Cleveland Cavaliers Q&A with NBA Writer Matthew Tynan of SB Nation and ESPN TrueHoop Network

By: Kyle Hebel

I recently conducted an interview, via email, with Matthew Tynan, NBA beat writer for SB Nation and ESPN TrueHoop. His knowledge and insight of the NBA is excellent. Tynan took time with me to discuss the state of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise and the steps this franchise must take in order to become a viable playoff contender year in and year out.

Despite the injuries to Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving, which plague the Cleveland Cavaliers all season long, what letter grade would you give the Cavaliers this season and why?

Considering the circumstances, you have to give them at least some leeway, but I’d probably hand out a ‘C’ for the Cavs’ season. But what we saw this season was all part of the learning experience of a super young team that certainly has questions going forward. Varejao injury was brutal, as he was having as good a year as any big man in the league (maybe the best). Tack on the freak hand injury to Irving and you’re left with a completely unproven Dion Waiters, who was overmatched at times this season. Again, it’s all apart of the process, but they have some decisions to make. If Irving’s healthy, he’s a superstar, but what will they do with Varejao? Will Waiters be worthy of his draft stock? Is Mike Brown really the coach … again? We’ll see how it all goes.

If there is any player that improved with season for the Cavaliers, it has to be power forward Tristan Thompson. What is Thompson ceiling and is he proving to be a player that was worth the 4th overall pick back in the 2011 NBA Draft?

At this point, Thompson doesn’t look like a top-5 type of guy. But that’s not really fair, because he deserves to have judgement withheld until probably next season. He made some big jumps in a lot of areas from last year, so the potential to improve is still there. Still, I believe Tristan’s ceiling is probably a fringe All-Star. I just don’t see him developing into a major game-changer. But, again, he’s young.

Point guard Kyrie Irving (2) and power forward Tristan Thompson (13) celebrating after Irving hit the game winner against the Toronto Raptors. Photo by: Chris Young, Associated Press

Point guard Kyrie Irving (2) and power forward Tristan Thompson (13) celebrating after Irving hit the game winner against the Toronto Raptors on January 26th, 2013. Photo by: Chris Young, Associated Press

There were a lot of analysts that were scratching their heads when the Cavaliers selected shooting guard Dion Waiters with the 4th overall pick in last year’s NBA Draft. Waiters does tend to have that J.R. Smith type philosophy where he will continue to shoot the ball no matter how good or bad he is shooting any given night. Do you see that affecting Waiters ability to play with Irving? Can they ultimately co-exist with each other in the same backcourt?

I think it’s way too early to tell. There were certainly highs and lows with Waiters during his rookie season, but I do think at times we saw some pretty good-looking stuff. I don’t want to say he’s J.R. Smith, because that would be a mean thing to do, but at the same time, we saw some of those performances that certainly left you wanting a lot more. But again, a very young player in an unstable, losing situation needs a little time to adjust. Time will tell if he can play Irving.

The Cavaliers are in great position to rebuild and potentially compete for a playoff berth next year. Should they capitalize on this now and be a factor in free agency and trade their draft picks for proven players in the league or should they wait to be a factor in free agency in the summer of 2014 to see if they can convince Lebron James to return to the Cavaliers?

I’m a big proponent of the ‘draft’ approach over the free-agency strategy. It’s such a crapshoot on the open market, and with the impending massive salary-cap restrictions outlined by the current CBA, you’d be wise to save your money and develop a team through rookie deals and role players. Rather than using big money to pay for top-of-the-line free agents, use it to build depth and pick up affordable contributors. With all these high draft picks in recent years, the Cavs have already acquired the theoretical top talent to develop. Now it’s all about surrounding them with the right people and not killing your salary cap.

Unless James becomes available to Cleveland again. Then give him all of the money.

Kyrie Irving has already established himself as a future All-Star in this league? What ultimately will be Irving’s ceiling as a player and could he be the one to bring a sports championship back to the city of Cleveland?

He’s potentially going to be the best point guard in the league in the near future. His ceiling seems unlimited. But he’s going to need help if the Cavs are going to be a contender in years to come. We’ve seen it in today’s NBA, you need multiple stars to be at that very top echelon of NBA teams. They don’t have that now, but if the Cavs run this thing the right way then they’ll have a chance. But be really, REALLY patient.

Despite Cleveland being out of the postseason for a third consecutive year, the NBA playoffs must go on. Who wins the NBA title this year and why?

At this very moment, I don’t think you can say anyone but Miami is the favorite. San Antonio probably has the best chance of beating the Heat, but they’d likely have to get back to the level they reached offensively last season to have a decent chance. Miami is just so disgusting when it’s doing its thing.

I think it’ll be a Spurs-Heat Finals, and Miami will win in a long series. But, as always, things can change from day to day in the NBA playoffs.

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