Status Quo Not Working For Cavs

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in need of a jolt to their senses.  After a stretch in which the wine and gold went 18-1 and looked every bit like a trip to their fourth straight NBA Finals was assured, they have looked, well, terrible.

The entire roster is responsible too, from coach Tyronn Lue, to all the players, and yes, that includes LeBron James.

We watched yesterday’s debacle against Oklahoma City and noticed several disturbing things.

The first was the terrible defensive concepts the Cavs use.  There is no help concepts being used, they don’t force offensive players into help, and they play underneath the pick and roll more often than not.

We have watched basketball for a long time and we have never seen a player without the ball score.  Yet, the Cavaliers consistently stay connected to the man they are supposed to be guarding, while the player with the ball is going to the basket.

This happens time and time again.

In the first half, Isaiah Thomas was guarding Russell Westbrook on the wing and Jae Crowder was near the paint to lend help.  Instead, Thomas allowed Westbrook to go baseline for an uncontested lay up.

That’s horrific team defense.

Lue seems to be so passive, which is fine when the team is winning, but this team needs a spark.

In the first half, Thomas went to the basket and was fouled, which wasn’t called.  That’s fine, referees miss calls.  The very next play, Thomas was called for a touch foul defending Westbrook, who missed a jump shot.

In that situation, Lue has to challenge the official verbally.  He has to defend his player, particularly when the contact was more severe against Thomas.

Later in the first half, Thomas was called for palming the ball, which we don’t believe has been called in the NBA since the 70’s, right in front of the coach.  We would have had to have been restrained at that point.

Although we used Thomas in both examples, this isn’t about him.  He pretty much says nothing when James is mugged going to the basket on a nightly basis.

When Lue took over as coach, his first move was to quicken the pace.  He wanted the team to play faster.  However, this squad is the oldest team in the NBA.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t talented, in fact, we still maintain they can win the NBA title…this year.  But they need to slow the game down, particularly against younger teams who like to run the floor.

They have issues in transition, so they need to get good shots, which may not always be a shot within five seconds of the possession, so they can guard against opponents racing back up the floor.

Another problem may be the coach’s loyalty and how it affects the roster.  Players know who should be playing, and don’t think for a minute they know how well Channing Frye played earlier this year, and wonder why he is out of the rotation.

The same thing happened a year ago to Derrick Williams, who played well in February last year, and then vanished.

The difference is Williams just joined the team.  Frye has been here for more than two seasons, and is a veteran presence.

There is no question in our head that is a factor in the disconnect.

Cavs’ management can’t keep firing coaches at the first sign of trouble, but the best coaches recognize when the status quo isn’t working and a change has to be made.

Right now, the wine and gold need a new defensive philosophy and a more aggressive stance from their coach.

Let’s hope Lue can see the same thing.

JK

 

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Cavs Need An Aggressive JR Smith

When you are the Cleveland Cavaliers and your best player is the best in the sport, the scrutiny is unbearable.

The wine and gold have lost five of their last seven, and seven of their last nine, yet still have the sixth best record in the NBA.  But, if you listen to people talk about Tyronn Lue’s squad, you would think they may miss the playoffs.

When you figure in eight of the last ten contests have been on the road, with the next two also away from Quicken Loans Arena, you could almost understand the mini-slump.

Lue is working Isaiah Thomas back in the lineup, and he is bringing some added scoring to a starting lineup that really had only LeBron James and Kevin Love as scoring threats.

When Love isn’t making shots, which has happen in two of the last three games, the starters struggle to score and the Cavs fall behind early in games.

Unfortunately, Jae Crowder and more specifically, JR Smith haven’t stepped up when needed.  So, should Lue start pondering shaking up the starting lineup?

It’s trickier than you think.  First, the second unit has been so good, you have to think he doesn’t want to do anything to upset the apple cart with them.

Second, if you make a move with Smith, do you risk losing him as a contributor down the road.

Smith is second on the Cavs in minutes (29.8), trailing just James, playing about the same amount of time per game as he has since arriving in Cleveland.

His number of shots taken has dropped from 11 per game in his first two years here to just 7.1 this season.  And his defensive rating is the lowest it has been too.

Smith turned 32 last fall, and you have to remember not everyone ages like James, who is in his 15th season.  This is Smith’s 14th year in the NBA, so perhaps age is starting to take its toll.

Before making any changes in terms of who plays, we would like to see Smith start looking for his shot more often.  He seems to be looking to drive more often and his assist numbers are the highest since he arrived in Cleveland.

But that hasn’t been Smith game since he came to the NBA.  He’s a sniper, a shoot first guard with the ability to make tough long range shots, and when he gets going, he’s unstoppable.

He was the reason the Cavs took game one of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015, hitting eight threes, scoring 28 points as Cleveland stole home court advantage with a 97-89 win.

If he can’t regain that form and that style of play, perhaps Lue should try Channing Frye with the first unit, providing another three point shooter at the start of games.

After all, when the veteran big man has played ten or more minutes in a game this season, the Cavs are 16-3.

Ironically, Frye’s three point shooting is down, from 40% to 31% this season, but he is making 68% of his attempts inside the arc.  His defensive rating is behind just James, Love, and Dwyane Wade on the Cavs.

Since, Frye’s time has diminished since Tristan Thompson’s return to health, moving him into the starting five could be a big benefit.

The other player we would consider is rookie Cedi Osman, who could provide length, hustle, and his defensive rating is just behind Frye’s.

It has been reported that instead of another big man, GM Koby Altman may be looking to upgrade at the #2 guard spot, which would mean the organization would like Smith to step it up.

The trading deadline isn’t that far away, so the time for Smith to step up is now.  He needs to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor.

JK

 

 

Cavs Need A Thomas Boost

Isaiah Thomas makes his much awaited debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Cavs have lost four of their last five and appears to be in a bit of a holiday malaise following a tough loss to Golden State on Christmas Day.

The bench has struggled a bit since Tristan Thompson’s return and his replacement of Channing Frye with the second unit.  Dwyane Wade and his crew have lost the floor spacing that the latter provided with his three point shooting.

Thompson needs to be near the basket and if he’s away from the rim, he doesn’t need to be guarded.  That takes away driving lanes for Wade and allows teams to shadow Kyle Korver, making it more difficult for him to get open.

Thomas will start off coming off the bench and will play limited minutes, but the starting lineup is also in need of a shot in the arm.

Jose Calderon did a great job in the starting lineup after Derrick Rose was injured, but he is starting to show that he is, well, Jose Calderon.  He’s a guy who should be playing limited minutes, and instead he playing more than he did a year ago.

They also need to get more offense out of their starting lineup.  Currently, the only players Tyronn Lue can count on nightly are LeBron James and Kevin Love.

Unfortunately, that’s only two-fifths of the starting five.

JR Smith’s shooting continues to decline from his first two seasons with the Cavaliers, dropping from 39% and 40% in those seasons to the 35% and 36% in the past two campaigns.

Moreso, he has been more inconsistent, at times going several games where he is not a factor on the offensive end.  By now, we know James needs to play with three point shooters to open up driving lines.  In return, those shooters get wide open looks.

Those snipers have to knock down those looks more often than not.  Right now, that’s not a given.

Calderon and Smith’s issues are one reason the bench group is more productive than the starters.  There are more of them making nightly contributions.

Once Thomas shakes the rust off his game, he should help provide more scoring from the starting five, and he is a 36.7% career shooter from behind the arc, so opponents have to account for him.

He’s also an 88% lifetime free throw shooter, so if he gets fouled he makes them.  Keep in mind, the Cavs already rank second in the NBA in free throw shooting as a team.

No doubt, it will take some time for Thomas to get used to playing with a roster that outside of Jae Crowder, he hasn’t played with before.  But, his style does fit more than someone like Thompson.

To start, we can see Thomas taking Calderon’s role, but with more drives and more volume scoring.  He also provides the offense with another player who can create his own shot, something that only James and Wade can do right now with regularity.

Thomas’ return to the floor should give the Cavaliers a little boost that is needed right now.  It’s not like the team has been playing poorly, but a slight jolt shouldn’t hurt anything.

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

 

 

Wade’s Presence On Cavs Can’t Be Emphasized Enough

There is no question that Dwyane Wade is one of the all time greats of the NBA, and will be inducted in Springfield soon after he retires.

He’s a 12 time All Star, a three time champion, and you can make the argument he is the third best shooting guard in history behind Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

Right now, he is showing he still can be an important player for a title contender as one of the best sixth men in the NBA with the Cavaliers.

Wade has embraced the role, which is something legends sometimes can’t accept.  For example, can anyone imagine Bryant doing for any team what Wade is doing for the Cavs?

His minutes have dropped to about 24 per game, and his scoring average is now a little better (11.9) than half of his career mark of 23.0

Right now, his shooting percentage is his highest since 2014-15, and his three point shot is better than its ever been, at 35.7% to date, compared to 28.8% for his career.

His assists are right on par with last season in Chicago, even though he’s playing six minutes less per game, and the defensive metrics show him as one of the three best defenders for the wine and gold.

While the numbers are solid, the best way to appreciate what Wade is doing for Tyronn Lue’s team is using your eyes.

Wade consistently makes the right pass, the right defensive rotation, gets key block shots, etc.  As we write this, it would seem to make total sense, because as we said earlier, he’s an all time great, but remember, fans in northeast Ohio are watching him on a night in, night out basis for the first time.

We first saw Wade in person when he led Marquette to the Final Four in New Orleans, and our first impression was he had an old school game, with a tremendous ability to hit the mid range jumper, a skill that was diminishing in the game.

Remember, through the first 12 games of this season, the Cavaliers looked like an old basketball team.  Younger teams ran up and down the floor, getting easy transition baskets.

Since then, the Cavs have reeled off 13 straight victories, and the second unit, led by Wade and Kyle Korver, both 36 years old, have been a huge key.

Cleveland’s two leading scorers are LeBron James (28.0) and Kevin Love (19.2).  Among players who have played in more than half the Cavs’ games, the next three leaders in scoring are Wade (11.9), Korver (10.3) and Jeff Green (10.2).

When James is sitting out, many times the bench has extended the lead, which is a huge difference from past years.

Heck, in last year’s NBA Finals, the Cavaliers were pretty much even with Golden State when James was on the floor, but when James was out, the Warriors owned a huge advantage.

Because of the production from the bench, the starting lineup could use Isaiah Thomas’ scoring when he returns in the next week or so.  Cleveland has struggled in games early because JR Smith and Jae Crowder have been inconsistent with their shots.

Our hope with Wade is that Lue doesn’t react to his play and start increasing his minutes.  Keep the long range goal in mind.  Leave Wade at around 24 minutes per night, and if you need to increase that slightly in the playoffs, then fine.

He can be quite a weapon if healthy when the playoffs come around.

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

 

 

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