Cleveland Cavaliers trading Timofey Mozgov?

timofey-mozgov-cleveland-heroWhile most news surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers centers on their much-anticipated matchup with the Golden State Warriors tonight, the Cavs are also fielding questions about trading center Timofey Mozgov.

An unsung hero during Cleveland’s deep playoff run last year, Mozgov’s role has been reduced severely in the 2015-16 season. Apparently his role has been reduced enough that the Cavaliers think they might get a more-valuable player through a trade.

A report from Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski earlier this week suggests that Cleveland has “started to make calls on the market” for their backup center, “who could appeal to Western Conference contenders.”

However, it’s worth noting that CBS Sports claims Cleveland has no interest in moving Mozgov, considering that they gave away two future first-round draft picks last season to acquire the Russian center.

timofey-mozgov-cleveland-hero-1But if this is true, it could change pretty quickly if the 7’1″ big man continues under-peforming. Mozgov has had trouble hanging on to close-range passes this season and he’s been foul prone too. The numbers don’t do him any justice either since the Cavs are scoring 8.5 points more per 100 possessions when Mozgov isn’t on the floor. So far he’s averaging 6.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 17.8 minutes per game.

Cleveland largely acquired Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets last season because they needed a rim protector. And he did a solid job at this, averaging 1.2 blocks per game in 25 minutes. He was even better in the postseason, blocking 1.8 shots per game to go along with 10.6 PPG and 7.3 RPG.

Times have changed for Cleveland, though, since their full lineup is healthy right now. The play of Tristan Thompson has made Mozgov more of a shot-blocking luxury than an important cog in the team. The 6’9″ center is averaging 7.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG and shooting 56.1% from the field in 27.6 minutes per game. The only catch is that Thompson isn’t quite the rim protector that Mozgov is since he only averages 0.4 blocks each game.

Nevertheless, speculation is high enough to suggest that the Cavs will at least field offers for Mozgov. Contenders that could possibly find a need for a big center include the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and the Indiana Pacers. But once again, anything at this point is just speculation until Cleveland actually makes a serious move with Mozgov.

Does beating Warriors make Cleveland Cavaliers the NBA’s Best Team?

Draymond Green, LeBron JamesLast night featured one of the most-anticipated games of the 2014-15 NBA season, with the Cleveland Cavaliers hosting the Golden State Warriors. All eyes were on this contest because Golden State featured the league’s best record at 44-10, while Cleveland is hitting their stride after winning 17 out of their last 19 games.

This matchup was potentially a 2015 NBA Finals preview, and if the results are any indication – a 110-99 victory by Cleveland – the East should do very well in the Finals. Okay, so that’s putting the cart ahead of the horse, but the Cavs have even more momentum going forward after this huge victory.

The same can be said of LeBron James, who scored a season-high 42 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against Golden State. He came out strong right from the gate after scoring 24 points in the first half, and he continued attacking in the second half too. Kyrie Irving pitched in 24 points, along with a 10-for-10 performance from the free throw line.

Golden State’s star players, on the other hand, didn’t fare quite so well. Stephen Curry ended with 18 points on 5-of-17 shooting while Klay Thompson added 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting. David Lee came off the bench to lead the Warriors with 19 points.

cleveland-cavs-beat-warriors-1One thing became immediately clear after this game: for the first time since the season’s start, Cleveland is truly back in the discussion for serious title contenders. Furthermore, LeBron has made himself a strong MVP candidate with his best performance of the year against the NBA’s top team. King James easily outplayed one of the strongest MVP contenders, Curry, while continuing the excellence that started when he came back from an 8-game layoff in January. Of course, if LeBron falls short of the MVP award, he can still sleep at night knowing that he’s already earned 4 of them.

His bigger dream at this point is definitely bringing Cleveland its first NBA title. And this seems like a very realistic goal when considering that the Cavs continue climbing in the Eastern Conference standings. They’re currently half a game ahead of Chicago in the Central Division, while maintaining the number-three seed. They also sit just a game behind Toronto for the East’s second seed. Cleveland likely won’t catch Atlanta for the top seed, but if they keep playing like this, will it really matter? Moreover, is there another NBA team that can beat them?

If the Warriors hope to answer yes to this question, they’ll need a stronger defensive effort in the future. This shouldn’t be a problem because, coming into last night’s contest, they ranked No. 1 in defensive efficiency. However, they couldn’t contain a red-hot start from the Cavs, who put up 32 points in the first quarter and 61 by halftime.

James lighting up Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes was a big reason for this offensive outburst. But four other Cavs ended up in double digits too, meaning there’s no shortage of options on the Cleveland roster. Of course, there are over three months of basketball left to be played, so it’s a little early to anoint the Cavs as the automatic champion.

Don’t expect Cleveland Cavaliers to re-sign Luol Deng this Summer

luol-deng-clevelandFor once this year, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in an enviable position. After a season met with considerable disappointment, they grabbed the number-one overall pick for the second year in a row. Now, Cleveland has their choice between Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, among several other talented potential top selections. That said, the need to sign versatile forward Luol Deng doesn’t seem very high in The Forest City.

According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Cavaliers haven’t made much of an effort to bring Deng back. Here’s one excerpt from Lloyd’s article:

Yahoo Sports reported Thursday that the Cavs could increase their chances of retaining free agent Luol Deng should they hire Griffin to be their coach, but the Cavs tried trading Deng at the trade deadline three months ago and haven’t expressed much interest in bringing him back.

Why wouldn’t Cleveland want Deng?

luol-deng-cleveland-1Deng is a two-time NBA All-Star who’s averaged 16.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 1.0 SPG over his 9-year career. More importantly, Cleveland was a better team with Deng on the squad as they went 20-20 after the trade that brought him over from the Chicago Bulls. This is quite an accomplishment for a team that finished the season just 33-49, missing the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.

So why not do whatever it takes to bring a good all-around player like this back? For starters, Deng is going to command a lot of money in this summer’s free agent market. And while Cleveland has cap space to cover Deng’s salary demands, they’re more likely to hold out for another star.

After all, the former Bull has never been the type of player who carries a team and consistently takes the big shot. As we covered before, Deng can certainly make a team far better, as he did in Cleveland. But the Cavs already have very good players in Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. What they’re looking for is another dynamic star to pair with Kyrie Irving.

Given that landing LeBron James is still a possibility, Cleveland may let Deng go without a fight and focus on developing their latest top pick and last year’s first selection, Anthony Bennett. Sure, this doesn’t exactly equate to a banner 2015 season, where Cleveland Cavaliers betting will be a hot trend. But it sets them up for years of future success, especially if they can sign Irving to an extension.

Deng won’t miss Cleveland

adrian-griffin-cavs-coaching-candidateIf the Cavs continue down the road of not paying Deng much attention, don’t expect the small forward to pine for fishing trips and long walks on Lake Erie. He went from a very competitive environment in Chicago last year to a more dysfunctional one in Cleveland.

Much of this stemmed from the lack of control that coach Mike Brown had over the team. Deng was rumored to have told a friend that players were taking their uniform tops off at halftime and threatening not to play, getting thrown out of practice, mouthing off to Brown, and generally not being held accountable. One perfect instance of the latter was when Waiters got kicked out of practice one day, then he got to play his normal amount of minutes the following game.

Taking all of this into account, Cleveland’s current search for a coach will include finding somebody who can control and demand respect from the team’s young talent. As Lloyd reported in the aforementioned article, Adrian Griffin (pictured above) was the first candidate interviewed. Griffin, who played nine years in the NBA, has spent time as an assistant for both Scott Skiles (Milwaukee Bucks) and Tom Thibodeau (Chicago Bulls).

Both Skiles and Thibodeau strongly endorse Griffin as a coach, and it’s possible that hiring him could interest Deng in coming back – provided this door isn’t already closed. Other candidates who’ll get interviews with the Cavs include Los Angeles Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue and ex-Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.

Sources say Cleveland Cavaliers will take Joel Embiid with No. 1 Pick

joel-embiid-number-one-pickThe improbable happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers when they landed the 2014 NBA Draft’s top pick. Boasting just the ninth best odds (1.7% chance) of getting the number-one pick, the ping pong balls bounced Cleveland’s way and gave them the top selection. This is now the second straight year that they’ll be picking first on June 26th.

Last year, Cleveland didn’t do so well in the draft as they took UNLV’s Anthony Bennett number one. This was an unconventional pick, to say the least, as Bennett was already injured at the time and considered a project. He’s still widely considered a project, having averaged 4.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 35.6% shooting, and 24.5% three-point shooting. Given these numbers, Bennett could be years away from being a true NBA contributor.

Now, it’s up to new GM David Griffin to succeed where Chris Grant failed so miserably with the number-one pick. Griffin already has a huge advantage because the 2014 NBA Draft talent pool is much, much stronger than 2013’s crop. Some of the names that have been thrown around for this year’s first selection could’ve easily topped the 2013 Draft. Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum and Jabari Parker are all potential top choices.

So who does Cleveland have their eye on with a month left before the draft? Initially, it looked like they could be leaning towards Andrew Wiggins. The 6’8″ Canadian has been on the radar of NBA scouts for the past several years and did nothing to hurt his stock with 17.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG at Kansas. Here’s a look at what ESPN’s Chad Ford wrote a few days ago:

Sources in Cleveland say that Wiggins is the likely choice. The team feels he has the most long-term potential, helps them defensively right out of the gate, can replace Dion Waiters in the starting lineup while adding character to the team.

Interestingly enough, though, Wiggins figures to get some heavy competition from his Jayhawks teammate, Joel Embiid (11.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG). The 7-footer really impressed scouts during a workout hosted by the L.A. Clippers. Embiid was so impressive, in fact, that he quickly made Ford change his tune regarding who’s going number one. Here’s a look at what three different writers had to say on the matter:

 joel-embiid-number-one-pick-1Ford – Embiid quickly re-asserting claim to # 1 pick here. Added muscle, still has quick feet & a beautiful jumper. No evidence of back issues. Just spoke with Embiid. Told me his back is 100 percent. Been working out hard for last 3 weeks. Embiid said he’s gained 15 pounds. Up to 265. Still getting back into shape. Got a bit winded in workout but still looked quick & explosive.

Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports – Watching Joel Embiid in workout for league executives in Santa Monica. Impossible to imagine passing on him at No. 1.

Adam Zagoria, SNY.tv – “I did not see any issues with his back,” one veteran NBA scout on hand at the workout told SNY.tv. “He looked very agile and athletic.”

“He looks great,” a second scout said. “Running, jumping, dunking, bent up like a pretzel in warmups and stretching exercises. Had two ex-NBA bigs [Brian Scalabrine and Will Perdue] banging on him underneath. He passed the eyeball test big time. Move him up. “He helped himself today.”

Cleveland already has some good pieces in place to make themselves a playoff-caliber basketball team. And adding a super-talented big man like Embiid could give them the missing piece to become a postseason lock in the East. But then again, so could adding a shooting guard like Wiggins, who already seems NBA-ready. Likewise, many scouts believe that Parker (19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG) will also make an immediate impact at the next level.

Another option for Cleveland would be trading their top pick. Since the Cavaliers already have enough young talent in Kyrie Irving, Waiters and Tristan Thompson, they would do well to add a veteran All-Star to the mix. But like the three writers above mentioned, Embiid’s talent and potential may be too much to pass up on.

Cleveland Cavaliers can’t make a Decision on moving Dion Waiters

dion-waiters-clevelandWe’re now just a couple of weeks away from the 2014 NBA trade deadline. And the Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the more likely teams to make a huge deal before the February 20th deadline. Going further, this could mean moving starting shooting guard Dion Waiters, whose attitude has apparently worn thin on teammates and coaches.

Despite his immaturity and clashes with team star Kyrie Irving, this is no easy decision for the Cavaliers. After all, they invested the fourth overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft on Waiters. It’s not like he’s been a bad player either, averaging 14.2 PPG and shooting 38.1% from beyond the three-point line. On top of this, owner Dan Gilbert also loves Waiters’ talent

So will Cleveland actually move a player who could bring them back something significant? Gilbert may not want to do this. However, the driving force behind getting rid of Waiters is the team’s record, which is a miserable 16-32. And shaking up the roster by trading their shooting guard could have a very positive effect on the Cavs.

dion-waiters-cleveland-1They were built to win this season and, at the very least, grab a playoff seed in the extremely weak Eastern Conference. Veterans like Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark, and Jarrett Jack were brought in to provide bench depth and experience on what was supposed to be a good team. The Bynum experiment blew up in the organization’s face, but he did serve a purpose since Cleveland was able to deal his expiring contract for two-time NBA All-Star Luol Deng.

Unfortunately, not even Deng has been able to spark a turnaround with this struggling club. In fact, Deng seems repulsed by what he’s seen in Cleveland so far. He reportedly told a friend “the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess.” Deng was particularly offended by how certain players talk to head coach Mike Brown, threaten not to play after halftime, and when Waiters was kicked out of practice, yet still played starter’s minutes in the next game.

The latter point is very telling of the root of Cleveland’s problems. Waiters seems to feel entitled and shows little respect for Brown. None of the players seem to have quite the star power to keep him in check either. Deng is new to this situation and is probably just trying to play out the season so he can leave in free agency, while Irving is an All-Star, but doesn’t yet have the accomplishments to help control a locker room.

Obviously the team that’s been assembled isn’t getting things done on the court. So Cleveland either needs to move Waiters while they have a chance, or accept another year without the postseason and look towards the draft…again.

Will the Luol Deng Trade push Cleveland into the Playoffs?

luol-deng-cavs-tradeOver the past couple of weeks, Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum has been the league’s hottest trade commodity. And no, it’s certainly not Bynum’s 8.4 PPG and 5.3 RPG that had teams clamoring for his services. Instead, teams merely wanted to sign him and waive him to save salary cap room.

Well, Cleveland finally found a taker for the disappointing center as the Chicago Bulls gave up two-time All-Star Luol Deng in the deal. In exchange, the Bulls save $15 million in salary and taxes this season by trading Deng and cutting Bynum. They also get a bevy of draft picks from the Cavs, including a first-round pick (via Sacramento), and 2015 and 2016 second-round picks (via Portland). It’s clear that Chicago did a good job of at least getting something in return for Deng, who wasn’t expected to re-sign with the Bulls this summer.

But the immediate winner here is no doubt the Cavaliers. This team came into the 2013-14 NBA season with high expectations. Not only did they sign a former All-Star in Bynum, but they also drafted UNLV’s Anthony Bennett number one overall. These two additions, along with Cleveland’s core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, were expected to produce the club’s first postseason bid in years.

Instead, what they’ve gotten so far is a 12-23 record and a top pick who’s averaging 2.2 PPG and shooting 27.8% from the field. But the good news is that it’s not too late to turn things around with Deng on the roster.

luol-deng-cavs-trade-1Despite a .343 winning percentage, Cleveland is just 2 and a half games out of a playoff spot. Their chances of making the postseason look even more optimistic when you consider that only three teams really appear to be locks in the weak Eastern Conference.

It’s also worth mentioning that Deng fills the biggest hole on the Cavs’ roster. Irving (22.8PPG, 6.1APG) is a star at point guard, Waiters (15.2PPG, 3.2RPG) is having his best season at shooting guard, Thompson (11.9PPG, 9.8RPG) is a more-than-solid power forward, and Varejao (8.1PPG, 9.6RPG) is still a serviceable center. But their gaping hole has always been Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee trying to fill the small forward role. Both players are shooting less than 40% from the field, and they’re forced to play out of position too.

Enter Deng, who’s averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.9 RPG from the small forward spot. Getting somebody like this to plug in the missing piece of your lineup is huge. More than that, Deng seems to be the guy who’ll finally make Cleveland into a postseason-worthy team. Of course, there’s just one catch here: Deng could only be in a Cavs uniform for half a season.

He’ll definitely test the free agency waters when his contract is up this summer. And with Deng being a 9-year veteran, he’s likely going to want to play for a title contender. But then again, Cleveland could convince Deng that they’re capable of competing for a championship with him in the lineup. Sure this seems like a stretch now, but sometimes one player can dramatically turn around a team’s chemistry.

Above all, the Cavaliers will have plenty of cap space to sign Deng to a long-term deal. Seeing as how many people think that he’ll fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of the 4-year, $48 million contract that Andre Iguodala signed with Golden State last summer, Cleveland can definitely afford to front this bill.