Welcome to the forty-ninth installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This Friday Trevor Magnotti and Zak Kolesar sit down and discuss the latest trending topics concerning your Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA. The combination of rotating RDE duos answer three questions regarding the hometown Wine and Gold and two questions surrounding the league.
Today the discussion revolves around grading the Wine and Gold offseason, how many games Andrew Bynum will log, what his addition means for the other bigs on the roster, Dwight Howard’s move to Houston and ranking the Cavs’ offseason with the rest of the NBA.
First Question: Since we already graded the Cavaliers draft, what grade would you give the work that Chris Grant has been able to maneuver in the free agency period?
Trevor Magnotti: I give Grant an A-, but this is the type of A- that was originally a C+ but you had to go into the teacher’s office and explain your rationale to them before it clicked for them and they understood to bump the grade up. The more Grant has done, and the more time I’ve put into envisioning this Cavs team playing together next season, the more it’s grown on me. I think I’m starting to understand things. The Cavs look like they want to play fast next season, crash the boards extremely well and run a lot of PnR on offense. Defensively, they want to play a simplified system and rely on a (hopefully) healthy Anderson Varejao, improved Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters and the system change to improve a ghastly defense. I love the Jarrett Jack signing, as he brings a proven shooter and insurance for Irving and Waiters. Clark is growing on me as I am beginning to envision the Cavs raining midrange death on opponents. Bynum I’m still iffy on, but I can see why they did it and I don’t hate the move if we get something out of him. Overall, I’m pretty happy with how the free agency period has turned out even if it’s not what I expected at all.
Zak Kolesar: I’ll stick with my draft grade of B+ for this one, just because of the uncertainties. Of the three free agent signings, I like the Jack move the most because for the very reason you mentioned. Insurance, on a team that has dealt with injury troubles over the past two seasons, is extremely important for a team trying to creep out of the rebuilding process. A veteran combo guard like Jack, who shot 40.4 percent from three last season, may be the most expendable player on the team now. He’s an above-average passer (averaged 5.6 assists), will be able to fill in for both Dion and Kyrie has experience playing with a high-volume scoring point guard in Stephen Curry during his time at Golden State. The 30-year-old point is a proven backup, and that’s what the Cavs needed to do in regards to signing a backup point guard. As long as Clark doesn’t see significant time at the four, this is a good pickup. Although not a proven defender, he has a good mentor in Mike Brown who will help the 25-year-old use his size to overpower other threes. If Bynum can appear in 60 games this season, I’ll be extremely happy, but even that is asking a lot out of the injury-riddled center. He hasn’t appeared in that many games since the 2009-10 season.
Second Question: How many games do you think we will see Bynum on the court in Wine and Gold in his first season?
TM: 30-40. He’s going to want to get back and claim more money through incentives. However, his knees are ravaged, and it’s going to suck for him to be out there battling every night. I can’t see him holding up, even if he does come in motivated and healthier than he was last year. It’s a scary proposition to look at how centers come back from long-term lost time. Bill Walton played the most games in a return season from chronic issues forcing a center to miss at least one full season, and he played 33. Yao Ming played five; Alonzo Mourning played 12 after his kidney transplant and Sam Bowie played 20. That’s not a good track record. I’m hopeful Bynum can hit at least the 50 mark, but 30 would be enough, in my opinion, for him to still have an impact on the Cavs season in some way.
ZK: I’m going to say 45 games because I’m a bit of an optimist. But how many of these games will he actually start? I think that’s the more important topic of discussion. If Bynum is coming off the bench, then that means Andy or Tyler Zeller are going to be seeing a lot of time at center. With the Bynum signing, I envisioned Varejao sliding over to his natural position, which is the four. Zeller can be a valuable asset off the bench, especially with his increased knowledge of the pick-and-roll due to the plethora of minutes he received last season thanks to injuries. As a starter, he doesn’t have the body to bang with the physical Eastern Conference centers. I’ll say we’ll see Bynum start around 40 games in Wine and Gold, and hopefully he shows enough of promise coming off his injury to return to the team via option next season.
Third Question: What does the Bynum move mean for the other bigs on Cleveland’s roster?
TM: Well, it’s interesting. If he plays, he basically forces Tyler Zeller out of the rotation, which can be a good thing. He also would save Varejao from playing huge minutes, something that I’m advocating for this season; the more rest we can get Varejao, the better. If he doesn’t play, then I’m expecting what we thought would happen pre-Bynum; Varejao getting extended minutes, Tristan Thompson playing some center and a ton of small-ball lineups, which I’m not against. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens with Bynum this season, as if you couldn’t figure that out already.
ZK: It creates A LOT of interesting lineups if he stays healthy. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, putting Bynum and Wild Thing next to each other as a monster rebounding duo and can thus give Brown an opportunity to run an extremely fast backcourt that can get away on fast breaks due to two athletic paint defenders. Having Zeller as a second (or even third option if we want to keep Andy at the five) option creates a lot of mismatches with opposing benches due to having a midrange, seven-foot threat as a reserve.
Fourth Question: Do you think Houston was the best fit for Howard to have a legitimate chance at hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy?
TM: Of the teams who courted him? Oh heck yes it was! The Lakers were a sinking ship even with him. With Kobe out, D’Antoni coaching and a ravaged roster, they were going to be a lost cause either way. Atlanta never was a serious option, and while him and Horford together would have been AMAZING, I’m not sure he ever wanted to go there. Dallas is a mess, and I don’t know how much Dwight moves the needle there with an aging team and the likelihood that his signing would have also brought Monta Ellis along. Golden State would have been fun, but I don’t see how they get him without giving up major pieces like Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson. At the end of the day, a team with a ton of good shooters, lots of young pieces, depth and the Godfathers of post moves coaching and representing the team (McHale and Hakeem, respectively), plus an active GM who wants to build around him, Houston was always the right fit for him.
ZK: I just hope that Dwight can be serious in Houston, because I really liked what I saw from this team last season. Not saying that Omer Asik was the answer at center, but I thought this team was going to take a jump from the eighth seed regardless of signing Dwight or not. With a serious Howard, this team becomes one of the most well rounded clubs in the NBA. D12 will be able to focus on defense first on this team. While he was in Los Angeles he was subjected to having to be a scoring threat due to injuries and a weak bench. His back took a beating in the paint because of this, and teams exposed his poor free throw shooting because of his offensive presence in LA. In Houston, he has a plethora of scorers around him to be able to focus on what is most important for this team’s success.
Fifth Question: Where does Cleveland’s movement in the free agency period rank among the other teams in the NBA who have been very active in the offseason?
TM: 1. Brooklyn. They did what they had to do to get an absolutely terrifying top 7, with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Mason Plumlee and now Andrei Kirilenko on board. They also re-signed Andray Blatche for cheap. At this point, Jason Kidd only has to not be Vinny Del Negro (plausible with his assistants), and they have to stay healthy (Not impossible) and I think this team is terrifying. They’re a lock for a top-3 seed in the East now.
2. Clippers. That Redick deal was a steal. Darren Collison is the perfect replacement for Bledsoe, and Jared Dudley will be a stud as a starter on a contender. Re-upping with Matt Barnes helps. I think Antawn Jamison is an upgrade over Lamar Odom, especially for what they’re asking Jamison to do. Their frontcourt needs depth still, which is a problem, but the signings here coupled with Doc Rivers has me high on the Clips.
3. New Orleans. My pick for the most interesting team of next season. Adding Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday creates a situation similar to what the Cavs have with a dynamite top three guards, re-signing Al-Farouq Aminu was huge in my opinion, and adding Greg Stiemsma gives them a much-improved defensive frontcourt. I’m going to love watching the Pelicans next season.
4. Houston. Dwight.
5. Cleveland. Will be higher if it works, but still they’ve upgraded the center and bench guard positions to absurd degrees and have a really fun potential lineup. I’m comfortable here, putting them over Portland (That bench is great now), Minnesota (SHOOTING!), and San Antonio (Belinelli and Splitter).
ZK: I agree with your ranking system in regards to what teams had better offseasons, thus far, than the Cavs. Signing AK was huge for the Nets, as the price was fair and I thought that before they made this blockbuster trade with the Celtics only to be a three or four seed at best. But when you can say that the Cavs had one of the top five offseasons out of the entire NBA, then that’s saying something for a team that would call bringing in an aged and crippled Shaquille O’Neal to help win a championship. Even if the Bynum move is a risk, at least this front office is putting themselves out there and showing the Wien and Gold fan base that they are trying to improve now instead of sitting idly by like we’re used to seeing.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Trevor Magnotti and Chris Manning have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”