1) RaptorsHQ: The Cavs were expected to grab one of the East's playoff spots this season but that hasn't exactly worked out so far. What happened?
FeartheSword.com: There's been multiple factors that contributed to the disappointing season the Cavs have experienced to this point. I think the one thing many, including myself, didn't take into enough consideration was how young the team is. Going into the year the Cavaliers had 7 players 22 years old or younger, most of which were being counted on to shoulder significant loads. While they are talented, none of them have experienced what it takes to win in the NBA and there was little to no veteran presence. Guys like Anderson Varejao and Jarrett Jack are good as glue guys in the locker room and don't cause a fuss/ require much maintenance. But to count on them to lead a locker room was ill-advised. Young talents can have a great impact on a team, a prime example being Terrence Ross for Toronto. But Ross is able to do well due to veterans like Kyle Lowry, Demar Derozan and Amir Johnson shouldering heavy loads. If you had a team of Terrence Ross' trying to figure out a role/ a place in the league you likely wouldn't see the same results.
The other problem was Andrew Bynum. The experiment failed horribly and probably cost the Cavs at least 4 wins. Bynum shot 42% from the field and almost 20% worse than league average for a center at the rim. When he was on the court the Cavs were the worst team in the NBA at transition points allowed, but were top 5 at defending it when he was on the bench. Really they just tried to fit a square peg into a round hole and it stunted their growth as a team.
2) RHQ: Yesterday, Spencer Hawes was traded to the Cavs in exchange for some second-round picks and expiring contracts. What's your take on this trade and will it be enough to get the Cavs into the dance? And did they sacrifice too much for the likes of Deng and Hawes just to face off with the Heat or Pacers?
FTS: I don't know if it will be enough to get the Cavs into the playoffs but I like the trade. The Cavs have the toughest schedule in the East for the remainder of the season. I don't think they gave up anything really in order to improve their team for the remainder of the season. In a vacuum second round picks have value, but the Cavaliers still own Orlando's second rounder (the most valuable of their seconds) as well as their own. So shipping off two doesn't really hurt them, plus as mentioned above the team has more than enough young players currently on the roster. Earl Clark was nothing and probably opens up another 2-5 min a game for Anthony Bennett at PF. The first they gave up for Luol Deng is top 14 protected and top 12 for a few more years until it becomes two seconds. Again, this really isn't a whole lot. While the draft makes me salivate, I worry about the damage handicapping the team more to tank would have had on it's young players. As this season has shown you don't just flip a switch and say "okay we aren't tanking now, we're a playoff team". I think even if they come up short of the playoffs having Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and others be accountable every single night and trying to win is more important to the development of the team. Bad habits are formed in losing seasons, and valuable prospects can become damaged commodities. What good is adding another high end talent if it comes at the expense of the development of your previous high picks? I think the Raptors benefited from not having a pick last season because they had no incentive to tank and as a result were able to carry over momentum into this season. So in short, yes I do like the moves.
3) RHQ: Keys to tonight's game - what do the Cavs need to do to take down the Raptors?
FTS: The Raptors are a tough team to contend with because they can beat you in so many different ways. In my opinion Kyle Lowry should have been the starting PG for the East, he's been that good this year. If I had to attack Toronto it'd be by going at Jonas. Jonas is pretty good rim deterrent, but struggles with his off ball defense and can be prone to picking up fouls. Unfortunately with no Varejao the best way to attack him would be by drawing him away from the hoop with Hawes and making him come out to the three point line. I'd have Thompson play primarily in single coverage at the low block and Deng in the high post. Deng is a great facilitator in the high post and it would take either Ross or Derozan out of their element by defending an area they aren't as familiar with on that end of the floor.
On defense I'd probably try directing the ball into the corners and out of Lowry's hands. Once he gives it up to either Ross or Derozan I'd either double or flash pressure immediately. In my opinion neither are confident ball handlers/ quick decision makers so you'd likely be able to force them into turnovers. Irving has taken some big strides forward on defense since his rookie year despite the narrative that suggests otherwise. With Lowry struggling with his shot in the past couple games the best thing he can do is make sure he doesn't get quality looks early to get his confidence up.
I always enjoy these match ups and it should be fun to see these teams go at it twice in the next five nights. The Cavs could use these wins more than Toronto so if you guys could accommodate that, that'd be great.