Cleveland Cavaliers: A Trade For Frontcourt Help Would Help Most
The Cleveland Cavaliers biggest need isn’t a backup point guard. Their biggest need is a big man.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been scouring the trade market for a backup point guard like bargain-bin shoppers on a budget. While they try to wait out a point guard that will be auctioned off for pennies, there has been opportunity for guards Kay Felder and Jordan McRae to prove their worth to the team.
Felder, who is a rookie point guard from Oakland University, is undersized at 5-foot-9 but has big-time playmaking ability. He’s strung together two strong performances for the Cleveland Cavaliers after a one-night assignment to the Canton Charge, the Cavs’ exclusive affiliate team with the NBA Development League. He’s played so well that, in a display of confidence, Tyronn Lue has seen fit to tell Felder not to automatically look his way to see what play to call. According to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, Lue trusts him to “just play [his] game”.
McRae, who is a shooting guard but has the length to play all three perimeter positions, is a volume shooter who can operate within the Cavs offense in a way similar to Kyrie Irving. He won’t dazzle and dazzle with sensational ball-handling, no. However, he’ll continuously attack until lanes open up for him to be a passer.
It’s easy to say that these two, who have played a combined 59 games in their career, aren’t players that the Cavs can rely on in the second unit. They’re inexperienced. Felder is undersized and, like many rookies, didn’t have an immediate comfort with the speed of the NBA. McRae, as volume shooters tend to be, can have wild swings of inefficiency.
Yet, Felder is also the possessor of a 44-inch vertical leap and his game with Canton Charge seems to not only have boosted his confidence but his ability to play comfortably, not frantically, at the speed of the game. McRae has been more intent on passing first before he attempts a shot. Not passing for an assist per se but passing in a general sense. Passing to get the ball and players moving and to create a rhythm that the team can play with.
Per 36 minutes, Felder is currently averaging 17.9 points, 5.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game on 45.2 percent shooting from the field and 44.4 percent shooting from the floor. His PER of 16.4 would have him ranked second in the league among NBA rookies. McRae is having less success, as his PER of 9.4 would indicate. Nonetheless, he’s still averaging 15.3 points, 2.0 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per 36 minutes (albeit on 35.7 percent shooting from the field and 35.7 percent shooting from three-point range).
While more efficiency from McRae would be nice, he’s still an effective scorer and converting his three-point attempts at a decent clip.
The Cavs, in trading for a point guard, would likely be trading some combination of Mike Dunleavy Jr. (who has been a healthy scratch in the last two games while Irving has been out with cramps), Mo Williams (who is “retired”), Cedi Osman and McRae. Yet, in trading for a point guard the Cavs would also be slowing the momentum that Felder has been building as of late.
That’s both a problem for “2Kay” and waste of limited assets for the Cavs.
However, where the Cavs could use help is in their frontcourt. While at power forward the Cavs use a mix of Kevin Love, LeBron James and other small-ball forwards that can have a positive impact for the game offensively, the Cavs have what could turn into a crisis at the center position. Once reserve center Chris Andersen went down for the year with a torn ACL, the Cleveland Cavaliers only had Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye at the center position.
While Thompson is an elite rebounder and this season has upped his impact as a rim-protector and low-post defender, he’s often tasked with playing without a true backup when the Cavs play against teams who play a lot of small-ball or have an exceptionally mobile center. This is because Frye, who isn’t slow-footed but not athletic either, isn’t capable of flying out from the paint to the perimeter and back like Thompson can.
With Frye at center instead of Thompson, the Cavs rely a lot more on being effective early their pick-and-roll defense. Frye performs well in his pick-and-roll defense, effectively hedging a screen or blitzing the ball-handler. Yet, his success doesn’t change the fact that if beat, he won’t consistently make it back to the rim. He simply doesn’t have the recovery speed to go back and contest shots at the rim. If he has to guard out to the perimeter to contest a shot, the issue is the same.
This season, Frye is allowing opponents to shoot 56.5 percent from three, 21 percent above their season average, when he’s the nearest defender. They shoot 51.2 percent around the rim, 5.1 percent above their season average, when he’s the nearest defender.
There are in-house options for the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Cavs to add a mobile big man to their starting unit such as Eric Moreland, the versatile center for the Canton Charge.
There may be centers that become available during the buyout such as Tyson Chandler. Nonetheless, if they want a more proven center that they’re sure will fit their roster and they’re certain will be available, the Cavs should trade for that center rather than trading for a point guard when there’s both production and potential behind Irving in the form of 5-foot-9 Felder.
The center position can’t continue to be ignored.
Pun-intended, the depth at center is the biggest problem for the Cavs right now. A big man is what the Cavs should trade for. A player like Alexis Ajinca or Joffrey Lauvergne could be a big piece for the Cavs down the line.
Do you think that center is biggest concern for the Cleveland Cavaliers? Let us know in the comments section or Twitter @KJG_NBA.
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