How are they doing? 11/1-12/2
Posted by disappointmentzone on 7 December 2006
As of this writing the Cavs are 10-7. They have won two of the last six games and during that time they have dropped from the top of the Central Division to second place, a half game behind Detroit. Fortunately the Eastern Conference is about two Primoz Brezec missed dunks away from officially being relegated to NBDL+ status, which means that the Cavs can probably remain complacent for a couple of months without much fear of dropping out of playoff contention.
The Cavs have had a tough go of it to start the season even though this is probably the easiest stretch of games they’ll play all year, a sign that doesn’t bode well for future prospects. Only three plays have played above-average basketball over the first month of the season: LeBron, Gooden, and Varejao. Every one else has played below-average basketball. It’s not hard to believe that the Cavs are struggling when you look at the productivity of the players. Larry Hughes is a huge bust given his monumental contract. Ilgauskas has looked like a lost puppy in the offense. Neither of the draft picks have come along as one would hope (although no rookie the in League is doing particularly well). Snow’s decline to oblivion continues daily. Damon Jones has improved considerably from last season, plus he’s not being paid that much, which is nice. Danny Ferry doesn’t have much to hang his hat. At this point I think it’s fair to say that Jones’s failures last season are attributable to his (understandable) worry about being injured during his contract offseason, which lead him to do nothing over the 2005 summer, which led him to be fat and slow and altogether unproductive for the Cavs last season.
Anyway. Here is a chart of the most productive Cavs players this season (min. 70 minutes played). If after looking at this you still aren’t convinced that the Cavs’ successes and failures follow the productivity of the guards, then I’m not sure what will convince you otherwise. (LeBron James is a constant. He’s always good. I am taking it for granted that he’ll remain good. If he starts to stink up the joint no amount of production from Eric Snow et al will save the Cavs.)
UPDATE: As of this writing the Cavs are 11-7 after beating our friends from up north, presumably because they have a much better national anthem than we do, but also, perhaps, because they recognize that winning basketball games is better than losing basketball games.
Daniel Gibson finally displayed the sort of ability one would hope a second-round draft pick would have, dropping a career-high 18 points on 50% shooting. As luck would have it, Gibson wasn’t even the best Cavs last night. That honor goes to LeBron, who had a Win Score per minute above average of .165. Marshall was next-best, with a WSminAA of .160. Varejao was third, with a WSminAA of .150, and Gibson was fourth, at .108. Snow also played above-average basketball.
For the moment I’m going to forego belaboring the fact that when the Cavs have good guard play they win — just promise me you recognize this is the case — and instead am going to focus on Anderson Varejao. Varejao has out-played Ilguaskas this season. Varejao has also played about 100 fewer minutes than Ilgauskas, and despite an uninspired performance (yet again) from Z last night, Varejao logged six fewer minutes. Given the success the Cavs have had with Varejao on the court, it might be worth considering bringing Varejao off the bench much sooner than Brown has been doing and then leaving Varejao in the game longer. The big knock against Varejao is that on offense he isn’t much of a force, and the Cavs have proven themselves to have difficultly scoring points, which might make Anderson a poor fit. Then again, Ilgauskas is pretty much unable to guard anything with more mobility than a chair. Ilgauskas is also not the offensive threat he used to be, owed in part to the new offense but also to his age. Varejao occasionally faces lesser competition than Z since Varejao often plays against second-string centers and power forwards, but after about a quarter of the season Varejao has proven himself worthy of at least a shot at significant minutes. I think Mike Brown would be remiss if he didn’t start playing Varejao closer to 25-27 minutes a night (he’s currently averaging 21 minutes per game).