for the organization’s biggest prize, the first round pick from Brooklyn, we would consider giving up that pick for a young player who is under contract for two or three more years, or at least isn’t an unrestricted free agent during that span.

After all, a player who is already good is better than one who might be good, because the latter describes most draft picks.

While we understand that Tyronn Lue likes to play with pace, we would rather see a different tact against the Warriors.

We would slow the game down on offense, and try to establish an inside power game vs. Golden State, being very physical with them.  Let James operate the offense out of the post, and whoever is being guarded by Stephen Curry needs to take him to the basket at all costs.

Why not take a page out of the 80’s Celtics playbook vs. the Showtime Lakers?

Playing fast is what Golden State does, and if you try to match them, we feel you will lose more often than not, because they are better at it than you are.

Because the games were close late, we feel some creative minor tinkering would be enough to make a possible fourth straight Finals’ matchup competitive and one the Cavaliers could win.

We refuse to think any team is unbeatable.  No doubt, the Warriors are good, in fact, they are a great team.  They aren’t perfect, though.

It’s up to Lue, James, and the wine and gold organization to put together the plan and the talent to knock them off.

JK

 

Yesterday’s Cavs Loss Makes Us Feel Good.

There are so many ways to look at yesterday’s Christmas Day match up of what is currently the NBA’s hottest rivalry, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.

Yes, the defending champs won at home, 99-92, but this was a tie game with two minutes remaining, and the Warriors got an offensive rebound and Klay Thompson converted a three pointer to put Golden State up for good.

We understand that Stephen Curry did not play for Steve Kerr’s group, but Isaiah Thomas has yet to suit up for Tyronn Lue, and both should be ready for the rematch at Quicken Loans Arena next month.

The Cavs hung in this game despite shooting just 31.8% for the game, and made just 3 of 24 shots in the second quarter.

Yes, the Warriors are good defensively, but they aren’t making a habit of making teams shoot this poorly on a night to night basis.  There was a little bad luck for the wine and gold shooting that poorly.

Still, despite this inability to put the ball in the cylinder, the wine and gold were in the game to the end.

From a Cleveland standpoint, it was also the first time several Cavs played in a battle between these two teams, and many of those newbies didn’t do well yesterday, something we expect to change going forward.

The Cavs’ bench, normally one of the league’s best, made just 6 of 26 shots, and Dwyane Wade, a veteran of this kind of intensity, made four of those shots.  Jeff Green, who has been solid all season, had a poor game.

However, Jae Crowder responded with a 15 point, six rebound afternoon, and responded well to the physicality during the game.

And of course, no Cavs-Warriors game would be complete without the officiating coming into question.  Kevin Durant’s non-called fouls against James down the stretch reminded us of the game five no call in last year’s Finals, when he hit James in the head on a drive, which would have been his third foul (in the second quarter), but it was ignored by the officials.

One decision Lue and his staff have to ponder is the role of Tristan Thompson going forward.  Cleveland is 18-3 when Thompson plays less than six minutes in a game this season, and 6-7 when he is on the court longer.

With the emergence of Kevin Love playing center, and the effectiveness of the second unit when Channing Frye is out there, it is tough to see where Thompson fits.

By the way, didn’t Love put to rest the notion he can’t play against Golden State with yesterday’s 31 point, 18 rebound performance?

Back to Thompson, he doesn’t seem to fit with the Cavs anymore.  His main strength on defense was being able to switch on pick and rolls, but the team is doing better with that as a whole.

Offensively, with spacing being a huge deal in James and Wade being able to penetrate, Thompson doesn’t have to be guarded, because even after six years in the league, he still cannot knockdown a shot from outside of five feet.

Thompson played just 11 minutes yesterday, getting two points and six boards.  Frye did not play.  We wonder what he could have brought to the table on a day the Cavs were having problems making shots.

All that aside, yesterday’s game showed the Cavs probably are better suited to handle the Warriors next summer than they were a year ago, which is what management wanted.

Still, by the time next June rolls around, and if the two teams meet for a fourth straight year with the title on the line, it could be a different situation.

Cavs’ fans should continue to enjoy the chase, and long forward to Thomas’ debut, which will probably be this week.

JK

 

 

Best Thing For Cavs’ Defense? Make Shots.

There is no question that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense has been hugely disappointing so far in this young NBA season.

And the biggest thing needed to help the defense might be for the Cavs to start making shots.

That seems ridiculous, right?

Let’s start with the fact that the Cavs’ transition defense is terrible.  Besides giving up easy layups on fast break opportunities, the new NBA has three point shooters spotting up in transition, and they are getting wide open opportunities.

In the wine and gold’s four victories this season, the lowest shooting percentage for the team was an Opening Night 45.8% vs. Boston.  In the other three games, the Cavs shot over 50%.

In their five losses, they shot 50% or better in just one game, the loss last Wednesday night to Indiana.

Overall, Cleveland ranks 5th in the NBA in field goal percentage, but that is misleading because LeBron James has started the season on fire.

James has been taking roughly a quarter of the team’s shots (23.1%), and he is making a crazy 61% of those attempts.

However Kevin Love, who has taken the next most shots, is hitting just 41.4% of his attempts.  Derrick Rose is third in attempts per game, and is making 50%, but he has missed four games, and the Cavs lost three of those contests.

It gets worse from there, though.

Dwyane Wade is making just 40.3%, Jae Crowder is hitting on 39.7% of his shots, and JR Smith is at a horrific 27.4% total, and only 21% from behind the arc.

And those players rank 4th through 6th on the team in field goals attempted.

Combined, that sextet combines for 88% of the Cavaliers’ field goal attempts on the season.  And four of those players are in major shooting slumps.

When those guys start making more shots, and yes, we understand James won’t be able to maintain that torrid pace (we think), there will be less transition opportunities, which will help the defense.

That’s not the only thing that needs to improve.

For some reason, the Cavs’ organization seems to ignore the impact of having big men on the floor.

Even Golden State, for all of their small ball tendencies, still have made it a priority to have some size on the roster.  Besides Kevin Durant, they have Zaza Pachulia, JeVale McGee, and David West, and brought in rookie Jordan Bell, who Steve Kerr is giving some playing time.

Without Tristan Thompson available, coach Tyronn Lue needs to start giving rookie Ante Zizic some time because outside of Love and Jeff Green, he doesn’t have a lot of height on the roster.

Sometimes, we think the Cavs forget that height is a big factor in the sport of basketball.

We also believe the Cavaliers play too fast for their own good.

In 2015-16, Cleveland was 28th in pace and 10th in defensive efficiency.  That number dropped to 21st last season, with the Cavs ranking 15th in pace.

This season, albeit very early, Lue’s team ranks 14th in pace, and last in defense.  Perhaps some sort of compromise is in order.

We believe the shooting issues will take care of themselves.  Players like Love, Crowder, and Smith have proven track records of making shots.

The other issues are incumbent on the coaching staff.  There is a time to play bigger and slower, particularly with a roster that is one of the league’s oldest.

We will see if Lue can adjust.

JK

 

Cavs Having October Basketball Issues

The first week of the NBA season is a time for weird things to happen.

That’s why we aren’t too concerned with the performance of the Cleveland Cavaliers thus far.

Tyronn Lue’s team has struggled out of the gate, losing two of their last three, against a trio of teams expected to be also-rans this season, the Magic, Bulls, and Nets.

If we get to game 15, and the team is 8-7 and still struggling to show any consistency, then we may have some serious questions.

Remember that the Cavaliers have eight new faces on the roster, and three of those players, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, and Isaiah Thomas, have been battling injuries.

Rose might be more important to the team than originally thought.  The Cavs opened with two straight wins, but he left the latter of the two victories late with a sprained ankle and hasn’t played since.

In his absence, Lue tried Jose Calderon against Orlando, and as expected, the veteran struggled, particularly on defense.

So, the coach turned to LeBron James at the point, moving Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup.  That unit struggled on the defensive end as well, mainly because they struggle to defend the quickness of a traditional point guards.

Rose is supposed to return to the lineup Saturday night against New Orleans, and it will be interesting to see how his presence on the court affects the other players.

Lue has been highly critical of his defense, but last night, Jae Crowder played just 20 minutes, and Tristan Thompson was on the floor for just 22 minutes.

Those two are the wine and gold’s most accomplished defenders, so if Lue wants a defensive presence for his team, it should start by giving these two players more time.

Particularly Crowder, who can shoot the three and stretch the floor on offense.

On the other hand, we said a week ago that with all the new players on the roster, we knew it would take some time for Lue to develop a rotation that works, and that process was set back a week by the absences of Rose and Wade.

Having James miss most of the pre-season with a sprained ankle didn’t help the situation either.

And yes, we know the Cavs are the oldest team in the league, but that number is skewed by the presence of Channing Frye (34), Calderon (36), and Kyle Korver (36).  Out of that trio, only Korver figures to get a lot of playing time this season.

If you take Frye and Calderon out of the mix, Cleveland is very similar in age to San Antonio, Golden State, and Houston, the next three teams in this category.

Oh, by the way, those teams are all title contenders, just like the Cavs.

Our point is we don’t want to hear how the defensive problems are due to age.  The players getting the bulk of the playing time aren’t or shouldn’t be on their last legs.

We trust Lue to figure this out.

Let’s see what happens when Rose is back and Crowder gets more time on the floor.  If the Cavs win the next three games, and look good doing it, these last three games will be forgotten.

JK

 

 

 

 

Cavs’ Opener Just One Game, They Will Only Get Better.

The Cleveland Cavaliers started the defense of their Eastern Conference title by beating Boston 102-99 Tuesday night.

There is no question this is a very different team than last year, as Kyrie Irving is gone, and partially because of the deal which sent him to Boston, the roster is much deeper than a year ago.

They are also not a team that is as reliant on the three point shot as a year ago, but they still have the perimeter threats that are needed on a team where LeBron James is the best player on the roster.

Coach Tyronn Lue has Jae Crowder, JR Smith, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, and Channing Frye on the roster, and all of them are very good from beyond the arc.

However, whereas last year, just James and Irving could create their own shots, the wine and gold have Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade too, and the other night saw Smith showing something beside standing outside waiting for the ball to find him.

Any concerns about a three point win over a team that lost their second best player five minutes into the game should be excused right now as a team still learning how to play together and a coach still searching for the right combinations.

Many of already questioned Lue’s choice as a starting lineup, but does it really matter?  The bigger question is who will play at crunch time, and while Tuesday night it was the starters, something tells us that will change as the season continues.

We would expect Smith will be out there at the end of the game because of his defense and ability to stretch the floor.

And depending on the opponent, you could see a different combination upfront, but likely two of these three (Love, Crowder, and Tristan Thompson) will be out there with James and Rose.

In the first half, the defense looked much improved with everyone keeping their men in front of them.  And we thought Rose did a solid job denying Irving the ball in the last few minutes in the opener.

If Rose’s knee is sound, he will provide better defense at the point guard position than Cleveland received a year ago.

We are anxious to see how Lue divides the minutes going forward.

We would like to see James getting about 34-35 minutes per night, with Wade getting around 24 to keep them strong and fresh heading into the playoffs.

No doubt Thompson will get more than the 19 minutes he played in the lidlifter.

And we are sure the staff will put some things in to get Kyle Korver some shots when he is on the floor.

While much was made Tuesday night about the Celtics roster turnover, the Cavaliers are facing the same issue, but apparently since they have James, it is overlooked.

Lue started only two players (James and Love) that started a year ago.  And outside of LeBron, every member of the first two units has a different role than they had a year ago.

So, there is a lot for this team get used to.

It was a win, and that is better than losing.  However, it will be interesting to see where the Cavs are after 10 or 15 games.  That will be a more accurate barometer for the progress of a pretty much new group of players.

JK

 

Will Added Depth Be Enough For Cavs

Basketball season is just around the corner and the most interesting team in the NBA is probably the Cleveland Cavaliers.

A team that has gone to the NBA Finals three consecutive years has made some drastic changes to the roster.

In fact, the Cavs might have the deepest roster in the league, with 14 players currently on the roster who have had success in the NBA.

That number includes the newest Cavalier, 12 time all star Dwyane Wade, who signed with the wine and gold after getting a buyout from the Chicago Bulls.

Tyronn Lue will need all the depth because there is a lot medical issues on the roster, so the 12 players who are active will probably change on the night by night basis.

Isaiah Thomas will likely miss the first two and a half months with his hip injury, so he will not be part of the mix early in the season, and we would expect Wade, who will turn 36 this season, to get plenty of games off as well.

Veterans like Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, and Richard Jefferson are others who may not be active every night when the schedule gets heavy.

Lue will have to find a balance between rest and rust for these players, making sure they can stay sharp in the regular season while making sure they are sharp for the post-season.

What will this mean if the Cavs and Golden State Warriors match up in The Finals for a 4th straight season?

For one, Cleveland played even with the Warriors when LeBron James was on the floor, but when James was on the bench, Golden State rolled.

Hopefully, there is way more firepower off the bench, and it’s not just the extreme isolation ball (Kyrie Irving) or one dimensional three point shooters.

With players like Wade and Derrick Rose, Lue has more players who can create their own shots at his disposal, and that will keep more pressure on opponents.

Face it, last year, the only Cavs who could create offense were James and Irving.  This year, Lue has James, Wade, Rose, and Thomas when he returns.

And they still have JR Smith, Korver, Frye, and of course Kevin Love, who can knock down threes.  Don’t sleep on Jae Crowder in that regard either.

Cleveland also added a premier defender in Crowder, which will take some of the responsibility for guarding Kevin Durant away from James, and veteran Jeff Green, who can cover both small and power forwards.

There is no question is our mind that the difference in the Finals was Durant.

If he can be slowed down, it would definitely help the Cavs’ cause.

While giving the veterans some rest, he could use that time to develop young players Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and Edy Tavares.  The latter two could be key because the roster still seems to be one quality big man short.

It will also be interesting to see how quickly the newcomers gel with the players who were here last season.

Lue and James have made the transition much quicker than it has taken other teams in the past.

Will the Cavs miss the player they traded to Boston?  They certainly will miss his incredible shot making ability.

On the other hand, they won’t have to play a completely different style with James off the floor, which could lead to a reduced workload.  They should also have ball movement no matter who is on the floor.

It should be fun and it should be interesting to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers this year.  Watching a highly motivated James won’t be bad either.

JK

 

 

Where Do Cavs Go From Here?

Last night, there were reports of new Cavaliers’ guard Isaiah Thomas not being able to pass a physical right now, and what would that mean for the megadeal going forward.

Our guess is the trade will not be rescinded.  Kyrie Irving has napalmed any bridge between himself and the organization, and despite LeBron James’ public comments wishing Irving well and thanking him for the last three seasons, that relationship has been destroyed too.

So, we would anticipate additional compensation from Boston in the form of an additional draft pick or another player before the deal would be rescinded.

Besides, although Thomas is a very good player, making second team All NBA in 2016-17, GM Koby Altman probably made the deal to secure Brooklyn’s first round pick next year, and rugged wing defender Jae Crowder first and foremost.

Remember that Thomas is a free agent after next season, and is looking for a max contract.

Also, Altman had to move Irving, who asked for a trade shortly after the Cleveland season ended, and even the national media has praised him for getting an impressive haul for a player who wanted out.

If the deal is called off, there is no guarantee that the wine and gold could make this good of a trade with another team.

So, assuming something is worked out, where do the Cavs go from here?

We are fairly certain that this isn’t the last move Altman will make before training camp.

One, Tyronn Lue has a roster full of wings, with more players available than he has playing time to dole out.

Besides James and JR Smith, the projected starters, Lue needs to find some court time for Crowder, Jeff Green, Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, and newcomer Cedi Osman.

And don’t forget the rumors that Dwyane Wade could be heading to Cleveland if his contract is bought out by the Bulls, which some have reported as a certainty.

It would figure that Iman Shumpert is the odd man out, but we could also see Jefferson be moved too, although he is a leader in the locker room.

That’s an impossible task.  We would anticipate one, if not two of those players are sent elsewhere, possibly for an experience big man, that the team needs.

Right now, the bigs would be Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye, and two inexperienced players:  Edy Tavares and Ante Zizic, who came over in the Irving deal.

The Cavs needed another post player, particularly a rim protector, last season, and to date still have acquired one.  So, there is still definitely a need.

It is doubtful that Kay Felder returns, particularly if Thomas is here, because two sub six foot point guards is one too many.

And, of course, there is the Brooklyn pick, which is huge.  Altman could use it to deal for another star player before the season starts, use it at the trade deadline, or perhaps have it for next year’s draft, as it should be a top five pick.

The Cavs have a chip that a lot of teams will want, especially teams in a rebuilding mode.  That’s why it may be the most important asset received in the trade.

That alone is the reason the deal will not be rescinded.  It might be tweaked, but Kyrie Irving has played his last game with the Cavaliers.

JK

Kyrie Gone, Cavs Better?

The hope of a reconciliation between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving went up in smoke yesterday as GM Koby Altman sent the four time All Star to the Boston Celtics for three players and Brooklyn’s first pick in the 2018 NBA draft.

The best player the Cavs received is Isaiah Thomas, a two time All Star that finished third in the league in scoring last year.  In fact, according to the similarity scores on Basketball Reference, the most similar player to Thomas is indeed Irving.

Irving took more shots per game than Thomas, but the newest Cavalier scored more because he went to the free throw line three and a half times more than the man who made the biggest shot in franchise history.

There is no doubt that Irving is the better player, but the edge isn’t that great, so when you figure in getting Jae Crowder, an excellent defender who can also knock down shots, and the pick, which figures to be in the top three of next year’s draft, and you would have to say Altman got a very good return for a player who wanted out.

Think about it, the return is greater than what Indiana received for Paul George, and Chicago received for Jimmy Butler.

And we would rate both of those players as better than Irving.

Assuming Tyronn Lue uses his bench effectively, the Cavs are a deep, deep team, which should allow a player like LeBron James to get more rest during the regular season.

Figuring Thomas starting at the point, he would join JR Smith, James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson at the beginning of the game.

That would mean the reserves would consist of Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, Crowder, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, Jeff Green, and barring any more moves, Iman Shumpert.

And it may not be out of the realm of possibility that Rose and Smith swap spots, and than Dwayne Wade joins the Cavs if and when the Bulls buy him out.

That’s a roster that would figure to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

We would also anticipate other moves to come.  The Cavaliers have a glut of wing players and have some younger players, including the big man who came over in this deal, Ante Zizic and Cedi Osman, that could be moved to get another big man, perhaps a strong defender.

As for the pick, which should be a lottery pick, and very well could be in the top five of next year’s draft, there are a several ways Altman can use it.

It’s a piece that can be used at the deadline to bring a major piece for another title run, a player like DeMarcus Cousins, or someone of that ilk.  Or he can use it now to bring in another all star type player to start the season with.

Regardless, that pick has enormous value in today’s NBA, and that’s what makes this deal a definite win for Cleveland.

Irving will have a special place here because he made the shot that brought the Cavaliers their first title, breaking the 52 year drought for the city.

However, he had deficiencies, so at the end of the day, replacing Irving with a player of Thomas’ capabilities, and getting a very good player in Crowder as well, means the wine and gold is a better team.

The draft pick is just the cherry on the top of the sundae.

JK