The Sixers have had quite a few bad losses this season, but none worse than when they were handily defeated on their home floor by the Cleveland Cavaliers, their first home loss of the season. And tonight, the Cavaliers return to Philly.
Question #1: LeBron James and the Lakers have had a tumultuous season to say the least. As someone who has rooted for the Cavaliers, what has it been like to watch how poorly the LeBron-to-LA experiment has gone so far?
The LeBron-to-LA experience has been frustrating, to say the least. In some ways it has been a true comedy of errors -- beginning with the free agent signings of Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley this summer and continuing through the half-hearted moves for “shooters” at the trade deadline. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to optimize LeBron as a basketball player through these moves. In other ways, it has been frustrating to watch LeBron -- who still looks injured -- actively punt one of his few remaining prime years. The Lakers have a pivotal summer in front of them as they try to balance going all in with LeBron with not overpaying second-tier stars and locking themselves into a relatively low ceiling going forward.
Question #2: Using the lottery pick acquired from Boston in the Kyrie Irving trade, the Cavs took their theoretical successor to Irving at the point guard position, Collin Sexton. Through almost 70 games of Sexton’s career, where do you stand on him as a prospect?
I remain quite low on Sexton as a prospect. He has been one of the most destructive players in the NBA by the numbers so far -- he ranks dead last in Player Impact Plus-Minus and second-last in Real Plus-Minus (only ahead of fellow rookie Kevin Knox). The Cavs are 10.3 points per 100 possessions better when he sits, which ranks in the 11th percentile of all NBA players (per Cleaning the Glass). His assists to usage ratio (0.61) is third-worst among all point guards and his two-point field goal percentage (41.3%) ranks in the 8th percentile. I remain concerned about his ability to develop as a passer, one of the hardest skillsets to build as an NBA player. He has demonstrated above-average spot up shooting on open threes, but has been largely inefficient in every other aspect of the game. The hope remains that adding NBA-level strength will positively impact all facets of his game -- from finishing through contact to getting over screens on the defensive end. But I remain skeptical of his ever becoming an above-average NBA point guard at this rate.
Question #3: Until this season, the Cavaliers front office had been in win-now mode since LeBron came back to the team in 2014. But now a rebuild has begun, and the focus has shifted to accumulating and developing young talent. How much confidence do you have in the Koby Altman-led group to build a promising young core?
I think Altman has done an admirable job accumulating assets since the Cavs pivoted to a future-focused mentality. However, with the blessing of ownership, asset accumulation is typically the easiest part of the job. The secondary question is the more important one -- how he translates those assets into core pieces for the next good Cavs team. As you can surmise from my response above, I’m not entirely sure he has demonstrated the ability (or perhaps has the control) to make that conversion so far. This will be an incredibly important draft for the Cavs as they look to continue building their core. Finding a high-level starter with their pick and hopefully adding a rotation piece with the first-round pick acquired at the deadline from the Houston Rockets would go a long way for Altman.
Big thank you to Mike for answering our questions!