Welcome to the eighteenth 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 the Cavaliers starting lineup, Dion Waiters’ performance, Anderson Varejao’s rebounding, Harden’s play and most impressive team.
First Question: Is the starting five of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao the most ideal for the Cavaliers?
Zachary Kolesar: For the most part, I think that the backcourt will stay the same and Thompson and Varejao will dominate down low all season. A combination that we weren’t able to get a look at last season will begin to turn heads pretty soon. As for Gee, I could definitely see the starting three being a rotating position. Gee played the best out of C.J. Miles and Omri Casspi, who didn’t see any playing time on Tuesday. Depth on the bench and the small forward position are the weakest parts of the team right now, so we may see a battle brewing like we did in training camp between Gee and Miles.
Chris Manning: Right now, I think it is. The starting line up played stellar against Washington, and they seemed to have good chemistry when they played together. Varejao and Thompson seem to compliment each other pretty well, and I liked watching them play together. It should also be noted that the bench was awful on Friday outside of Daniel Gibson, who scored 10 points in 16 minutes play. That is concerning long term, as no team can win games without support from their bench. But overall, right at this moment, The Cavaliers original starting five is their ideal line up.
Dan Pilar: I love Varejao and what he has been able to do in his career here in Cleveland. But I believe, at some point in the season, that Zeller will crack the starting lineup. Varejao brings it every second he is on the court, whether he is starting or coming off the bench. If we start to see Zeller struggle coming off the bench, I expect him to be inserted in the starting lineup and Varejao to come out.
Second Question: Was it too early to dog on Waiters’ offseason and preseason struggles or is it too early to start praising him?
ZK: The type of player that Waiters was at Syracuse is the same player that we saw on Tuesday night. He shines when he needs to shine, and his 17 points as a starter got fans excited for what could be in store for the rest of the season. Obviously it’s only one game, but keep in mind that it was his first time starting since he was in high school. The preseason and Summer League performances are now behind him, he just needs to be able to turn on the switch every night.
CM: Yes and no. It was completely fair to dog on him for playing so poorly – it’s part of our job to critique a player’s performance. It’s also fair for us to now praise him for playing a stellar game against the Wizards and their rookie Bradley Beal. Waiters was truly spectacular against Washington, and he deserve all the praise in the world for that game. Overall, though, let’s remember that the jury is till out on Waiters. We need to see consistency in order to full know what he is all about. Until then, all dogging and praise of Waiters is fair game.
DP: Too early on both accounts. He has only played one career game, so relax. He played great, offensively and defensively, but he is going to have great games, then he’s going to have games where Byron Scott is going to have to bench him for trying to do too much. But you have to like what you saw in the first game between Irving and Waiters, they played off each other well.
Third Question: Over or under: Anderson Varejao will average 12 rebounds this season?
ZK: Over. Wild Thing’s career night should be an eye opener for opponents. Varejao picked up from where he left off after suffering that wrist injury last season. He has around the 11 rebounds per game mark before then, and I think he’ll outperform that this season. Andy doesn’t need to be an offensive threat, as Irving and Waiters will carry most of that load. One of the Cavs’ biggest weaknesses will be taken care of by Varejao.
CM: Over. Andy was brilliant the other night pulling in 23 rebounds against Washington, and if can stay healthy, I like his chances of putting up big number this season. He is certainly capable of it. Varejao also is the best rebounder on the Cavaliers, and it’s going to be his job to hard on the boards. I’m guessing that he will average between 12 and 14 rebounds this season, which surely will put him amongst the league leaders. His rebounding is certainly going to make him a popular name in the trade deadline rumors that are certain to circulate.
DP: That’s a lot of rebounds. I say under. What he does on the court is exhausting; crashing the boards, setting picks, taking charges. He may have lost a facet of his game when the NBA instituted the “no flopping policy” this offseason. He may see his time diminish, splitting time with Zeller in effort to keep him healthy all season. But I do believe he will have an affective season for the Cavs and average around 10 rebounds a game.
Fourth Question: Will James Harden gain legitimate star status now that he’s in a starting role in Houston?
ZK: I think that Harden was a legitimate superstar when he was on the Oklahoma City Thunder. There aren’t a lot of big time scorers on this Houston Rockets team to begin with, but I think best case scenario for Harden was to get on a team where he could lead and work with a very young and rising superstar. The Thunder will miss Harden more than he will miss coming off the bench.
CM: He will get close, but he won’t get the cigar. I love Harden as a player, and I think he is amongst the top 15 players in the league. But while he is good, he will not reach star level. From what I’ve seen, I don’t know if he can get there. He was perfect as a compliment to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and having them alongside him certainly helped his play as well. And no offense, but Jeremy Lin isn’t exactly on that level. He’s going to be fantastic and score oodles of points – I have no doubt about that. But becoming a legitimate star? Don’t bet on it.
DP: Well Houston is paying to be a star. He has played in the sixth-man role his whole career, now he moves to Houston to try and be “the man” there. Houston invested their franchise in Harden, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Out of those three, the Rockets are going to heavily rely on Harden to do a multiple of things for them offensively.
Fifth Question: Which team had the most impressive first win of the season?
ZK: I wasn’t really impressed with the San Antonio Spurs hitting a buzzer beater against the Thunder because the Spurs are still going to be a force to reckon with in the Western Conference. I was impressed with how the Miami Heat got right back to work after receiving their championship rings. The Heat are going to be a fun team to watch this season, as they made the right offseason moves in acquiring important pieces such as Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. The Big 3 will be the most potent together this season as they have ever been.
CM: I have tie. The Spurs win over the Thunder last night greatly impressed me. San Antonio made that game a slow, grinding game, which is their perfect style. Plus, Tony Parker was Mr. Clutch and staked the Spurs claim as the team to beat in the West. Second on my list in Cleveland’s win over Washington. Sure Washington is awful, and was without John Wall, but Cleveland looked like a real team. And if Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters both catch fire like they did? Watch out for the Cavaliers to pull upsets and make games they should lose competitive.
DP: Congratulations Portland Trail Blazers. My preseason pick for rookie of the year Damien Lillard had a historic first-game performance against the disappointing Lakers. Not just Lillard, but the entire starting lineup was impressive. Former Cavalier J.J. Hickson had a double-double, LaMarcus Aldridge had 19 points, and swingman Nicholas Batum had 26 points. They’re still a far way away from competing in the Western Conference, but these Trail Blazers are on a similar path as the Cavs are.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Chris Manning, Dan Pilar and Zachary Kolesar have to discuss at the “Weekly Roundtable.”