As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the Cleveland Cavaliers, who last year had a record of 24-58 and did not make the playoffs.
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Coach: Mike Brown
General Manager: Chris Grant
2012-2013 Record: 24-58
Place in Conference: 13th
Leading Scorer: Kyrie Irving, 22.5 PPG
Key Additions: Center Andrew Bynum, small forward Earl Clark, power forward Anthony Bennett, point guard Jarrett Jack and Head Coach Mike Brown
Key Loses: Head coach Byron Scott, power forward Marreese Speights, shooting guard Wayne Ellington, point guard Shaun Livingston and guard Daniel “Boobie” Gibson
How one summer can change the outlook on a basketball teams season. Just a few months ago, things looked bleak for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Injuries decimated their top players and sans Tristan Thompson, young talent failed to show any progress. But then ping pong balls dropped in the Cavaliers favor once again, netting them the talented Anthony Bennett. Then Jarrett Jack signed with the Cavaliers and then Andrew Bynum joined the fold. Now, with just a few moves, this roster – lead by emerging star Kyrie Irving – has hope for the first time in a few years.
Chris Manning – RightDownEuclid.com Co-Editor
Strengths: The Cavaliers strengths are obvious. Irving can score in bunches and, on the right night, I see this team having the potential to be versatile and potent on the offensive end. Granted, that largely depends on the health of Irving and Bynum, but the potential is there. For example, a lineup of Irving, Jack, Sergey Karasev, Thompson and Bynum would be hard to stop and will also be able to rebound well. And for once, this team also has depth as multiple positions. Sans an injury to Irving, I’m fairly confident that a drop off from a starter to a backup wouldn’t be too difficult. So, while the defense slowly comes along under Mike Brown, expect the offense to carry the load. It may not always be effective, but it’s going to be fun.
Weaknesses: For starters, the defense is going to take some time to shore up. There isn’t one lockdown defender on the wing and Irving has yet to prove he can defend even half as good as he can shoot. And still – as it was a year ago – there’s a argument to made that Alonzo Gee is the Cavaliers best wing defender. Even if Brown improves the Cavaliers on that end of the floor (and I think he will), there is no way the Cavaliers can compete at an elite level defensively. In the end, I suspect that this will be their ultimate undoing. They can score as much as they want, but if they can’t stop a team from scoring, they’ll stop any success before it starts. And like offense, it starts with Irving. If he can step up his game, it will set a tone that should have a ripple effect on the rest of the roster.
2012-2013 Predictions: In the end, the Cavaliers will sneak into the playoffs. There will me many ups and downs – largely based on who is on the floor and who is not. I think, first and foremost, that Irving will become a star by years end and be in the mix for best point guard in the league. The Cavaliers will also improve on defense, which should make them more competitive. Other than that, there are more questions than answers on this team. No one can look you in the eye and be able to tell you they can predict exactly how the Cavaliers season will play out. There are just going to be too many variables at play here to completely nail down the season. It’s going to be a wild ride.
Zak Kolesar – RightDownEuclid.com Co-Editor
Strengths: Obviously Kyrie will be leading the charge again for the Cavaliers this season, and this means that the Wine and Gold offense will continue to climb up the charts with him at the helm. I’m going to go out there and make an extremely bold prediction, saying that Kyrie will lead Cleveland to a top-10 offense from one that ranked t-18th in PPG and 29th in FG% one season removed. On a team that Mike Brown is the head coach of, I don’t necessarily see this as a positive mixture, but Irving, like LeBron James, is capable of turning this team around real quick with the 2013 offseason additions. Even though Brown stresses defense, this team has all the right pieces to function highly as an offensive unit. This is different from last season, when the offense was only balanced solely on Irving and Dion Waiters.
Weaknesses: The problems, however, will continue to be on defense, as the Cavaliers, yet again, failed to address this need via the draft. Andrew Bynum is a total question mark right now, and we know how hit or miss he can be at this point. I think in a conference with a lot of scoring talent that doesn’t defend well, we can expect to be in the lower half of defenses. That’s not good at all. The Cavaliers didn’t add any raw defending talent to their roster this offseason. With Kyrie already honed in on the offensive end, he needs to turn on the defensive switch this season. To think that other players still need to catch up to his pace makes this one unfortunate situation for the Wine and Gold this season. Defense produces postseason wins, and this team isn’t at that level talent-wise.
2012-2013 Predictions: I’m hoping this is Kyrie’s most healthy season, obviously, and I think it will be. For that reason, he will once again lead this team in pretty much every offensive category imaginable. I think they finish above other rising teams such as the Wizards, Raptors and Pistons in the conference, but still won’t get out of the first round of the playoffs. It will be nice to see Cleveland back in the postseason, but this conference is very bottom heavy at the moment, so the Cavaliers need to prove that they’re ahead of the trend. If Bynum’s on the court, a top-5 finish isn’t unforeseeable. If he’s not, a bottom-5 finish would be a better guess. I’m stressing that this season. If he’s not on the court, then there’s really no defense for this team unless players start focusing in on their own individual assignments. Coach Brown will do a lot better job of this then Coach Scott did, and for this reason, I believe the Cavaliers are again postseason-bound.