November 25, 2014

Medina
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Noland commentary: Cavaliers get midterm grades

The Cavaliers are 14-25, but Professor Noland has seen enough and is ready to hand out midseason report cards two games ahead of time:

Anthony Bennett: Doing this alphabetically, but what a fitting place to start. Bennett, who is only 20 years old and played just one year at UNLV, had offseason shoulder surgery, but does that mean he can’t run on a treadmill and push himself away from the dinner table? The No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft — the No. 1 pick, people! — showed up overweight and out of shape, lost whatever confidence he once had and appears totally uncertain of what to do most of the time. Professor Noland shares a birthday with the likable and polite Bennett — one was born 32 years before the other — but facts are facts. Grade: F.

Earl Clark: At 6-foot-10, Clark has proven to be nothing more than a taller, thinner version of Alonzo Gee. Needless to say, this is not a good thing. Clark can make 3-pointers during hot stretches, but he’s still a below-average NBA player. Grade: D+.

Matthew Dellavedova: “Delly” plays his butt off, is tough as nails, can make some 3-pointers and is a willing and able defender. Right now, the undrafted guard is general manager Chris Grant’s best acquisition involving the 2013 draft class. Grade: B.

Luol Deng: Love the guy’s demeanor, professionalism and talent. He’s so far and away the team’s best small forward since No. 23 left town and started wearing No. 6 that it’s not even funny. But will he stay? Grade: A.

Carrick Felix: Seriously? Grade: F.

Alonzo Gee: He’s a likable young man, tries hard and plays decent defense, but no one will remember him in a couple of years. Grade: D.

Kyrie Irving: First the qualifier: Irving is far and away the best and most important player on the team. Now the bad news: Because of that, he is held to a much higher standard and has not lived up to expectations. Irving dribbles too much (though he seems to be getting better), plays absolutely atrocious defense and, for all his fantastic individual ability, has yet to find a way to do everything necessary to make the Cavs a better team. Grade: B-.

Jarrett Jack: Jack is a solid pro, a good guy and can still play, but, at 30, he’s already showing signs of slippage (think Bimbo Coles and John Battle). He’s under contract for three more seasons after this one, which is proof positive that the Cavs once again had to overpay to get a free agent to come to Cleveland. Grade: C+.

Sergey Karasev: Coach Mike Brown has repeatedly praised the 20-year-old’s basketball IQ and ability to do multiple things on the court, but Karasev isn’t athletically gifted enough to play shooting guard and, at the moment, not nearly strong enough to play small forward. He is, however, a player the Cavs should not give up on. Grade: D.

C.J. Miles: He doesn’t pass and is an average defender, at best, but he can shoot the rock and is better than most people think at getting to the hole. Grade: B-.

Henry Sims: Is he still on the team? The guy has actually played decently when given the opportunity, but he’s totally inconsequential to the Cavs’ future. Grade: D.

Tristan Thompson: He’s a great kid, tremendous worker, still getting (a little) better and is just 22 years old, but he’s unlikely to ever develop into anything more than a slightly above-average NBA starting power forward. Not to be harsh, because Thompson would have a role on virtually every club in the league, but he’s the classic case of Cleveland fans overestimating the ability and potential of someone who plays for one of their pro teams. Grade: B-.

Anderson Varejao: He’s the teacher’s pet because he doesn’t care about points, shots or individual accolades, but always plays hard. It took “Wild Thing” a month or so to fully regain his game and injuries will always be a concern, but he’s flourished now that Andrew Bynum is out of the picture. Grade: B+.

Dion Waiters: In his heart, Waiters wants to start and be one of the main focal points on offense, but his ultimate role on a good team appears to be that of sixth man. To his credit, Brown already seems to have come to that conclusion. Waiters’ future in Cleveland could be decided by whether he accepts that role, maintains his confident persona and continues to play “angry.” Grade: B-.

Tyler Zeller: Zeller isn’t horrible and he’s not great. He is what he is — a guy who will play in the league a long time and have some decent nights and some not-so-good ones. Grade: C-.

Mike Brown: Professor Noland really likes Brown personally. He — Brown, not Noland — is as nice as they come and a better coach than most people realize. Yet there’s this nagging concern that Brown, for whatever reason, does not command the respect of the players on this team. In the end, the Cavs, who were expected to make a decent leap forward this season, are what their record says they are, and that’s how Brown must be judged. Grade: D+.

Chris Grant: Bennett, Karasev, Felix, Clark, Sims and, to a lesser degree, Jack and Dellavedova don’t exactly represent a stellar offseason for C.G. The Deng acquisition will buy the GM some time, but the clock is — or should be — ticking. Grade: D.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.