Welcome to the 70th installment of Right Down Euclid’s “Weekly Roundtable.” This weekend 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 & Gold and two questions surrounding the league.
Today the discussion revolves around Cleveland’s troubles since returning home, Kyrie Irving’s selection as an All-Star starter, improvement areas before the All-Star break, Kevin Durant’s MVP season and the possibilities with Greg Monroe.
First Question: After ending the road trip on a high note, the Cavaliers have dropped two at home against the Mavericks and the Bulls. Have you changed your mind on either buying or selling Cleveland’s playoff chances since last week?
Trevor Magnotti: Eh. I’m still gonna buy that they have a chance. The fact is that it’s still prior to the All-Star break, and there’s a lot of basketball to be played. Yeah, the Cavs had a rough couple games, but considering that the Cavs almost won the Dallas game, and Bulls/Cavs games never make sense, I’m buying that there’s a chance of the Cavs getting into the playoffs. Detroit, New York, and Charlotte separate the Cavs from a playoff spot, and I like the odds of the Cavs getting in the mix with all of these teams. Detroit is a mess offensively, the Knicks just lost Andrea Bargnani, and have been 13-14’s most hilarious team, and the Bobcats just lost Kemba Walker for a few weeks and play a style that’s extremely beatable due to their offense being terrible. I think the Cavs have just as good a chance as anyone else.
Chris Manning: I do buy that the Cavaliers still have a chance to make the playoffs and am on the record as saying so. But every time they lose a game that, on paper, they probably should win, I become less optimistic about their chances. They still will have to play around or above .500 basketball the rest of the way in order to make a serious run at the postseason and, while their schedule leads me to think that this is possible, history isn’t on the Cavaliers side. But what is in their favor is how utterly dysfunctional the Knicks, Bobcats and other teams around them are. When you consider everything about the Cavaliers, I’m buying their chances, but I won’t be putting my life savings on them anytime soon.
Second Question: Kyrie Irving was named to his second All-Star game on Thursday, being one of the five starters for the Eastern Conference. Do you think he deserved to be in the starting lineup?
TM: The state of the Eastern point guards is so terrible that Zach Lowe thought Kyle Lowry should be an Eastern All-Star starter. I think it should have been John Wall. Wall’s averaging a career-high in points, three-point shooting, assists, and steals, and has been one of the Wizards’ most consistent contributors on a team that’s comfortably sitting in the playoff picture. Wall’s been much better on defense in particular, and his court vision is still elite. Kyrie has played well this year, but he hasn’t lived up to expectations, and Wall in a way has with his playmaking ability.
CM: If I was living in James Naismith’s peach basket, controlling the basketball world from the heavens with Robert “Tractor” Traylor as my right hand man, I would have went with John Wall as my starter. But I can’t complain about Irving getting the nod and you wouldn’t have seen me complain about Lowry getting the nod either. But to play Trevor’s foil here, I’ll make the case for the guy who actually got the nod. This is a fan-driven event, and without question, Irving is the player who is most likely to dazzle and do something memorable on the court. When he’s on, he’s the most aesthetically pleasing player of the bunch, and that’s what this game is all about. He was the selection of the fans and, with the system in place, that’s the end of the discussion.
Third Question: What are you going to be looking out for improvement wise over the next 11 games before the All-Star break?
TM: I just want to see continued improvement on the offensive end. The Cavs have been pretty solid offensively lately, scoring over 95 points in six of the last eight games. We haven’t seen the improvement in the efficiency numbers, but if they can continue scoring points at a reasonable rate, their defensive abilities will be helped out. The Cavs have been a decent defensive team this season, but their offense has struggled mightily for consistency, and if the Cavs can find that now that Luol Deng is aboard, they’ll be in better shape. Hopefully that can start against a terrible defensive team in Milwaukee on Friday.
CM: I want to see some consistency. Over the next 11 games, the Cavaliers aren’t exactly facing a murderer’s row of opponents, and it’s a good opportunity for them to get the ball rolling on their season before they make the final push toward the postseason. To do that they’ll need to be consistent and need their streakiest players – Dion Waiters, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson – to show up on a nightly basis. Take Waiters for example: In his last five games, he has scored 17 points, 18 points, nine points, zero points and 15 points. His shooting numbers were all over the place in those games, and he’s a key part of the Cavaliers offense. These next 11 games are as good a time as ever for these Cavaliers – who just happen to be three of their core building blocks – to find some game-to-game consistency.
Fourth Question: It’s no secret that Kevin Durant has been on a tear since Russell Westbrook was sidelined, as he’s shot up to the top of the MVP ladder quickly. What will change once Russ comes back and what have you seen differently with KD’s game that will help one of the best duo’s in the NBA post All-Star break?
TM: Durant’s been more efficient than ever this season, which is terrifying. His shooting numbers are slightly down, but Durant’s scoring 31 points per game this season, and has upped his PER to 30.7. When Westbrook gets back, I think that Durant’s ridiculous usage will drop slightly, which will allow him to pick his spots more. Once that happens, Durant could be even more efficient. I think the main changes that will help the Thunder post-Westbrook return don’t involve Durant, however. With Reggie Jackson breaking out and Serge Ibaka adding a dangerous three-point shot, the Thunder have way more weapons than they did last year, and that’s gonna be a strong team when Russ gets back, because they can rely on many weapons offensively, instead of Ibaka mid-range, Durant, Westbrook, and maybe Kevin Martin. Now, Ibaka is a legit weapon, and Jackson and Jeremy Lamb have performed far better than Martin did last year.
CM: Durant’s usage and number of shots are likely to drop once Westbrook ultimately returns, and by extension, his scoring numbers are going to drop as well. But what’s changed most with “Slim Reaper” is that he can just score from anywhere and is only getting better at each spot on the floor. He’s a few post moves away from having every offensive move at his disposal, and I’m not convinced that anyone in the league outside of LeBron James can stay in front of Durant. And when Westbrook comes back, the Thunder will have a juggernaut on offense, and it makes them the favorite out west in my book. Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka are all fantastic, and they are getting good production out of the likes of Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson. Provided Westbrook comes back and is 100 percent, this Thunder team might be well on its way to the Finals.
Fifth Question: The Pistons have been a pretty disappointing team so far this season, with Josh Smith causing multiple problems in the “big” mix of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Does Monroe get flipped before the trade deadline?
TM: I don’t think so, only because the Pistons will want to control his restricted free agency. I think the Pistons would be able to get more for him in a prospective sign-and-trade than they would at the deadline, and I think Monroe is more attractive at that juncture than he would be in a trade at the deadline. A team that traded for him this offseason would have to deal with this RFA period, and would likely have to give up the thing Detroit will seek most with a Monroe deal: a 2014 first-round pick. So I don’t think the market will be good for Monroe this winter, and instead come July, Monroe will find a new home via sign-and-trade.
CM: On the flip side, Detroit should look to trade Monroe before the deadline. A team like Washington could offer them Otto Porter and a protected first, and Detroit probably comes out the winner in such a deal. They could also make an offer to the Celtics and try to nab Jeff Green straight up or with a protected pick. However, I can’t see a team willingly giving up a 2014 pick for Monroe, and I think it’s more likely they get some kind of asset in return this summer for Monroe, even if it is just a complimentary throw-in draft pick. They might be better served now in dealing Monroe if only to try and become a functional basketball team and keep Josh Smith away from the three-point line, but the market does not allow for it. Sorry, Joe Dumars.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Trevor Magnotti and Zak Kolesar have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”