A healthy Derrick Rose keeps Cleveland afloat in the East

The Cavaliers signed Derrick Rose on Monday in one of the most uninspiring change of teams by a former MVP in recent memory.

It's uninspiring because injuries have robbed Rose of the form he had when he won the MVP in the 2010-11 season. Also, Cleveland already has a better point guard on the roster as of today (more on that later).

But for as uninspiring as the move is now, it's still a good pickup for the Cavs. Some argue that Rose is no longer good and has no value, which simply isn't true. The flaw in that logic is the tendency to compare Rose to his former self, an MVP-level performer, rather than other players in his new salary bracket. The truth is, at one-year, $2.1 million, the Cavaliers got Rose on a bargain. Michael Carter-Williams, Aaron Brooks, Raymond Felton and Jose Calderon are just a few point guards in line to make more money than Rose next season.

The former Bulls All-Star has been trending upwards the last two years. Since playing in just 100 games over four seasons from 2011 to 2014, Rose has played in 130 over the last two seasons. He increased his scoring average from 16.4 PPG to 18.0 PPG over those two seasons and shot 47% from the field last season, his best since his third year in the league. He'll need to improve on a career-low 22% from three, especially playing for the Cavs, but he's never been a great three-point shooter. Last season, Rose showed flashes of that same early-career athleticism that allowed him to get into the paint and finish at the rim at will.

For a Cleveland team that always plays late into the postseason, Rose's skill-set, and maybe his body too, would've been better suited in a sixth-man role. He would've been an upgrade over Deron Williams as Kyrie Irving's backup. Now that Irving is seemingly forcing Cleveland's hand in trade talks, however, Rose will be thrust into a starting role he may not be fit for. Irving's ability to stretch the floor, along with Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, gave Cleveland's starting unit good spacing. Without Irving, the dynamics of this offense changes, and not for the better. That's before diving into whether Rose will be available the entire season. Still, if Cleveland deals Irving, the team is better off with Rose than without.

LeBron James is good enough to carry to the NBA Finals whichever version of the Cavaliers show up on opening night, but Cleveland is measuring itself against the Warriors, not the Eastern Conference. Rose's addition is enough to keep an Irving-less Cavs team atop the East, but the real issue is he significantly reduces their chances of running with Golden State come June.

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John Wall is in position to take over East after signing extension

If John Wall was concerned about things like stealing headlines and being the center of attention in the sports world for a day, he could had those things with his announcement of signing a supermax extension with the Wizards.

People questioned why he hadn’t signed the offer made some weeks ago by his team of seven years and whether he was unsatisfied with his level of exposure in the nation’s capital, but his decision to announce the agreement on the same day we learned of Kyrie Irving’s trade request shows that his number one priority was winning.

Wall intimated in the past that he needed to see what moves the franchise made and how the offseason shook out. Aside from re-signing Otto Porter to a large deal, and effectively handcuffing the franchise’s ability to bring in marquee free agents for the next few years, Washington made minimal roster changes. But as a top-4 seed in the East and a conference semi-finalist last season, the Wizards, behind Wall, Porter and Bradley Beal, should be a contender to reach the NBA Finals if Irving’s trade request is met.

Irving may or may not be moved, but the turmoil in Cleveland won’t easily be settled, especially with LeBron James’ pending free agency next summer. The top of the Eastern Conference looks ripe for the picking and Wall realized he’s in as good a position as anyone to benefit from a possible Cleveland collapse. The Celtics are probably the next best team in the conference, but the Wizards aren’t incapable of beating them in a seven-game series – not with Wall, arguably the second best player in the conference, locked in for the next six years.

Draymond is the bad guy, and that’s a good thing

Are you not entertained? I have to ask, because everyone’s complaining about Draymond Green’s intensity as if they’re a Cleveland or Golden State fan.

Unless you root for the Warriors, you should probably look down – you’re sitting on a high horse that’s not in the race. The thoroughbreds left awhile ago. Get down and enjoy the show. This shit is getting good.

Green is providing all you pundits the talking points necessary to bash the bad guy, but without him you wouldn’t have anything interesting to talk about – just the mundane chemistry issues of a 35-6 team. Poor Warriors, with their best record in the NBA, how will they ever get it together? Let’s face it, Green’s the most interesting thing about this team right now.

His 2nd-quarter flagrant-1 foul on LeBron James Monday night was probably unnecessary and uncalled for, but it was also run-of-the-mill. This is the type of stuff rivalries are made of. People complain about the new, “softened” NBA, but when someone infuses some old-school toughness, it’s a problem?

Maybe it’s the antagonistic nature of the person at fault that turns you off, but beggars can’t be choosers. Personally, I can’t think of anyone better to get this party started. I didn’t like the foul. I loved it.

James denied the validity of this Warriors-Cavaliers thing as a rivalry, attempting to downplay the reality of what it is to ease his own psyche more than fool any of us. We, however, know exactly what this is. It’s more than Heat vs Spurs. It’s even better than Bulls vs Jazz. No two teams have met in the finals three years in a row in NBA history, and these two teams are heavily favored to become the first. Green embraces what this is all the way, and he plays like it.

“A team that you beat, beat you, it’s definitely fun,” Green said. “If you look at the last two years and this year, we’ve been the top two teams in the league each year, and so I look at it as a rivalry, and it’s definitely a fun game to play in.”

Is he over the top sometimes? Sure, but why strip down the thing that makes him such a good player at risk of minimizing the pure enjoyment and entertainment of this wonderful rivalry. Green is just as integral to this series as James, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, or Andre Iguodala are – and more so than the Kevins, with Love missing the first finals and Durant just coming around this season.

Rather than complain about Green picking up flagrant fouls that don’t affect anyone outside of potentially himself and his team, let’s embrace the fact that as himself, Green makes this thing interesting. He’s the wild card.

Without Green on the court last summer, Cleveland picked up a pivotal Game 5  victory necessary to spark a rally from being down 3-1. Had Green kept his cool, the Warriors may have clinched a second ring – but Durant doesn’t enter the fold. This season (and rivalry – maybe still?) wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if the latter happened. Green is what makes this thing fun. We need start embracing him finally and stop resisting the urge to enjoy the bad guy.

 

Is John Wall a top-5 point guard?

For at least two years, I’ve held unpopular opinions about John Wall and where he ranks among NBA point guards. While I never actually took the time to sit down and compare the numbers and make an educated decision, I’ve always held the belief he was a fringe top-three player at his position, at least top-five. Now that Wall came out and personally declared himself a top-three point guard, I took a deeper look. As it turns out, I wasn’t wrong.

As of Saturday, Wall is averaging a career-high 19.8 points and 4.7 rebounds. His 9.8 assists per game is third in the league and almost matches his career-high of 10 from last year. As far as point guards go, Wall ranks eighth in scoring average and is more of a distributor than most of the players ahead of him. Of those, only Russell Westbrook averages more assists, 10.2, and it’s safe to say Westbrook is better than Wall. The only other point guard averaging more assists than Wall and Westbrook is Rajon Rondo, who leads the league with 12 a game. At this point in his career, however, Rondo isn’t a better all-around player than Wall.

Stephen Curry is the league’s best point guard simply because he can’t be stopped. Curry leads the league in scoring with over 30 points a game, and he’s just outside of the top 10 in assists. Chris Paul, who Wall probably matches the most statistically, is still better than Wall because of his more consistent shooting, and his ability to command the offense without as many turnovers. So, no, Wall is a little off base by declaring himself a top three point guard. That title belongs only to Curry, Westbrook, and Paul. After them, however, is where the conversation opens up.

The next best point guards to come to mind after Curry, Paul, and Westbrook, are Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley, Kemba Walker, Tony Parker, Isaiah Thomas, and Jeff Teague. At one time, Parker might have even been a top-three point guard, but he’s not top five anymore and certainly not better than Wall. (Sorry Skip Bayless.) Walker and Conley haven’t even made all-star games yet, and while it’s a little harder for Conley being that he plays in the West – along with my top-three point guards – he wouldn’t have the same impact without those big men he plays with. Thomas is more of a scorer in a point guard’s body, and he doesn’t impact the game in other ways enough to be considered top five. Teague can’t take over a game and be a playmaker how some of the others can.

That leaves Wall, Lillard, Irving, and Lowry, competing for the final two spots of the top five. Of those players, Irving is probably the most naturally talented, but before LeBron James came back home, Irving hadn’t cracked the playoffs. He can shoot and dribble with almost anyone, but Irving doesn’t make anyone else better on his team. Of the remaining players, Wall is the only one to make the playoffs without another all-star on his team. Although Lillard looks to be bucking that trend this season, he had LaMarcus Aldridge in past playoff appearances, and Lowry has had Demar Derozan – and the Wizards swept them in last year’s playoffs. This goes to show how much better Wall makes his teammates. All things considered, I would say Wall is definitely a top-five point guard, and I would throw Lillard in that group with him.

So, here’s my top five:

  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Russell Westbrook
  3. Chris Paul
  4. John Wall
  5. Damian Lillard

I have to agree with Stephen A. Smith in the video below, however, on the point that Wall shouldn’t be ranking himself. I love his confidence, but Wall should allow us to do the ranking for him.