September 30, 2014

Elyria
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Rick Noland: Grading time … where are Cavs’ ‘A’ students?

Professor Noland has graded all tests and is not happy with this class, but here are final report cards for the 2013-14 Cavaliers:

Anthony Bennett (4.2 ppg, .356 FG, .245 3-pt): The No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft came to camp injured and out of shape and never caught up. There’s some potential there, but it almost never showed up this season: Grade: D-.

Matthew Dellavedova (4.7 ppg, 2.6 apg): If every player on the roster worked as hard as “Delly,” this might have been a .500 team. The undrafted free agent was much more productive than any of the Cavs’ three drafted rookies, which is praise but also a huge indictment of the other three. Grade: B.

Luol Deng (14.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 apg): When he came to Cleveland, he looked like the answer to the team’s perpetual small forward woes. Now, not so much. Deng knows how to play and he’s a quality person, but his game is starting to slip. The Cavs should not — and almost certainly will not —
re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent. Grade: C.

Carrick Felix (7 games): For some reason, former general manager Chris Grant not only gave Felix guaranteed money this season, but for several more seasons. Grade: F.

Alonzo Gee (4.0 ppg): He’s a great young man and he always gives his best effort, but, other than being a slightly above-average defensive player, he’s just not very good. Grade: D+.

Spencer Hawes (13.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.4 apg): The 7-foot-1 center is big, can spread the floor with his 3-point shooting and is a pretty good rebounder. He’s not a great defender or particularly polished in the low post, but he’s worth re-signing as a free agent. Grade: B.

Scotty Hopson (two games): He got guaranteed money for next season simply so the Cavs can try to include him in an offseason deal. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, it’s Dan Gilbert’s money. Grade: Incomplete.

Kyrie Irving (20.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 6.1 apg): Irving’s statistical numbers look very good and, still just 22, he’s obviously an immense talent. However, he is held to a higher standard than the rest of the class and must make marked improvement as a defender, leader and, above all else, winner. The latter is how he will ultimately be judged. Grade: B-.

Jarrett Jack (9.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.1 apg): The Jack who ended the season was pretty good. The Jack who played, say, the first two-thirds of the season was not. Diminishing skills are always a concern with 30-year-old guards who aren’t overly big, and Jack meets both criteria. He’s under contract for three more seasons, too. Grade: C+.

Sergey Karasev (22 games): The Cavs keep saying how this first-round pick has an advanced understanding of the game, but he almost never played. Right now, that’s all Professor Noland has to go on. Grade: F.

C.J. Miles (9.9 ppg, .393 3-pt): The left-hander fills a role in that he can shoot, but the last third of his season was sabotaged by a sprained ankle. He’s a free agent the Cavs probably have some interest in, depending on the cost and what else they do. Grade: C+.

Tristan Thompson (11.7 ppg, 9.2 rpg, .693 FT): Statistically, the third-year pro had a solid season. Thompson will definitely play in this league for a long time, but at what level? He continually struggles against top-level power forwards and, unless he develops a reliable midrange jumper, there isn’t much more room for his game to grow. On a good team, he’s probably a role player. Grade: B.

Anderson Varejao (8.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.2 apg): “The Wild Thing” ended this season healthy, so that’s a bonus. Varejao always works hard, he’s improved his midrange jumper and his effort can be contagious. Entering the final season of a contract that is not fully guaranteed, he will likely be the subject of a lot of trade rumors. Grade: B.

Dion Waiters (15.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.0 apg): Waiters has shown he can do a lot of things at the NBA level. Now he must learn to put up solid numbers across the board, all the time. Much like Irving, he must prove he can make his teammates and, much more importantly, his team better. Grade: B.

Tyler Zeller (5.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg): Seven-footers with some skill play for a long time in the NBA. Zeller will be no different. He will never be a star and is unlikely to ever even be a starter, but he’s the kind of guy teams want to have on their bench. Grade: C.

Mike Brown (33-49): When the Cavs listened to their coach, they enjoyed some success, as proven by the fact they won 17 of their last 33 games. However, too often they did not listen and/or execute, and right or wrong that always comes back to the coach. Offensive diversity, ball movement and executing inbounds plays were also troubling, but there’s no denying the Cavs made decent strides defensively under Brown. Grade: C-.

David Griffin: The Cavs’ 17-16 finish coincided with Griffin taking over as GM for the fired Chris Grant. In hindsight, that move should have been made before the 2013 draft, if not sooner. Griffin’s acquisition of Hawes was a very solid move and paid immediate dividends. More importantly, the laid-back and seemingly confident Griffin appears to have brought a fresh and more results-based approach. He’s worth keeping as GM, though the team may want to consider adding a basketball president-type person to oversee the entire front office. Grade: B.

Dan Gilbert: The owner’s popularity remains high with fans, but the only things he’s really done are inherit LeBron James and freely spend money. Both go a long way with the public, but at some point success has to follow. Grade: D.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.

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