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Thursday, January 17, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for December: 29. Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers 
Overall Win/Loss Record (as of December 31st): 7-25, fifth place Central Division







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This Month:

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Team Statistics and League Rank (as of December 31st)

  • Points Scored: 93.9 (24th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.4 (21st)
  • Team FG%: .416 (29th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .473 (30th)
  • Rebounds per game: 41.8 (16th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 41.1 (8th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.4 (23rd)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 15.6 (6th)


Individual Statistical Leaders (as of December 31st)

  • Scoring (ppg): Kyrie Irving (22.7)
  • Rebounds per game:  Anderson Varejao (14.4)
  • Minutes per game:  Anderson Varejao (36.0)
  • Assists per game: Kyrie Irving (5.6)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Anderson Varejao (.478)
  • Steals per game: Anderson Varejao (1.5)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Tristan Thompson (0.8)


Worst Player of the Month:  Dion Waiters


Here is another classic case of a coach force feeding minutes to a rookie that otherwise would not deserve it in any case.  Unfortunately, in the case Dion Waiters, Coach Byron Scott has little or no choice but to play him so many minutes as he lacks any players who are better.  For December, Waiters has played poorly for Cleveland, averaging less than 12 points per game while shooting a woeful .342 from the field and .207 from beyond the arc.  He only shot over .400 twice in December while in the rest of the month he was simply abysmal on the offensive end shooting just .283 from the field overall.  Waiters certainly has a long way to go before he can be considered as a building block of a franchise; however considering that Cleveland will not be going anywhere fast in the near future, he will certainly have the time to develop and improve his  game.

First Player of the Month:  Tyler Zeller


In the last six games where starting center Anderson Varejao has been nursing a knee injury, Tyler Zeller has stepped up his game in his place filling in the massive void that Varejao has left.  In the six games that he has started in the place of Varejao, Zeller has posted rather solid numbers averaging 12.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while scoring in double figures in every game except one.  It certainly looks as if Zeller has grown much more comfortable playing as a pro as he has shown the same confidence with the Cavs as he had shown while playing at the University of North Carolina last year.  If he continues his exceptional play, perhaps the Cavs front office should consider unloading their veteran center Varejao giving Zeller the opportunity to become a full time starter.  In the six games he has started, Zeller has certain proven that he is worthy and has the potential to become even better than Varejao given the chance.


Analysis:

As with most young, inexperienced and rebuilding teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers spent the month of December losing every game except three.  The Cavs surprisingly won a home game against the Los Angeles Lakers (12/11/2012) and twice on road against a slumping Milwaukee Bucks (12/22/2012) and an equally, if not even more terrible team in the Washington Wizards (12/26/2012).  The others, quite predictably, remained in the loss column as the Cavs started December losing five in a row before breaking that streak by beating the Lakers at home.  Cleveland did not manage to carry the momentum from that win as they continued where they left off losing another six in a row which was then halted by back to back wins on the road.  Unfortunately, as with as losing teams, the Cavs did not finish the month strong as the lost their last two games to finish December.

By all accounts, it seems as if Cleveland will continue its losing ways and return to the NBA Draft Lottery once again; however, despite losing 13 of 16 games, Cleveland certainly showed that it was not a pushover by any means. Save for their three blowout losses by the Indiana Pacers (12/12/2012), Minnesota Timberwolves (12/7/2012) and the Toronto Raptors (12/18/2012), the Cavs kept most of the games rather close losing by margins of 12 points or less.  They almost pulled off an upset by bringing their game against the Portland Trailblazers to overtime (12/1/2012) but unfortunately were unable to hold on for the "W."  They could have even possibly stolen one from the New York Knicks, if it were not for a last second shot that had them losing by just one point (12/15/2012).  And they could have ended December on a positive note, but lost a heart breaking game against the Brooklyn Nets by just three points (12/29/2012).

If Cleveland would have won those three games, it would have had 10 wins, which may not seem like much, but would have been a strong confidence booster as the Cavs head into the halfway point to the season.  And one of those games would have been against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks, which would have given Cleveland an extra shot of adrenaline.  Unfortunately, Cavs fans have been forced to wonder "what if" as they witnessed their home team lose game after game with little or no relief.  From a glance at the numbers, it is obvious to see that Cleveland's Achilles Heal was its defense as they allowed their opponents to score 100 or more points in eight of their 16 games in December and only held their opponents to under 90 points twice--in a two point gut wrenching loss on the road against the Detroit Pistons (12/3/2012) and their win against Washington.  Glancing at the box scores, it seems almost obvious that the Cavs' losses were primarily to to their defense at the closing minutes of the game.

In the three shots to the "bean bag" courtesy of the Blazers, Knicks and Nets, it was not so much the Cavs' offense that kept them in the game, but more so their poor defenses that kept Cleveland in those games.  The Blazers allowed the Cavs, one of the worst producing offenses in the NBA, to score 117 point, allowed the game to extend into overtime and just barely scraped by them.  The same went for the Knicks, who again, found themselves uncharacteristically lax allowing the Cavs score 102 points and just slightly avoiding an embarrassing lost to a rather sub par team. Brooklyn could have possibly lost their game if it were not for a last second three pointer as they just stood by and let the Cavs score 100 points on them.  One can go as far as calling the performances of those three teams as "shameful"for allowing such an inferior team to get so close to beating them.

For the Cleveland Cavs to be able to move forward, they would have to do these two following moves in order to get themselves out of the NBA's basement and back to respectability.  The first is to let go of the past by cutting the last few remnants of the Lebron James era--namely center Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson.  Despite him having his best season, Varejao has not made any impact in terms of the team winning and should be traded to get either a young prospect or future draft picks.  The same goes for Boobie Gibson as he has been completely useless since Lebron left for South Beach and his departure would open up a roster spot for someone more deserving.  And finally the Cavs should cut ties with coach Byron Scott--it has been three tears and Scott has not brought the team anywhere closer to respectability; plus, there are coaches better than Scott who are currently available.   Unless they commit in doing these necessary actions, Cleveland will continue to remain a cellar dweller for years to come.