First Month Progress Report and Storylines 1. What team has been the biggest disappointment through the first month of the season? Ryan Coleman, Sol Invictus: Has to be the Wizards, I had high hopes for them this season but they have laid an egg so far. Only so much of it can be attributed to chemistry and I think ryalaman has to be disappointed with how his team is playing so far. Drew Holoubek, Running of the Bulls: I’d have to go with the Washington Wizards. Sure, rumors are that the team was pointing to the 2014-15 season to contend, but with the huge jumps that Wall and Beal took in the offseason combined with the best player in the draft magically falling to them at the 4th pick, you’d expect them to at least be in the running for the playoffs. 2 wins in their first 13 games was not what ryalaman was expecting. Matt Ingram, TheHawksNest.com: The Wiz, 2 wins (last I checked)? C’mon son! This team has way too much talent for this to be happening. Somebody in that organization needs to figure some things out. Is it chemistry? Scheme? Talent? Maybe all of the above. Mike Erickson, FourStageRocket.com: Houston and Washington. Both teams made changes in the offseason that were supposed to help. Neither team has played any better than last season. Justin Jones, WaitingForNextYear.com: I’m going to go with the Washington Wizards. They have one of the sexiest rosters in terms of the guaranteed ability to put on a show every time they take the floor. However, if its not a highlight dunk, alley oop, or 3 pointer, then they just can’t seem to put the ball in the hoop. There hand was forced to trade Sessions for a backup 3 when their second pick in the first round refused to sign and went overseas. They look to be a high pick lottery team once again. 2. After seemingly making the biggest splash in the offseason, the Cavs immediately follow it up with a November blockbuster deal. Grade the trade for the Lakers and Cavs. RC: Cavs – B. I am lower on Gasol than most and I think they gave up too much young talent for an aging player and some cap space which at this point will be just as bad as the lottery. Lakers – A-. I love Dion Waiters, the Lakers got themselves a star to replace Kobe when he retires and got an athletic big in Thompson who adds some speed and youth to that roster. DH: Short team, this is a better deal for Cleveland, as they get a legit low post threat to help them make a run at a title. Long term, I like this deal better for LA. Getting 2 solid building blocks for a guy they were unlikely to bring back anyway is a great move. MI: Cavs – A. They traded away some nice pieces, Gasol may help them win now, but if they don’t, it may have been a waste. He does provide them with cap relief after this season, which will help them be factor in free agency yet again. There are whispers they are targeting LBJ, but is that just a pipe dream? Either way it’s a nice deal for the Cavs. Lakers – A+. I love this deal for the Lakers, they get rid of an aging big man with a bloated contract, they aren’t in win-now mode, they add 2 young pieces with small contracts whom they can re-up if they desire. Plus Andy Varejao who is a bulldog out there. If they manage this right it could be a start of their rise back to one of the powers out west. ME: A+ for both. The Lakers get younger and get some help in the rebounding department. The Cavs get a reliable low post scorer. Mark it down, the Lakers make the playoffs and the Cavs win the title. JJ: Cavs: A-. The Cavs addressed what has been their biggest need since really Carlos Boozer stiffed the Cavs in the summer of 04 and that is a consistent scoring power forward. This deal isn’t an A+ for the Cavs because if they strike out this summer and fail to bring in Melo, LBJ, or even to bring back Pau, this deal completely compromised their future with Zeller, Waiters, and Thompson all gone from trades with nothing to show for it. Lakers: B+. The Lakers seemed to start this season in what can only be compared to a heartbroken teenage boy waking up after he was dumped by his first serious girlfriend after Dwight Howard walked away after only 1 year with the team. They needed to inject fresh, new life into the organization and they did just that in acquiring Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. Neither of these young men are finished products and both have quite a high ceiling. However, Dion is currently sitting behind Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash so minutes for him will be harder to come by than they were in Cleveland where he was starting. He can play both guard spots so he should be the first in line off the bench when of the vets needs a blow. It may be in the best interest of the Lakers to assess whether they are a playoff team this season or not and if they don’t think they are to go ahead and shop Steve Nash to allow Dion to start next to Kobe. Bonus grade. Pau Gasol: C-. Here in Cleveland we love the acquisition of the big Spaniard, but ultimately for him this is a move he did not want to see. He was still a focal point in the LA offense and could have easily played himself into one more short term max level deal before hanging up his sneakers. Unfortunately, he becomes no better than a 3rd option on an already loaded team that was just “one guy away.” This deal was great for the Cavs and Pau’s chances at a ring. Horrible for Pau’s chances at one last max deal before saying goodbye. 3. After an extremely disappointing season last year the Spurs made a change in the front office and coaching staff. How impressed are you with the new regime? RC: I watched the Spurs play the Suns in Phoenix and I have to say they are impressive. While Duncan isn’t the post defender he once was, he is still a good offensive threat and Danny Green is coming into his own this year. Couple that with Tony Parker playing at an elite level and you have a tough, tough team to beat. DH: I haven’t seen the new coach in action yet, but he’s a San Antonio guy so I’m sure he will do fine. MI: The jury is still out, the Spurs are going to win, that’s really a given with Manu and Parker. I’m interested to see how the roster is managed and what roster moves are made ME: They are looking strong, haven’t seen the live yet though. JJ: Very. They’ve got the Spurs playing with the youth that eluded them last year even though the roster remains the same. Sometime’s hearing the same voice over a long period of time just stops registering as anything interesting so the change seems to be what was needed in the Lone Star State. I saw this team up close and personal when the Cavs traveled to San Antonio and this team will definitely be in the fight for home court in the West behind NOH and POR. 4. Fact or Fiction: The Cleveland Cavaliers are the best team in the NBA. RC: Fiction, that goes to either Brooklyn or the Knicks. DH: Undecided. Sorry, but I can’t call them the best in the league until they’ve at least played the two top dogs in the East. Call me after they play New York and Brooklyn MI: Fiction. Portland and Brooklyn are better right now. These Cavs need to show they can win together before entering that conversation. ME: Fact. ‘Nuff said. JJ: Fiction. They had a relatively easy schedule to open the season with their only test being Portland which was darn near the most amazing comeback in NBA regular season history. That was pre-trade and I think post-trade the Cavs could take the Blazers, but the true test in the East remains to be the Knicks and Nets. The Cavaliers start and finish both season series with those two teams in December and January. I’ll give you my “no doubt about it answer” after that. 5. Give me one storyline that is starting to bud that will fully bloom upon entering 2014? RC: Has to be the FA frenzy, teams are gearing up even more this year, giving away players for cap space and waiting to get a big name guy. It is going to be a madhouse. DH: Where do LBJ and/or Melo end up? The answer to that question will weigh heavily on who is a title contender for the indefinite future. MI: Its gonna be the Free Agency frenzy that will occur in the offseason. ME: Where will the big FAs in LBJ and Melo end up. JJ: That has to be the frenzy of cap space clearing only getting more and more out of hand. We saw this during 2009-2010 season where teams (including contenders) were attempting to rid themselves of unfriendly contracts in hopes of being players in what was a big time FA market. Well those same players can/will hit the market again along with some other big names. I’m predicting right now that by the time the trading deadline comes and goes we’ll have as many as 12 teams in play for AT LEAST one of the big names potentially hitting the market. That’s a wrap for this edition of 5-On-5.