I won’t go so far as to say ‘that was fun while it lasted,’ but I have a sneaking suspicion that ‘2-2’ will be the last time this season that the Cleveland Cavaliers can call themselves a .500 team. You do like to have Brad Stevens fawning over the Cavs’ progress after the month between their preseason and in-season games -- ‘I can't imagine a more improved team in a month. Excellent coaching. Excellent playing. All the good stuff. They're playing hard. They're playing together. Making it really hard to guard. They do downhill at your chest. It makes it tough. Hats off to Cleveland." -- but player development is a sine curve, not an asymptote.
Look them up. For instance:
1. Cedi Osman, fresh off a 4 year, $30.8 million dollar contract extension, has forgotten how to: shoot two’s, get to the free-throw line, rebound the ball, and put teammates in a position to score. Not a good look for my guy. I like a Star Wars-themed ‘Return of the Cedi’ t-shirt over my seat as much as the next guy, but what I’d really love is a return to the player who was averaging 13.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. His three-point shooting is way up -- over 47% -- and his steals have gone up while his turnovers have gone down, but this is a player who’s never averaged a PER over 11.5 -- the league average is 15.0. The Cavs are paying him like a building block; he needs to start playing like one.
2. Larry Nance Jr. was pegged in some quarters as a breakout player this year, but he hasn’t played like one yet. Part of my argument was a long-game one, as I expect that Kevin Love will need some load management or just plain recover-from-injury time -- he’s still standing! -- and Tristan Thompson may be on the move, but Nance is having his adjustment period to the new Beilein system, too.
His scoring is up, as he finds himself in double digits for the first time, largely on the shoulders of his two extra three-point attempts per game (which he’s making at a personal best 37.5% rate), but his rebounds, steals, and blocks are all down: in some of those categories to almost career-low levels. Moreover, the passing chops he had displayed last season have yet to return, down from 3.2 to 1.3 per game thus far. Ups and downs.
3. Darius Garland was thrust into the starting line-up but doesn’t necessarily look like he belongs there. Thankfully, he has made it to the free-throw line. I was starting to get worried that he had a tactile allergy to it, watching for hives every time he’d operate near the elbow, but in Week 2 he went three times. Gasp. Two of those trips were in a winnable game in Indiana where he undid all of the goodwill he’d earned going to the basket by missing all ten of his shots from the field. Facepalm. Now, James Harden has gone 2-16 from three or worse twice already this year, so I can’t get too salty with the rookie point, but this is a player whose defining skill is supposed to be his shooting. He’s gotten to double digits once. He’s under 30% from the field. This has to improve.
4. Kevin Porter Jr. has a positive PER! He’s now statistically a net asset on the floor! He was indisputably a crucial component of the win over the Bulls! He bumped the ref and was suspended for a game! Oh wait: that last one wasn’t good.
Did you look them up? Here’s a sine curve:
Here’s an asymptote:
Ups and downs. With visits to Washington and New York, the Cavs have the chance to feel frisky this week. But .500 only happens with a win in Philly. We’ll see if they can get any of them done.