The Cleveland Cavaliers have made few bones about the fact they have modeled their franchise around the way the San Antonio Spurs do their business. They have put an emphasis on chemistry, they hired a former Spurs assistant as their head coach, and they’ve surrounded their superstar with solid veterans rather than unpredictable young players.
One trick the Spurs have employed over the years is taking a player in the draft and parking him overseas for a year or two to allow him to develop. It worked like a charm with Manu Ginobili, and the Spurs have since done the same thing with Luis Scola and Tiago Splitter. The Cavaliers have decided to try their luck with this strategy, buying the rights to Sasha Kaun in the 2008 draft and using their first-round pick this season on Christian Eyenga.
Eyenga is still quite a while away, but Kaun might be in the Cavs’ rotation as soon as next season. As deep as the Cavalier frontline looks now, there is a legitimate chance that neither Shaquille O’Neal or Zydrunas Ilgauskas will return to the team next season. That would leave the Cavaliers without a true center next season, and Kaun might end up getting thrust into the spotlight. Here’s what Brian Windhorst had to say about Kaun’s development in Russia:
“The 7-footer had another great game Sunday, scoring 23 points with six rebounds in a Russian Superleague contest. He’s averaging 12.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and shooting 72 percent in the Superleague games. In the top-level Euroleague — European teams usually split competitions between in-country league and the major continental league — Kaun is averaging 12.8 points and six rebounds over his last four games and nine points and 4.2 rebounds on 60 percent shooting for the season.”
If Kaun can play the way he’s played in Russia for the Cavaliers next season, more and more teams could start using their late picks on long-term projects like Kaun.
If you believe there is a difference between being dunked on and being dunked around, this definitely falls in the latter category.
Still, it’s an impressive move by Toronto’s Anthony Bennett to make the move and dunk around Lakers’ big man Robert Upshaw during the Raptors’ 105-97 preseason win over the Lakers Thursday night.
Bennett only had four points, but Kyle Lowry had another impressive preseason outing with 25. He has looked sharp. Julius Randle had 17 for the Lakers on 7-of-10 shooting.
The Cavs are shorthanded in the backcourt right now, with Kyrie Irving still out and Iman Shumpert sidelined for up to three months. Yahoo’s Marc Spears reports that they’re bringing in former Temple guard Dionte Christmas, who played for the Suns in 2013-14:
In 31 games for the Suns two seasons ago, Christmas averaged 2.3 points and 1.2 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game. He probably won’t get very many minutes if he makes the Cavs’ final roster, but there’s a chance they’ll keep him around on a non-guaranteed deal until Irving and Shumpert are healthy, just to have another body in the backcourt.