Dribbles: Cavs’ tank on empty, and trip only gets tougher

Jordan Clarkson and the Cavaliers were hot early, but faded in the second half in a loss to the Pelicans.

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 140-124 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

1. For a while, there was hope. The Cavs came out on fire, burying 3-pointer after 3-pointer after 3-pointer. One Pelicans reporter even asked, “When did the Cavs turn into the Golden State Warriors?” But it was the second night of a back-to-back … for a team that isn’t very good to begin with.

2. And remember, the Cavs used lots of energy in trying to fight back from a 20-point deficit in a loss to the Indiana Pacers the night before.

3. Despite the early 3-point fireworks, the Cavs only led by four points at halftime. It was at about that time I figured this one was over. The Cavs just ran out of gas, and didn’t exactly have a full tank entering the night. They were again without Rodney Hood (Achilles) and David Nwaba (ankle), and now also Larry Nance Jr. (knee).

4. Seven Cavs scored in double figures. Jordan Clarkson again led the way with 21 points. It’s no biggie either way, and this isn’t intended to question Cavs coach Larry Drew — but I think the Cavs should start Clarkson. Why not? He’s clearly their top scoring option with Kevin Love out. I wrote why I think Clarkson should start last night.

5. The Cavs (8-34) have lost 11 straight. They have five games left on the swing through the Western Conference. It continues Friday vs. the Houston Rockets.

6. The Rockets are coming off a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. The Cavs are 3-17 on the road. I smell more trouble for the men in Wine & Gold.

7. Matthew Dellavedova and Alec Burks each added 17 points for the Cavs. Cameron Payne scored 16 on 6-of-8 shooting. He’s been a member of the Cavs for three days and played in two games and has looked good. Payne is on a 10-day contract, lest you forget.

8. Payne’s performance may be the Cavs’ best defense for releasing Patrick McCaw. Payne has already been much better than McCaw was in his three games. Either way, the league is interviewing McCaw’s representatives Thursday as it continues its probe of his deal with Cleveland.

9. Pelicans star Anthony Davis is simply amazing. He erupted for 38 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots.

10. Who knows what will happen with Davis? He doesn’t seem like the type of guy who would demand or even request a trade. He had been a team-first superstar through and through in New Orleans. LeBron James is openly recruiting him to the Los Angeles Lakers, as James basically planted a question for ESPN to ask him, just so he could make his desire for Davis public.

11. As I wrote at the end of last season, if James wanted to leave the Cavs in free agency, he should have just joined Davis with the Pelicans. It would have been much easier that way.

12. We’ll see how it plays out, I guess. I know I wouldn’t want any of the Lakers’ young players if I’m the Pelicans. But if Davis demanded a trade, those four first-round picks owned by the Boston Celtics would be VERY enticing. For whatever reason, though, the national media very clearly wants Davis in LA.

13. OK, back to the Cavs. As you may have noticed, I asked two opposing general managers and one scout if the Cavs would trade for Carmelo Anthony. You can read the responses here. I know. It sounds crazy. But if it meant getting out from under the J.R. Smith contract, I would do it every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

14. Some of you don’t appreciate how much Smith’s contract is hindering the Cavs. Not just this season, but next. It’s true that only $3.4 million of Smith’s contract is guaranteed next year. But that $3.4 million will still count against the cap. It could keep the Cavs from getting a really nice young player in 2019-20.

15. A lot of Cavs fans are bashing Anthony, and I get it. But I know fans, and I know you would all hop on the Carmelo bandwagon if he uttered just one phrase: “I want to play for the Cavs.” He’d be huge. Deny it now, but I know you, I love you, and I understand why fan is actually short for “fanatic.”

16. Besides that, the Cavs could just waive Anthony. And it wouldn’t even call for a league-wide investigation.

17. I’m fine if you don’t want Carmelo under any circumstance. But I’m telling you, the Rockets are the only team that’s slightly interested in Smith. They would do the trade if you took back Carmelo as part of the package. At the very least, they would think long and hard about it. Knowing that, I think it’s a call the Cavs have to make. They MUST find a way to trade J.R. He isn’t taking a buyout. Forget it. Not happening.

18. Yes, I know. It will be considerably easier for the Cavs to trade Smith over the summer. It might be smarter to wait. But what if they don’t trade Smith over the summer? That’s bad news. Move on from that contract as soon as you can.

19. Anyway, that’s more than enough for now. When it comes to the draft lottery, the Cavs remain very much in first place. Then again, each of three worst teams will be tied for first place under the new lottery odds. The Cavs need to land one of the top two picks — to be able to draft Duke’s R.J. Barrett or Zion Williamson. Frankly, I don’t even know who you would want with the third pick. I’d probably just trade it.

7 Comments on "Dribbles: Cavs’ tank on empty, and trip only gets tougher"

  1. Am I the only one who thinks Sexton looks really, really tired? I think a mid season break could be a good thing about now. And why has his mid range jumper gone to shit?
    Agree Sam that Cameron Payne has looked good in his two games, much better than Sexton at this point.
    FYI, third pick in the draft Im taking Bol Bol every day of the week. I think he will be a very good player in the NBA.

  2. Sam, a comeback to the JR Smith trade to Houston is that you would have to take back more money for next year. They don’t have a lot of players in JR salary range.

    • This is an excellent point. I think Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss would be enough but the more I think about it, the more it may be best for the Cavs to wait until the offseason and worst-case scenario, end up having JR’s $3.4M toward cap if they can’t find a deal.

      • Cavs could stretch his 3.4 over 3 years so it shouldn’t affect them too much. They will be over the cap but under the tax so they will have the mid level exception either way to pay someone. Perhaps Jr gets combined with Burks to Clippers for Galinari as they need cap space to pursue Kawhi. As to your idea, Carmelo would be interesting and maybe worth a try. Cavs have exceptions they could use to get him without trading anyone. Rockets throw in a second rounder for saving them money?

    • Trading for Knight would put the Cavs in luxury tax next year so the asset coming back would have to be good.

  3. JR is not preventing the Cavs a young asset in 2019-2020. That $3.4 buyout is the kind of value a cap team needs. So his contract after the season will return an asset.

  4. OK, Rich. We shall see. I’m just passing on the talk I hear from front-office people around the league! Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!

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