D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Cavaliers, Preseason Game 7
Cage match! Rivalry game! No? Alas, gone are the days of the Arenas-LeBron first-round matchups, all won by the guy who moved to Miami, won some NBA championships, and now moonlights as a #StruggleRapper de temps en temps. And yet, chips may once again bless the shoulders of one of Washington’s (horseshoe) All-Stars. Kyrie Irving comes to Cincinnati, insouciantly impressive for the most part, and presently regarded as the best of the “next generation” of NBA point guards. What say you, John Wall?
Teams: Wizards at Cavaliers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati, OH
Television: — (i.e., Fox Sports Ohio)
Radio: WFED-AM 1500
Wizards tickets … anyone?
Click to get them served up for cheap via TiqIQ and TAI.
Q #1: I promised myself I wasn’t going to ask about this, and now here I am, it’s the first question, and … oh forget it, I promise nothing! There have been some controversial outcomes in the #NBARank project over on ESPN’s website, some less controversial than the outrage would suggest. On Monday, Cleveland’s star point guard Kyrie Irving was anointed with the #8 rank, which infuriated some (namely Bulls fans) and delighted others in equal measure. Do you think #8 is a justifiable ranking for Irving?
@JohnKrolik: I think #8 was a very optimistic ranking for Kyrie Irving. He’s a fantastic offensive talent who’s already producing a lot of points very efficiently, and he obviously has all of the skills, but the bottom line is that he doesn’t give you anything on the defensive end of the floor and hasn’t taken a team out of the basement yet, let alone to the playoffs or to anything approximating a finals run. So just from that, I wouldn’t have given him the ranking he got.
The counter-argument is that everybody out of the top 3, and to some level the top 2, is a bit of a crapshoot right now because established stars are either aging or struggling with injuries. Durant and LeBron are the only guys I would have given 10s to—everything outside of that debatable on some level. Will Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook recover and return as the uber-athletic forces they were? Will Harden make another leap with Howard? Will Kobe come all the way back? What if Wade’s knees come back? It’s very nebulous outside of the top 2. I think given his current resume, Kyrie is overrated right now, but to be fair to him, I would’ve said the same thing about Durant a few years ago.
Q #2: Unlike the Wizards, the Cavs come into this game with a winning preseason record. Who has impressed you so far? Have you seen enough (of something) from Anthony Bennett to feel OK about him being selected #1 overall?
@JohnKrolik: I HATED the Tristan Thompson over Jonas Valanciunas pick when it happened, and still do, but Thompson has continued to show steady improvement. He’s putting up solid 12-8 type numbers, and he’s even starting to show a bit of a jumper with his new shooting hand, which will be a necessity, because Varejao and Bynum (if they’re even healthy) don’t really have any game outside of the paint to speak of.
As for Bennett, he was a total shock as a No. 1 pick when it happened, and since he was drafted, he’s torn his rotator cuff, gained a concerning amount of weight, and we’ve learned that he has sleep apnea and asthma and can make NBA 3s. Only one of those developments is positive. So at this point, I’m still wishing Oladipo had been the pick. Although again, to be fair, the Cavs are a year removed from spending a No. 4 pick on Dion Waiters and still think he has promise, and the guy who was supposed to be the No. 1 pick on draft night ended up sliding, getting traded, and now apparently won’t play all year. So to repeat a theme from question #1, I don’t love the selection, but acknowledge that the draft was a crapshoot.
Q #3: I was disappointed that the Wizards didn’t take any significant risks in the offseason other than, perhaps, inking Wall’s extension a year before it was necessary. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers found an impact backup to Irving (something the Wizards have been half-assedly trying to do for Wall since they drafted him) in Jack and rolled the dice on Bynum. What are your expectations for Jack and Bynum this season? Do the Cavs need both of these guys to meet, or exceed your expectations in order to make the playoffs?
@JohnKrolik: I think Jack is about as safe of an acquisition as you can make and Bynum was about as risky as it gets. I think Jack is a known commodity—he’ll defend not-horribly, he can play on or off the ball well enough to back up either guard spot more than adequately, and he’ll be finishing games if 1) Irving or Waiters is hurt, 2) Waiters doesn’t make any progress this season, or 3) the Cavs are facing a team going ultra-small, although I don’t really see Mike Brown finishing games with a 3-guard lineup.
As for Bynum, there are no expectations. There’s a reason a guy who was considered the consensus second-best center in the league a year ago was available for the deal the Cavs got him for. And it’s not a good reason. The fact is that the Cavs were forced to sign him without so much as getting to see him work out, and you have to consider that there’s a real possibility Bynum will never play another NBA game again, which is unfortunate but unfortunately not unprecedented among NBA bigs who have struggled with chronic lower-body injuries.
I don’t think they need Bynum to get to the playoffs, and it’s a major flaw in their plan if they think they do, but they will need something from Jack. And I think they get the 8th seed. The top 5 teams in the East aren’t going anywhere. I think Atlanta makes it back even without Josh Smith. I think Boston is out, which means there are two spots available, and the teams fighting them are Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Toronto, and Washington. I think Washington is still a year away. Toronto is counting on two high-usage wing players who can’t shoot way too much. I think Detroit makes it—even with their fit issues, they just have too much talent not to grab a spot. Which means it’s either Cleveland or Milwaukee fighting for the last spot, and I think Cleveland having Kyrie, a new defense-first system under Brown, and an owner who, for better or worse, is going to go all-out to make the playoffs this year is going to give them the advantage over Milwaukee.
BONUS: Over/unders! with @JohnKrolik
Over/under 60.5 games played for Varejao?
Over. Varejao has been hurt the last three seasons, but it hasn’t been one issue, and Varejao’s last injury, as scary as it was, was a freak injury. Varejao plays an all-out style, but his injuries have been varied enough that I wouldn’t put the “brittle” tag on him quite yet.
Over/under 60.5 games played for Bynum?
Under, definitely. I haven’t seen so much of a whisper about a Christmas return or the words “ahead of schedule” for Bynum, which makes me think the Cavs would see half a season from Bynum as a HUGE win.
Over/under 60.5 games played for Irving?
Over. Again, no real chronic problems, and the injuries he’s suffered haven’t been particularly scary. I’m optimistic here.
Over/under 15.5 pounds lost for Anthony Bennett?
It had better be over, but I’m concerned. A rotator cuff doesn’t keep you off a stationary bike or away from a personal chef. I’m not feeling great about Bennett going into the season, but at least he’s not Otto Porter. (Sorry. Had to.)
Q #4: Started from the bottom now we’re still…for the moment…here?
@ConorDDirks: Feels good, don’t it? These other suckers can keep their winning preseason records. The Wizards are saving their wins for when it counts. Why beat the Pistons in the preseason when you can beat them one week later in the regular season? Because Wizards.
Preseason wins or losses don’t translate into regular season success or failure. The final score is not the most important takeaway, nor is the box score. What’s more important are the moments where things work, the moments in which practice and study are obvious. Or conversely, the moments where you realize that progress has not been made or has been too trivial to notice, despite talk to the contrary.
For the Wizards, the preseason has been a mixed bag. Against the Heat, in the Wizards’ sole win, the chemistry between John Wall and Bradley Beal was so evident and so productive that it wouldn’t have mattered if the Wizards had ultimately lost; the moment happened, the point was made. Likewise for Beal individually, who looks every bit the part of a player about to make a greater-than-anticipated next step.
On the other hand, optimism about a frontcourt replacement is justifiably low, even after an impressive second-hand performance by Kevin Seraphin that featured: (1) scoring all sorts of ways; and…wait for it… (2) rebounds; and (3) defense! Without that final half of basketball against Detroit, the Wizards options have looked grim. This is one of the reasons that Zach Lowe listed Washington as the prime candidate to make a panic trade this season, and one of the reasons that he predicted they would trade for a big man “in the next month” if Okafor’s prognosis is unfavorable.
With that in mind, and an eye out for the elusive “moment” where Jan Vesely looks like he should get a minute or two going forward, let’s get this one in the books and get ready for next week, when it’s less about fuzzy concepts and more about the cold steel scale where teams are ultimately judged: the record.