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Cavs and Kyrie Irving stun Thunder

Kyrie Irving continues to make his case as one of the the best point guards in the NBA. Consistency and defense are still issues, but that’s true with most young players. Still, we’re seeing a player that is becoming a force in the NBA, and last night’s stunning Cavs win over Oklahoma City will raise even more eyebrows.

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Five questions about the Cavs

Kyrie Irving stands with NBA Commissioner David Stern after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark, New Jersey June 23, 2011. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

In dire need of NBA-related content, ESPN is running a series where they ask their blogger network to answer five questions about a specific team. I’m still waiting for my invite, so in the meantime, I’ll answer the five questions about the Cavs. Why the Cavs? Because that’s the favorite team of TSR’s owner, silly.

1. Who should start at PG for the Cavs?

Cleveland has three option with Kyrie Irving: 1) give him the keys immediately, and either bench Baron Davis or trade him, 2) let Davis tutor Irving, or 3) try to play the two together. I fully support option #1. Irving is going to go through some growing pains, but the more he plays the faster he’ll get up to speed. There’s no sense in stunting his growth or asking Davis to be a tutor, which is not something he’s suited for. If this were an affable elder statesman like Steve Nash or Jason Kidd, I could see doing the mentoring thing, but this is Baron Freaking Davis we’re talking about. Trade him.

2. Who should start at SF and PF for the Cavs?

The folks over at ESPN seem torn about whether or not to start Anderson Varejao at power forward, but to me he’s the best center on the team — why are you bringing him off the bench at PF? So then you have to decide between Antawn Jamison, Omri Casspi and Tristan Thompson. I’d give Jamison the veteran nod and let Casspi/Thompson battle it out for the other forward position or play the better matchup.

3. J.J. Hickson for Omri Casspi and a draft pick: Good trade or bad?

Let’s keep in mind that the draft pick that was included is lottery protected in 2012, top 13 protected in 2013, top 12 protected in 2014 and top 10 protected in 2015-2017. If, by 2017, the Cavs have not acquired the pick, they get the Kings’ second round pick. In other words, if the Kings continue to stink, this may end up being a Hickson-for-Casspi swap. But chances are Sacramento will have one good season in the next six and either make the playoffs or nearly make the playoffs. In that case, this pick could end up being in the #11-#16 range.

So is it a good trade? It depends on Casspi. Hickson showed some potential while in Cleveland but was deemed expendable once the Cavs went after Thompson, who is a rather raw (yet athletic) power forward. Casspi is a grinder who showed some flashes in his rookie season but didn’t get much run last year even though the Kings desperately needed good play at SF. If he thrives in Cleveland, this trade will work out, but as it stands, it doesn’t look good.

4. Are the Cavs on the right track or the wrong track?

It mostly depends on Irving. If he turns out to be the franchise point guard that most of us think he is, then they’re on the right track.

5. Can we talk about the Cavs without talking about LeBron James?

I did just that for four questions, but the short answer is “nope.” LeBron and the Cavs will forever be linked, and until the Cavs are once again a playoff team, we won’t be able to discuss them without thinking about LeBron and The Decision.

Scouting Report: Kyrie Irving

First, watch these highlights of Irving’s stint at Duke…

Irving reminds me a little of Chris Paul. He has that same speed and ball control, and while his vision may not be on par with Paul’s, it’s pretty close. He’s great on the break and does a nice job of making the right decision in transition or when he dribbles into the lane. He made 18-of-39 three-pointers (46%) while at Duke, which isn’t a huge sample size, but it appears that he has an NBA-ready jumper. He also nailed 90% of his free throws and shot a terrific 53% from the field.

NBADraft.net says Irving is “a facilitator who shows the ability to make those around him better … Great vision and passing skills … Great burst. Has the blow by speed to get past defenders off the dribble … Good decision maker. Looks to make the right play instead of always trying to dazzle.” Conversely, the site says that Irving’s durability is a concern and that he “could struggle with the transition to the NBA game with just 8 games of NCAA experience under his belt.”

Meanwhile, DraftExpress says that Irving is “not as blazingly fast with his first step as Derrick Rose, John Wall, or even Kemba Walker, Irving plays at a very unique pace that keeps defenses consistently off-balance and allows him to get to the basket seemingly whenever he needs to. Able to drive left or right almost equally well, he has excellent timing on his drives, very good body control, and the ability to operate at different speeds.”

It may take a while for Irving to mature into a franchise point guard, but he has all the tools to get there. The Cavs need a player to build around and Irving is that guy.

David Kahn is at it again

The Minnesota Timberwolves had the worst record in the NBA and the best chance to win the #1 overall pick, but ended up with the #2 pick when the Cavs leapfrogged from #8 to #1. GM David Kahn didn’t take the news gracefully. (Brian Mahoney, AP)

Wolves general manager David Kahn said he knew Minnesota was “dead” when it got down to the final three of himself, Utah executive Kevin O’Connor and Nick Gilbert.

“This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines,” Kahn said. “Last year it was Abe Pollin’s widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin: ‘We’re toast.’ This is not happening for us and I was right.”

I bolded the interesting bit. Kahn went out of his way to point out that he was just saying “habit,” but by doing so it sure seemed he was implying that the lottery may have been fixed without going so far as actually saying it.

Then again, he might have been joking about the fact that he “knew” he was in trouble when there was a 14-year-old kid representing a team in the final three, but with his track record, he should know what to say and what not to say.

Cavs win #1 overall pick

The Cleveland Cavaliers will have two of the first four picks in the 2011 NBA Draft, which should help in the rebuilding effort. There is no LeBron James in this draft, but there are some good players that will become stars, or at least solid starters. My early guess is that the Cavs will take Kyrie Irving, who has a chance to become a franchise point guard. He will need to mature as a floor leader, but he’s lightning quick, has good vision and can shoot it.

The pick was originally obtained as part of the Baron Davis trade with the Clippers. It had a 2.8% chance of becoming the #1 pick.

See the full draft order here.

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