Dribbles: Waiters out, new guards in, and Cavs eye bigs
Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 95-92 loss at the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday — and oh yeah, that Dion Waiters trade:
1. Let’s start with the game then quickly forget about it: This was a bad loss. Even without LeBron James, even without Kyrie Irving, even without Waiters and the lost-for-the-season Anderson Varejao.
2. First, the Cavs were in control for most of the night against a terrible team. Those are the games you can’t lose. You let a team that’s not very good back in it and gave it a chance to win. And that’s exactly what the Sixers did. They stole it.
3. Second, the Cavs have seven straight extremely tough games coming up. Most will come without LeBron. It starts Wednesday with the Houston Rockets at home. After that, it’s a five-game trip through the West. Then the Cavs return home to face the Chicago Bulls. The Cavs are 19-16 now. They needed this one.
4. Finally on the game: Kevin Love showed why the Cavs brought him here, scoring 28 points and grabbing 19 rebounds. He and all the Cavs in uniform did play hard. They just didn’t do enough of the little things — including Matthew Dellavedova’s missed free throws late that could’ve all but sealed it. But Delly shouldn’t be alone in the blame. This was a team-wide meltdown.
5. Tristan Thompson added 18 points and nine boards, and rookie Joe Harris scored 16 after being chosen as the late fill-in for Waiters at shooting guard.
6. Waiters was literally on the court for warmups and introduced as a starter. Then he was sent back to the locker room to be informed of the deal.
7. In case you missed it, Waiters was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In return, the Cavs received guards Iman Shumpert and J.R Smith from the New York Knicks. You can read the full details here.
8. By all accounts, this was not an easy trade for Cavs general manager David Griffin. Waiters was Griffin’s guy (to an extent). But it just wasn’t working in Year No. 3 for Waiters.
9. Some folks around the league believe Cavs coach David Blatt made a major mistake with Waiters in allowing Waiters to shoot, shoot and shoot some more — and then trying to sell Waiters on the idea of ball movement. Some within the organization think if it weren’t for LeBron, Waiters would’ve played zero defense.
10. Either way, Blatt is getting three things he really wanted in Shumpert and Smith. Shumpert has length, and he can defend the perimeter with the best of them. Smith is a shooter who can light up the opponent in the blink of an eye. A motivated Smith can play. It will be interesting to see if that’s how he arrives.
11. According to sources, Waiters still believes he’s better than Kyrie Irving. I’m told Waiters was not happy with what he viewed as management’s favoritism toward Kyrie. But it’s all ancient history now, kids.
12. The Cavs tried a lot of different things with Waiters. He was the starting shooting guard at the beginning of the season. Blatt told him the Cavs needed a catch-and-shoot guy. Waiters resisted and returned to the bench. While Waiters could be very good, there were times he could hijack the offense.
13. Waiters is mostly a volume shooter. If the Thunder can get him focused and involved, he could be a poor man’s version of James Harden alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It was a roll of the dice on their end, but they gave up virtually nothing (Lance Thomas and a pick).
14. For the Cavs, Shumpert is really the key to the deal. He’s the versatile perimeter defender they’d been lacking. At 24, he’s also just a year older than Waiters and averages only about one point per game less than Waiters’ 10.5 a night.
15. Meanwhile, Smith can be very good if he approaches this with a winning mindset. That’s not often the case with him. But he did win Sixth Man of the Year two seasons ago and he is explosive. It will all be about his approach. The Cavs are banking on the idea that LeBron can get through to him. With Smith, the Cavs need positive energy from the get-go.
16. The Cavs apparently are still trying to pry center Timofy Mozgov from the Nuggets. They now have another protected first-round draft pick (from the Thunder), to go with their protected first-rounder from the Memphis Grizzlies. The Cavs seem to believe they can turn at least one (with other stuff) into a rim-protecting big man, and they seem to believe they can do it soon.
17. It seems the Movgoz situation is improving for the Cavs. A deal doesn’t seem close by any means, but I’m told at least the Cavs are no longer receiving a "flat no" from the Nuggets. They also remain interested in Grizzlies center/forward Kosta Koufos, sources said.
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