Welcome to the 71st 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 Spencer Hawes, Luol Deng, the Cavaliers injured trio, buyouts in the NBA and the Atlanta Hawks’ playoff chances.
First Question: We are about a week into Spencer Hawes’ tenure as a Cavalier. How is he acclimating to his new surroundings so far?
Trevor Magnotti, RightDownEuclid.com Staff Writer: Hawes has seamlessly transitioned into the Cavs’ offense. As I outlined here, the Cavs are using Hawes’s pick-and-pop game to their advantage, and as a result, Hawes has been lights-out from deep. He’s developed a great two-man high-screen game with Kyrie, and he’s helped relieve some of the pressure from Jarrett Jack when the Cavs need outside shooting. He’s still not defending as well as I’d like, and he needs to figure out how to operate inside with Tristan Thompson, but overall I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve seen from Hawes as an offensive player through four games.
Chris Manning, RightDownEuclid.com Co-EIC: Offensively, Hawes has been exactly what the doctor ordered for the Cavaliers offense. Whether he has been starting or coming off the bench, Hawes fits in well with the Cavaliers personnel. He’s developed instant chemistry with Kyrie Irving and his ability to shoot from deep has given every other Cavalier on the floor more room to operate. On defense is where he hasn’t been what the Cavaliers ordered. He is by no means a rim protector and, much like in Philadelphia, he isn’t willing to challenge the other team at the rim or in the paint. There are things that need to be worked out, but Hawes has without question made the Cavaliers better.
Second Question: Luol Deng has come full circle, as he played his first game as a Cavalier against the Utah Jazz and the Cavaliers play the Jazz tonight. How would you grade his play as a Cavalier?
TM: While I’ve been impressed by Hawes, Deng has been somewhat of a disappointment for me this season. He really has been a complementary option on the offensive end for the Cavs, and when he does try to create for himself, his shot selection has not been good. Defensively he’s been acceptable, but nowhere near the All-Star level he’s flashed before. Part of this probably has to do with going from a winning situation in Chicago to whatever Cleveland has been this year, but still, Deng really hasn’t helped improve the on-court play as much as many expected him to this season. That’s why I’m not really too shaken up by the idea that Deng might not re-sign here.
CM: Deng has been a disappointment and he hasn’t been the player Cleveland expected. Offensively, he’s been inconsistent and, outside of a few high scoring games, hasn’t really settled into a set role on offense. Defensively, he’s helped, but he’s also learning a whole new defensive system and it’s understandable that he’s struggled. If anything, Deng has played well below the value (around $12 million per year) he was hoping to receive in a new contract this offseason. There are legitimate concerns as to if he can be a productive NBA starter over the next few years, but he still would be worth re-signing if you don’t have to overpay for him at the end of the season.
Third Question: Which injured Cavalier will Cleveland benefit most from when they return: Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles and Anderson Varejao?
TM: I feel like this is obviously Dion Waiters. C.J. Miles isn’t a huge necessity to return, even though it would be nice to remove Jarrett Jack from the starting lineup. Hawes and Zeller’s emergence negates the necessity for Varejao somewhat, as well. Meanwhile, without Dion, the bench has been a non-factor. Bench units are now revolving around Jack attempting to create or Zeller in the post, with the occasional impact from Anthony Bennett. The Cavs are missing the spark and initiation offensively that Waiters provides, and when he comes back, I expect to see immediate improvement from the offense of the bench unit.
CM: The answer here is definitely Dion Waiters. Varejao is going to help upfront with his passing ability and energy (ideally off the bench) and Miles should provide solid minutes at the three and four spots. However, Waiters came to lead the Cavaliers bench in almost every way possible before hyperextending his left knee and was arguably the Cavaliers second best player when he went down. When he comes back, he will be giving the Cavaliers another scoring option to pair with Kyrie Irving and Spencer. That three-headed monster can help the Cavaliers get through their daunting March schedule. The key to that trio is Waiters and the sooner he comes back, the better.
Fourth Question: There have been several notable buyouts in the NBA over the past week. Which player has the best chance to help a team win right now?
TM: It has to be Glen Davis, who’s both the best player that got bought out and the player who fills the biggest need for his team. The Clippers have really lacked a big off the bench, having failed in the Antawn Jamison/Lord Byron Mullens experiment, and relying on a Ryan Hollins/Hedo Turkoglu pairing to be their bench options in recent weeks. Davis can play both post positions, is an acceptable defensive player, and can score efficiently, as long as Doc Rivers reigns him in from taking dumb 18-footers like he did so often in Orlando. With Big Baby playing somewhere between 15-18 minutes per game, the Clippers’ bench becomes more similar to what it was last season, and this team should be far more dangerous heading into the postseason.
CM: While Glen Davis is a solid choice, I think there is argument to made for Caron Butler, who was just bought out by the Milwaukee Bucks. If he ends up in the right situation (Miami and Oklahoma City come to mind) he can provide around 15 minutes of solid wing defense and offense when asked upon. If he signs with Miami, it’s easy to see him helping up for the decline in production from both Ray Allen and Shane Battier this season. “Big Baby” is another good option (as is Danny Granger) but I would pick up Butler in a heartbeat.
Fifth Question: True or False: The Atlanta Hawks – losers of two straight and 9/10 – will miss the playoffs
TM: True. Atlanta’s entire post unit is hurt right now, relying on Mike Scott and Elton Brand to be their main post presence in recent games. Granted, Paul Millsap shouldn’t be out much longer, and the Hawks still are getting great play from guys like Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll. However, with the way teams like Charlotte, Brooklyn, and the Cavs have played of late, it seems to me that Atlanta is going to have a very tough time if guys don’t get healthy soon. It’s by no means a safe bet to think that Atlanta makes the playoffs at this point.
CM: For the sake of argument, I’ll say false. The Hawks don’t have a overly difficult remaining schedule and will at least get Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague back in time for a last push to the playoffs. They need to get healthy, and it’s not given that they can get healthy, but they should be able to in time to sneak into the playoffs. Even without Al Horford, this team is better than most other teams in the East and – once again, for emphasis – they just need to get healthy in time to win a few more games before the end of the season.
Make sure to check back next week to see what Trevor Magnotti and Chris Manning have to debate at the “Weekly Roundtable.”