C.J. Miles was acquired this offseason for two reasons: to offer much needed depth at the shooting guard position while also providing a veteran presence for a young Cavaliers team.
Currently, Miles is competing with Dion Waiters for the starting job at that position. At the same time, he's also trying to help the fourth overall pick transition into life in the NBA.
I asked Miles about the approach he's taking to accomplish both goals.
I was also on-hand as Byron Scott discussed Dion's progress at practice over this past week.
C.J. Miles was acquired this offseason for two reasons: to offer much needed depth at the shooting guard position while also providing a veteran presence for a young Cavaliers team.
Byron Scott's biggest concern for the 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers is defensive rebounding. I don't necessarily disagree with the importance of rebounding on that end of the floor either. Securing the defensive rebound not only stops the other team from scoring, but it also gives your team the basketball.
The two most fundamental elements for success at any level.
Behind Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson up front, however, along with guys like Alonzo Gee on the perimeter, there are at least a few reasons to believe that the Cavs will be okay in that department. Beyond the necessary size requirements, defensive rebounding in the NBA is more about heart than any other aspect of the game. It's a controllable for any team, to an extent, assuming the desire is there.
My biggest concern is who exactly is going to score once the Cavaliers do collect that rebound. Besides Kyrie Irving, of course.
Last season Antawn Jamison averaged 17.2 points per night as the Cavaliers second leading scorer. He played in 65 of the 66 games. Obviously now he's gone. Anderson Varejao returns as the next leading scorer after that, at 10.8 points. He only appeared in 25 games. Alonzo Gee comes back at 10.6, Tristan Thompson at 8.2, Daniel Gibson at 7.5 and Omri Casspi at 7.1.
None particularly close to averaging 17 points per game in the NBA.
So somebody will need to improve their scoring average by at least six points, as far as I can tell, in order for the Cavaliers to score enough to compete. Unless Dion Waiters or CJ Miles fill the void left by Antawn. Either those options, or about seven guys will need to average at least 10 points to collectively score anywhere near 100 per game. Including Jamison's 17, the Cavs had four players in double-digits last season and they averaged 93 points as a team.
With that in mind, I began to identify who I thought could be the Cavs second leading scorer this season. Included below are the Over/Under Scoring Average Lines I set for the five players who have the best chance of assuming that role. The odds for each of those players to end this season as the Cavs second leading scorer are also below.
Projecting the Cavaliers Second Leading Scorer for the 2012-13 NBA Season:
5.) Anderson Varejao: Andy quickly developed a nice chemistry with Kyrie Irving on the offensive end last season. He didn't play that many games, but Irving did connect with Varejao on dives to the basket and flashes across the lane for scoring plays at the rim while he was out there. Varejao will also have his share of put-back opportunities this season, as I expect he leads the team in offensive rebounding. He's a 7.3 point per game scorer for his career though, who's never averaged more than 10.8. I expect him to be between 10 and 11 again this season, but no more than that.
Over/Under on Points Per Game: 11.3
Second Leading Scorer Odds: 15 to 1
4.) Alonzo Gee: Before you suggest that Alonzo will have more of an opportunity to average over the 10.6 points he did last season, keep in mind that he already played 29 minutes per game last year. Jamison led the Cavs in playing time last season at 33.1 minutes per night. So let's assume that Gee's playing time stays just about the same in whatever role he assumes - maybe he averages 31 minutes per night instead of 29. Like Varejao, I do expect him to be up over 10 points per game again this season. I don't think he averages more than 12.5 though and I expect him more in the just-over-11-range.
Over/Under on Points Per Game: 11.9
Second Leading Scorer Odds: 12 to 1
3.) Tristan Thompson: I realize I outwardly root for Tristan Thompson. I actually root for all the Cavaliers, but his development is especially critical. That said, I'm being unbiased when I suggest that he could have a better than expected season scoring the basketball. Like Anderson, he will create his share of put-back opportunities. He'll also get dunks in transition and catch lobs from Irving in the half-court. Will he be able to find an effective post move? Knock down the 12-foot jump shot? I'm not sure. But he will play more than the 23 minutes per night he averaged last season. In 30 minutes this time around, with the energy level he plays at, I think he scores at least 12 points per game. Seriously. But not more than 14.
Over/Under on Points Per Game: 12.2
Second Leading Scorer Odds: 8 to 1
2.) Dion Waiters: Here's where it gets real interesting. In an honest moment, I'll readily admit that Dion Waiters could average anywhere between 6 and 16 points per game this season. Meaning, I'm honestly not sure right now. I continue to believe he will have enough shot opportunities over the course of the season to be this team's second leading scorer. I also think that his skill-set will translate once he becomes more comfortable with the offense. The best situation for the Cavs would be that Waiters is the second leading scorer, coming in at about 15 per night during his rookie season. I realize people might bet the under right now, and maybe I'll have to move the line accordingly, but I think his potential to get 16 is too real to completely ignore.
Over/Under on Points Per Game: 13.9
Second Leading Scorer Odds: 4 to 1
1.) CJ Miles: I'm about to tell you that a guy who's only averaged double-digits once during a seven-year NBA career will arrive in Cleveland and average 15 points per game for the Cavs this season. Part of the reason is because this team will need somebody to score those points and I'm not sure there's anyone else besides Dion with the potential to actually get that many. It's no knock on Anderson, Tristan or Alonzo either. They will lead the team in rebounding and defensive production while also scoring some themselves. But somebody needs to score at a relatively high level to help this team put enough points on the board to win. Edge goes to CJ Miles right now in that category for me. Even though he averages 8.4 for his career with his best season to date being 12.8.
Over/Under on Points Per Game: 14.5
Second Leading Scorer Odds: 3 to 1
Sixty to one odds that it's somebody from outside this group. Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what you think.
Following along on Twitter last night I realized why the Cavaliers hadn't put any of their preseason games on television yet. Or at least maybe why they hadn't.
The preseason Cavaliers product isn't all that much to get excited about. Collectively, they looked real awful in Philadelphia. The impression that Cavs fans went away with after their first real chance to see what this year's group might look like wasn't awesome.
It is the preseason though. Luke Harangody didn't even play.
Right, deep breath, things will get better.
Just not so much better that you'll be watching a playoff game in Cleveland this season. That's my assesment at this point, subject to change and back-dated editing of course. Unless the stars align and Kyrie Irving can max out (no Pepsi pun intended) on his potential while Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters all do the same.
Chill out on Waiters for right now too.
He didn't look good in his 27 minutes of work last night, I'll grant you that. But he was making his NBA debut, sort of, in his hometown of Philadelphia. If I ever made an NBA team, and then traveled back to Eastlake Middle School for my first preseason game, I'd be mad nervous too.
I imagine Dion Waiters felt at least a little bit of that last night. His Mom was in the house along with who knows how many friends, and all of South Philly had the game locked in on local television.
It's unavoidable for any human to not put extra pressure on themselves in situations like that. Million dollar athletes who are 20 years old included.
That's why you can't just look at Waiters' performance by saying: +/- of -13, 0-5 shooting from three, 2 for 7 overall from the floor - yikes.
He did have 0 turnovers as well, along with 2 steals, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds, for example. Hopefully it was one more step in the preseason learning process. If he goes 2 of 7 consistently during each of his first 35 real games, then I'll be right next to you getting worried.
But he didn't, we're not even close to that point, and it's still all good.
Kyrie Irving had 23 points in 27 minutes. Tristan Thompson finished with a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds). Tyler Zeller started off pretty well during his 13 minutes of work too, then finished 3 of 6 for 6 points and 2 rebounds.
Not terrible for the young big from North Carolina against a frontline with Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. Even with Andrew Bynum out, those two guys are pretty solid.
What I am interested to see when things tip off for reals though, is how exactly the Cavaliers will score enough points to win games.
I've already mentioned all the shot attempts that Antawn and AP packed into their respective Gucci Bags as they left the Cavaliers offensive attack from last season forever. Where do those shots now come from? That's the biggest question for this team in the short-term.
I suppose the answer might be that "Masfresco" becomes the Spanish term for "Scoring Machine". C.J. Miles is going to be asked to score a ton of points for this team I think. A ton more than he's used to. As it stands right now, it kinda looks like Miles is going to need to average 15 or 16 points for this team to be competitive.
Unless, of course, Daniel Gibson scoring the 18 points he did last night in Philly is something we'll see with more regularity. Probably going to need to be Miles though.
Or else Luke Walton.
Kidding about Uncle Luke. Trying to keep it light here. No reason for doom and gloom right now, it's only preseason.
Next game isn't until October 23rd. Meanwhile, Byron Scott will be running these guys until their legs fall off.
Stepien Rules Writer Nick Mancini checks in with his third of five questions as Cavs training camp continues...
3. What will Cavs find at small forward from Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles and Omri Casspi?
With the season approaching, there are questions about the Cavs starting lineup. No, it is not Dion Waiters; he is going to be the starting two guard. But when it comes to the small forward position, it becomes a little muddy.
Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles and to a lesser extent Omri Casspi are all vying for the starting spot. I believe this is a two-horse race between Miles and Gee. These last two games will be more of what we can expect to see in the regular season with regards to the starting lineup. Miles has started with Gee and Casspi coming off the bench and that's how I think it should be.
Gee proved his worth last season for the Cavs, but I love him in the 6th man role for this team. First guy off the bench, he can spell either Miles or Waiters. He provides that athleticism that is needed to bring that spark every team looks for off their bench.
All three of these guys have played pretty well in five preseason games. Casspi has only played three, as Byron Scott gets a look at reserves alternately each game, but he has played well in each. He has showed a nice shooting touch and ability to score. The reasons Cleveland traded J.J. Hickson to the Kings for him in the first place. Casspi connected on all seven of the Cavaliers points in overtime against Orlando and finished that last game with 12 points and 5 rebounds.
Gee has also played well, but his scoring numbers aren’t where I would like to see them. At the SF position, we need scoring, plain and simple. Gee is not, and he probably will never be, a great scorer. But he has the shooting ability and athleticism to be able to put up some numbers. On the break he is a great finisher and he can also impact the game defensively.
Which bring us to our starter, CJ Miles.
This was a very under the radar offseason move that I think will pay huge dividends. Miles spent his first seven seasons in Utah, where you know he was well coached by the legendary Jerry Sloan. He was an off and on starter for them, but always a solid player. In his short time with Cleveland, he has really impressed me with the range on his jumper. He will also bring some much needed athleticism to this offense that was lacking so much last season (sorry Anthony Parker fans).
Miles will have no problem fitting in with this team and he could prove to be a fan- favorite. He may even be one of the best offseason acquisitions this team has made in the last few seasons.
Made a trip out to Bloomington, Indiana this weekend to catch the Buckeyes game. Didn't get a chance to cover the Cavaliers preseason game against Washington but I'm certainly encouraged to see the work our boy Tristan Thompson put in.
18 points, 10 rebounds on 6 of 11 shooting from the field certainly looks like progress. If Tristan carries his free throw line performance (6 of 7!!) into the regular season there's reason to get real excited.
One step at a time though. Next one is tonight against the Orlando Magic in Cincinnati.
Main thing I'll be looking for is that our guy D-Waiters has a bounce back performance. After I spoke with Dion last week, he balled out on Friday connecting on all four of his three point attempts.
He finished that game at Chicago 7 of 12 from the field for 18 points and 3 assists. Saturday's game at home against Washington wasn't as productive (2 of 9 for 4 points) but who cares it's preseason. Put an efficient 15+ point performance together tonight in 'Nasty and Waiters will be back on that upward trend.
Kelenna Azubuike's been cut and the roster is down to 17. Be back tomorrow with more on all that.
On Tuesday, November 13th at 7:30pm, we hope you can join us in appreciating the Cleveland Cavaliers career of Terrell Brandon.
The Terrell Brandon Appreciation Night Tweet-Up (#TBAN) is going to be held at Two Bucks, North Olmsted. The owner of Two Bucks, Cory, is a Cavaliers fan who reads StepienRules.com and remembers how great Terrell Brandon was in a Cavaliers uniform.
We thought the #TBAN Tweet-Up was the least we could do for a player who was once considered The Best Point Guard in the NBA.
The the idea for a Terrell Brandon Appreciation Night Tweet-Up first entered my stream of consciousness back in August. The concept crystallized after talking with Terrell in late September. So on November 13th at Two Bucks, North Olmsted it's going down.
Click here for Two Bucks' website and directions to their new North Olmsted location.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will be plastered on HD televisions throughout Two Bucks during the #TBAN Tweet-Up. The Cavs travel to Brooklyn that night for a game against the Nets.
Our goal for the Tweet-Up is to give Cavs fans a great reason to come out and enjoy an interactive evening of Cavs basketball. As if drinks and food items regularly priced at two dollars isn't enough, Two Bucks will be also offering drink specials, raffles, and giveaways throughout the Tweet-Up.
We will have more on those details coming soon. For now, make sure you get this Tweet-Up into your Iphone calendar.
The last time we held a Stepien Rules Tweet-Up on Draft Night it was a lot of fun. The #TBAN Tweet-Up expects to be even more of the same.
Terrell Brandon deserves that much from Cavs Nation. In addition to probably having his jersey retired.
Hit me up on Twitter to RSVP.
Cavaliers are at Chicago tonight as preseason action continues with the Bulls. More on that after the game. Enjoy the weekend people.
Dion Waiters finished his first preseason game against NBA competition 1 of 7 from the field.
He totaled two points, three assists, and four turnovers in 14 minutes.
Byron Scott said after the game that he eventually pulled Waiters with 10 minutes to go for what he called "a lack of focus".
Prior to leaving the Canton Civic Arena last night, I spoke with the Cavaliers rookie. He was candid about his performance, introspective about his mistakes, but also confident in his ability to learn from the experience.
"My biggest takeaway from tonight is just learning not to rush", Dion Waiters told StepienRules.com. "That’s the biggest thing for me right now. I found myself trying to force the issue a lot, and that’s just not going to work. I got to try to be more patient. I found myself out there sometimes tonight thinking too much. I just got to play my game and play the way I know I can play".
The confidence with which Waiters can play helped make him the fourth overall pick this past June. Staying consistent with that confidence throughout the ups and downs of an NBA game is something he also knows he needs to maintain.
“When I missed a shot I put my head down tonight instead of moving on to the next play", Waiters said. "I just got to keep my head up at all times and play through it. When I miss a shot, I just have to continue working. I know that I’m going to miss some shots and make some shots, but I've got to always find other ways to impact the game. Whether that’s getting rebounds or getting others involved, those are the main things for me right now.
But that’s why it’s preseason. I have an opportunity to work on those things, become more efficient, and just try to be calm and not get rattled in certain situations. So that’s the biggest thing I took away from the game today. Just make sure I let the game come to me and don’t try to come out there and force shots up.”
Nick Mancini checks in with his second of five questions as Cavs open training camp...
2. Will Tristan Thompson make the offensive leap we're all hoping he'll make this season?
When the Cavaliers made Tristan Thompson the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 draft, first reaction from many fans might have been “who’s that”? He was coming off a season at Texas where he averaged 13 points and nearly eight rebounds per game. Solid, yet unspectacular.
He was raw, but everyone saw the potential right away. Last season in Cleveland, we also saw glimpses of what that potential could one day become on the NBA level. When Anderson Varejao went down with injury, Tristan's minutes increased. For the most part he capitalized.
Thompson finished his rookie campaign averaging 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. In 25 starts, those numbers increased to 10 points and 7.5 rebounds. A nice increase in production with respect to minutes played.
But he did struggle when receiving the ball in the post, however, mainly because he didn’t have a go-to move. He relied on athleticism and offensive rebounding for his baskets. But this seasons he needs to do more.
He finished last year at 43 percent shooting. I think it is reasonable to expect him to increase that to 47-49 percent. He said he wanted to work on his offensive game this summer and hopefully that work pays off.
Dion Waiters has a unique opportunity to contend for Rookie of the Year this season. The Cavaliers return a starting unit that has approximately 22 shot attempts per game currently available.
I expect Waiters to start from opening night on and take the majority of those shots. He will replace Anthony Parker at shooting guard and Tristan Thompson will replace Antawn Jamison.
Together, as starters last season, Jamison averaged 16 field goal attempts per game and Parker averaged 6. Byron Scott needs somebody to take those shots. Dion Waiters very much enjoys shooting. See where I'm going with this?
It's reasonable to assume that D-Waiters could average 14 field goal attempts per game this year. That would still leave 8 additional shot attempts left over from Antawn and AP's 22 to be distributed throughout this season's starting five. Kyrie Irving attempted 14.6 shots per game last year to lead all rookies in that category. Kobe Bryant led the NBA last season with 23 attempts per game. Kevin Durant was next at 19.7.
So say Kyrie increases his shot attempts per game by 4. He's then at 18.6 field goal attempts per game this season, with Waiters potentially shooting 14 times. That still leaves four more shots available for three players. Let's call those three players, or three other opening night starters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao.
Tristan Thompson averaged 8.2 points per game last season on 7.4 attempts per night. The 21st ranked power forward in the NBA last year in terms of overall field goal percentage was Brandon Bass. In 59 games Bass averaged 12.5 points on 47.9 percent shooting from the field. Tristan shot 43.9 percent last season.
If Thompson improves his field goal percentage to 48 percent, his free throw numbers stay exactly the same as they were this past season, and he only took one more shot per game (8.4) he'd average just over 10 points per night in 2012-13. That number, along with the double figure rebounds, being the stated goal by Byron Scott and company for Tristan heading into this season.
Nick Mancini checks in with his 1st of 5 questions as Cavs open training camp...
1. Will Anderson Varejao end the season in Wine and Gold?
Is it really back? Oh, basketball, how I have missed you. With my Browns and Indians almost certainly set to finish in their division’s cellar, I have much more hope for my beloved Cavs. But this season has questions, well before the Cavaliers opener on October 30.
After missing 91 games in the past two seasons, Anderson Varejao will enter the 2012-13 campaign healthy. Last season, with Andy in the lineup, the Cavs were a borderline playoff team. It is no secret what Varejao brings to the table; we all saw what happened in his absence.
In his 25 games last season, he was averaging a career best 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Varejao surprised many when he proved he was more than a byproduct of LeBron James’ no-look passes. He has developed a consistent, albeit odd-looking, mid-range jumper. He still rebounds like a man possessed and is one of the best defending big men in the League. Especially in the pick and roll.
But the fact is, he is the Cavaliers most valuable trade asset, aside from their young nucleus. Every time the Cavs were talked about in trade scenarios, Varejao was in the thick of it. Whether it was for an extra lottery pick or bringing Andrew Bynum to Cleveland, he was always the main piece. And for good reason, he is a hard player to come by these days; one willing to do the dirty work.
Varejao’s future will be mostly decided on the Cavs’ present.