• In many ways, the 2015-16 season felt like it belonged to the Warriors.  Their efforts to catch Jordan’s Bulls dominated news cycle after news cycle, as the organization planted its flag in the “best team ever” conversation.  This narrative, however, neglected to mention the reigning Eastern Conference Champions who were hoping to return to the Finals as well.  In the end, the Dubs were undone by LeBron James and his own quest for recognition.  After two years of hard fought growth in Cleveland, the King brought the Cavs back from a 3-1 Finals deficit to spoil Golden State’s chance at history.  Hoop Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at what happened in Cleveland.

    OVERVIEW

    The Cavs kept the band together after losing to the Warriors in the 2014-15 Finals.  LeBron continued with the team on another 1+1 contract, they resigned Kevin Love to a max deal and retained Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova.  The team brought in veterans Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson to round out their roster and set their eyes on again reigning over the East.

    The journey wasn’t altogether smooth, however.  Despite quickly assuming the top spot in the conference, unrest continued.  Stories chronicling frustrations between the players and head coach David Blatt became more and more prevalent, and eventually the organization opted to fire him on January 22.  In his place, the Cavs elevated assistant coach (and longtime LeBron confidant) Tyronn Lue.

    On the court not much changed under Lue.  The Cavs were fourth in offensive efficiency and tenth on the defensive end, finishing 57-25 and securing the number one seed in the conference entering the playoffs.  As had been the case the season before, the team was emphatically the best in the East, but looked overmatched compared to their rivals out West.

    Aside from a few mental lapses that prolonged the Eastern Conference Finals against Toronto, the Cavs coasted to the Finals.  Once there things seemingly began to fall apart for LeBron and his merry men, as they quickly fell behind 3-1 to the Warriors, getting blown out twice in Oakland and dropping a critical game four back in Cleveland.  No team had ever came back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.

    We all know the rest: LeBron played the best three game stretch of his career and carried the Cavs to a title.  The Cavs’ defense came alive thanks to LeBron’s rim protection and willingness to switch onto Steph Curry.  Kyrie Irving found his shot just when the team needed him most, and Kevin Love – frequently maligned as a superstar turned contract albatross – provided critical rebounding, screening and passing in the Cavs’ Game 7 upset at Oracle Arena.

    The future for the Cavs is less clear.  They seem content to retain the majority of their current core, and no major threat formed in the East during free agency.  Their path to the Finals is as clear as ever.  The Warriors, on the other hand, reloaded and look poised to take back their crown.  The Cavs will enter the season as the rare defending champions who will not be the most scrutinized team in the league, but their ability to repeat is very much in doubt.

    COACHING

    It’s hard to decipher the specific impact of Blatt or Lue on this Cavs’ season.  Blatt’s basic principles – simplified during the 2014-15 playoffs – remained in place even after he was fired, and while Lue made some critical postseason adjustments his ability to coach an NBA franchise is still very much unclear.

    That said, players did seem to respond to Lue, and their defensive intensity during the Finals was nothing short of remarkable.  Next season, Lue will again be charged with finding a balance between his two ball dominant players and better utilizing Love.  From a fantasy perspective, it seems safe to assume that the dynamic established this season probably isn’t going anywhere.  James is the established King and Irving will get his shots, leaving only leftovers for Love.  Lue might try and shake things up, but at this point players’ roles are pretty much established.

    THE PLAYERS

    LeBron James

    ADP: 5/5 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 6/10 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 7/9 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76

    Facing playoff elimination LeBron remains the best player in the league.  That statement isn’t controversial at this point, but for regular season fantasy owners it’s fair to note the ways in which LeBron has slipped.  He remains a first round fantasy asset, and his ability to contribute across the board remains impressive, but his days of being a top-three player are probably behind him.

    In returning to Cleveland last season LeBron’s value was drained by his decreased efficiency.  In his last two seasons in Miami he averaged 56.6% from the field, a number that would be excellent for a big man who doesn’t need to do anything on offense but dunk.  He was the single biggest contributor in that category from 2011 to 2014, but then suddenly shot just 48.8% in his first season after returning home.  That number might sound fine, but when we are talking about players at the absolute apex of fantasy hoops the slightest dip can have a sizeable impact.

    Last year, LeBron righted his shooting by bullying his way into the paint.  Despite the hundreds of stories written about James’ broken jumper he managed to shoot 52% from the floor by taking a staggering percentage of his shots at the rim.  His threes per game dropped to 1.1 as a result, but the rest of his counting stats were impressive.  LeBron averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks per game, making him one of a handful of players to meaningfully move the needle in nearly every fantasy category.

    Next season, we should see more of the same from LeBron.  Even as he enters his age 32 campaign he remains an absolute fantasy force, and while it may be time to consider selling LeBron in dynasty leagues he should still be considered a first round pick in any redraft format.

    Kevin Love

    ADP: 33/23 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 33/34 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 46/38 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 77

    When Love resigned with the Cavs last offseason every major sports outlet ran a story claiming that the he and the organization were finally on the same page.  Speculation abounded that Love would be seeing more touches in the post and operating with the ball at the elbow to work as a facilitator.  These plans sounded intriguing in August, but by November it was clear little had changed.  There remains only one basketball on the floor, and LeBron and Irving continued to get their touches before factoring Love into the equation.

    Love’s final numbers look almost identical to what he produced during his first season in Cleveland.  Averaging 16 points, 2.1 treys, 9.9 boards, 2.4 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks, Love offered diverse stats for a big man.  His production in both threes and assists in particular, along with an 82.2% free throw percentage, allowed for fantasy owners to fill holes in their roster from an unexpected source.  That being said, he shot a putrid 41.8% from the floor, a number made doubly awful by the fact that it’s coming from your power forward.

    The skillset that made Love a top-5 player in Minnesota hasn’t disappeared, but situation and role are powerful fantasy factors.  As long as he remains in Cleveland, he is functionally a role player with a famous name.  If you can draft him next season as a solid stretch four, great, but let someone else talk himself or herself into the notion of a bounce back season.

    Kyrie Irving

    ADP: 38/26 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 114/123 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 52/60 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 53

    After Irving fractured his kneecap in the 2014-15 Finals he became a polarizing figure in fantasy circles.  Yes, he’d had significant injury concerns throughout his entire career, but from 2012 to 2015 Irving had finished as a top-12 player twice and a top-24 player once on a per game basis.  You knew you weren’t getting a full compliment of games from him, but it was safe to assume Irving would produce when he was on the court.

    This year things were different.  Irving didn’t return until the middle of December, and when he did he wasn’t quite himself.  He finished with averages of 19.6 points, 1.6 threes, 2.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game, noticeably slipping in threes, assists and steals.  As he recovered from his knee injury Irving was obviously lacking some of his signature quickness, struggling to finish at the rim and pull up in tight spaces.  Even setting aside the 29 games he missed, he still finished outside the top-50 on the player rater, the worst mark of his career.

    Irving is slipping to the middle of the third round in most early rankings, and, despite the concerns enumerated here, that seems about right.  He is still only 24, and injuries as severe as the one he experienced last season can take more than a full calendar year to recover.  As the third player on your team Irving offers a level of upside that’s hard to come by, and could be a steal on draft day if he returns to form.

    J.R. Smith

    ADP: 89/108 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 90/66 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 111/86 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 77

    Smith is primarily a single category contributor in Cleveland, but he does just enough across the board to warrant a starting spot in most fantasy leagues.  In 30.7 minutes he averaged 12.4 points, 2.6 threes, 2.8 boards, 1.7 assists and 1.1 steals per contest.  The threes are significant in fantasy leagues, and his ability to give you a solid source of steals helps as well.  That said, Smith’s woeful shooting takes a lot off the table.  He shot 41.6% on 11 attempts per game, which proved a significant drain on his fantasy value.

    While it isn’t official yet, Smith is expected to resign with the Cavs this offseasons and slot right back into his same role next year.  Owners shouldn’t expect more than what he’s offered since arriving in Cleveland, but Smith is a surprisingly stable fantasy asset at this point in his career.

    Tristan Thompson

    ADP: 110/127 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 111/89 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 158/126 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 82

    While Thompson’s numbers are far from spectacular, he provided enough as a rebounding specialist to remain ownable in all leagues.  Thompson averaged 7.8 points, nine rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.6 blocks.  He shot an impressive 58.8% from the field, but only took 5.1 shots per game, muting the impact of his stellar shooting percentage.  Thompson also struggled from the line, averaging just 61.6% from the stripe on three attempts per game.

    Between his free throw woes and lack of rim protection Thompson’s upside is limited in fantasy even as a starting center.  Next season should be more of the same, meaning he’ll be a late round pick for those looking to sure up their rebounding numbers.

    Matthew Dellavedova

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 170/188 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 198/223 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76

    Dellavedova was critical for the Cavs but only had flashes of fantasy relevance this year, most of which occurred during Irving’s early season absence.  Averaging 24.6 minutes, 7.5 points, 2.1 boards, 4.4 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.3 threes, he didn’t offer much beyond assists and threes.  Dellavedova is penciled in to start in Milwaukee next season, and while he’ll see more minutes he will likely remain the fourth or fifth option on offense, limiting his fantasy upside.

    Channing Frye

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 213/196 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 243/202 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 70

    Despite playing a key role in the playoffs, Frye was little more than bench depth after being traded to the Cavs this season.  Averaging 17.1 minutes, six points, 3.3 rebounds, one assist and 1.3 threes, his only real fantasy contribution came from his ability to knock down the three ball.  Frye’s defensive limitations will keep him locked into a bench role going forward, and he isn’t worth drafting next fall.

    Iman Shumpert

    ADP: 140/127 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 243/234 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 216/206 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 54

    Between injuries and middling play Shumpert offered little to fantasy owners in 2015-16.  Averaging 24.4 minutes, 5.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.8 threes, one steal and 0.4 blocks he failed to make an impact in standard leagues.  If he can stay healthy it’s possible Shumpert is able to provide the well rounded contributions that made him a worthwhile player in 2014-15, but owners can safely monitor his early season progress while leaving him on the waiver wire.

    Timofey Mozgov

    ADP: 110/119 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 195/189 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 244/230 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76

    Finishing inside the top-200 in total value downplays how putrid Mozgov was for fantasy purposes this season.  It’s obviously positive when a player stays consistently healthy, but on a per game basis Mozgov was unownable in almost every league.  He averaged just 17.4 minutes, 6.4 points, 4.4 boards and 0.8 blocks.  Mozgov was reportedly battling injuries all season, and should see his minutes increase in Los Angeles next year, so a bounce back season isn’t out of the question.

    Mo Williams

    ADP: 112/138 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 308/319 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 255/296 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 41

    Williams was a solid bench contributor in his 41 games for the Cavs last season, but made little impact on the fantasy landscape.  He tallied 18.2 minutes, 8.2 points, 0.9 threes, 2.4 assists and 0.3 steals per contest, while shooting 43.7% from the floor.  Williams simply doesn’t contribute enough to justify a spot on most standard league rosters.

    Richard Jefferson

    ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 262/254 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 319/302 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 74

    Despite being a legitimate Finals hero for the Cavs, Jefferson was largely off the fantasy radar this season.  He averaged 17.9 minutes, 5.5 points, 0.9 threes and 1.7 boards, making him little better than a streaming option for owners in need of threes.  Jefferson signed a two-year deal to remain in Cleveland, but won’t see enough minutes to warrant drafting.

    DOCTOR’S ORDERS

    Right now Cleveland gets to bask in post-title bliss, but the looming threat of the Warriors casts a long shadow.  The Cavs’ path through the East remains as clear as ever, and as long as they have LeBron you can’t completely ride them off.  That being said, the Cavs might face one of the tougher title defenses in history.  How they respond to yet another super team will be fascinating, as Cleveland represents perhaps the only real threat to a Warriors’ dynasty.

Fantasy News

  • Darius Miller
    SF, New Orleans Pelicans

    The Pelicans have officially re-signed Darius Miller to a two-year deal.

    Miller will be playing behind a plethora of young assets at the Pelicans' disposal. Given that the team has entered a full-blown youth movement, it is unlikely that he will earn enough meaningful minutes to make a splash in fantasy in 2019-20.

    Source: Pelicans on Twitter

  • Bonzie Colson
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks have waived Bonzie Colson.

    Colson only played 98 minutes during his rookie season, but when he played he was a DFS favorite. Colson could play multiple positions and is young enough where a few teams would likely be interested in taking a flier on him.

    Source: Eric Nehm on Twitter

  • Kostas Antetokounmpo
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kostas Antetokounmpo has signed a two-way deal with the Lakers on Sunday.

    The Mavericks waived Antetokounmpo last week and most knew the younger brother of last season's MVP would not last long before another team took a shot on him. He is still a developmental player, but he should have ample opportunity playing for the Lakers' G-League team, the South Bay Lakers.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    When asked by Chicago Tribune reporter K.C Johnson on how he'd feel about wearing a Bulls jersey someday, Anthony Davis said that "If the opportunity ever presents itself and when that time comes, I’d definitely consider it.”

    The chances of that time coming is more likely for 2025 than 2020, but still, until Davis is firmly committed to the Lakers long-term speculation of his future will remain. It's nice to know if you're a Bulls fan that he imagines playing for his home town at some point, but don't expect him bolting LA for them after one season.

    Source: Chicago Tribune

  • Kenny Wooten
    PF, New York Knicks

    The Knicks have signed Kenny Wooten to an Exhibit 10 contract.

    Wooten posted 10 blocks in only 52 minutes during Summer League and possesses some serious leaping ability. He will spend most of his time in the G-League and should not be on the radar in drafts.

    Source: Marc Berman of The New York Post

  • Oshae Brissett
    SG-SF, Toronto Raptors

    The Raptors have signed Oshae Brissett to an Exhibit 10 contract.

    Brissett, a Toronto native, went undrafted after two seasons at Syracuse and played with the Clippers at Summer League, where he averaged 6.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.8 steals in 17.6 minutes a night across five games. This puts Toronto's roster at 20 for the time being, so barring any further transactions the Raptors have their camp group set.

    Source: Blake Murphy on Twitter

  • Jordan McLaughlin
    G, Minnesota Timberwolves

    The Wolves have inked point guard Jordan McLaughlin to a two-way contract.

    McLaughlin went undrafted in 2018 after a four-year USC career where he averaged 12.8 points, 7.8 assists and 2.0 steals in his senior season. After his strong play for the G-League's Long Island Nets last season, he earned a spot on this years Wolves summer league roster where he continued to impress, leading his team to a 6-1 record. He is unlikely to get many NBA minutes this season with Jeff Teague, Shabazz Napier and Tyrone Wallace on the roster.

    Source: Jon Krawczynski on Twitter

  • Emmanuel Mudiay
    PG, Utah Jazz

    The Jazz have officially announced the signing of Emmanuel Mudiay, Jeff Green and Ed Davis.

    All three project to come off the bench this season with Green and Davis part of the frontcourt second string while it is unclear if Mudiay or Dante Exum will assume the backup point guard duties. Davis is coming off a career-high 8.6 rebounds per game in only 17.9 minutes last season while Mudiay enjoyed his best year as a pro with the Knicks but all three players can be left undrafted in standard leagues for the time being.

    Source: NBA.com

  • CJ McCollum
    SG, Trail Blazers

    C.J. McCollum has withdrawn his name from the Team USA training camp and 2019 FIBA World Cup.

    Following the trend, McCollumn is the fourth player to withdraw his name this week in order to focus on the upcoming season. The original 20 invites are now down to 16 with the final 12-man roster expected to be announced on August 17.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Frank Mason
    PG, Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks have agreed on a two-way contract with Frank Mason III.

    Mason did not get much opportunity with the Kings last year and sat out all of Summer League with a sore hip. He projects to spend most of his time in the G-League and called up only if Eric Bledsoe or George Hill need to miss time. The Bucks recently signed Cameron Reynolds to a two-way deal and still have Bonzie Colson on one from last season so they are one over the limit. They still have an empty roster spot even after signing Kyle Korver so maybe one of their two-ways gets a standard deal instead. Otherwise, one of them will need to be waived.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter