Cavs lose game they should've won, but lottery pick slowly proving GM made right call.
By SAM AMICO FS Ohio
Random thoughts following the Cavaliers' 107-105 loss Friday night at Phoenix:
• Hey, how about Chris Grant? Remember on draft day, when everyone was criticizing the Cavs general manager for "reaching" for
Dion Waiters with the No. 4 overall pick? I sure do, because I'm one of the dorks who wrote it. In fact, that's exactly what I wrote. I wrote Waiters was a reach. I was wrong. Because truth is, after two weeks, Waiters is a top-three rookie, probably top two (along with New Orleans' Anthony Davis).
• So let's give Grant some serious credit. While everyone was talking about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal or Harrison Barnes on draft night, Grant took a flyer on Waiters. We all had our doubts. But after Waiters scored 28 points in a win over the Clippers, then 23 vs. the Suns (on 9-for-13 shooting), it's safe to say the kid has upside.
• This isn't intended to trash Beal, Barnes or the others. This was a deep draft and those guys should all have fine careers. But the Cavs needed a starting two guard, and a potentially dynamic No. 2 scorer behind Kyrie Irving. Already, it appears Waiters can be that guy.
• Yes, I'm skipping over the fact the Cavs were leading Phoenix something like 78-0 in the first quarter and still lost. Actually, they held leads of 18-2 and 40-18 . . . and still lost. Well, all I can say is get used to it, Cavaliers fans. Those are the types of things that happen when two of your top three players are 20 years old (Irving and Waiters).
• Still, I feel bad for Cleveland fans. Everyone is retooling and talking about the draft two weeks into the season. Cavs fans, in particular, seem to want another top five draft pick, and they just might get it.
• There's a danger in that philosophy, though. Sacramento, Toronto, Charlotte and others have been playing the lottery game for years. Where has it gotten them? More top-five picks, more players who get good and want to leave because of a perceived losing mentality.
• I think the Cavs would be better off making a run at the playoffs, showing some real progress and finishing in the 10-14 range of the draft. Mostly, if they get another top-five pick, what do you think it will mean next season? My guess is another down year, record-wise. The Cavs have had three top-four picks in the past two years. It's time to move on, show improvement, and give fans something to cheer about.
• Anyway, back to the here and now. We all know the biggest problem with the Cavs, and it takes all of one half-quarter to figure it out. That would be none other than the bench, which has been downright atrocious. I'm still willing to give C.J. Miles a chance, but he's been a major disappointment. In fact, Miles is off to his worst-ever NBA start.
• I'm still not sure what to make of Samardo Samuels, either. Like Miles, he's a wonderful person and really wants to do well. And sometimes it happens for Samuels. But he's still just as inconsistent as ever, and really struggles to get back on defense. Samuels is the poster child for the Cavs bench, though. You never know what you're going to get from one game to the next.
• Cavs coach Byron Scott said, "Obviously we gotta get more out of our bench than what we've gotten in the first six games." Trust me, he's every bit as frustrated as you are.
• That said, I do really like what I've seen from Daniel Gibson. He's obviously feeling more and more comfortable after foot surgery in April. His form looks good and he's shooting a shade under 50 percent from the field. That includes a sizzling 48 percent on three-pointers.
• As for Friday's game, all I can say is be prepared. There's likely more like it on the way. That's not an insult — just reality. Young teams are frustrating in this league. They win games they have no business winning and lose games marked as "guarantees" on the calendar. They blow big leads, put together thrilling comebacks, and just generally make everyone around them pluck out their eyelashes in exasperation.
• Some fans love comparing the Cavs to
Oklahoma City — or at least, the
OKC from a few years ago. In 2008-09,
Kevin Durant was in his second season and point guard
Russell Westbrook in his first. The Thunder showed promise, but finished 23-59. They also underwent a coaching change (P.J. Carlesimo to Scott Brooks). It wasn't until the next season they finished 50-32 and made the playoffs.
• Like the Thunder of yesteryear, the Cavs have two rising stars in Irving and (hopefully) Waiters. But again, there's bound to be a lot of frustration and even some changes before real progress is made. And as much as I hate to admit it, possibly yet another lottery pick. But with any luck, we won't have to talk about that again until April.