Dec 21, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) dunks against the Sacramento Kings during the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Weekly Roundtable: Cavs lack of defense, Gee stepping up and a new LA king

Welcome to the twenty-fourth installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This Friday Chris Manning and Dan Pilar 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 defensive struggles from Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Kyrie Irving, Alonzo Gee’s job as a starter, the Memphis Grizzlies as a title contender and the Los Angeles Clippers’ red-hot winning streak.

Cavaliers Corner

Dec 21, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Indiana Pacers power forward Tyler Hansbrough (right) and Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson (13) battle for a rebound in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

First Question: What needs to change in how Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller are playing defense?

Chris Manning: For young players like Thompson and Zeller, it’s all about consistency and game experience.. Both are young, and  are lacking the high number of repetitions in order to be a good NBA defender. Plus, in the case of Thompson especially, they are still raw. Zeller, one of the more NBA-ready products in recent memory, still is learning how to play defense against bigger opposing players and/or players with a wide variety of moves in their arsenal. For Thompson, this season is really a continuation of his rookie year. Last year, he played a limited number of games, and came into this season still a very raw talent. Plus, since he added fifteen pounds of muscle, he is playing the game with a different body type than he is accustomed. In general, though, their improvement is going to come with good coaching and a high number of actual playing time.

Dan Pilar: They suck.  I feel like these two can only do one good thing a night, whether its scoring, rebounding, or defending.  Not often are they able to do all three in a game at an effective level.  Both of them are letting their man dominate them down low and they are letting too many points in the paint.  Without Varejao in the lineup, it is obvious this team cannot stop anyone from scoring.

Dec 11, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) calls a play against Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Alonzo Gee (right) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Second Question: With Anderson Varejao out of the lineup, is Alonzo Gee the best defender on the roster?

CM: I think he is without question, but it is not necessarily because is a skilled defender. Sure Gee has solid skills on defense (Look at how well he has shut down opposing point guards in recent weeks), but the Cavs aren’t exactly loaded with defensive talent. Their best player, Kyrie Irving, is average – at best – defending on the ball, and is atrocious at defending the pick and roll game. Dion Waiters, the Cavs top rookie, is a little better at this point. but not much. I could go on, but the point is this – Gee and Varejao are the only two players on the roster right now who have a good idea of how to play NBA level defense night in and night out.

DP: Yea…I guess. Not because he’s a great defender, but because we don’t have anyone else who can defend. Waiters is still learning how to play man-to-man defense and we just touched on Zeller and Thompson.  Anytime he is matched up against a good scorer he gives up at least 30 to them.  With a little better defensive effort from him could mean a difference in some of these close games.

Dec 21, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Indiana Pacers point guard George Hill (3) drives the lane past Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) in the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Third Question: What flaws do you see in the way that Kyrie Irving is playing man-to-man defense?

CM: First off, he isn’t aggressive enough for my taste. He lets opposing point guards come to him, and doesn’t apply any pressure on the ball. He is not active in going after steals, as shown by his 1.1 steals per game career average. Secondly (and most importantly), Irving has severe issues defending the pick and roll. Seemingly every time teams run the pick and roll (or pick and pop) at him, it results in a quality shot for the opposing team. Considering that is a bread and butter move for a lot of NBA teams, that to me in very concerning now and in the future. As a whole. Kyrie is an average defender at best. He really needs work on that end of the floor if he is going to go from being a “good” player to a “great” player.  He can never be “great” if, in crunch time, the Cavs have to let Alonzo Gee defend opposing point guards.

DP: Defense is something Kyrie does need to work on. He looks a little lazy sometimes but I’m not too concerned about it, #23 had the same problems when he was a young player. Irving is struggles recovering on defense after a pick and roll. Which is something he will get better at with experience.  But as a whole this team defense is pathetic.  All of them need to improve.

NBA Roundup

Dec 21, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forwards Zach Randolph (50) Rudy Gay (22) and guard Tony Allen (9) celebrate after a play against the Dallas Mavericks at the FedEx Forum. Memphis defeated Dallas 92-82. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Fourth Question: The Memphis Grizzlies extended their record to 18-6. Are they the favorite in the Western Conference?

CM: No, as I think the Oklahoma City Thunder are the team to beat. The Thunder are the defending Western Conference Champs, and deserve to be the favorites until someone beats them in the playoffs. Secondly, I have my doubts about the Grizzlies make up. They have a lot of really good pieces, but no elite level player. Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph are awesome, but I put Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook ahead of them. They are a very good team, and I do expect them to be a Top 3 seed in the West. But they are not the favorite in the West by any means. If they can win over the course of the season, and start dominating teams more than they have, then I will take them to win the West.

DP: This team has a great starting five…I’m concerned about their depth.  When they get into the playoffs and begin playing seven game series, will they have enough talent coming off the bench? But this team has been together for a while and became a good team together.  They have playoff experience and have the ability to shut you down defensively or out score you in any game.  But the depth still concerns me.  For that reason alone, I would say they are not the favorite. But I would rank them in the top 4 in the Western Conference.

Fifth Question: The Los Angeles Clippers are doing damage in the West at all. Currently the hottest team in the league (riding a 12-game winning streak) sitting at 20-6, are the Clippers the new force to be reckoned with in LA?

CM: I think so. I have real doubts that the Lakers will ever really figure things out, and that leaves the door wide open for the once lowly Clippers. Lead by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, this team has a very explosive offense that only the Thunder (in my mind) can hang with. Also, the Clippers are a deep team. Players like Eric Bledsoe, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, and Grant Hill give them a roster deep enough to go eight or nine deep on any given night. The Clippers are my sleeper team in the West, and if all the pieces fall into place, they could make a real run at the title. But, without question, they are Los Angeles’s best NBA team, and it will stay that way.

DP: Sure as hell are.  The Lakers are a mess and don’t have as many talented players as the Clippers.  On any given night the Clippers can play 11 different players, opposed to the Lakers where they can only play 8. The Clippers are an exciting young team to watch that come at you a artery of ways offensively.

Make sure to check back next week to see what Zachary Kolesar and Dan Pilar have to discuss at the “Weekly Roundtable.”

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Tags: Alonzo Gee Cleveland Cavaliers Los Angeles Clippers Memphis Grizzlies Tristan Thompson

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