1. The Cavaliers started and ended its season against the Brooklyn Nets. What was the biggest storyline of the 2013-2014 Cleveland Cavaliers?
Chris Manning, RightDownEuclid.com Co-editor: For me, I’d say the biggest storyline was that Anthony Bennett resembled the 2013-2014 Cavaliers. He was a disappointment as the top overall pick in the same way the team was. Coming into the season, so many Cavaliers fans and bloggers seemed to think that his team was on the up-and-up. Now that the season is all done, it looks nothing like the team that beat the Brooklyn Nets on opening night. Chris Grant was fired, most of his free agency signings didn’t pan out and the team stayed in the playoff race partly due to the Eastern Conference being downright terrible this season. The end result is disappointing, much like Bennett’s rookie season that while not historically bad, was pretty terrible.
David Zavac, FearTheSword.com Editor: I think it’s the utter failure of the summer of 2013 for the Cavs. The contributions from Jarrett Jack, Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark, Anthony Bennett, and Sergey Karasev were all disappointing. Only Karasev didn’t have a clear role heading into the season. The Cavs clearly thought Bennett would be ready to back up Tristan Thompson, and that didn’t happen. Chris Grant has lost his job, of course, and I think what happened last summer is enough on its own to warrant that.
Now, Bennett, Karasev and Jack can all end up being productive at some point for Cleveland. It just didn’t happen in 2013-14.
Trevor Magnotti, RightDownEuclid.com Staff Writer: Well, the answer to this question needs to have two divisions: The “Actually a Storyline That is Real and Relevant” division, and the “Dumb and/or Unrealistic Topic for Talking Heads to Yell About” division. From the latter, you have the Kyrie/Dion rift, Kyrie wanting out of Cleveland, and LeBron coming back, all of which took way too many years off of all of our lives this season and, at least for the first two, will probably continue to do so next year. Yaaaaaaayyyyyyyy. But in real, actual basketball story lines, the biggest one throughout the entire season was the struggle of Anthony Bennett. Bennett was a talking point from the day he was drafted, when he was the shocking selection over Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter and Victor Oladipo, and from the opening tip of 2013-14 on, his struggle was a particular lowlight of the season. He was one of the few Cavaliers who was consistent early on; unfortunately, that consistency was him being awful. He improved subtly from mid-January on, but when he got the hook from the lineup with a patellar tendon strain in March, the damage had been done: a 6.8 PER, the second-lowest win share mark of any rookie, and countless ominous stories and lowlights. His season highlight was either scoring 15 points off the bench against the Pelicans or going HAM on the Spurs deep bench in a blowout loss. Bennett’s rookie season was the greatest overarching representation of how much of a tire-fire this team was, especially early on.
2. Who was the MVP of this Cavaliers team?
CM: I’d say that Dion Waiters was the Cavaliers’ MVP this season. At some point in the season, Waiters become the emotional leader of this team and it showed on the court. He wasn’t consistent, but he really became the on-court leader during the year. And not for nothing, Waiters was the most aggressive Cavalier when the team found itself on the wrong side of blowouts. For instance, take a look at the first game against the Atlanta Hawks this season. The Cavaliers were completely routed and much of the team went into a shell, but Waiters didn’t. He scored 26 points and, although he took flak for it, he spent part of the game barking at the Hawks and fighting to help erase a huge deficit. So, again, Waiters wasn’t perfect, but either was the team. As a result, he gets my MVP vote.
DZ: A certain amount of disappointment in Kyrie Irving is fair. I still believe he was the most valuable player on the Cavaliers. If Varejao had played more minutes, maybe I would have moved that way. But given the lack of help Kyrie has, the Bynum experiment gone wrong, Mike Brown’s unwillingness to work on offense early in the season, and the what Irving is asked to do I’m not sure I think his year is all that surprising. He’s got an incredibly bright future, but the Cavaliers have to start surrounding him with players that accentuate his skills, rather than duplicate them. And he needs shooters and someone more capable than Tristan Thompson is. Maybe next year’s version of Thompson is the guy. I don’t know.
TM: I’m going to be unconventional here, but the conventional options are all wildly underwhelming. Kyrie didn’t really improve at all this year, and was far too passive in most games for my taste. Tristan Thompson and Dion were wildly inconsistent. Varejao didn’t stay healthy, and Luol Deng was a disappointment. So I’m giving it to Spencer Hawes. Hawes’s addition at the trade deadline was a complete surprise to most fans, and what he gave the team really seemed to help both individual players and the team as a whole. The spacing he provided with his three-point shooting created space for Tristan and Varejao to work inside, and his pick-and-pop game with Kyrie was tremendous. This in turn helped space the floor more for the other shooters on the floor as well, like Matthew Dellavedova, who’s shooting turned 180 degrees after the addition of Hawes. Defensively, he was also the closest thing the Cavs had to a rim protector, and even though he is still legitimately atrocious in overall defense, this added effect did help take pressure off Varejao and Deng. Really, Hawes’s impact on the team was the most palpable and consistent, and that’s why he’s getting my vote.
3. Heading into next year, what do you see as the biggest positional need for the Cavaliers?
CM: I think it’s a tie between a defensive anchor and shooters. Although Spencer Hawes has been a nice addition, he’s never going to be the ideal center to play behind Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. No matter how good he is the pick and roll, he’s a sieve on defense. If the Cavaliers could replace him with a shot-blocker in the middle that has decently pick and roll skills, that would be huge. As for the shooting, it likely needs to come from the small forward spot and the player needs to be low usage. With the Cavaliers likely continuing with Irving, Waiters and Jarrett Jack in the backcourt, adding another high-usage wing is only going to create problems. Whether the Cavaliers take a player such as Rodney Hood or Nik Stauskas in the draft to help with spacing off the ball (or possibly find a cheap veteran after the draft), perimiter shooting is without a doubt a need.
DZ: A small forward that can shoot. The Cavaliers have been good when Irving and C.J. Miles share the court. Maybe Miles isn’t the small forward the Cavs need, but they need someone who understands how to move without the ball and exploits soft spots of the defense on the perimeter. I can’t handle watching Irving kick it out to Gee or Clark, or even Deng, a non-shooter anymore. Kyrie and Dion can work if there is someone on the wing to help space the lane.
TM: Shooting, shooting, ALL THE SHOOTING. This team was woefully inconsistent from three-point range this season, and Matthew Dellavedova and C.J. Miles as the main outside threats, teams were able to easily pack the paint against the rest of the Cavaliers, resulting in struggles for Kyrie, Dion, and Tristan. If the Cavs can go out and get at least two players who can space the floor with a consistent three-point shot, it’ll make the Cavs’ penetrating guards so much more efficient. We’ve seen this be the blueprint in Atlanta, where Kyle Korver helps Jeff Teague get to the rim with ease, and Dallas, where the same is true when Jose Calderon and Vince Carter are there to space things out for Monta Ellis. If the Cavs can get a few more guys that can drill threes consistently, and if Mike Brown can incorporate these players correctly, it will help solve a lot of the issues Kyrie and Dion faced attacking the basket this year.