Author: John Krolik

Kyrie Irving from Duke University smiles before the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark

NBA Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers


Last Season: 19-63

Head Coach: Byron Scott

Key Additions: Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Omri Casspi

Key Departures: Baron Davis, J.J. Hickson

Best case scenario: A spirited campaign for a near-.500 record and a slim chance at grabbing the 8th playoff spot in the East.

For that to happen: Kyrie Irving comes on strong, the team’s offense runs through him, and the team gets a sense of identity as a slashing, run-and-gun offensive team. Anderson Varejao comes back healthy with energy and, just maybe, a passable yet ugly mid-range jumper, which would allow him to share the floor with Tristan Thompson. Thompson’s energy and shot-blocking completely transforms the Cavaliers’ mentality on defense, and combines with Varejao to give the Cavaliers a high-quality defensive frontcourt. Antawn Jamison starts pretending to care about defense, gets traded, or gets hit by a sudden burst of inspiration in the middle of the night and quits basketball in order to direct a doomed film adaptation of The Crying of Lot 49.

More likely scenario: Irving goes through some growing pains offensively and struggles to balance looking for his own shot with setting up his teammates. Thompson’s offensive game and poor defensive rebounding make Cavalier fans wish they were waiting for Jonas Valanciunas. Antawn Jamison continues to make the Cavaliers play 4-on-5 defensively.

Prediction: 18-22 wins and a high lottery pick.

Cavaliers use amnesty clause on Baron Davis

Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers have officially announced that they have used their team’s “amnesty clause” on Baron Davis, and waived the 32-year old guard from their roster. Davis’ current contract will pay him 13.95 million dollars this season, and Davis has a player option for 14.85 million next season. Davis will still make that money, but his contract will no longer count against Cleveland’s salary cap figures.

Davis, along with what turned out to be the #1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, was traded to the Cavaliers for Mo Williams last season, and the Cavaliers did play significantly better after acquiring Davis. Davis’ three-point shooting was abnormally good in Cleveland — a career 32% three-point shooter, Davis shot 41.4% from deep in his 15 games with the Cavaliers.

That late-season shooting surge will make Davis enticing to a number of top teams who are currently without a great option at point guard, namely the Lakers, Heat, and Knicks. Size, passing ability, and outside shooting ability are what allows guards to play well once they get on the wrong side of 30 — Davis has always been a big guard (and has often shown up to training camps a bit too big), and has always passed well, but he has traditionally made his teams suffer by settling for a lot of outside shots and making very few of them.

If Davis’ 3-point shooting in Cleveland comes with him to his next team, he will help them — if it doesn’t, he could end up throwing away possessions for teams that have some great scorers on their rosters. (If you don’t believe NBA GMs are capable of having short memories when it comes to a player’s ability to shoot the 3, remember how much money Trevor Ariza made after he got hot from deep in the 2009 playoffs.)

Davis would have helped take some pressure off of #1 pick Kyrie Irving if he’d stayed in Cleveland, and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has been a very vocal opponent of letting the NBA’s best teams get better at the expense of small-market teams, so I’m inclined to believe that Davis either asked the Cavaliers to let him go or showed up to camp in such iffy shape that the Cavaliers don’t believe he’ll provide much help to whatever contender ultimately signs him. Of course, Davis was making a lot of money and providing relatively little production, so it’s possible that Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant might simply have plans for how to improve the team now that Davis’ contract no longer counts against their salary cap.

Chris Paul traded from New Orleans Hornets to Los Angeles Clippers


The NBA has approved the trade sending All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers.

The trade, first reported by’s Marc Stein, brings guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, center Chris Kaman and a first-round draft choice to New Orleans.  Here’s what’s Marc Stein first reported on the trade:

The Clippers, sources said, will send guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round pick to the Hornets for Paul.

The Clippers will also receive two future second-round picks, according to sources.

A previous Clipper trade, as well as a deal three-team deal that would have had the Lakers trade away Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to acquire Paul, were both vetoed by the NBA for “basketball reasons.”

The Hornets made out quite well in this trade — Chris Kaman is a quality center, Eric Gordon is one of the league’s best young shooting guards and was the Clippers’ best non-Blake Griffin asset, Al-Farouq Aminu is young, athletic and talented, and the Minnesota pick could be a very high one in what is expected to be in a very good draft.

The Clippers are the real winners here, though. The team can now build around two superstars, and Paul and Blake Griffin should develop great chemistry with each other instantly. The uber-athletic DeAndre Jordan, who the Clippers recently re-signed to a new contract, should also benefit tremendously from having Paul to feed him the ball.

The Clippers now appear to have a surplus of point guards — Paul, Eric Bledsoe, Chauncey Billups, and Mo Williams are all on the roster — and a lack of wing players with Gordon and Aminu gone, even though they signed Caron Butler to a large contract this off-season already. We’ll see what Clippers GM Neil Olshey does about that situation going forward, but for now, the Paul/Griffin combination is enough to make the Clippers more exciting and relevant than they’ve been since…well, ever. The Chris Paul situation was a fiasco this off-season, but it will likely be quickly forgotten when the first Paul-Griffin alley-oop is thrown down next year.

Bobcats sign Reggie Williams to 2-year, $5 million deal.


According to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Charlotte Bobcats have signed former Golden State Warriors swingman Reggie Williams to a 2-year deal worth 5 million dollars. The 25-year old former D-league player averaged 9.2 points on 46.9% shooting from the field and 42.3% shooting from deep last season, and averaged 15.2 points on 49.5% shooting in his first NBA season. Williams’ defense has been an issue, but he was playing in Golden State, where defense was not a priority.

Given how much mid-level free agents in their 20s or early 30s can cost, this looks like a smart signing for Charlotte. Williams can create shots and knock down open threes quite well, he’s versatile offensively, and his price tag looks very reasonable when you consider that his former team just paid $7 million for one year of Kwame Brown, or look at what other reasonably effective free-agent swingmen around the league have been getting paid.

Williams won’t make a game-changing impact for Charlotte, but they appear to have acquired a solid player without having to pay too much, which is a very rare thing in NBA free agency.

There is new Greg Oden news, which means there is new horrible news

Greg Oden

From the Oregonian’s Jason Quick:

Breaking: Blazers determine center Greg Oden has suffered setback, and restructure his one-year deal for a lesser amount…

…But the Blazers, who didn’t comment Thursday after his appointment, determined that he is less likely to return to the court this season.

Ugh. Looks like another year lost for the former phenom and 2007 #1 pick. Hopefully, someday, Oden will get healthy and have an NBA career instead of going the way of fellow #1 pick Yao Ming and fellow teammate Brandon Roy and being forced to retire early, but at this point, that seems to be very much in question, even though Oden is still only 23 years old.