The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

FreeDarko and the Cavs

Posted by disappointmentzone on 14 December 2006

FreeDarko is primarily an index of pseudo-intellectual ramblings on the NBA. At its best FreeDarko is a wonderful arbiter of style in what is easily the most stylish of all American professional sports league. Look no further for careful consideration of the ephemeral aspects of the game. An elegant-yet-furious burst of magical basketball prowess from Josh Smith as evidenced by a scrub-time dunk, for instance, is right in FreeDarko’s wheelhouse.

At its worst, like when the writers try to grapple with actual basketball content (as opposed to basketball style), FreeDarko can be pretty horrendous. So it was with yesterday’s post. Allow me to quote from it:

At any rate, the fact remains that the rest of the Cavs, save for the oft-injured Larry Hughes, pretty much suck. Donyell and Big Z are finally starting to play as old as they look, I’m not buying whatever Anderson Varejao is selling, and Drew Gooden’s got ADD.

This is “suck” in the typical meaning of the word. This has nothing to do with a lack of style. FreeDarko refers to the bench as “shit awful”. So on one had we have a shit bench and on the other hand we have Larry Hughes as the only Cav other than LeBron who doesn’t suck. There is nothing about this that makes any sense whatsoever.

Larry Hughes is in fact one of the worst players on the roster so far this season and there is little basis for assuming that he is anything but a pedestrian two-guard. Only one time in his career has Hughes had a great season. In the rest of his seasons Hughes has battled average and lost more often than not. Gooden, meanwhile, has been one of the best Cavs players this season and, what is more, one of the most consistent. Were he not just coming off an injury sustained while competing with LBJ in a dunk contest during warmups — !!!!! — there would be nothing in his recent history on which to base the ADD comment. Historically Gooden has proven himself more than capable of mentally checking out for long stretches of games. But in each of his seasons he has improved — he’s finally coming within three point range of the promise of his draft status — and there is no reason to think that his bump in productivity this season — of which we are 1/4 of the way through — is a fluke. If anything, Gooden is the anti-Hughes: instead of coming off a contract year and reverting to form (which is what Hughes did in spectacular fashion last year) Gooden has actually improved in the year following his contract year. Plus, he’s been healthy.

Varejao is better than most people think, too. He looks like a novelty, but his game is legitimate.

The problem with the Cavs is that they are able to pretty much suck while the players, as a group, pretty much don’t.

Anyway, FreeDarko is grossly off target here. They ought to stick to what they know.


13 Responses to “FreeDarko and the Cavs”

  1. Ben said

    I like Free Darko, but you’re right, they can sometimes get too caught up in basketball style, which I could care less about.

    I do happen to agree with the Gooden ADD remark; after a strong start to the year, he seems to have reverted back to his old ‘every other game’ self. Some games he’ll drop 16 and 10, others he’ll be 0 and 4.

    And of course Gooden hurt himself warming up. Of course he did.

  2. please reconcile these two statements:

    “Historically Gooden has proven himself more than capable of mentally checking out for long stretches of games.”


    “there would be nothing in his recent history on which to base the ADD comment.”

    ahem. also, you are the one who doesn’t know basketball if you think larry hughes is not the second best player on the team. he hasn’t been playing well the past two seasons because he’s been injured, you said so yourself. he’s clearly not 100%. i didn’t say he was currently a great player, but at his best, he’s better than anyone else on the team except the king. varejao is blah, the brazilian mark madsen.

  3. By recent history I meant this season. This season Gooden has been very good and largely consistent. 1/4 of the season might not be a large enough sample, but I think finding a team and signing the new contract has done him good. He’ll never be a 20/10 guy, but 13/10 is reasonable for Gooden. 13/10 doesn’t suck. So I wouldn’t include him on the list.

    The issue isn’t whether Larry Hughes is the second best player on the team. It’s your exclusion of him from the list of players that pretty much suck (although at this point I’m not sure what that even means. There is a large gap between, say, Damon Jones and David Wesley). This season Hughes has both sucked (on the whole) and been injured. Last season was pretty much the same. In every year other than his contract year Hughes has been a below-average player. Outside of his final season in Washington there is little to go on statistically to suggest that he doesn’t belong on the “pretty much suck” grouping of players, particularly this season. Plus, he’s always injured. Even if he was great his impact on the team would be lessened since he can’t manage to stay on the court.

    Varejao is better than blah, and certainly better than Madsen. He’s not the sort of player who would be a good fit on every team, but he’s a good fit on a team that plays up tempo basketball.

  4. SHOASLLSAS said

    hughes was certainly better than “below average” his first season in dc. and while before that he was insanely inconsistent, that hardly makes him “below average.” at least not more “below average” than gooden, whose numbers are a testament to why NBA stats shouldn’t be done by per-game averages.

    and speaking of gooden. . .he’s at 11.4 and 8.6. 13 and 10 may be within the realm of possibility, but you can’t pencil him in for that by any stretch of the imagination.

  5. The average shooting guard posts a win score per minute of .128 (this is a historical average). In 2002-03 (his first season in DC) Hughes posted a win score per minute of .150, so he was above average. You are right. Here are the rest of his yearly win scores:

    1999: .129
    2000: .077
    2001: .089
    2002: .115
    2003: .150
    2004: .123
    2005: .214
    2006: .097
    2007 (thru 12/2): .074

    His career average is .124 (.110 if you exclude 2005)

    With the exception of two seasons Hughes has been below average in each year, and over the course of his career he has been just about average. I don’t equate below average with suck–especially since Hughes is just below average over his career. But “pretty much sucks” is not my category. Of the groupings of players from the post I commented on, however, Hughes belongs with the “pretty much sucks” players more than he doesn’t belong with them–and there really is no question about this.

    Gooden this season has been very good: .279 (average is .225) His career average is .243–a higher score above average than Hughes. So over the course of his career Hughes has been worse than Gooden relative to their position averages.

    Gooden is capable of 13/10 (14/9 is 2005) and probably capable of higher. But if he were to go much above 13/10 my guess is that it would be at a detriment to the team.

    My issue with the post was in part its complete lack of nuance–which is really surprising given the sort of writing that is common on FreeDarko–and in part that aspects of it are just wrong. This season Gooden has been much better than Hughes. Even if Hughes were capable of MJ-like play that doesn’t make up for the fact that he hasn’t been productive this season (or at any point as a Cav). Hughes might be the second most talented Cav, but that doesn’t mean he’s the second best.

  6. Josh said

    I watched the Bobcats Cavs game the other day and have caught good chunks of many of the games this year. I don’t really see any growth from last year to this year that would suggest they can take the next step in the playoffs.

    I will say this — I underated Gooden. He’s been great, especially since Mike Brown never calls a play for him.

    The Cavs team defense worries me — every time out of a timeout the Bobcats got an easy hoop. Z jumps out on these screen and rolls and then isn’t fast enough to catch back up. Time and time again. I can’t understand why they don’t play Varejo more. Donyell Marshall is so hot and cold and when he isn’t making threes he’s useless. They don’t have any PG play. They don’t seem to have a purpose on offense. I worry they will need someone to come in with some offensive experitse before they make the next step. Hughes game (or what there is of it) doesn’t compliment LBJ.

    The problem is that Ferry gave Hughes and Z huge contracts that no one else wants. And unless someone takes one of them, I don’t see the roster changing that much. When Ferry couldn’t get Redd or RayAllen he overspent and now they’re saddled with players that don’t fit the style of play LBJ is most effective playing.

    At least Savage hasn’t put a ceiling on the Browns thus far like Ferry has the Cavs

  7. I don’t think there has been much growth, either. But they put in a new offensive scheme and it is only recently that there have been sustained periods during which the offense has looked good. The defense is better than last year, but the biggest problem with the D is the guards, none of whom seem able to contain a man on the outside. This puts too much pressure on the interior defense.

    The next step in the playoffs is still possible if only because the East is so weak. I do not like what I see in Miami (although AI would change that). I’ve seen a lot of Bulls games and Chicago is really suspect at times (without Hinrich they’d be horrid), but I think they’ll improve this season, just not to the point where they are far better than everyone else. The Pistons? I don’t know. Then there is a big drop off.

    Gooden is really solid and his contract is looking like a steal. He’s finally found his niche.

    Z hasn’t been able to play defense for a few years now. If the Cavs ever have to play against teams with quick big men (like the Bobcats) then Brown ought to play Varejao instead of Z. Against teams with slower big men Z is still good enough in the low post to justify having him on the court. I do not see the logic behind sticking with one lineup irrespective of the opponent in this situation. The Cavs have the luxury of having two big men that compliment each other really well. Why not try to maximize that?

    Marshall…blah. It’s not a big concern because I think the Cavs have a formidable front court in Z, Andy, Gooden and LBJ. Marshall not producing isn’t going to hurt them, unless there’s an injury.

    The guards are by far the biggest weakness. It would be nice to see Gibson more. Damon Jones is having a better season. He still can’t play defense, but he’s looking much better on offense.

    I don’t like Hughes. Against the Bobcats he took about six TERRIBLE shots (running jumpers, deep fade aways…). He’s not a good player on offense. Since he can’t shoot for crap he’s not a good compliment to LBJ.

    In two seasons everyone is going to wake up and realize that Z and Hughes are killing the Cavs.

    Brown is keeping LBJ’s minutes down and I think the team is taking the Miami approach to the season — dick around until 2007 and then turn it on enough to get a top-4 seed. Once you get to the playoffs anything can happen and one good player can make all the difference. I’d take LBJ over anyone else.

  8. Josh said

    I don’t disagree that it’s possible LBJ goes nuts and carries them but I still like the Heat or Bulls more.

    I think this stretch might benefit the Heat in the long run if they can a) get Dorell Wright some minutes so he can make a real contribution in the post-season b) get a backup pg like Earl Watson so J-Will can take it easy and c) Shaq comes back healthy and gets in 15 games in top shape before the playoffs. They could end up deeper then before if all goes well.

    All are huge Ifs, of course. I’ll just put my money on Riley pushing the right buttons over Flip or Mike Brown.

  9. The Heat will benefit from this stretch only if they don’t sell off the rest of their young players for AI. Of course, if they get AI not benefiting from this stretch won’t matter.

    The Bulls without Hinrich would be like the Cavs without LeBron. I know that sounds nuts, but if Hinrich weren’t playing the Bulls would be Ben Gordon playing 1-on-5, Deng and Nochioni looking lost and then saying Fuck It, we’ll go 1-on-5, and Ben Wallace doing nothing. They’d win 25 games. He’s their MVP and there is no doubt about this.

    Flip is beyond hope. Mike Brown is improving (his in-game management has been much better this season than last season–by a huge margin). Riley is a legend. I wouldn’t bet against him.

    My point about LBJ going nuts is that as long as the Cavs make the playoffs they can make a run for the Finals. Miami with Wade is the only other team in that category. Right now I like the Bulls slightly less than either Miami or Cleveland because they lack a go-to person. If they traded for KG that would change.

  10. Josh said

    I am surprised the Bulls aren’t pushing harder for KG or AI. Kirk is great but they need that guy at the end of games who can create his own shot. Hindsight being 20-20, I think the Bulls would be more likely to go for AI if they didn’t already have the combustible Skiles-Ben Wallace thing already.

    I bet they could get AI for Gordon and PJ.

    The really interesting name later in the year will be Gasol, who a team could pick up at the end of the season and not make a huge commitment to since he’s a FA next year, I think. So it could be a move that is both a salary dump after 07 and a run at a title this year. You’d think GS would be interested, as well as Chicago. I’d like to see GS move Richardson for Gasol and free up money and time for Pietrus/Ellis/Biedrins.

    Are you in Cleveland soon? Any interest in seeing the Cavs/Magic on the 23rd?

  11. Gasol is signed through 2011 and is owed about $86M. He’s looking to be traded, though, and might actually play tonight. Gasol is a talent. Whoever gets him will be getting a great player, but $86M is a lot to swallow.

    You can find player salaries from, which just released them yesterday:

    Or this is the site I’ve been using for a few years:

    I’ll have to see about the Magic game. I can’t remember if I already have tickets to that game or the Pistons game.

  12. Josh said

    Hmm….I thought I had read he was an FA. Maybe I thought there was a logica reason the Grizzlies wanted to dump him and gave them that organization too much credit

  13. Jon said

    I “started” a browns blog. its pretty damn stupid at this present moment and may continue to be that way in case I decided to completely abandon the idea. baseball happens every day so its easy to stay involved and followed it. a 6 day break makes it hard to remember what you were going to say.


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