Welcome to the tenth installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” Every Friday Chris Manning, Dan Pilar and I sit down and discuss the latest trending topics concerning your Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA. We answer three questions concerning the hometown Wine and Gold and two questions surrounding the league.
Today we will be discussing which rookie center (Tyler Zeller, Andre Drummond or Meyers Leonard) will have the best season, what numbers Kyrie Irving will put up this season, if Daniel Gibson will remain a Cavalier and which players will win MVP and Rookie of the Year honors.
First Question: Which rookie big man do you think will have the most success this season: Tyler Zeller, Andre Drummond or Meyers Leonard?
Zachary Kolesar: Since the Cavaliers didn’t have an answer to the gaping hole down low once Anderson Varejao went down with a wrist injury I believe that Zeller will get the call right from the start. Drummond and Leonard probably won’t get sufficient playing time early on in the season mainly due to the fact that they are inexperienced and have a lot of development to go in their post game. Zeller on the other hand spent four years at North Carolina and saw ample playing time once he turned a sophomore. He showed his stuff in Summer League and is the perfect fit to become the next possible Zydrunas Ilgauskas of this team. The upside is that Zeller is faster on his feet and a better shooter than “Big Z,” but those are still some huge shoes to fill.
Chris Manning: Tyler Zeller has a golden opportunity in front of him. It’s likely that he plays right away, and he’s not going to have to carry the load up front. With Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson up front, he has support around him. Leonard does not, and while Drummond has support from Greg Monroe, he’s too raw to be effective right away. I like Zeller to easily have the best year out of these three. It should also be noted that Zeller is the most polished out of any of these players. He’s older, has a solid all-around game, and he’s not a potential guy. Zeller is going to come in right away and produce – it would shock me if he didn’t average 10 points and seven rebounds this season. He’s the kind of the player that can come in and help a team win right away. The other two, not so much.
Dan Pilar: I believe the transition from college to NBA will be easier for Zeller. Zeller doesn’t rely on his size on offense but his mobility. He’ll run the court with the guards and make a constant 15-foot jumper to get his points. Leonard and Drummond rely on their size to get their buckets; which they will struggle with this year. Being a seven footer is a huge advantage in this game, but most teams have someone whose job is to guard a big man. Someone like Ryan Hollins is a great example. He isn’t great on offense, but can guard the biggest guy on the court because he’s also the same height.
Second Question: How do you think Kyrie Irving’s numbers in 2012-13 will matchup against the averages he put up in his Rookie of the Year campaign?
ZK: We won’t see a dramatic increase in points, as my guess is he’ll put up 20.5 points per game. Even though the team’s highest scorer last year in Antawn Jamison is gone, Irving now has reliable players like Dion Waiters instead of Anthony Parker to dish the ball to in situations where he just can’t get to the basket (which is often). With that said I think he’ll boast double-doubles often, averaging around 7.0 assists. He will have physical teammates in Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller down low to pass it off to. His rebounding game will stay around a meek 3.5 boards per game, as the bulk of the boards will come from Zeller and Varejao. However, I believe his steal average will hover around 2.0 for the season, but let’s just hope his turnover numbers aren’t as high as last season.
CM: Kyrie’s stat line will look like this: 20.3 points per game, 7.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals. All of those numbers are better than any he put up last season. I strongly believe that Kyrie is going to become a superstar in the NBA, and this season will take him a step closer to fulfilling that potential. The fact that he held his own against the Olympic squad bodes well for this season, and as long as he is healthy, I don’t see any reason that he isn’t going to have a better season. He’s the best player on the team, the leader, and still has the most upside. He’s only going to get better, and I think this season should put him on the map.
DP: I’m really trying to avoid comparing Irving with Derrick Rose, but you can’t help but notice their numbers are very similar. He is going tobe relied on much more on offense with Antawn Jamison gone. I believe his assist numbers will stay where they’re at (around 5-6 assists per game) and his points per game average will go up. As far as points, I see him making a big leap, averaging over 20. My final predictions – 21 PPG, 6 APG, 3 RPG, 2 SPG.
Third Question: Will Daniel Gibson finish the season a Cavalier?
ZK: Yes, he will finish off his contract with the Cavaliers, but I don’t think the team will bring him back for the 2013-14 season. He’s either been riddled by injury or just hasn’t shot at the same level he did when the Cavaliers were in their heyday. After shooting 46.6 percent from the field and 47.7 percent from three in 2009-10, Boobie then shot a combined 38.7 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from three. Still respectable numbers from deep, but not enough for the Cavaliers to pay the former Longhorn the big bucks.
CM: I think he will. He’s the Cavs best shooter by far and without him they have no outside threats. He’s also insurance for rookie Dion Waiters, who is still an unproven commodity. If Waiters doesn’t work out, then Gibson is the de facto two guard. He may be a little small and have a limited skill set, but he is still a valuable asset for the Cavs moving forward. Unless they get an offer that blows them away, Gibson should and will be a Cavalier for the entire 2012-13 NBA season.
DP: If the front office can receive anything useful in return for Boobie, I believe he’ll be dealt around the trade deadline. He is a good player, but he just isn’t what the Cavs need right now. He can be very useful to a contending team with his great three-point shot and surprisingly good defense. I expect something like a second round pick or something as small as cash considerations.
Fourth Question: Who do you have as your early-season MVP and why?
ZK: No Derrick Rose for most or all of this upcoming season, so I’m going with LeBron James as the unanimous MVP. Kevin Durant will still give the reigning “King” a run for his money, but I believe LeBron will put up better averages than he did in a 66-game season last year. James put on one of the most impressive seasons in NBA history, and I think he’s more than capable of topping that performance for two reasons: 1. He’s finally matured and become a leader (see Olympics). He’s ready to pass the ball (Ray Allen will help with his assist number) and be a force inside. 2. He’s one of the best athletes of all time and put in a lot of work this summer, but we already know that.
CM: LeBron James has to be the de facto MVP favorite. He is the best player in the NBA, is arguably on the best team in NBA and fills a stat sheet better than anyone currently playing. And after looking dominate in both the NBA Finals and the London Olympics, he is finally ascending to the throne like most expected him to previously. He’s finally earned the moniker of “King” and I expect him to continue his ascension up the ranks with another MVP award. I don’t even think it will be close.
DP: My MVP this season will be Carmelo Anthony. He put on a show over in London. Factoring that in with the fact he averaged nearly 30 points after D’Antoni and Lin were done for the year makes me believe he’ll go back to being an elite player in the NBA.
Fifth Question: Who do you have as your early-season Rookie of the Year and why?
ZK: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, even though he played only one game in Summer League. That was all I needed to see to make me put him over the resounding favorite Anthony Davis. Kidd-Gilchrist scored 18 points in 22 minutes, and even provided some Top 10 dunks in that short time. He added eight rebounds, five assists and four steals to top it all off, while shooting 58.3 percent from the field. The two former Wildcats will duke it out for Rookie of the Year honors, but I think MKG will be the better all-around player, which will give him the edge.
CM: It’s the obvious pick, but I’ve got Anthony Davis by a landslide. He won’t score a lot, but he doesn’t have to. He can rebound, play excellent defense and works very hard. Teammates like Eric Gordon will allow him to ease into the NBA and gain confidence at a rate that will also let him develop as a player. It won’t be the prettiest numbers, but Davis will win Rookie of the Year. For what it’s worth, Dion Waiters is my dark horse. If he’s in shape and can score in bunches as a starter or off the bench, he could steal it. I doubt that happens (and expect him to finish in the four-five range), but he has the talent to win the award.
DP: It would be easy to say Anthony Davis, so I’ll throw a name out there you might not expect; Portland’s No. 6 pick Damian Lillard. He was the best point guard prospect in this year’s draft and was one of the most impressive players at Summer League. He doesn’t have much talent around him, so his team will struggle this year. But from what he showed this summer, he is going to be an exciting player.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Chris Manning, Dan Pilar and Zachary Kolesar have to discuss at the “Weekly Roundtable.”