August 23, 2017, 8:10 pm
Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at the 2016-17 season and what went right and wrong for every team. From coaching analysis to fantasy impact, we dive in to the year that was and make sense of it all. If you’ve missed any, you can find them here.
The Cavs went into this season with most of their team intact. They replaced Matthew Dellavedova, Mo Williams and Timofey Mozgov with Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and Derrick Williams. Korver was a success, while the other two proved useless once the playoffs began.
The Cavs knew they had no real competition in the East and coasted in the regular season. They even let the number one seed slip away to the Celtics, but they still ended up making it to the Finals, just as everyone expected them to. They did so pretty easily, going 12-1 and dismantling the Pacers, Raptors and Celtics on the way. The only major problem this season was that the Cavs’ Big-3 could not match up with the Warriors’ Big-5.
LeBron wanted to be the true leader of the team and he needed a coach that gave him complete freedom to do so. This isn’t exactly a negative as the Cavs have made the Finals in both seasons under Tyronn Lue. LeBron has praised Lue’s calm and laid-back demeanor several times. Lue doesn’t like media attention but is getting used to it. He even admitted in an interview with ESPN in May said he doesn’t talk as much when mic’d up.
Since he became the head coach, the one thing the Cavs are noticeably doing different is playing at a higher speed and shooting more three-pointers. Lue is all about getting out in transition as fast as possible to get quick and easy buckets. They scored 110.3 points per game this year compared to 107.3 in 41 games under Lue last year and 101.0 in 41 games under David Blatt last year. The Cavs were the oldest team in the league but still had most of their opponents on their heels as they focused more on transition baskets and a lot more on three-point shooting. They had only four players average over 1.5 triples per game in the 2015-16 season and had six players do so this year. Although they were already second last year in three-pointers made with 10.7 per game, they increased it to 13.0 this year. They also finished second in the league in three-point percentage at 38.4 percent as well.
Yes, the Cavs scored a lot more points this season but their opponents scored more as well, as the Cavs allowed 107.2 points per game this year compared to 98.3 a year ago. One would think that with the increased pace and possessions, the Cavs’ other stats would go up as well but this was not the case. They remained one of the worst teams in the league in defensive categories. They averaged 6.6 steals per game (30th in the NBA) and 4.0 blocks per game (25th). Their rebounding actually decreased slightly from the previous year and they were the seventh worst in the NBA in second-chance points allowed. Their defensive effort improved a lot in the playoffs, but was still not close to the Warriors’ level, which is all that really matters.
ADP: 6 / 7 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 9/14 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 9/14 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 74
James returned second-round value in standard leagues even though he was drafted in the mid-first in most leagues in a season of career-highs and career-lows. Compared to the previous season, his rebounding went from 7.4 to 8.6 per game and his assists jumped from 6.8 to 8.7. His scoring and field goal percentage increased as well. So how is it possible that he finished 9th overall the prior season and 14th overall this season? For one, his competition is getting better as several players jumped into the first round conversation such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Karl-Anthony Towns. Secondly, his career-low 67.4 free-throw percentage hurt him a lot since he shoots a high volume of those. Even though he led the team in steals per game, those were also at a career-low at 1.2. Turnovers were at a career-high, 4.1 per game.
People complain about his rest days, of which he had eight, with between one and three of them in the fantasy playoffs depending on when your league ended. Those do hurt fantasy owners, but the current active leader in free-throw attempts gets little credit for how indestructible he really is, as explained in this article by Owen Phillips. “Since entering the league in 2003, James has never sat out for more than 15 percent of a season (regular and playoffs combined). Among players of his caliber, past and present, that’s unprecedented.”
King James was second in the NBA in minutes per game this year with 37.8 and his usage rate was at a career-low. Even though his defensive stats were lacking this season at 1.2 steals and 0.6 blocks per game, he showed he is more than capable of putting up defensive numbers with 1.9 steals and 1.3 blocks in the playoffs, to go along with 32.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists on 56.5 percent shooting in 41.3 minutes. Even though James is still regarded by many as the best player on Earth, especially for the way he manages the game and gets his teammates involved, he should be a late-first, early-second round pick next year.
ADP: 16 / 19 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 19/22 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 18/17 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 72
Along with sharing his expertise on the Earth’s geometrical configuration, Irving had the best season of his young career. Even though he did not make one of the three All-NBA teams, he still produced second-round value, roughly around what people paid for. His career-high 25.2 points per game were a big jump from 19.6 the prior season. His career-high 47.3 field-goal percentage was fourth among point guards and his 90.5 free-throw percentage ranked third in the league. He even surpassed LeBron for highest usage-rate on the team.
After battling a host of injuries throughout his career, Irving stayed healthy for most of the year. Of the ten games he missed, six were due to rest and the other four were minor (hamstring and quad tightness). At 25 years old, Irving is already and NBA champion and a four-time All-Star. He should continue to be a second-rounder, with assists being the only thing holding him back. He averaged 5.8 last season, good for 21st in the NBA, but not great for a point-guard of his caliber.
The big debate this offseason (before the trade), was whether Irving can win as the focal point of his team… without LeBron. The statistics say no, but Boston probably presents him his best chance at doing so. According to Tom Haberstroh, the Cavs were negative 120 in 635 minutes with Irving on the floor and James off. The Cavs were also 4-13 in games where Irving started and James was out. Of course Boston has a much larger arsenal of weapons than the Cavs did sans LeBron James.
ADP: 36 / 33 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 56/54 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 31/30 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 60
Love missed 22 games this season but still returned fifth-round overall value and third-round value on a per-game basis. Lue made an effort to get him more involved and his 25.5 usage rate is a good indicator of that, compared to 23.5 a year ago. His stat line of 19.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 2.4 triples and career-high 87.1 free-throw percentage, was his best since joining the team and he earned his first All-Star appearance in a Cavs uniform. This was a big bounce-back from his 16.0 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.1 triples the previous year. The majority of the games missed were due to his knee, on which he eventually underwent a scope, and returned within one month, beating the 6-week time table. Three games were missed due to back issues.
Never known for his defensive tenacity, the former NBA rebounding champion got a lot of credit this year for playing his butt off on the defensive end. He averaged a career-high in steals during the regular season and even led the Cavs in steals and blocks in their Finals showdown against the Warriors. He shot 45.0 percent from downtown in the playoffs and his best series was against the Celtics, when he averaged 22.6 points and 12.4 rebounds on 48.6 percent shooting (53.5 percent from three).
ADP: 80 / 114 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 119/104 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 149/137 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
The Cavs’ third highest paid player had a very efficient year but maybe the Cavs were hoping for a little more when they gave him a 5-year, $82 million contract. Although with the cap increase, it may not seem like that much anymore. He averaged 8.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks (a career-high). Interestingly, he shot a career-high .600 percent from the field (51.5 career) and a career-low 49.8 percent from the charity stripe (61.1 career). The minutes per game this year were the most he has played since the 2013-14 season.
Thompson produced only late-round value this year. This was certainly increased if your league used the offensive rebounds category as he was fifth in the NBA with 3.7 offensive rebounds per game. The former fourth overall pick played in all 82 games for four consecutive seasons before missing four games this year with a sprained thumb. Although no one will probably ever come close to A.J. Green’s consecutive game streak, Thompson’s 447 was still pretty impressive.
Thompson played very well for the first three rounds but, as many players do, disappeared against the Warriors in the finals with 5.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. The Cavs have Thompson locked up for three more years and unless he can improve his defensive stats or free-throw percentage, he will continue to return only late-round value.
ADP: 125 / 123 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 149/137 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 142/130 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 67
On his fifth team and in his 14th year in league, Korver was the fourth most productive fantasy option on the Cavs this season on a per-game basis. He played 32 games for the Hawks and then 35 for the Cavs after they acquired him via trade. Although he played 3.4 less minutes on the Cavs, he averaged more points and threes while being far more efficient from the field due to a lot more open looks.
The former 51st overall pick and one-time All-Star produced top-120 value in standard leagues on a per-game basis while on the Cavs in only 24.5 minutes. He averaged only 10.7 points and 2.8 rebounds, but his 2.8 treys on a 48.7 field-goal percentage did the trick. After a slow start with the Hawks, he still ended the season atop the NBA in three-point percentage for the fourth time in his career. He is currently tied with Paul Pierce for fourth-most threes made in NBA history.
Even though he gave the Cavs exactly what they wanted in the regular season (except for the 11 games missed due to foot inflammation), he was nearly invisible in the playoffs. He played less minutes at 18.1 and produced only 5.8 points and 1.5 triples per game, with 4.4 points on 36.3 percent shooting in the finals. He is under contract for three more years through his 39th birthday and his performance against the NBA’s best is a little worrisome.
ADP: NA / 154 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 144/124 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 168/145 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 74
Frye had an extremely difficult season, losing both of his parents within 30 days of each other. The 34-year-old, 11-year veteran averaged 9.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 triples on 45.7 percent from the field (40.9 percent from downtown). With per-36 numbers of 17.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 1.0 blocks and 3.5 triples, it’s easy to see why Frye has remained fantasy relevant, hovering around top-150 value in only 18.9 minutes per game.
As with most players on this list, his minutes shot down during the playoffs but unlike the others, his efficiency did not. He played only 12.8 minutes in the playoffs but still made 1.7 triples per game on 51.7 percent from the field. He did not even play in four of the five Finals games. Perhaps a mistake on Lue’s part.
The 6’11 three-point assassin started his career making only 20 threes in his first four seasons. After his minutes dropped to a career-low, 11.8 in that fourth year, he decided to transform his game and proceeded to make 172 triples in his fifth season and has since carved out a very serviceable career. There was recently a report that said he was considering retirement at the end of the season to which he tweeted, “What? Am I? #NoTheF$£6ImNot.” With that said, his value will not grow next year and top-150 will remain his ceiling.
ADP: 105 / 112 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 290/273 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 206/172 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 41
Smith’s fantasy value was non-existent this year even though he was drafted in the top 115 in most leagues. Not only did he miss 41 games (36 from a broken thumb), but he posted the lowest point production and field goal attempts since his second year in the league. His final stat-line was 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals on a career low 34.6 field goal percentage (66.7 from the line). Yet he still played 29.0 minutes per game. Why? Well, he’s actually a pretty good defender.
He is usually tasked with guarding the opponents’ best player until Shumpert comes in behind him. Paul George shot 34.6 percent when guarded by Smith in the first round and DeMar DeRozan shot 28.5 percent when guarded by Smith in the second round. The shooter without a conscious and above-rim-athleticism underwent a complete makeover this year. Smith was now a 3-and-D guy. 76.1 percent of his shots came from three-point range this year, compared to 48.6 percent for his career.
Even still, he seemed so worried about making a mistake that he often disappeared completely on the offensive end. Out of his 41 games played, he scored five or less in 13 of them and his offensive rating of 100.3 was one of the worst on his team and a career-low 8.1 PER made it difficult to justify playing him sometimes. His career-low 0.6 turnovers per game and career-low 14.6 usage rate were more evidence of his timorous.
Smith shot even less in the playoffs. He averaged 5.5 field goal attempts compared to 8.7 during the regular season. He did play very well in Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Finals after scoring three and zero points in Games 1 and 2 and finished with a 54.1 field goal percentage (58.1 percent from deep). The 13-year veteran has three more years left on his unmovable 4-year, $57 million, and even though the defensive ability is nice, the Cavs need him to be more aggressive offensively.
ADP: NA / 141 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 180/176 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 216/211 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76
Shumpert, although drafted in the top-150 in most leagues, was only a 12-14 team consideration when J.R. Smith missed 36 games with a broken thumb. For the season, he averaged 7.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.2 triples in 25.5 minutes. Those minutes dropped to 16.2 in the playoffs and so did his scoring, to 4.4 points per game. He was abysmal in the finals, shooting 23.5 percent in 13.4 minutes per game.
It wasn’t all bad as he did improve on his three-point shooting and matched his career-high with 1.2 triples per game at 36 percent, compared to 0.8 at 29.5 percent the previous year. Shumpert seems destined to be a 3-and-D guy and should still see a role on the team, guarding more athletic point-guards for Isaiah Thomas, as he did for Kyrie Irving. The Cavs were trying to deal Shumpert for a first round pick this offseason but the rumors have since died down.
He is only 27 years old with two more years on his contract, with the second being a player option he will likely take at $11 million. It would have been interesting to see what kind of player he may have become if he cracked down on his ball-handling skills, but he still has many good years left as a premier on-ball defender in this league.
ADP: 131 / 121 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 175/198 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 150/202 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 64
Williams was producing late-round value in standard leagues when he was playing 29.3 minutes on the Mavs but that all disappeared once the Cavs picked him up to be Irving’s backup. Although he was somewhat effective in his 20.3 minutes on the Cavs, the playoffs were a different story. He averaged 4.3 points, 2.1 assists in 14.6 minutes in the playoffs and shot 2-of-16 in the finals. He was not a bad value for the Cavs on the minimum deal but proved useless against a team such as the Warriors. He is currently a free agent and it doesn’t seem like there is much interest around the league. It is possible the former first-round fantasy lock that had people debating if he was better than Chris Paul, may have played his last game in the NBA.
The Cavs Big-3 has now become the Big-4 by replacing Kyrie Irving with Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder. Crowder is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and much more productive offensively than J.R. Smith was last season. Although there are many good teams in the NBA, let’s be clear, the Cavs’ only real competition right now is the Golden State Warriors, as they are both heavy favorites to meet again in the Finals for the fourth straight season. Unless the Cavs make another big splash, such as trade for another top-50 player, it will be very difficult to dethrone the champs. The Cavs do have the Nets 2018 first round pick now and perhaps that will give them a little leverage. If LeBron commits to staying beyond this season, trading the pick will be a lot easier. Otherwise, it’s a good building block for a potential rebuild.