Unless the Cavaliers unexpectedly get involved in a blockbuster trade or make a surprise move to sign free agent shooting guards Michael Redd or Leandro Barbosa, which is unlikely since the Cavaliers have signed C.J. Miles and will eventually resign Alonzo Gee, the Cleveland roster has pretty much taken shape. Weak points still seem to be at the two and three positions, but the Cavaliers did their best to address those problems without forking over a large sum of money.
Even though some things didn’t go as planned during Summer League play (Kyrie Irving hand injury and Dion Waiters’ conditioning struggles), the Cavaliers still managed to again build through the draft and add some cheap role players. This led ESPN.com to predict the Cavs to finish 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 33-49 record, an 8.4-percent increase in wins from their 2011-12 campaign.
Many believe that with Irving leading the way for the young Cavs’ squad, they can compete for a playoff spot this season and will soon be able to eclipse the 42-win mark. Not so much through free agency, but the Cavaliers have used the past two drafts to build a starting lineup that could soon consist of Irving running the show, Tristan Thompson at power forward, Dion Waiters as the second backcourt member and Tyler Zeller as the true big man. The Cavaliers could soon be contenders again with one of the youngest starting lineups in the Association.
I really liked the way the Cavaliers’ front office handled their offseason, as they didn’t make any big or risky moves that could leave them in the same position they were in when LeBron James left town. They currently have the most cap space in the NBA with $11.1 million and a plethora of draft picks over the next three years from the Miami Heat (via James trade), Los Angeles Lakers (via Sessions trade), New Orleans Hornets, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic.
They’ve set themselves up for future success. Now they just have to execute. With that said, here is what I thought of the Cavaliers’ offseason in regards to what they did to better their frontcourt, backcourt, defense and bench. I’ll also resubmit my prediction on who will start in Wine and Gold come October 30.
2011-12 season: 21-45 (.318), fifth place in Central Division (3-12)
Offensive Efficiency: 98.1 (27th)
Defensive Efficiency: 106.0 (26th)
2012 NBA Draft: SG Dion Waiters (Syracuse, No. 4 pick), C Tyler Zeller (North Carolina, No. 17 pick – acquired in trade with Dallas Mavericks)
Offseason additions: SF C.J. Miles (two-year deal), PG Jeremy Pargo (two-year, $2 million deal), SF Kelenna Azubuike (one-year, $1.1 million deal), PF Jon Leuer (one-year, $470,000), C Michael Eric (multi-year deal)
Offseason losses: C Semih Erden (signed with Anadolu Efes of Euroleague), G Manny Harris (waived and unsigned), PF Antawn Jamison (signed with Los Angeles Lakers), G D.J. Kennedy (traded to Memphis Grizzlies), SG Anthony Parker (retired)
Resigned: Luke Harangody (signed one-year, $1.1 million qualifying offer)
Grading System: A — Excellent, B — Good, C — Satisfactory, D — Poor, F — Failing
Frontcourt: B- – Once Anderson Varejao went down with a wrist injury early in the season last year, the Cavaliers lost that physical edge they gained when Wild Thing was on the court. With the additions of big men Tyler Zeller and Michael Eric, who are both upgrades over Semih Erden, the Cavs will be able to put Andy back into the traditional four role. Zeller will shine in his first season in the Eastern Conference because of his tall and athletic frame. He’s a different breed of center, which puts the Cavaliers at a huge advantage down low.
Backcourt: C – Dion Waiters wasn’t selected with the No. 4 overall pick to ride the bench this year. The situation at the two was looking pretty bleak before the Cavs chose Waiters, with Daniel Gibson slated as the only true shooting guard on the roster before the 2012 NBA draft. With a below-averaging showing in Las Vegas this summer, Waiters will have to come into camp fully conditioned to be able to survive Byron Scott’s tough training program. Jeremy Pargo and Donald Sloan will most likely fight for the backup spot behind Kyrie, and I like Pargo as a pickup who can build himself up through the D-League system. C.J. Miles is flexible at the small forward and shooting guard position as well, but the Cavaliers didn’t gain any surefire impact players in their backcourt this offseason.
Defense: C — I won’t be totally satisfied with the work the Cavaliers did to bring in defensive help until Alonzo Gee is under contract with the team. C.J. Miles may be a good offensive pickup at small forward, but he’s definitely not an upgrade over Gee defensively. Kelenna Azubuike and Jon Leuer weren’t brought in to help on the defensive end, but Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller will cause turnovers and grab boards.
Bench: B+ – The Cavaliers brought in affordable players who are capable of playing big roles. The Cavaliers didn’t have a reliable enough bench last year to keep them fighting for that final playoff spot, but I think the players that the Cavaliers brought in this offseason will make the bench a lot more dependable so that coach Scott feels comfortable giving players like Irving and Varejao all the rest that they need. Again, until Gee, who I believe would help the team out more off the bench, gets resigned I won’t feel totally comfortable with the status of bench. Reserves like Pargo will get their chance during training camp to secure a backup role, and I think he will nab a roster spot when it’s all said and done.
Projected starting lineup:
PG — Kyrie Irving
SG — Dion Waiters
SF — C.J. Miles
PF — Anderson Varejao
C — Tyler Zeller