The Cleveland Cavaliers were one win away from reaching their second straight championship round, although falling short of this one was not a big deal. The Cavs fell to the Bulls in the Las Vegas Summer League semifinals, finishing with a 4-3 record over their two weeks.
Cleveland started cold, losing their first two games to Brooklyn and Milwaukee, before winning four in a row and reaching the semis of the tournament. The whole Summer League for Cleveland was basically a feeling out process for a small number of players.
Jordan McRae. McRae is the only guy who played in Vegas that had experience with the Cavaliers. The team has shown a lot of hope and trust in Jordan as he managed to get a little bit of playing time in the regular season and even saw the floor in last year's playoffs. They're trying to get him as many reps as possible, hence sending him back to the Summer League.
He's a lot like Kyrie Irving in that he's a scoring-happy point guard. He loves to shoot and he gets to the basket, but where he differs a bit is that he has insanely long arms. His lateral quickness and those octopus-arms help McRae to be a solid defender, something that bodes well for his long-term status. He shot well enough last season to see a few minutes here and there but he displayed a quality this past week that many teams would kill for: Getting to the stripe.
Jordan McRae was the 3rd leading scorer in the Vegas Summer League, averaging just over 24 points per game. Are you ready for this? In seven games he took 81 free throws. 81 free throws! He only took four in the final game against Chicago, meaning he took 77 in the previous six games. He was 11-13 against the Lakers, 13-17 against Brooklyn, and 17-17 against Milwaukee. That's nuts. He hit 81% from the line, too, so that's a lot of free points.
The downside is that he shot just 38% overall and under 30% from deep, numbers which aren't consistent with what he's done in the past, but are still concerning. Sportswriters looked past the low percentages and named McRae to the 1st team all Summer League team.
Kay Felder is the other player that the Cavs put through his paces during the past two weeks. Felder was the guy that Cleveland bought back into the draft for and they seem pretty keen on his abilities. He was solid. The rookie averaged 15 points and four assists in about 30 minutes a game. He made some terrific plays - no-look passes, nice shake-off moves for jumpers, etc - but just like McRae, he shot poorly. Felder was 42% from the field and just 23% from deep, which is atrocious.
Either way, Felder has a decent shot of making the roster for this Cavs team. I imagine he's slotted behind McRae, which technically makes him the 4th guard (behind Mo and Kyrie) but that's not as bad as it sounds. In this off-season where guys you've never heard of are getting $10m per year, Mo Williams picked up his player option at $2m. To me, that's Mo admitting that he's just about done. He won't be getting many minutes at all, although I suspect he'll get backup PG minutes at the beginning of the season before coach Lue goes to either McRae or Felder. Smart money says it's McRae, but Felder has a chance at sneaking into the lineup. If a back-court players gets injured, he'll be on the squad pretty quickly, I would think. He was a fantastic passer in college, so he's probably not as ball-dominant as McRae or Irving, but he also took the 2nd most field goals in the entire summer league. 2nd only to McRae.
The rest of the Cavaliers in the summer have been a mixed bag. DeAndre Liggins averaged about 6 points and 5 boards in 25 minutes, playing the 3rd most of anyone on the roster. Liggins shot 45% from deep, but that's on a very limited number of shots. DeAndre has made stops in Russia and Germany in the past couple of years, so his hope is to find a home in the USofA's top tier.
Another bright spot was Raphiael Putney, who put up 10 points and 5 rebounds in just 20 minutes of play per game. Putney will likely not make it onto the Cavs roster, but maybe his performance will land him somewhere in the league. His passport is getting awfully full, so hopefully he can stay home. Since graduating from UMass in 2014, Putney has played in the NBA D-League, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Venezuela.
There is added difficulty for front-court players to find a roster spot after the Cavs added Chris Andersen last week. Beyond that, there has been endless fan speculation that LeBron James will slowly play more of the nominal power-forward position as he gets older, allowing him to slow down a little and not have to beat guys off the dribble. LeBron has not exactly been on board with this yet, but time will tell.
Overall, the Cavaliers played pretty well at the summer league, particularly when you consider that they're the defending champs with a notably old team.