Sorting Out the Cleveland Cavaliers' Mess at the Wing
Sometimes it is uplifting and sometimes it is painful.
In watching the Cleveland Cavaliers dredge up a victory at home Tuesday against a badly depleted Washington Wizards squad, fans were treated to a little bit of both. The development of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters should be a lot of fun to watch. But the overall play at the wing positions might be difficult to view at times.
Tuesday's victory provided a glimpse into the future for Cavs fans, a future that seems brighter by the day as a young core develops. But it also shows where this team can focus their attention if they want to take that next step.
Shooting guard seems set, but...
Waiters is the starter at shooting guard, period. Coach Byron Scott had the option of going with veteran swingman C.J. Miles as his starter and then easing Waiters into the mix. But instead he decided that the future should be now, and he threw Waiters in there to sink or swim.
After one game, this appears to be the right move. Waiters played like a veteran in his debut, exhibiting the scoring prowess that made him a lottery pick. He vastly outplayed fellow rookie Bradley Beal, even picking the pocket of the scoring guard on one occasion and slamming the ball home to emphasize the point.
But Waiters is not yet a consistent defensive big guard and will get exploited on occasion. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of help on the perimeter should he get beat repeatedly by mismatches. Irving will have his hands full at the other guard spot and needs the bulk of his energy for the offensive side of things.
The hope was that Miles would provide that defensive spark off of the bench. But given the dearth of scoring in Cleveland's second unit, it would appear that Miles will be looking to score early and often if the second squad is going to keep leads or at least keep games close.
The defensive ability of the shooting guard position really needs to be a concern as the Cavs will certainly be facing tougher off-guard matchups as the season progresses.
Small forward, where to begin?
To say that Alonzo Gee struggled the other night would be like saying the Detroit Tigers' bats cooled in the World Series.
He just flat-out wasn't there. He was a step slow on defense, routinely getting made to look bad by Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely and Martell Webster.
Offensively, he was nonexistent as well, chipping in a meager four points on 2-9 shooting from the floor with two misses from deep.
With the exception of a put-back dunk near the end of the game, he rarely had a discernible pulse. And that is the good news at small forward.
His backups were pathetic at best. Luke Walton just doesn't have a lot left in the tank, only really providing veteran leadership and the occasional good pass. In a game that Cleveland dominated, Walton was minus-11 in plus/minus points.
Miles also provided some minutes at the three and didn't exactly perk things up. Between those three, they had eight turnovers versus five buckets.
There aren't a lot of other options on the bench either. Omri Casspi proved nearly worthless last year, essentially giving Gee a job due to his incompetence. His game is perimeter shooting and good length on defense. But last year he suffered with his shot and proved to be a passive defender at best.
Hold it together, try to improve next year
Basically, there isn't a lot of help should this group continue to struggle. Winston Bennett and Craig Ehlo aren't coming through that door, people.
While it might be tempting to look at trades to try to bolster this unit, the Cavs can't mortgage their future in order to get a veteran who could help out immediately.
A likely rental player probably won't be worth the immediate gratitude should this team decide on that path. However, if this team is hovering near playoff range before the deadline, they should by all means explore the possibility.
There is a surplus of good threes around the league. Heck, Washington has more wings than it knows what to do with.
One option could come from Detroit. The Pistons have a log jam at the three and two veterans that are taking minutes away from some talented young players. Tayshaun Prince has championship pedigree and would provide a new wrinkle in their offense. Corey Maggette is another option and his expiring contract would make him an even less expensive proposition.
But the Cavs, for all of their potential, are lacking in overall depth of talent and need to keep their draft picks especially considering how effective they have been at drafting the last couple seasons.
The mostly likely tactic will be to try to hold the shop down with the players they have in place and look to improve the position in the offseason. There will be plenty of free agents available as well as options in the draft.
And perhaps I am overreacting to one game and Gee and company will pull it together and provide more than they did on Tuesday.
But make no mistake about it, this is a position that will need to improve if this team is going to continue to move forward.
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