June 22, 2012

More Notes On The Heat: Battier Is Awesome, Wade Makes Me Cringe

     I don't admit to watching the Heat as much as a lot of people, but from the little bit of postseason action I watched, two people stood out to me.

     Shane Battier was the key piece that was missing from last year's Finals losers.  He brought an extra dose of intensity, hustle, great defense, and three-point shooting to this year's Heat, and it fit perfectly with the existing pieces.  He was more responsible for the championship win than anyone else not named LeBron.

     Dwyane Wade stood out for all the wrong reasons.  He's great on fast breaks, defense, and shooting right after a pass.  But there were a lot of times when he would shoot some awful 15-foot fadeaway and I would be sitting there asking, "What are you doing?"  Every time he had the ball for more than two seconds, I would just beg him not to shoot.  I can't imagine what it's been like for actual Heat fans who had to watch him every game.

What Else Can We Possibly Criticize LeBron For Now?

    
     LeBron James has now done everything he needed to do to be respected as the league's best player.  He's already a 3-time MVP and has been widely regarded as the best statistical player in the NBA.  In this year's playoffs, he had huge games just about every night, put up some massive fourth quarters, made big 3-pointers in the last minute of games, and topped it off with a championship.  He won the title by acting as the facilitator in Games 4 and 5, which proved more successful than the Kevin Durant method of shooting as much as possible.  Unless you're insane or Skip Bayless (maybe that's the same thing though), it's obvious that LeBron is the leader of his team, as Dwyane Wade disappeared in about half of the Heat's postseason games.  There's nothing left for LeBron to prove.  All he has left to do is play out the rest of his career.  Maybe it will end with a bunch of championships.  Maybe it won't.  But it's time for everyone to finally realize that LeBron James is as great as the numbers say he is.

June 21, 2012

It's Time For A Change

    
     With a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat are on the verge of winning their first championship with the James/Wade/Bosh trio.  And I can't wait to see it happen.

     When (I guess I should say if) the Heat get that fourth win, everything changes.  We've been stuck in the "LeBron folds under pressure, has no rings, and is therefore worse than any other NBA player" storyline for four or five years now, and it only got worse when Dwyane Wade entered the picture.  I've really enjoyed arguing about these things through the TV for the past few years, but I'm ready to move on.  It's time for a change.

     Sure, all the LeBron haters (and yes, they do exist) will find something else to complain about, like the fact that he needed Wade to help him win a title, or that he doesn't have two of them, or that he didn't win it on a last-second shot, or that somehow the refs were responsible for his first title.  But when they finally get that first championship, discussing those things will seem foolish.  We can finally focus on Kobe's final years, whatever Dwight Howard is going to do, the maturation of the league's young stars, and whatever happened to that Lin guy that seemed to exist for only about a month.  The Heat discussion will take a new shape.  We'll be talking about their attempt to repeat and to maintain the level of awesomeness.  We can finally recognize that LeBron may be one of the greatest players ever.

     I'm very excited about all of this.  So Miami Heat, I'm begging you.  Please, please, please, please, don't screw this up.

June 19, 2012

NBA Finals Predictions

    
     If there's one thing this blog needs, it's more predictions.  So far I'm 1-1 at predicting games (correctly picked the Broncos over the Steelers, and incorrectly picked LSU over Alabama in the NCAA championship).  Let's see if I can improve that record a bit.

     It seems to me that the key to Miami Heat games late in a playoff series has been how important the game is to them.  When it's not important, they tend to be less productive.  When the game is crucial, they shift into another gear and become pretty much unstoppable.  With that in mind...

Game 4:  Thunder over Heat, 106-99

     Going up 3-1 isn't a necessity, it's a luxury.  While letting the series get tied with only one home game out of the last three isn't ideal, I don't think the Heat are too worried about tonight.

Game 5:  Heat over Thunder, 91-86

     Plain and simple, the Heat cannot expect to win two straight games in OKC.  So they'll find a way to win Game 5 so they only need one road win.

Game 6:  Thunder over Heat, 95-90

     Obviously the Heat don't want to lose this one, but it'll be a much bigger game for the Thunder, and that should get them to a Game 7.

Game 7:  Heat over Thunder, 86-81

     It'll be ugly on both sides, but LeBron and Bosh will get their first championship.  I don't expect the perfect LeBron game-winner type of scenario everyone demands to see, but holding on to a 5-point lead throughout the 4th quarter is just as respectable.

The Best Story Of The 2012 U.S. Open...

     ...was not Webb Simpson.  It wasn't Tiger Woods.  It wasn't Jim Furyk, or Michael Thompson, or the course itself (which performed very well despite my earlier complaints).  The best story of the U.S. Open was Beau Hossler. 

    
     The 17-year-old Hossler came to the Open with one goal:  be the low amateur of the tournament.  Instead, he was in for the biggest roller coaster weekend of his life.  My love for Hossler began after the first round, when below Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell and David Toms was some amateur tied for 7th with even par, only 4 shots behind the lead.  I wanted this guy to win, because it was something that I had never seen before.

     This is the great thing about the U.S. Open.  In a normal tournament, the player you're rooting for has to put up low scores to win.  It's hard to imagine some unknown player consistently scoring in the sixties.  But in the Open, all your player has to do is survive.  And Beau Hossler was surviving like a pro, scoring even par in the first round and making par on each of his first 8 holes on Friday.  Then the story got even better, as Hossler birdied the 17th hole to earn a share of the lead and followed that up with a birdie on the 1st to take the lead outright.  Halfway through the second round, a high school kid was beating 148 professionals at the toughest test in golf.

     Sadly, the great moment fell apart quickly.  Hossler shot a bogey only two holes later, and ended up dropping 4 more shots to put him at +3, again four shots behind the lead.  With two more rounds to go, there was still hope that he could come back and win the whole thing.  Hossler went into survival mode again on Saturday, shooting even par and keeping his 4-shot deficit.  Things looked bleak, but I still felt he had a chance.  If he could just get to +1, he'd be in contention and anything could happen.

     It wasn't meant to be.  Hossler shot a +6 on Sunday, dropping to 29th place.  After all that excitement, he didn't even get that low amateur title.  That award belonged to Jordan Spieth, who barely made the cut at +8 after two rounds and then put up a meaningless 69 and 70 to finish at +7.  For a brief moment, though, Hossler captured the imaginations of golf fans everywhere, and gave us just a little bit of hope that we might see something historic and magical.

June 16, 2012

That +2 I Projected For The Winner Of The U.S. Open?

     Went down to +1.1 after Friday and is now at -0.4.  Way to disappoint, U.S. Open.  (Yes, I know that's really close to par and congratulations, but I needed some extra payback from the course after last year.)

June 15, 2012

The U.S. Open Owes Me Some Carnage

    
     After last year's U.S. Open, I remarked that because Rory McIlroy won the tournament at 16-under-par even though the course is always set up for the winner to be at par, I wanted this year's Open winner to be at 16-over-par.  I will back off on that a little.  Give me +8.  Because second place was at -8 last year, and the rest of the pack was very close behind.  Let's face it, the 2011 U.S. Open was a joke.  McIlroy's win after falling apart in the Masters was a nice story, but the U.S. Open is the one tournament every year when we look forward to seeing pro golfers get humiliated, and the '11 Open didn't come close to that.  I think we golf fans deserve to get two years worth of bad golf this time around.

     Using the golf simulator I made a few months ago, I tried to see how bad this Open will turn out if the course continues to be as difficult as it was on Thursday.  I used the average score of the first round to estimate the difficulty of the course, and then I simulated rounds until one popped up that closely resembled the real-life one.  After that I ran through the remainder of the tournament ten times, and ended up with an average winning score of +2.  Not bad, but not good enough to pay me back for last year. 

     This isn't just about last year.  In the last 33 U.S. Open tournaments, only two winners have finished over par.  That number should be around 15.  While I respect the USGA for getting it as close as they do, I feel like they still have more work to do.  Really dry out those greens.  Grow the rough out even more.  Dig some more bunkers.  It doesn't matter.  Just get me some winners with positive scores, because this tournament is the only place I can get it.

    

June 11, 2012

Adventures In NBA 2K11: The End



     In a tragic accident, I wrote over the file that the Orlando Quinn series was based off of.  So I guess I'm done with that.  But I figured the least I could do was start another career for Quinn, put him on the Cavaliers, and simulate the whole thing out.  This is what transpired:

     The first three years of Quinn's career brought great statistical success, including a 32.2 PPG season in 2013-14, but it was wasted on an underperforming team.  Then in 2014, Cleveland made a push in the free agent market, most notably signing Paul George as a second primary scorer.  This led to a perfect season for Quinn in 2015-16, as he won the MVP award (after a 24/12/5 season), a championship, and the Finals MVP award.  Though the team's performance leveled off in the next few years, Quinn continued to post around 25 points and 12 rebounds a game.

     After 9 seasons in Cleveland, Quinn became a free agent and chose to sign with the Portland Trail Blazers.  He immediately entered an in-team rivalry with PF Preston Butler, whose numbers were in line with (and in many cases better than) the stats Quinn was able to put up.  Despite the superstar duo, Portland failed to win a championship in the 4 years Quinn was there, and he decided not to re-sign with the team.

     What happened next was shocking.  Orlando Quinn went the entire offseason without being signed.  22 games would pass before the Houston Rockets picked up the still-productive 34-year-old.  Despite a small dip in scoring, Quinn had his best season of passing ever, with an impressive 5.5 assists per game.  Things got more bizarre the following year, as Quinn could not crack Houston's starting lineup and ended up winning the Sixth Man of the Year award.

     Feeling disrespected by the Rockets, Quinn left for the Dallas Mavericks the following year, and after 2 years of average basketball he signed with his 5th team, the Philadelphia 76ers.  Now 38 years old, Quinn decided that his 18th season would be his last.  With Quinn playing a limited role, the 76ers made it to the playoffs in the hopes of giving their legendary center one last championship to remember.  Philly made it through the first round.  Then the second round.  Then the third round.  The team capped off the run with a championship victory, allowing Orlando Quinn to ride off into the sunset as a champion.

     In 18 seasons, Quinn racked up 32,003 points, 14,077 rebounds, and 2,665 blocks.  He averaged 22.5 points and 9.9 rebounds a game.  Quinn played in 15 All-Star games, was on the All-NBA First Team 13 times, and made the All-Defense First Team 9 times.  He led the league in rebounds 4 times, in blocks 4 times, and in points once.  He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2011-12, the MVP award in 2015-16, the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2025-26, and an astonishing 6 Defensive Player of the Year awards.  Quinn won two championships, one with Cleveland, when he was named Finals MVP, and one with Philadelphia.  Orlando Quinn accomplished just about everything you can in the NBA, and was rightfully inducted into the Hall of Fame.

     (And if you're curious about the future, Kevin Durant will score over 42,000 points.  It's going to happen.  Don't say I didn't warn you.)

June 10, 2012

Do Superstars Equal NBA Titles?

     I began the Wilt 2.0 Project as an excuse to write about a video game in a mildly artistic way.  But when my Chamberlain doppelganger took a group of low level starters to the 3rd best record in the conference, William W. of Sports and Stuff was inspired.  (I was just shocked that people were actually reading the series, but I ran with it.)  Mr. W. posed an interesting theory:  You need one and only one superstar to succeed in the NBA.  He said that having good role players is important, but adding extra superstars does not add a lot of value to the team, and lacking a superstar puts a team at a disadvantage.

     After clarifying the details of William's ideas, I set out to classify every NBA team in the last 10 seasons by counting the number of players they had in each of two groups.  The first is superstars:  in this case, players who were in the top-10 in points per game in a given season among those who played at least 41 games (33 games in 2011-12).  The second category is fringe stars:  players in the top-50 in points per game among those who played at least 41/33 games, but not in the top-10.  Using this method, I separated the teams into 11 different team structures.

     Which team type averaged the most wins?  The 2 superstar/1 fringe star teams performed the best, with 57.67 wins per season (with the 2011-12 figures adjusted to an 82-game schedule).  However, only three teams met that criteria (the '10-11 Heat, '11-12 Heat, and the '11-12 Thunder), so the data is very inconclusive.  Grouping the teams by superstars alone is a little more telling.  Having zero of them yields 39 wins a season, having one yields 45, and having two yields 53.  Among superstar groups, having one fringe star is better than having none, and having two is better than having one.  Oddly enough, those teams with three fringe stars were not that good, maybe an issue with overpaying for players that can't crack the top-10.

     How about the playoffs?  Again, the 2/1 teams reigned supreme, with all three of them making the NBA Finals.  In general terms, each superstar added increases the average number of series won by a playoff team.  For those teams with one or no superstars, two fringe stars again seems to be the target.  (Though thanks to the '07-08 Celtics, 0/3 teams performed very well in the playoffs despite only making it there 23.5% of the time.)

     And for those pesky ESPN analysts, let's see what happens when we look at just championships.  Both 1/1 and 0/2 teams have won 3 championships in the last 10 years, though there were twice as many 0/2 teams as 1/1 teams.  6 of the past 10 champions (including this year's) have had a top-10 scorer on the team, almost twice the percentage (31.5%) of all teams that have had one.  Two of the champions have won with just a top-10 scorer and no top-50 guy, just as William proposed.  However, using percentages, the 2/1 teams rise to the top in this category.  Out of only 3 entries, one of those teams will have a championship within the next few weeks (both Miami and OKC are 2/1 teams), giving them a 33.3% success rate, compared to the next highest at 7.7% (the 1/1's).

     What does this all mean?  The idea of the Big Three is by far the best team configuration you can have in the NBA.  The only caveat is that they all have to play well enough so that two of them are top-10 scorers and one is a top-50 scorer.  This is why the Knicks' faux Big Three didn't work:  they really only had one superstar and one fringe star.  Tyson Chandler, although he is an excellent defender, doesn't score enough to make his team a real threat.

     As for the William W. theory, it is both right and wrong.  Having that one go-to scorer makes a huge difference for a team, and that alone can lead to a title.  However, the second superstar and extra fringe stars matter just as much, and are often necessary to push a team to the top of the league.  A perfect example is the Heat, who with just Wade were a middling playoff team, and by adding LeBron and Bosh they became a conference champion in just one year.  And this year they have a chance to achieve even more.

June 7, 2012

Adventures In NBA 2K11: Getting Closer

Orlando Quinn, who scored 96 points against the Suns last night


February 3, 2014 - Cavaliers center Orlando Quinn made the next step on his quest for the 100-point game last night:  being on the court in the fourth quarter for two possessions that would have tied the record.  Midway through the fourth quarter of Cleveland's 134-86 win over the Suns, Quinn came off the bench having scored 92 points already, promptly committed a foul, and was sent back to the bench.  It seemed like he would stall yet again because of the team's stellar performance.

     But hope came with two and a half minutes remaining in the game:  the starting lineup was sent out so the bench players could get some rest.  Quinn would be on the court as long as play didn't stop.  "I told the guys, 'Whatever you do, don't foul,'" Quinn told reporters after the game.  "'Do not foul anybody.'"  The 23-year-old's request was answered, as he scored two baskets to bring his total to 96.  But on the next two possessions, passes to Quinn were tipped, with one resulting in a turnover and the other going out of bounds and stopping play.  Quinn went back to the bench, dismayed but feeling a bit of hope.

     "Those possessions are going to haunt me forever," the 1st Team All-NBA center said, "but at least I know it was my fault this time.  I just couldn't get open for the shot.  I'm getting a little closer to it every year, and now I feel like I can get there."

Adventures In NBA 2K11: Changes



October 1, 2014 - It's a new era for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  After a disappointing 32-50 season, the Cavs fired their GM and opted not to re-sign head coach Kurt Rambis, instead bringing in offensive guru Brett Leonard.  The franchise had a different feel almost immediately.  Instead of the usual carousel of draft pick trades, the Cavaliers selected a player with each of the four picks they brought into the Draft.  Instead of the normal inactivity during the free agency period, Cleveland brought in PF Patrick Patterson, PG Eric Bledsoe, and SG Ronnie Brewer.  Add in returning youngsters Donovan Hughes, Russell Wilson, and all-world center Orlando Quinn, and the Cavaliers have a good enough roster to reach the playoffs once again.

June 5, 2012

Adventures In NBA 2K11: Deja Vu

Orlando Quinn (13) goes up for a ferocious dunk

November 30, 2013 - Orlando Quinn just played the best game of his life.  His Cleveland Cavaliers team beat the Denver Nuggets 132-104.  And the only word Quinn could use to describe the game was "frustrating".  In a post-game interview, the Cavaliers center said, "I know what I need to do.  I'm just not getting the chance to do it.  It's getting really frustrating."  What he was referring to was both his 92-point game in 2011, when he sat for most of the 4th quarter, and yesterday's game, when he scored 96 points but spent about 10 minutes on the bench in the final period.

     When asked to respond to Quinn's complaints, head coach Kurt Rambis said, "I'm not here to make people happy.  I'm here to win games.  We already had that game won, and we didn't want Orlando to get hurt or tired." 

     Even the GM got into the action, firing a shot at Rambis.  "He is here to make people happy.  It's called team chemistry.  Maybe that's why he's doing so poorly at the job he's supposed to be doing."  The GM is, of course, referencing the Cavaliers' paltry 5-12 record.

     Will all of the contention within the Cleveland organization destroy this team?  How long will Rambis and the GM be allowed to work together?  And will Orlando Quinn ever reach 100 points in one game?  Only time will tell.

June 4, 2012

Adventures In NBA 2K11: Decline

Orlando Quinn (13) chases down Vince Carter (15) on a fast break and records the block

October 1, 2013 - Cleveland is feeling cursed again.  A year after earning the third best record in the Eastern Conference, the Cavaliers went back to their losing ways in the 2012-13 season, winning only 35 games.  Much of this is due to the roster overhaul the Cavaliers executed last offseason, swapping out a stable of solid veterans for a group of young yet proven talents, and then trading those players for a quartet of rookies.

     Two players stood out during the failed campaign, though.  The first, of course, was Orlando Quinn, who cemented his spot as the league's top center, again being voted to the All-NBA First Team and retaining his title as Defensive Player of the Year.  Quinn finished with 30.6 points (5th in the league), 12.4 rebounds (2nd), 2.4 blocks (1st), 5.2 assists, and 1.4 steals per game.  However, because the Cavaliers played terribly as a team, Quinn did not make the top 5 in MVP voting despite leading the NBA with a 33.5 PER.

     The other player who made a positive difference for the Cavs was Donovan Holmes, who was the sixth player selected in the 2012 Draft.  As a point guard, Holmes earned 19.8 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.2 steals per game, and made 37.6 percent of his three-pointers.  As a result, he was named the NBA's Rookie of the Year, the second in a row for Cleveland.

     Yet even though there are some very bright spots on the Cavaliers' recent resume, fans are growing tired of their GM who sacrificed wins for some crazy vision.  Even head coach Byron Scott decided to retire rather than deal with the current situation.  "A few years ago I would have been excited to teach all these young players," said Scott, "but now it just feels like nothing's going to happen for a few years, and I'm not willing to wait."  Can Cleveland play well enough this season to save the GM's job?  Or is the team going to be headed in a new direction very soon?


Disclaimer:  I never thought when I started this that I was going to "fire" my GM, but it sounds like an awesome idea.  What record for the 2013-14 year do you think is bad enough to make the change?  And I apologize to Byron Scott for fabricating a quote for him.

June 3, 2012

Adventures In NBA 2K11: Year One



October 1, 2012 - It was a year of great hope and great disappointment.

     The Cleveland Cavaliers began the 2011-12 season with a 44-point win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, marked by an epic 92-point outburst from rookie center Orlando Quinn.  The phenom continued to produce throughout the season, averaging 27.6 points (6th in the NBA), 12.0 rebounds (2nd), 2.2 blocks (3rd), 1.8 steals, and 4.6 assists per game.  Not only was Quinn the runaway Rookie of the Year; he also won the Defensive Player of the Year award for the entire league, was named an All-Star, made the All-NBA First Team over Dwight Howard, and finished 3rd in the MVP voting behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.  The Cavaliers, without a great supporting cast around Quinn, managed the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.

     However, Cleveland lost to Howard's Orlando Magic team in the first round of the playoffs and had to watch LeBron win his first title with the Heat.  Even worse, the 4 first-round draft picks picked up by Cleveland during the 2011 Draft all ended up outside the top 11.  But Cleveland's GM found a way to make his vision known.  Having a ton of salary cap space left, the Cavs picked up four of the best young players on the free agent market, and then swapped them out for a four-rookie package like they originally wanted, as well as three first-rounders for 2013.  Though the rookie starters aren't as talented as the four free agents were, they are cheaper and have a longer period of time to grow with the team.

     Joining Orlando Quinn next year are SF Russell Wilson (pick #3), a high flier from England; PG Donovan Holmes (#6), a talented scorer; PF Warren Sheridan (#11); and SG Devin Simmons, the player Cleveland drafted at #12.  While the team looks to be below average this year, the future looks very promising for them.

Adventures In NBA 2K11: Debut

     Note: I play games and simulate games with 6 minute quarters, so all references to per game and per quarter stats are the actual stats I got, but doubled.

Orlando Quinn (13) completely owns Kevin Durant (35) and Brendan Haywood on the glass

October 27, 2011 - 92. A number unsurpassed by all but one player in NBA history. A number most players can't even dream of reaching. Orlando Quinn, though, is not most players. The Cleveland Cavaliers' star center scored 92 points in the Cavs' 150-106 win tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not only is Quinn in his first season as a pro; this was his first game as a pro. The 7'5", 340 pounder drafted out of Kentucky earned 92 points by making 40 of his 46 shots from the field and draining all 12 free throws he attempted. He also contributed 6 rebounds, 6 blocks, and 2 steals, and all of this was despite the fact that Quinn sat for most of the 4th quarter once the game got out of hand.

     Head coach Byron Scott is taking some heat for taking his star out of the game during such a historical performance, but Scott insists that the benching was a good lesson for Quinn. "It's important to show him that no player is more important than the team, even if he's got 92 points," said Scott. "The team was way ahead in this game, we didn't want Q to get injured, and we thought keeping him in good health for the next game was more important than the record. He'll have another shot at 100 [points]."

     When asked about his removal from the game, Quinn said, "I was disappointed, for sure.  To be four buckets away from the most untouchable record in the NBA, and then to not have a chance at getting it is heartbreaking.  But I have thousands of games left to play, hopefully, and one of those times I'll get another chance at it."

     Whether it was the right call or not to sit Quinn, one thing's for sure:  This is a player with a promising career, and it's going to be exciting to see just how great he can become.

June 1, 2012

Adventures In NBA 2K11: The Wilt 2.0 Project

     This idea was inspired by this article on Chasing 23, a website very similar to this one in terms of ideas, but much cleaner and more professional than the Legend.  In the article, the writer says that if Wilt Chamberlain (greatest NBA player ever) had played today, he would have been a freakishly athletic 7'5", 340-pound beast due to overall improvements in size and training in the sports world.  That was something I wanted to see in action on NBA 2K11.  So I added the new and improved Wilt Chamberlain into a draft class and took over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2010-11 season.  Why Cleveland?  They had the distinction of being terrible now, and also having nothing in place for the future (remember the game came out the year before Kyrie Irving got drafted).  I wanted to completely overhaul the team for your and my amusement.  I hope you like it.

Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Orlando Quinn

October 1, 2011 - This is the story of the greatest NBA prospect in 50 years, the team that would do anything to get him, and perhaps the most ambitious roster overhaul the NBA has ever seen.  And it all starts with Orlando Quinn.  Quinn, a native of Cleveland, has been a dominant basketball player his whole life, having grown to 7 feet tall by the time he entered high school.  He decided to attend the University of Kentucky, dominating the competition and winning a national championship before entering the 2011 NBA Draft.  The 20-year-old Quinn is now a 7'5", 340-pound rookie with the speed and vertical of Josh Smith and the strength of a young Shaquille O'Neal.  He is what Wilt Chamberlain would have been had he been born two decades ago instead of seven.  Already the consensus second-best center in the league behind Dwight Howard, it's anyone's guess how dominant Quinn can be this season, and during his whole career.

     Eight years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted a homegrown, once-in-a-generation talent in LeBron James.  For seven years, James electrified the Quicken Loans Arena, and he led the team to 5 playoff appearances, including one NBA Finals loss.  Then he left his home city heartbroken, opting to sign with the Miami Heat rather than the Cavaliers.  Owner Dan Gilbert promised to win a championship before LeBron's Heat team did.  But the 2010-11 Cavaliers were in no position to do so, finding themselves with a new coach, a new GM, and an aging roster with marginal talent.

     The only hope was another homegrown, once-in-a-generation talent in Orlando Quinn.  The Cavaliers' front office was willing to do anything to get him.  They traded the team's leaders, Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams, other important pieces of the team, and even their own first-rounder (expected to be #7) in an attempt to get the best position for the upcoming draft.  Then came the 16-game losing streak, pushing the Cavaliers to the second-worst record in the league (and the Timberwolves into the #2 draft slot).  At the Draft Lottery, the Cavs could only manage to get the #5 and #8 picks.  It seemed like Cleveland couldn't catch a break.  All the team could do was offer their two picks to the Wizards in exchange for the #1.  Washington accepted the deal.  Cleveland had its new savior.

     But the excitement was just getting started.  Cleveland received an offer early in the Draft that it couldn't refuse:  Ramon Sessions and a second-rounder for the Clippers' #7 pick.  Any ordinary GM would have used the pick on a sidekick for Quinn.  But the Cavs had bigger things in mind.  They traded down.  And then traded down again.  And again.  And again, all the way to the second pick in round two.  But in trading down this year they earned much more in the future:  four first rounders in the 2012 Draft.  The GM had revealed an insane new plan:  a starting lineup consisting of four rookies and the best second-year player in decades.  The NBA version of the Fab Five.  A core of players that would improve together and hopefully bring that title to Cleveland.

     For the current year, though, the Cavaliers send out a horribly unbalanced roster made up of a ridiculously dominant center and a ragtag team of rental starters.  They probably won't win this year, but if the rest of the league can keep the Heat down for a few more years (they lost the 2011 Finals to the Spurs), Gilbert may make good on his promise after all.