Welcome to the sixty-sixth installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This weekend 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 Cleveland’s past performances against Central Division foes, sending Anthony Bennett down to the D-League, the possibility of a mid-season trade, Christmas Day games and the Cavaliers’ upcoming contest against the Golden State Warriors.
First Question: Three of the past four games have been against Central Division opponents, but the Cavs didn’t perform up to par in comparison to their efforts in the past two weeks. What did you learn from this team through these games?
Trevor Magnotti: Effort. That’s how simple it was. Against Chicago, the Cavs just didn’t give a crap about defense, and it resulted in the Bulls dropping threes and Carlos Boozer abusing Thompson all game in a blowout loss. Against Milwaukee and Chicago, guys were hurt and banged up, sure. But in all three of these games, it looked like the guys who were both playing and healthy just were not focused. That’s how you let the vaunted offenses of the Bulls, Bucks, and Pistons all break 100 against you, and then you end up 1-2 in those games. It was a pitiful effort from the Cavs over the weekend.
Dan Pilar: I second that, Trevor. The Bucks and Bulls have depleted rosters, but they play so damn hard that they can compete with any team any given night. This Cavaliers team has so much talent on it and the only one who I see grinding on the court is Dellavedova and Tristan. Those two work so hard for their minutes and to be successful at their positions, but that attitude hasn’t spread through the roster. We’re going nowhere if things remain the way they are. If the Cavs are expecting to make the playoffs this year, the team attitude has to change. Last time Mike Brown was in Cleveland his team had very good chemistry. Let’s see if he can do it with this roster.
Second Question: With how Bennett has looked in scrub minutes this season, is it time to send him down to the D-League. Or are you not a proponent of this?
TM: I’ve advocated for it for a few weeks now. I want Bennett to take a week or two, go down and wreck stuff in the D-League, then slowly be assimilated back into the rotation. Chris and I have discussed this at length in recent weeks on the podcast, and it’s a solid idea. Rather than just benching him until he figures it out in practice, D-League game experience would be a better option for Bennett to learn with the pressure off.
DP: Absolutely not. He needs more minutes at the pro level. We all know Bennett is a great scorer; he has shown that at the collegiate level, Mountain West in fact, where the competition isn’t as great as it is in a big six conference. And before college, he was one of the best players in Canada; where the competition isn’t as good as it would be in the United States. So sending him down to D-League is just going to give him the same competition he is accustomed to. He needs to play against NBA-caliber players, and Mike Brown needs to get him in a better position to score. When we drafted him I was so excited to see a pick and roll with him and Kyrie. I don’t think I’ve seen one all season. If he Cavs are going to play him at power forward, then use his strengths. Bennett can hit a shot from anywhere on the court, make a power forward defend him. It’s frustrating watching him struggle, but sending him to Canton isn’t going to do anything. He’s going to average 20 and 10 and people will think he’s ready to come back. Play him. Who cares if he doesn’t do well, the team isn’t doing well anyway, so he’ll fit right in.
Third Question: Are you convinced that the Cavaliers are sporting a playoff-worthy roster? Should the team be gearing up for a mid-season trade?
TM: In the East? Absolutely. I think it’s just a matter of putting the pieces in the right places. Not starting Alonzo Gee last night against the Hawks in favor of Earl Clark was a good step. Varejao getting major minutes on athletic centers over Andrew Bynum is a good start. I think if the Cavs can get the right guys on the floor with each other, they can be a really effective team built around Kyrie’s offense, Dion’s bench scoring, and Andy’s defense. I’m against a trade at this point unless you can fleece someone for a major piece, like a Luol Deng, or trade without giving up a major rotation piece. The right guys are here. Just need to find how to put them in place.
DP: We have the talent on the roster to make the playoffs, especially in the East, but players aren’t buying into Mike Brown’s system. I don’t necessarily think a move has to be made—obviously small forward is our biggest need—but I think we can make do with Earl Clark and running a three-guard lineup that Brown has been doing lately with Jack, Irving and Waiters.
Fourth Question: After a full slate of Christmas Day games on Wednesday, what was your favorite matchup to watch this past holiday?
TM: Heat/Lakers was a ton of fun. I never expected the Lakers to put up a decent showing, but they played really good defense on the Heat throughout the game, and guys like Xavier Henry and Jordan Hill put on a show off the bench for the Lakers. The Heat still won, because they’re the more talented team, but the Lakers gave them a great test. Also, this game had almost a quintessential Swaggy P performance and LeBron dunked off the freaking backboard, so I have to pick it.
DP: Are you kidding me? You must have fallen asleep before the Clippers-Warriors game. That was great to watch because a rivalry is forming right before our eyes, and in the center of it all stands Andrew Bogut. Yeah, Andrew Bogut. He was causing the most troubles on Christmas, and it was awesome to watch all the “brawls” ensue. Both teams have a good mixture of young talent and crafty veterans, which is another reason it is fun to watch. To me, it was no contest that Warriors-Clippers was by far the best of the day.
Fifth Question: The Warriors – sporting the Splash Bros – will be coming to the Q on Sunday. Where do you have them ranked amongst the Western Conference teams?
TM: Somehow the Warriors are the eighth seed in the West, which speaks volumes to the depth of the Western Conference. Their offense hasn’t been the same without Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry this season, but they are still a top-half of the league offense and a top 10 defense. They’ve also had a brutal opening schedule. I think that they’re about where they were last year, about the fifth or sixth-best team in the West. They have a seven-game road swing against the East coming up, which will be good for them. I think they go on a little run here and their record will improve to where their talent level suggests they should be.
DP: Well, even though they signed Iguodala in the offseason, I do think the Warriors have gotten worse with the departure of Jarrett Jack. They are pretty thin in the frontcourt. Right now they have Bogut, but you know he’s going to get injured at some point in the season. This is a team that will have to deal the highly touted 2014 draft pick for a player in return. They contended for the West last season, and if they want to do it again, I think this is a team that needs to make a move.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Trevor Magnotti and Zak Kolesar have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”