Welcome to the sixty-third installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This Friday Trevor Magnotti and Dan Pilar 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 Tristan Thompson’s big night, backcourt defense, small forward issue, the problem with the Brooklyn Nets and big injuries around the NBA.
First Question: TT recorded a career-high 21 rebounds in Wednesday’s victory over the Denver Nuggets, nine of them being on the offensive glass. What are we seeing different from Tristan down low that we didn’t see last season?
Trevor Magnotti: I don’t think there’s anything different in terms of rebounding for Thompson. He’s doing basically the same stuff he did last year, by crashing the boards and boxing out well on the offensive end. I think any differences in his stats are due to his increase in playing time, because the advanced metrics aren’t really showing any substantial changes in his rebounding numbers. I really don’t think much has changed for him, although it was nice to see him body up Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson all game.
Dan Pilar: I agree. I don’t know if I see much different in TT other than confidence. His offensive game is starting to come around and he’s gaining confidence making shots. That confidence is spreading to his entire game. He’s truly becoming a great well-rounded player.
Second Question: Cleveland’s guards have been horrendous operating in the pick-and-roll defense thus far. Although this problem could have been seen from a mile away, what sets do you consider Mike Brown running to help lessen the extent of this issue?
TM: Well for one, Anderson Varejao needs to stop hedging pick and rolls so hard, screwing up everyone’s rotations. That would be nice. Other than that, I think playing more aggressive help-side defense would help. If say, Earl Clark is guarding the guy in the corner, and Kyrie gets beat in a pick-and-roll, Clark could be set up to help more into the lane and provide a stop for the ball-handler while Kyrie recovers. This isn’t perfect, of course, and a team like San Antonio with Tony Parker and Danny Green could kill the Cavs with kick-outs in this. The simple answer has to be for the guards to get better, which is just going to take time.
DP: The inability to defend the pick-and-roll has been a major problem for the Cavs, and Zak is exactly right: it’s our guards, not our bigs, who have been horrendous. And I don’t know if the Cavs have a remedy for it. I don’t see a guard who is capable of coming in and playing stellar defense. The guards we do have are going to have to learn to play Mike Brown defense.
Third Question: Anthony Bennett playing minutes at small forward: yea or nay?
TM: I think it has to happen eventually. I really don’t want Brown to cut Earl Clark’s minutes for it, though, which appears to be his plan. Bennett should get experience at both forward spots, for sure. However, I don’t want the team’s best three-point shooter sacrificed to do this. Instead, Bennett should play some with Clark at power forward, allowing Bennett to still post up and work inside or with, say, Kyrie and C.J. Miles and be a spot-up guy. I think that’s the best way to make this work.
DP: Bennett needs minutes, period. At this point, I really don’t care what he plays. Small forward has been a weakness on this team this year, like the past three years, and maybe Bennett can provide a spark to the position. If you’re worried about him defending the small forward position on defense, I understand your concern. However, the other positions are playing good on defense, so I don’t see Bennett being much more of a liability on defense. The guy can score, and we need that. Let him play. Who cares if he goes 2 of 13 shooting; Dion Waiters had games like those his rookie season, but he played through it. Bennett’s problems will be cured with more playing time.
Fourth Question: Does Brooklyn’s embarrassing loss to the New York Knicks make them the most dreadful team to watch in the East this season? Does Jason Kidd last?
TM: Brooklyn’s terrible, sure. They are somewhat stagnant on offense, and they just don’t have enough healthy guys to be competitive in the East. However, the Nets aren’t necessarily dreadful to watch, because they still have Brook Lopez, and he’s very fun. Instead, my vote goes to the tire fire that is the Milwaukee Bucks. 3-15, without their only really entertaining player in Larry Sanders, using Nate Wolters in big minutes, and fresh off a loss to Detroit that saw Ekpe Udoh and Zaza Pachulia leave with injury. The Bucks are garbage. However, for the Nets, I think Kidd will figure it out. He has no current head coaching experience, and I think this growing pain was going to happen to an extent. If you’ll remember, Eric Spoelstra was useless in 2011 for the Heat, and look where he is now. I think Kidd’s going to get better, and this rough patch is just a step along the way.
DP: Wait, so you’re saying trading for three over-the-hill players and hiring a coach six months removed from being a player in the league doesn’t equal championship? The Nets made moves only Mikhail Prokhorov’s mother would like. Jason Kidd has no power; most the guys he’s coaching are around the same age as him. I don’t know if you can label them as the most pathetic because they do play some good ball, but damn…I feel sorry for Brooklyn. They are in trouble. As for the most dreadful team, I can’t pinpoint one. The Cavs have been pretty dreadful, so put them in that category.
Fifth Question: Some big name players suffered injuries this past week that will keep them out for an extended period of time. Which one hurts the most and why?
TM: I think it’s Anthony Davis, just because he was having one of those “Holy crap, this guy is exactly what we thought his ceiling was at the draft!” seasons. Davis is averaging 19/10 and four blocks per game this season, flashing a mid-range game, and has basically looked like a cross between Shawn Kemp and Alonzo Mourning. Now we have to watch him sit in a suit for six weeks because he broke his hand, and the Pelicans suffer because of it. It’s a shame, but that’s karma for Pierre, New Orleans.
DP: Well, the biggest injury of the early season has been Tyson Chandler. The Knicks are just as pathetic as the Nets without Chandler. But for injuries that occurred this week, I’ll say Beal. He’s got a leg injury and will be out for a few weeks, and for a guy who relies a lot on his legs for shooting, this could be a big-time injury. When he and Wall are healthy, they are a dynamic backcourt. This is a big blow for the Wizards.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Trevor Magnotti and Zak Kolesar have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”