Welcome to the fifty-third installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This segment Trevor Magnotti and Chris Manning 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 Cleveland’s 2013-14 schedule, Central Division offseason moves, the Wine and Gold draft pick (leaving out Kyrie Irving) from 2011 up until now that will have the greatest impact next season, most anticipated 2013-14 game and most intriguing return game.
First Question: From the Cavaliers 2013-14 schedule, what are you most looking forward to?
Trevor Magnotti: I already hinted at it in my schedule piece, but games against Washington take the prize. It’s Kyrie Irving vs. John Wall, a battle of former No. 1 picks. It’s Dion Waiters vs. Bradley Beal, a matchup of two second-year guys who will likely be compared to each other for their whole careers. It’s Nene vs. Anderson Varejao, a matchup with so much Brazilian flair FC Barcelona scouts might be deployed to the game on accident (unless one or both is hurt, as there is 76 percent chance of one or both being hurt). It’s Anthony Bennett vs. Otto Porter, two of the top three picks from this draft. It’s Alonzo Gee vs. Chris Singleton (kidding). It’s Tyler Zeller vs. Jan Vesely (not kidding, as these two must go one on one at some point, even if I have to sponsor the battle myself during All-Star weekend). And most of all, it’s a battle of two really similar teams built around defensive coaches, who finally have a chance to be good after years of sucking because of depressing exits of former stars iIn my book, Gilbert Arenas’s demise is just as depressing for Wizards fans as LeBron leaving should be for Cavs fans), and are led by outstanding point guards and young supporting casts. I will be rooting like hell for Washington when they aren’t playing the Cavs this season, and when they do play Cleveland, it’s going to be awesome.
Chris Manning: I’m most excited to see the Wine and Gold take on the Chicago Bulls, and it’s mostly due to the Irving-Derrick Rose matchup that we have deprived of seeing up to this point. With Rose coming back from ACL surgery and Irving — fingers crossed since there is still about six weeks to go — did not get hurt this offseason, then we finally get to see this matchup on November 11t when the Bulls and Cavaliers match up for the first time. However, this game also intrigues me because the Bulls can provide the young Cavaliers with firm tests at every position. Want to find out how much Dion Waiters improved offensively this offseason? Well hello, Jimmy Butler. Want to find out how good of a rebounder Tristan Thompson really is? Carlos Boozer can help us answer that. And is Andrew Bynum healthy enough to play physical basketball for long stretches? I think Joakim Noah can help us answer that. Plus, historically the Bulls have made the Cavaliers look horrible when they match up. I truly cannot wait for these teams to match up.
Second Question: Which Central Division team had the best offseason?
TM: Indiana. They potentially will get Danny Granger back to full health, and even though they whiffed hard on their first-rounder for the second straight year by picking projected LATE second-rounder Solomon Hill, they upgraded a lot of other spots on a bench that was AWFUL last year. Out are D.J. Augustin, Miles Plumlee, Tyler Hansbrough and Gerald Green. To replace them? Luis Scola, who I think is going to terrorize people off the bench as the backup four; C.J. Watson, who’s a competent backup, which is a vast improvement over Augustin; and Chris Copeland, who can play some four to give the Pacers fun small-ball lineups (George Hill/George/Granger/Copeland/Scola! WHEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!) and can actually score off the bench unlike Green. They also made perhaps the most clutch move of the offseason, locking in David West on a reasonable deal. To me, the free agency power rankings shake out like this for the Central: 1. Indiana, 2. Cleveland (looks fun now, but a few questions), 3. Detroit (either the best or worst offseason, and I can’t decide), 4. Chicago (drafted Tony Snell and cut Malcolm Thomas, though Dunleavy’s fun) and 5. Milwaukee (I…….just go to your room, John Hammond).
CM: I agree with Trevor here. All of their signings made them better, and they are by far the favorite heading into next season. As Trevor mentioned, Indiana has a multitude of lineups they can use against different teams. And in the big picture, they match up well against Miami and I could see a repeat of the epic Eastern Conference Finals happening again. As for the offseason rankings, I again agree with Trevor. It goes Indiana, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee. Out of those teams, I only see Indiana and Cleveland having offseasons that indicate a large amount of improvement. I’m highly skeptical of Detroit, while Chicago stood pat and the Bucks didn’t do anything that makes them more competitive.
Third Question: Sans Irving, which draft pick from the last three years will have the biggest impact on this team this upcoming season?
TM: It has to be Dion Waiters, right? If he’s the same player he was last year, the Cavs lack a consistent second guard. Jarrett Jack is many things; consistent is not one. Rookie Waiters would also hurt this team by trying to get to the basket recklessly and lacking defensive skills, hindering the progress of others around him. However, if he improves from outside and finishing at the rim to just league average, learns defense more and becomes generally more aware on the court……he’s a legit third option behind Kyrie and Bynum or Jack and suddenly gives the Cavs three guards who can run a pick-and-roll beautifully with an army of PNR or PNP weapons to use. More than anything, Waiters holds a lot of how much the Cavs improve as a team in his hands.
CM: I say Tristan Thompson, and here’s why: Rebounding. After his late season surge, Thompson has solidified himself as a top-notch rebounder at the NBA level. He may be undersized, but his athleticism helps him out in those cases. Also, if Anderson Varejao and/or Andrew Bynum go down with injury any for a long stretch of time – which is very, very likely – he’ll be counted to anchor the Cavaliers’ rebounding efforts. Imagine a Cavaliers team without Bynum and Varejao. Tyler Zeller isn’t going to rebound very well, while Anthony Bennett is probably never going to be an above average rebounder at the NBA level. Thompson is, without question, going to have a big impact on this team. If everyone is healthy, he’ll still play a major role. And if everyone battles injuries, then Thompson is going to be the Cavaliers most important frontcourt player.
Fourth Question: Which non-Cavaliers matchup are you most looking forward to this season?
TM: Nets/Knicks. The Nets shook things up this offseason; the Knicks did typical Knicks offseason things. The Nets have a perfect foil to Carmelo Anthony in Andrei Kirilenko; the Knicks can shut down Brook Lopez with Tyson Chandler. The Nets bench is unfairly considered to suck; the Knicks bench is fairly considered to suck. The Nets re-signed their top bench option in Andray Blatche, and might regret it, because Andray Blatche; the Knicks re-signed their top bench option in J.R. Smith, and might regret it, because of meniscal surgery (and J.R. Smith). A lot of people don’t like the Nets; a lot of people don’t like the Knicks. I irrationally love the Nets; I irrationally love the Knicks. These games are going to be insane next year, and I can’t wait.
CM: Indiana-Miami, and it’s not even close. I can’t wait to see this improved Indiana team take on a Heat team that didn’t bring everyone back and is going to have a lot of pressure to preform at a high level (more commonly referred to as three-peating) the summer before LeBron James can reenter free agency. Plus, the jury is out on whether or not Dwayne Wade is still effective and will the Heat be able to deal with David West, Luis Scola and Roy Hibbert in the frontcourt. Also, is the Heat’s bench deep enough to deal with the Pacers incredibly deep bench? Their series in the postseason was basketball as good as it gets, and I just want to see more. The Heat-Pacers matchups will be high stakes and high level, and there is not much more you can ask for out of NBA Basketball.
Fifth Question: Which old face-new place game will provide the most animosity?
TM: Dwight Howard to LA is too easy, so I’ll look elsewhere. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to Milwaukee could be solid options, except lots and lots of people were happy to see both leave. Boston fans have too much respect for KG and Paul Pierce to have any. Many Sacramento fans are okay with Tyreke walking, so I’m going to go with November 20th: The day Josh Smith returns to Atlanta with the Pistons. Smith left Atlanta somewhat unceremoniously; he was beloved by many Hawks fans (including Brandon Barnes of Soaring Down South, one of my favorite Hawks writers who was somewhat devastated by the events), but he and the team had mutual disinterest in continuing their relationship. Smoove is from Atlanta, and he had a special place in that community. I could definitely see him coming out to a chorus of boos when the Pistons are introduced on that night.
CM: Personally, I can’t wait for Metta World Peace to return to Los Angeles. Here’s a player who seemed convinced that he would spend this season in LA even when there were rumors swirling about him being amnestied, and he’s returning to where he was born. Plus, he’s always prone to say crazy things to the media. I’m sure when he makes his return to the West Coast he’s going to say something nuts and make headlines. Plus, there’s something sweet about seeing the Knicks and Lakers being both pretty average – at best – basketball teams. In second place, though, is Tyler Hansborough returning to Indiana. There’s no heat there, but it’ll have to be bittersweet for the former North Carolina star to return to the city where he was on a contender instead of the Toronto Raptors.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Trevor Magnotti and Dan Pilar have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”