We're 1/6th finished with this shortened NBA regular season and it's gone by in a flash. Mainly because this team has been a blast to watch thus far. When compared to the awfulness of last year and the burden of sky high expectations in the last seasons of the Lebron era it's been refreshing to sit back, watch, and assess. As I wrote previously here I have no idea what I should "root" for because there are so many pros/cons either way with winning or losing so I'm going to enjoy the young developing team and let the chips fall where they may.
What's clear is that Byron Scott is a competent and confidence inspiring head coach. He has this young team playing solid and competitive basketball. The team chemistry is seemingly off the charts and his "pet projects" from the last 2 seasons, Sessions and Gee, are showing more and more improvement. I have not felt this good about a Cleveland head man in quite some time.
Suffice to say Byron's newest pet project has a bit more upside than his previous projects with the Cavs. Kyrie Irving was brought in with high expectations for Cavs fans but seemed to have been given the "limited ceiling" tag from the NBA draft "experts." It seems the consensus was that he'll be a nice player, potentially an all-star, and the safest player in a weak draft. I can't fault them too much having only 11 games in college to predict off of.
However, fast forward 11 NBA games. I'm going out on a limb and saying this kid is going to be a star. His athleticism was vastly underrated and gives him the ability to score at all three levels on a defense. He can get all the way to the rim, stop with a floater, pull up from midrange, and burn you from deep if you go below the screen or sag off. He has a leadership quality about him demonstrated by the respect he's already commanding from his teammates and his cheerleading on and off the floor. Improvements need to be made in reducing turnovers and increasing his conditioning but the ceiling is sky high for this young man.
To put Kyrie Irving's start in perspective, and not to compare the two players, but Lebron James' first 11 games with the Cavs had him averaging 16.5 and 6.5 assts/game. The Cavs were 4-7 and he accumulated four 20+ scoring games over that span while averaging over 40 mins per game. Kyrie, in only 27 mins per game, has scored 20 or more 6 times, averages 17 and 5 assists and the Cavs are 5-6 having played 8 of 11 on the road. He's not Lebron James. I'm simply stating it's time for Cavs fans to get REAL excited about the potential of Kyrie Irving. Huge props to Dan Gilbert and this organization for forcing the hand of luck on this one.
On to Tristan.
Tristan's been serving crow from the onset and I couldn't be happier. Let's look at the numbers on this one.
Tristan - roughly 8 pts, 5 rebs, 1.5 blocks per game in 17 mins. Shooting 52% from the floor.
We remember the outcry when we took him. Let's look at the starts from other top picks around Tristan while factoring out other PG's since we obviously weren't going there at 4.
Derek Williams - 9 pts, 5 rebs, .4 blks in 21 mins. Shoots 43% from the floor.
Enes Kanter - 4 pts, 5 rebs, .5 blks in 13 mins
Jan Vesely - 1.5 pts, 2 rebs in 13 mins
Biyombo - 2 pts, 3 rebs, 1.5 blks in 12 mins.
Obviously this is a small sample size and is not indicative at all of what these players will go on to achieve but from what we can see Tristan is off to a pretty exciting start. His energy and hustle are noticeable whenever he's been on the court. He effects shots. He plays the pick and roll well. His offensive game is not the Ben Wallace-ness that we were sold post-draft. Also, I concur with AC and Campy that this kid very well might be right handed. Chris Grant made the right move and I think at this point all of his detractors have circled back.
Speaking of Grant, this next few months are why he makes the big bucks. It's so easy to look at Andy and see his trade value. The guy just plays a winning style of basketball. Those looking to contend are drooling over him. I think the easy thing to do is to dump him while his value is high. If we were say 2-9 right now I would say dump him and not think twice. Problem is that right now we're not assured the high pick we all thought was a lock a month ago to find a young big for the future. This team wants to contend for the playoffs realistically next year I would think. As of this moment Grant can't feel great about plugging in any of Andy's backups next year and competing. Andy is just 29 and has another few years of solid play left in him. He has great chemistry with Kyrie and is a great learning tool for Tristan. To be clear, I'm not opposed to moving him for the future but I'd need to be A) overwhelmed B) bringing back a young big and/or C) adding a pick with a chance at the lottery.
We don't want to move Anderson on a so-so deal and be left trying to take the next 2-3 years to replace him. I feel somewhat the same about Sessions and Boobie. I'd be open to moving them for the right deal but both being just 25 means they can also be a piece of the puzzle going forward. There's room on this team 3 years from now for a sharpshooter like Boobie whose improving defensively and a kinda combo guard like Ramon who can get to the line and the hoop. If he continues to improve his jumper he can find more minutes in the future at the 2 spot.
It should be interesting to see how this season develops. I fully anticipate a lot of games like last night's vs the Lakers in the next few weeks. The schedule is going to intensify. After Charlotte and GS, 6 of the next 7 are against sure fire playoff teams. If they show me what they showed me last night in a loss I'll consider it a win.