NEW YORK: If the Cavaliers could finish better around the basket, perhaps their finish to this season could’ve been much different.
The Cavs have three of the worst players in the league at converting around the basket. Dion Waiters is shooting 48.5 percent within 5 feet of the basket, which ties as the fourth-worst percentage in the league. Spencer Hawes’ 53.1 percent within 5 feet is second-worst among centers (only Indiana’s Roy Hibbert is worse) and Tristan Thompson’s 52.4 percent is sixth-worst among bigs.
There are varying reasons why all three struggle, Cavs coach Mike Brown said, and there is no common thread among the three.
Hawes, who spent most of this season with the Philadelphia 76ers, simply isn’t very athletic.
“When he gets down there, it’s not necessarily at lightning speed,” Brown said. “So when you’ve got long bodies coming, he’s got to move the ball around at times, he’s got to flip the ball over people’s heads. He can do that some, but his game is out on the floor and knocking down shots, making the right passes.”
Thompson, Brown said, takes too long to gather passes rather than catching and dunking.
“When you gather yourself, if you’re not 7-foot-1, you’re allowing the defense to come sit on top of you and you’ve got to go up through the defense,” Brown said. “If you don’t have a thick body to go up through the defense, it’s pretty tough. So he’s got to be a quick jumper. He’s got to be an energetic jumper. He’s got to fly around when he’s around that rim.”
As for Waiters, Brown believes he has to concentrate better on layups.
“He’ll get to the rim and if somebody comes to block the shot he’ll move the ball and at times, he’ll shoot an air ball lay-up,” Brown said. “It’s surprising because he is so athletic and he does get to the rim often and you think that every time he gets there, he’s going to finish because of his athleticism and strength. He’s gotten better. You hope that trend continues upward.”
Waiters believes he is fouled on a lot of those drives that don’t result in baskets.
“I get hit. I don’t just point-blank miss lay-ups,” Waiters said. “I think one of my biggest strengths is getting to the rack. I have to continue to keep playing and finish around the rim. I can’t blame nobody else. Just have to go out there and do it.”
Luol Deng returned to the starting lineup Sunday after missing three games with a sprained left ankle.
“I know I’m not 100 [percent] but I want to be out there. I want to play. I don’t really like sitting down,” Deng said. “I did what I can to get it to feel better as fast as I can. But our games are every other day. Even though I’ve been out a week, I’m missed three games because of the schedule. Sometimes it could have been two games, or one.”
Curry’s big chance
Seth Curry played nine minutes in his Cavs debut Saturday against the Houston Rockets. He made the only 3-pointer he shot, which is why the Cavs signed him to a 10-day contract — for his shooting.
But Curry has played point guard all season in the Development League and conceded playing off the ball with the Cavs will be an adjustment.
“I’ve been handling the ball the whole year,” he said. “But it’s kind of natural playing off the ball and spacing the floor, then when I get the ball trying to be aggressive. I’m pretty comfortable after the first couple minutes.”
The Cavs’ injury situation could give Curry more minutes than most guys on 10-day contracts typically receive, but Brown cautioned not to expect too much despite his DNA. His brother, Steph, is an All-Star with Golden State and his father, Dell, was a tremendous shooter in the NBA.
“Seth is a good shooter, but he’s not quite at the level of what his brother is,” Brown said. “But knowing that the family has the type of history with the game that they do, that helps the feel that he has for the game of basketball.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com.