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.

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.

Should the Lakers fire Mike D’Antoni?

mike-dantoniDating back to last year, the circumstances of the Los Angeles Lakers hiring Mike D’Antoni seemed a little strange. Public perception was that the Lakers might re-hire Phil Jackson after Mike Brown was quickly ousted. But when D’Antoni was quickly tabbed to fill the Lakers’ head coaching role, it became clear that management didn’t want to be under Jackson’s thumb once again.

But even if they didn’t want Jackson assuming his over-expanded role, picking D’Antoni was still a strange choice. He later admitted that he never spoke with Dr. Jerry Buss before the hiring and couldn’t believe that they gave him the job. This didn’t seem to be a popular choice among fans, but given D’Antoni’s resume, it wasn’t the worst choice either.

He led Los Angeles to a 40-32 record in his shortened season, despite fighting an impossible battle to gel parts like Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard together. Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant’s season-ending achillies tendon injury wiped out any hope of a deep playoff run. In fact, Los Angeles looked totally outmatched when San Antonio swept them in the first round.

kobe-bryantThe offseason didn’t do D’Antoni any better since Buss died, Howard went to Houston in free agency and Bryant was set to miss the first few weeks of the 2013-14 season. But D’Antoni certainly didn’t spend any time whining, instead coaching L.A. to a 10-9 record to start the season. This was actually a pretty amazing coaching job when one considers that Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar and Steve Nash all spend time on the injury list.

With a winning record and Bryant returning from injury, things were looking up for the Lakers. But then Bryant got injured once again, leaving his team down a 16-time All-Star. Still, the team pressed on and managed to sit at 13-13 and within striking distance of the playoffs. This will no doubt be the Lakers’ peak, though, because they’ve since lost 17 out of their last 20 games.

This stretch has not only put L.A. out of playoff contention in the loaded Western Conference, but it’s also put D’Antoni on a very hot seat. Sure they’d still have a shot at the postseason if they were in the East, but they’re not. This team is now simply hoping to avoid the Pacific Division cellar, a spot which they currently tie for with Sacramento.

Looking at Los Angeles’ 16-30 record, there’s more than enough reason to fire Mike D’Antoni at this point. This is the Lakers after all and they’re not satisfied with losing. Of course, we merely need to look at all of the team’s injuries to make excuses for keeping D’Antoni a while longer. It seems that L.A. management is now facing a very tough decision with the guy whom they mysteriously chose as their coach last year.

Mike Brown wants NBA’s Top Pick Anthony Bennett to be a PF

anthony-bennet-cavsWhen the Cleveland Cavaliers took Anthony Bennett number one overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, many speculated that the Cavs would use him at small forward. Sure Bennett mostly played power forward at UNLV, but there are a host of reasons why fans thought he’d play the 3 spot. Here’s a look at some of these reasons:

– The Cavs already have 6’9″ Tristan Thompson at power forward. The Texas product more than proved himself capable of handing starting NBA duties by averaging 11.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG and 0.9 BPG. Thompson already shares a similar background with Bennett since the two grew up a mile apart in Toronto and went to the same high school in Nevada’s Findlay Prep (though not at the same time). Now both players will be sharing minutes at the 4 spot.

– Cleveland has a big hole at the small forward position. Alonzo Gee was a serviceable player at this position last year after averaging 10.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 1.3 SPG. But he’s also got some deficiencies here, as can be seen in his shooting (41%) and size (6’6″, 219 pounds). Upgrading the starting 3 seems like it would be a good priority.

anthony-bennett-unlv– Bennett doesn’t have the prototypical size of a 4. Sure his 239-pound weight is about average for the position. However, he’s listed at a generous 6’7″, which isn’t ideal.

Taking all of this into account, it was a little surprising when Cleveland head coach Mike Brown came out and said that Bennett will be used at power forward for the immediate future. He stated:

I got it figured. His ability to score in a lot of different ways is intriguing. His explosiveness is intriguing. His standing reach is higher than lot of guys playing power forward in the league, including Kevin Love. He’s got long arms. There’s a desire to want to be better. He has a lot of upside.

Despite Brown saying that he has it all figured out, one can’t help but question the idea of putting Bennett at small forward. Besides already having Thompson, who started all 82 games last season, Cleveland also acquired Earl Clark this offseason. Last year with the Lakers, Clark played solid off the bench after averaging 7.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 23 MPG.

Perhaps the Cavaliers plan on bringing Bennett along slowly while starting Thompson and using Clark sparsely. Or maybe Brown is just saying that he wants to use Bennett exclusively as a 4 to surprise everybody.

The latter would make just about as much sense as anything else at this point. After all, Cleveland has created a logjam at the power forward position while they have little else at small forward. Perhaps as the season progresses, we’ll see the number one pick used in different roles. But for now, it’s tough seeing how this situation will work.

Lakers finish One of Most Disastrous Seasons in NBA History

lakers-disaster-seasonComing into the 2012-2013 NBA season, expectations were high for the Los Angeles Lakers. Many people, including ourselves, had L.A. contending for the title this year. And why not since they added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to an already strong cast that featured Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Antwan Jamison.

But after being swept by the San Antonio Spurs in a highly noncompetitive series, those lofty preseason expectations seem light-years away. The closest that the Lakers managed to get during this matchup was a 9-point loss in Game 2. And the blowout playoff losses seemed like the perfect way to cap what’s been one of the most disappointing and worst seasons for a team in NBA history.

Sure Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles at the end of the regular season limited this club’s ability to compete with the Spurs. But that only explains the playoffs, and not the drastically underachieving team that finally secured a playoff spot in the last week of the season.

pau-gasol-steve-nashPeople were quick to dismiss awful preseason performances that saw the Lakers go winless. However, panic quickly set in after a 1-4 start that led to the firing of head coach Mike Brown. By late January, the team was 17-25 and in serious danger of missing the playoffs.

If there’s any silver lining to this season, it’s that L.A. did rally to go 28-12 over the second half and grab the Western Conference’s seventh seed. However, this is of little solace to Lakers fans who thought that the team stood a good chance of grabbing the 17th NBA Championship in franchise history.

So where did everything go wrong? Well for starters, Mike Brown’s decision to implement the Princeton offense was never popular from the get-go. Skepticism was warranted too as the team made a large number of turnovers in the early going.

dwight-howardCompounding problems was the fact that Howard missed most of the preseason and never got into the new offense. Additionally, Nash would miss most of December and January with a broken leg, thus adding to the team chemistry issues.

When Mike D’Antoni entered the picture as the Lakers’ new coach, things only got more complicated. Now the team was learning a more uptempo offense, with Howard and Gasol struggling to find their place. Gasol especially suffered and even lost his spot in the starting lineup to unheralded Earl Clark for a short while. The 7-footer also missed 33 games during the year in one of his most injury-plagued seasons ever.

kobe-bryantSo based on the injuries and lack of team chemistry, it’s a bit easier to see why Los Angeles had such a disastrous year. But management is not going to be accepting excuses this offseason, and some major changes are definitely expected.

Howard could re-sign with the Lakers next year after averaging 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 2.45 BPG. He’d likely earn $117.9 million over five years with L.A., as opposed to an $87.6 million, four-year deal with any other team. However, nothing is guaranteed since the talented shot-blocker is intent on testing free agency waters.

The Lakers also have plenty of payroll issues to deal with next season because Bryant is due $30 million, Gasol is set to receive $19 million, Nash would earn $9 million and World Peace is due $7.7 million – all before Howard is even signed. Based on these huge contracts, it’s a good bet that one of these stars will have to go.

Bryant appears to be the only certainty out of the five stars as he’s the face of the franchise and leading scorer. The Lakers would no doubt like to have Howard back too – if possible – so this leaves Gasol, Nash and World Peace left to discuss.

Gasol had some strong games to close out the year after tallying several triple-doubles. Plus he finally looked more comfortable in D’Antoni’s offense at the end. However, the Spaniard also has a player option for the $19 million and could be released. World Peace is in the same player option boat, but could stay on due to the fact that he’s only set to earn $7.7 million.

Considering all of this, it’s possible that we’ll be seeing a different Lakers team take the floor next year. And the big question is if they can put together a lineup that not only stays healthy, but also plays well together.