Dec 10, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Jarrett Jack (left) interrupts a post game interview with point guard Kyrie Irving after a 109-94 win over the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers Quarterly Report: First Edition


Whenever we reach each quarter point of the Cleveland Cavaliers 2013-14 season, Right Down Euclid will take a look at the progress that the Cavaliers have made after each set of 20 or so games. In each quarterly post, RDE will break down SportsVU statistics from Cavaliers players, dissect three key games, study the play of the rookies and name an MVP, grade Coach Brown’s job thus far and look ahead to the next quarter.

In this edition of the Cleveland Cavaliers Quarterly Report, Right Down Euclid takes a look at how Cleveland fared over the first quarter of the season. Through 25 games, the Cavs currently own a 10-15 record – a wonderful 8-4 home start, but paltry 2-11 record on the road. Nonetheless, the first quarter has had its fair share of surprises, ups and downs and questions yet to be answered. Center Andrew Bynum has played (and started) in more games than most expected, the team turned around a 4-12 start with a 6-3 finish and Anthony Bennett remains a mystery. Before we take a closer look at the abovementioned topics, let’s take a quick glance at the Eastern Conference standings and where the Cavaliers currently rank amongst teams they are vying for a playoff position against:

1. Indiana Pacers – 21-5*

2. Miami Heat – 20-6*

3. Atlanta Hawks – 15-12

4. Boston Celtics – 12-16*

5. Charlotte Bobcats – 13-14

6. Washington Wizards – 12-13

7. Detroit Pistons – 13-15

8. Toronto Raptors – 10-14

9. Cleveland Cavaliers – 10-15

10. Chicago Bulls – 9-16

11. Brooklyn Nets – 9-17

12. New York Knicks – 8-18

13. Orlando Magic – 8-18

14. Philadelphia 76ers – 8-19

15. Milwaukee Bucks – 5-21
*denotes division leader

So right now Cleveland sits a half-game out of the final playoff spot in the East, but also is only behind four games from nabbing the fourth seed. Anything can happen in what has been dubbed as the Leastern Conference, E-League and Ewwwstern Conference (note: I did not come up with any of these puns) this season, but Cleveland’s ultimate goal should be this: nab a sixth seed or higher and you avoid a first-round matchup with the Heat or the Pacers. Right now, it’s anybody’s spot to take.

Five First Quarter SportsVU Stats

Kyrie Irving’s Possessions And Andy At The Elbow

This SportVU statistic is pretty self-explanatory and predictable, but, for Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, he ranks 12th amongst guards who have played in 20-plus games in touches per game (81.3) and ninth in front court touches per game (73.4). John Wall and Kemba Walker rank first and second respectively in both of these categories. As far as time of possession per game, Kyrie ranks 16th amongst players who have appeared in 20-plus games, holding on to the ball for just over six minutes per contest. Regarding areas of the floor where players receive touches, guess what Clevelander is receiving the seventh-most elbow touches per game of players competing in more than 20 games? You guessed it: Anderson Varejao with 8.4 elbow touches per game. His game has definitely evolved outside of the paint, and SportVU is showing that.

Cavalier Bigs Suck At Protecting The Rim

To put it point blank, yeah, they stink. Out of the 50 players who have played in 20 or more games and have had five or more shots attempted against them at the rim, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson rank fourth-to-last and last in the NBA respectively. Out of the 6.4 shots attempted against Andy at the rim, opponents are making good on 57.9 percent of those shots. And for Tristan, he’s allowing 61.8 percent of the 5.2 shots attempted against him at the rim to go in. Yikes.

Bynum Making Good On Rebounds Thus Far

I wanted to widen the variables for this SportVU statistic, so I opened it up to players who have played in 15 or more games and have five or more rebounding chances per game. In this statistic (percentage of rebounds per chance), Bynum ranks 17th in the NBA at 67.3 percent. What I found shocking in this category is that Andy only converts on 52.5 percent of his 16.6 rebounding chances per game. This puts him in the lower half of players appearing in 15 or more games and seeing five or more rebounding chances per game.

Unlce Drew At The Rim: Could Use Some Help

Out of players who have totaled 150 or more drives in the 2013-14 season, Irving ranks eighthth in points per games on drives (5.4) and backcourt buddy Dion Waiters ranks 20th (4.0). To put this statistic into perspective, only 26 players have attempted 150 or more drives this season, so taking a look at their percentages will provide more insight. Dion currently ranks ahead of Kyrie in this department, ranking 21st and making good on 40.3 percent of his drives. Irving is one spot below Waiters at 39.8 percent. Only Gordon Hayward, Ricky Rubio, Damian Lillard and Brandon Jennings rank lower than Irving in this category.

Andy Becoming A Pro At The Quick Release

Out of players who have appeared in 20 or more games and have taken two or more catch-and-shoot attempts per game, Anderson Varejao ranks fourth in the NBA with a 52.4 percent mark. He is in an elite category, ranking behind Marco Belinelli, Luis Scola and Kyle Korver, all who are great shooters. We’ve seen the development of Andy’s game outward beginning with last season’s dominant start. Wild Thing is currently putting up 2.5 catch-and-shoot attempts per game and averages 2.6 catch-and-shoot points per game.

Three Games That Have Stood Out

Bynum and Waiters get hot as Cavs hang on to down Bulls, 97-93 – Trevor Magnotti

The Cavs went into this contest losing eight of their last nine games, staggering to a 4-12 start to the season. More importantly, the Wine & Gold had only beaten the Bulls one time in their last 11 tries over the past three seasons. This was a huge game for Cleveland to get a win, even if Derrick Rose was out at this point. The Cleveland bigs finally got theirs against the duo of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah (34 points, 24 rebounds combined by Bynum and Thompson), and with an emerging Bynum in the middle for Cleveland, things finally started to click for the Cavs. Since this game (including this contest), the Wine & Gold have gone 6-3. In retrospect, that’s a turning point in my opinion.

Irving, Waiters lead Cleveland to 109-100 victory in Orlando – Chris Manning

The Cavaliers didn’t win their second road game of the year until they were 22 games into the season (11 away contests to be exact). It looked like that streak was going to stretch to 12 games (and then 13 if you count the proceeding Miami game) after Cleveland got off to yet another slow start on the road in the first quarter. Down nine entering the second frame, the Wine & Gold started to inch back within striking distance of the sliding Magic. Then Dion Waiters happened in the second half. Despite taking the court at different times, Irving and Waiters combined to shoot 47.6 percent from the field and 81.8 percent from the free throw line, and scored 52 points total. Both players started to hit their stride together around the time this game came up on the schedule.

Cleveland Cavaliers get crushed on the boards as Lillard dagger leads to 119-116 loss – Zak Kolesar

The most recent Cavaliers loss shed light on a few things for me: the Cavaliers can’t rely on just their rebounding to win games (when they lose the battle on the boards, they lose games), they haven’t figured out how to consistently work Bynum into the offense despite early successes and they can hang with the NBA’s elite. Yes, it’s common sense that if you lose the battle on the boards you won’t win many games, but like the Heat, Cleveland needs to be able to space the floor when they realize they’re getting slaughtered in the rebounding game.

Dellavedova Impressive, Others Not, Kyrie Irving (Obvious) Team MVP

ROOKIES

PF Anthony Bennett (UNLV, Pick No. 1, Round 1) – 20 GP, 2.2 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 10.0 MPG, 1.7 PER, 27.7 FG% (3.3 FGA), 17.4 3P% (1.2 3PA)

In my opinion, it’s not fair to give Bennett a full assessment until he consistently sees around 20 minutes of action per night. That will definitely not happen this season, and I’m O.K. with that. For the record, I don’t think it’s fair to label a player as a “bust” until he has been given a fair shake by the team that drafted him. For Bennett, he’s just not in the right shape to bring his entire skillset to the court. That’s a huge problem, because at this point in the season, it’s going to be tough for him to get on a fitness plan with games, travel plans and practices getting in the way. I believe in Bennett, but I just don’t think this season – due to many factors – is a favorable situation for the No. 1 overall pick.

SG Matthew Dellavedova (Saint Mary’s, Undrafted)– 18 GP, 3 GS, 3.7 PPG, 0.6 SPG, 13.7 MPG,12.0 PER, 48.0 FG% (2.8 FGA), 42.3 3P% (1.4 3PA)

Delly has by far been the most efficient rookie for the Cavaliers, and even though the stats are right before you, don’t pay too much attention to them (except PER). Dellavedova’s hustle and heart on the court has helped the Cavaliers in many tight situations this season. From his stellar help defense to his ferocious rebounding techniques and even his positioning in the corner in order to knock down clutch threes, Delly has done it all when few to no expectations were set for him. He’s gained some notoriety across the NBA, has seen Olympic playing time for his native country Australia in 2012, and made this avatar photo possible. He’s no Luke Walton. He’s much better.

Carrick Felix (Arizona State, Pick No. 33, Round 2)– 3 GP, 1.3 PPG, 0.7 RPG, 5.0 MPG, 2.0 PER, 25.0 FG% (1.3 FGA)

We haven’t seen much of Felix at the NBA level besides some sparse minutes at the very beginning of the season. He has spent most of his time thus far being called up to sit on the Cavaliers’ bench and being sent down to start for the Canton Charge. He’s strung together some noteworthy games for the Charge, but nothing to gawk over. Once his offensive game becomes more polished, we’ll start to see Felix on the court in Wine & Gold. I don’t think that will be all too often this season, however.

Sergey Karasev (Russia, Pick No. 19, Round 1)– 12 GP, 1 GS, 9.0 MPG, 2.4 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 4.8 PER, 32.0 FG% (2.1 FGA), 28.6 SP% (1.2 3PA)

The same goes for Karasev as it does for Felix: the sample size just isn’t there yet to give a fair assessment. However, it is interesting that Karasev did receive starting billing over Dion Waiters in a November game against the Boston Celtics. This doesn’t concern Karasev, but by the first-rounder receiving a starting slot, it proved that Brown wants to make Waiters a permanent fixture on the bench. Anyways, in the other 11 games Karasev has received time in, he’s only seen playing time in two wins. He’s a blowout guy for now, but his form is definitely promising for his NBA future.

MVP

Kyrie Irving – 25 GP, 25 GS, 21.8 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 34.7 MPG, 18.6 PER, 41.6 FG% (19.1 FGA), 32.8 3P% (5.1 3PA), 82.0 FT% (5.1 FTA)

I really was about to pick Tristan Thompson as the first quarter MVP, but I would say he was more of the MVP for the first quarter of the first quarter of the season. Plus, Thompson has been pretty inconsistent on offense; more so than Irving. He got off to a tremendous start – posting double-doubles ad nauseam – while Irving was struggling to find his shot from the perimeter (and even in the lane), so that’s why he was an early favorite for this award from myself. Once Kyrie strung together a few impressive performances – beginning with a 20-point, six-rebound game against the Clippers and Chris Paul – he became Uncle Drew again. This garnered him Eastern Conference Player of the Week Honors this past week as well. Irving has also posted five performances of 39 points or more this season, which puts him on an incredible pace to surpass his 22.5 PPG average from last season despite being slightly behind at the moment. After the worst performance of his career two weeks ago (a zero-point game against Atlanta), Irving has averaged 28.5 points, 6.8 assists and 1.3 SPG, while shooting 48 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from three and 92.3 percent from the charity stripe over six games. The Cavaliers have been 4-2 in this stretch as well, only losing to the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers. Winning is all that matters, so it’s good to see Irving’s success correlate with victories.

Coach Brown’s Report Card

C – The Defense Hasn’t Been What I Had Expected

Just looking at some of the defensive statistics and where the Cavaliers rank as a team is enough to show you that Wine & Gold fans shouldn’t be satisfied with the job that Coach Brown has done despite a recent improvement in the overall play of the team. Cleveland ranks 18th in defensive efficiency (103.5), 15th in defensive rebounding rate (74.8 percent – the percentage of missed shots by an opponent that Cleveland rebounds) and 19th in points allowed (101.2). Yes, the Cavs rank 10th in rebounds per game (44.0), but have also showed vulnerability in this area as of late. Brown has stressed that the rebounding battle – with bigs like Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Andrew Bynum on his roster – is something he goes into every game expecting to win. Teams have been able to keep games close – oftentimes resulting in losses – because of Cleveland allowing opponents to swallow up the boards on both ends. He has a great trio of guys capable of performing the task of outrebounding teams on a nightly basis, but that hasn’t happened consistently enough. Yes, there have been some moments where Brown has shown fire in his eyes and has managed his rosters pretty well, but for a coach coming into a second chance with a team, I was expecting much more.

What to Watch For in the Upcoming Quarter

Since we poured into the second quarter a tad bit with this review, let’s take a look at what the Cavaliers have awaiting them up to Game 41 (or over their next 16 games):

1. Dec. 23 – Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons, 7 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena

Strange to think that this will be the first time that these two teams will be matching up this season. The Pistons currently own the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, and this is a matchup that most Wine & Gold fans were looking forward to before the season started because of the expectations set for these teams in the offseason. Both teams have slightly different molds (Detroit more so) than they did in their 2012-13 campaigns. This is another chance for the Cavs to prove that they are a contender and not a pretender.

2. Dec. 28 – Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics, 1 p.m. at TD Garden

The first afternoon game for the Cavaliers this season will be the first revenge game of the 2013-14 season for the Cavs. After getting stomped by the Celtics the first time they visited TD Garden this season, Cleveland needs to come out strong and make a statement. They were embarrassed on the court, and rightfully so. After being throttled on Nov. 29, Cleveland started to turn the corner. Let’s see if that is truly the case.

3. Jan. 12 – Cleveland Cavaliers at Sacramento Kings, 6 p.m. at Sleep Train Arena

When Cleveland traveled to Sac during their 2012-13 campaign, it was one of my favorite games of the season despite a loss. There was high scoring, a peeved Dion Waiters and Boogie Cousins doing work in the paint. I love all of those things. Dion notched 33 off of the bench in one of his first games back after an injury. Dion thought Scott should’ve had him in the starting lineup, so he showed him why with his 12 of 18 shooting performance. The 124-118 final score may not show that this game came down to a final possession, but it most certainly did. And between the two teams, there were six 30-point quarters (out of eight possible frames). This one should be fun.

4. Jan. 15 – Cleveland Cavaliers at Portland Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. at Moda Center

Portland came into Cleveland, shot lights-out (like they have all season) from three and ripped the hearts out of the Wine & Gold a la a Damian Lillard game-winning dagger. Portland then went on to get trounced in their fourth road game in five days in Minnesota, so watching a potential win against one of the best teams in the NBAA slip away a few days ago hurt. And I have a feeling that any Lillard-Irving matchup is going to take top point-guard billing form now on.

5. Jan. 17 – Cleveland Cavaliers at Denver Nuggets, 9 p.m. at Pepsi Center

It’s no secret that the Cavaliers have played much better at home than on the road, and one of the key home victories for the Wine & Gold came against the Denver Nuggets. When the Cavs traveled to Denver last season, it was a disaster. Center Kosta Koufus (lol) tore apart a weak Cleveland frontcourt early in 2013, but since then he’s been traded to the Timberwolves. Now it’s Timofey Mozgov who will be the “under-the-radar” big that the Wine & Gold cannot let have his way with Cleveland’s bigs. Yeah, this isn’t the same team that is sporting a Thompson/Zeller starting frontcourt in the lineup, so let’s see if the Cavs can match Kenneth Faried and the Denver bigs blow for blow like they did a couple weeks back.

Tags: Anderson Varejao Andrew Bynum Anthony Bennett Cleveland Cavaliers Dion Waiters Kyrie Irving Matthew Dellavedova Tristan Thompson