Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

 

Sharpening the Sword

The Cleveland Cavaliers shocked a lot of teams yesterday with how well their young team started off early in the season. They went from having the league’s longest losing streak ever to a potential playoff contender in a few years. They drafted their best bet since LeBron James in Kyrie Irving in the 2011 draft with the number one overall pick. Along with that, they drafted another starter in Tristan Thompson with their fourth pick who, at the power forward spot, shows a lot of promise.

The Cavaliers have elected–or kind of forced–to build their team through the draft and go young and its worked out so far for them. They’re looking like they’ve got what could be one of the best point guards in the NBA in the next few years and they’re doing their best to build a core of players who will keep him productive. With the keys in Irving’s hands, I think the Cavs will be able to find their way out of the gutter and back into the playoffs in no time at all.

They’ve had a pretty productive offseason as well. They haven’t attacked free agency as much as they probably could have, but they were very active on draft night and made some decisions that I think were very good.

With the number four pick in the draft, the Cavaliers took Dion Waiters. I think that Kyrie Irving had a lot to do with this. According to some sources of mine–and yes, I have sources–Irving and Waiters are best friends. They train a lot with each other during the offseason when basketball is at its lull. Aside from the fact that they have a very good relationship off of the court, I think that Waiters brings exactly what the Cavaliers need.

Outside of Kyrie Irving, the Cavs really have no scoring touch. That’s something that Waiters was known for out of Syracuse. He brought them a scoring touch from off of the bench in limited minutes. He’s a very versatile player, as he can play the point guard position in a role where he’d be the Cavaliers sixth man, or he can be their starting shooting guard–maybe even share a backcourt with Daniel Gibson off of the bench. Regardless, he’ll bring an added element to this team with his scorer’s touch.

They also drafted Tyler Zeller out of North Carolina. Zeller has an innate skill of running the floor; something that he does better than most bigs that are in the NBA. He’s a 7 footer with some great energy. He’s also a very capable post player as well. That’s something that the Cavs have lacked for years and something that the NBA has generally been missing over the last decade. Teams with a post presence are able to do some extreme damage in the league.

Zeller is the perfect compliment to either one of the Cavaliers power forwards–both of which are starting caliber forwards in the NBA. Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson are very similar in that they are both high energy players. They’ll both give you active hands on the defensive end and in rebounding. They’ll both get under the opponents skin, as well, with all of the hustle plays that they’ll both make.

Zeller will be the offensive presence in that front court. He’ll take the ball in the high or low post, hit cutters from that position, and has a nice assortment of post moves to go with all of that. Though, the best attribute that he’ll bring to the table is his ability to run the floor. Again, some bigs still can’t do that in the NBA. His stride and pace get him down the floor in a hurry. If a guard gets a rebound, they’ll need to look up because its likely that Zeller will already be running.

I think that the Cavaliers have put together a young core of players in Thompson, Irving, Waiters, and Zeller that will have them back into the postseason and competing with the best of the best. The most important positions on the floor are the point guard position and the center position. They’ve addressed those two positions in the passed two years and done it well. They’ve added the extra element of scoring that they’re going to need in Waiters and they’ve got all the energy in the world between both of their forwards. This team is poised to get into the playoffs.

The Ball in Kyrie’s Hands

Kyrie Irving is the key to this franchise’s success. Any number one overall draft pick will be facing a lot of pressure, but imagine how much pressure Irving is under. He was drafted after a year in which the franchise was shunned by LeBron James for the prettier girl–which would be the Miami Heat. Not to mention that he’s carrying a team on his back that had the NBA’s worst losing streak ever. There’s  a lot that Irving is going to have to do to cure the ailing city of Cleveland.

Uncle Drew has certainly gotten off to a great start by winning the Rookie of the Year award and having Cleveland in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot at one point last season. He also tore it up in the U.S Olympic Select team scrimmages with some of the best talent in the NBA. It looks like the sky is the limit for Kyrie Irving and Cavaliers fans couldn’t be more proud.

Irving averaged 18.5 points and 5.4 assists last season. Not to mention that Irving was only a percentage point away from shooting 40% from beyond the arch last season. He was very close to joining the 40, 50, 90 club last season shooting 46% from the field and 87 % from the free throw line. He also did all of this in only 30.5 minutes per game, which is amazing when you think about it. Not many people thought that Irving would be able to impact the game as soon as he did, but it happened. We could all be watching what is the next best thing at the point guard position.

Irving’s 56% TS and his 51% eFG are nothing to scoff at either. This guy is excellent at shooting the ball–one of the best in the NBA at such a young age. Irving had a 21.4 PER last season and that’s better than most of the top guards in the league’s PER when they first entered the league. The point is that Irving is way ahead of his time when it comes to the game of basketball. It shocked me and I’m pretty sure it shocked a lot of you as well. I think that the Cavaliers will be able to trust Irving with the franchise for years to come.

Minute Allocation

This Cavaliers team has plenty of talent on it but not enough roster spaces. I think that they’ll have to spread their minutes out between all of their positions, so no one may play more than 34 or 35 Mpg. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s take a look at how things should play out.

Starters

Kyrie Irving- 34.5 Mpg

C.J Miles- 29.2 Mpg

Alonzo Gee- 28.5 Mpg

Anderson Varejao- 31.3 Mpg

Tyler Zeller- 29.9 Mpg

Reserves

Dion Waiters- 25.8 Mpg

Omri Casspi- 22.3 Mpg

Jeremy Pargo- 24.2 Mpg

Daniel Gibson- 21.4 Mpg

Kelenna Azibuke- 18.4 Mpg

Tristan Thompson- 28.3 Mpg

Samardo Samuels- 20.4 Mpg

Luke Harangody- 16.3 Mpg

Conclusion

I think that this is a team that has a way to go before they actually have any postseason success, but I think that they’re on their way to getting there. This team is going to be a force in the NBA in the next two to three years with Irving, Waiters, Zeller, and Thompson leading the bunch. They could have what is the next best point guard in Kyrie Irving and that’s good enough for me.

With the most important position on the floor addressed, the Cavs only have to worry about building around him. They’re doing a great job so far and I expect them to keep that up.

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