Culture of Hoops

2013-14 NBA Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

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Most Important Player: Dion Waiters
I don’t want anybody to think I’m saying that he is the “best” player on this team, because I’m not. Uncle Drew, Kyrie Irving, is clearly the best player on this team and that goes without saying. However, if the Cavs want to come out of the basement in the Central Division and get into the playoffs, Waiters needs to become a dog. He already plays angry, but he needs to start biting teams in the butt.

X-Factor: Defense
Remember that fat kid in little league that spent his time in right field picking dandelions and wearing his baseball glove on his head, then the ball would get hit that way and he would be picking his nose? That was what watching this team last year was like. They are trying to improve this year by adding on-again/off-again ex-coach Mike Brown who has the reputation of being somewhat of an expert when it comes to D. Last season, this was the Cavs D:

101.2 Opponent Points Per Game (25th)
.523 Opponent Field Goal Percentage (29th)
4.7 Point Differential (26th)

Those aren’t just bad numbers, they are downright atrocious and they need to be fixed. Mike Brown said that if his team doesn’t play defense they won’t play. We’ll see how true that is. The frontcourt is obviously going to be the anchor. Anderson Varejao had plans on being NBA Defensive Player of the Year before he got hurt. Tristan Thompson’s production increased as the chances to snag more boards went up, and Alonzo Gee has been an excellent defender his entire career. It’s really the backcourt with the problems. It’s a good thing that D can be taught.

Rotations: The starting five will be…

PG Kyrie Irving
SG Dion Waiters
SF Earl Clark
PF Tristan Thompson
C Anderson Varejao

Of course, this is all a crap shoot really, depending on where Andrew Bynum is in his recovery. As soon as he is healthy, he gets the start at center with Varejao and Jarrett Jack being the first in off the bench. Varejao and Bynum will each get equal the amount of playing time to protect them from injury. If Bynum is not ready then Thompson will see more time at center and rookie Anthony Bennett will be in at the 4. Gee will come in for Earl Clark, and C.J. Miles will likely see the most time backing up Waiters. As for Tyler Zeller, Carrick Felix and Sergey Karasev, they will be the last guys in.

What Needs to Go Right: They need to stay healthy. I think GM Chris Grant’s strategy was to go into hospitals and give people contracts.

It’s Really Bad If: Mike Brown’s philosophy doesn’t sink into the guards. We know that Bynum and Varejao have been successful in the past in it. They can score as well as any team in the league as they averaged just over 96 points per game. You will be in a lot of games by scoring that much, but they just have to learn how to stop the guys in the different colored jerseys.

Bold Prediction: They will make the playoffs. The Eastern Conference is weak and the Cavs along with the Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets, are the most improved teams going into the East this year. Every team minus the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls have seemingly gotten worse. The Milwaukee Bucks lost their backcourt, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers decided to rebuild, the Atlanta Hawka are stuck in a perpetual fifth seed and Madison Square Garden is essentially a sarcophagus for the New York Knicks. In my estimation, only rhe Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Knicks and Nets are locks to go to the playoffs. The rest of the spots are wide open.


Andrew Bynum, C
Strengths: Great playing with his back to the basket, not being ready to play when he says he will be ready to play.
Weaknesses: Bowling.
Season Prediction: This one is tricky because there really is no way to predict what you’re going to get out of Andrew Bynum. It doesn’t seem solong ago he was in the discussion for being the best center in the league and now we are hoping for Lebron-esque male-patterned baldness so we don’t have to stare at his ridiculous head every night. I really hope he can return to form as I am a huge fan of this guy, cause when healthy he is a monster.

Anthony Bennett, SF
Strengths: Polished offensive game, strong.
Weaknesses: Undersized, Canadian (kidding, eh).
Season Prediction: I was not a big fan of the Cavs number one pick when I first heard about it. I kind of shared the same reaction Bill Simmons did during the draft, but then I thought about it. Bennett is exactly what this team needs – a superstar offensive talent that could also be groomed into an elite defender. He is too strong for 3s and too quick for 4s, Bennett has the potential to be a nightmare match-up for opposing teams.

Earl Clark, SF/PF
Strengths: Athleticism, can stretch the defense.
Weaknesses: He’s Earl Clark.
Season Prediction: You know the small forward position is weak when you have Earl Clark starting at it. He can shoot a little and rebound a little and handle the ball well for a guy who’s 6’10” tall, but he’s hardly going to do anything that is going to make our heads turn.

Carrick Felix, SG/SF
Strengths: Defense, energy.
Weaknesses: Ball handling, size, shooting.
Season Prediction: This is a Mike Brown kind of a guy. He has energy and can guard three positions effectively. He will probably turn into a great guy to have off the bench, and maybe even a starter later in his career. Think of a Diet Kawhi Leonard.

Alonzo Gee, SG/SF
Strengths: Defense.
Weaknesses: Offense.
Season Prediction: Over the last few seasons Alonzo Gee has been the best on-ball defender the Cavs have had. The only problem is that he was not very good at much else other than that. He would occasionally have a highlight play or two, but that was pretty much about it. He will be great off the bench because you can’t win very many games with him as your starting small forward.

Kyrie Irving, PG
Strengths: Scoring, three-point shooting, ball handling, ball handling and ball handling.
Weaknesses: Defense, gets boo-boos.
Season Prediction: Irving is going to show that he is on his way to being the best point guard in the league in the not too distant future as long as his defense improves. A German Shepard could score 10 on him. But, with Mike Brown back on the bench with a defensive style of play, Irving could do nothing, but improve in that area. Injuries will continue to be a concern because his body is apparently made out of Jenga pieces. It may be a bit unfair to criticize him for it due to the fact that they are freak injuries and not one nagging problem (i.e., a knee, shoulder or ankle), but if he can figure out how to stay on the court and play defense there is no doubt that he will go to his second NBA All-Star game. Mike Brown needs to make him drink a glass of milk and put him in a bubble suit.

Jarrett Jack, PG/SG
Strengths: Clutch, excellent sixth man.
Weaknesses: Defense, odd-shaped head.
Season Prediction: The Cavs made, arguably, their best free agent signing this year by getting this guy. Jack is not only going to captain the second unit, but he’s essentially an insurance policy in case Irving’s body decides to malfunction. He’s a Jarrett “Jack”-of-all-trades (crickets) who does a lot of things very well, but nothing spectacular. Look for nine points and four assists off the bench.

Sergey Karasev, SG
Strengths: Three-point shooting, high basketball IQ, good free-throw shooting.
Weaknesses: English, lack of athleticism.
Season Prediction: In a couple of years, Sergey Karasev may be the steal of the 2013 NBA Draft. He is the son of a coach and has played under him during some of his time in Europe. This guy can connect from deep and can get a shot off as quick as anyone in the league today.

C.J. Miles, SG/SF
Strengths: Three-point shooting.
Weaknesses: One-dimensional.
Season Prediction: C.J. Miles is good for a couple of threes a game and that’s all he’s really going to be asked to do. As long as he can stay in front of his man and knock down open shots, Miles will see playing time.

Tristan Thompson, PF/C
Strengths: Rebounding.
Weaknesses: Needs to take on more responsibility.
Season Prediction: Thompson has improved his game in nearly every area each year and we should expect more of the same from him this season, especially in the scoring department. This offseason he transitioned to shooting with his right hand. Last year he shot 60.8 percent from the free-throw line, and since making the transition and playing for the Canadian National team in the FIBA Americas tournament, it shot up to 78.0 percent, which should improve his ability to put up points.

Anderson Varejao, PF/C
Strengths: Defense, rebounding, high energy, hair care.
Weaknesses: Playing full seasons.
Season Prediction: Anderson Varejao is one of the most beloved players in Cavs history. He has been in the city through the highs and the lows; and even during the low times he played every game like it mattered. However, now he is getting up there in age and his minutes are going to get cut when Bynum comes back. But, we will enjoy every minute he plays.

Dion Waiters, SG
Strengths: Getting to the basket and intensity.
Weaknesses: Defense, settles for bad shots.
Season Prediction: “I’m coming.” If you’re a Cavs fan you should absolutely love this moxy. There were moments last year where he showed that he could possibly become that damn good, however, there were also times where he showed that he could also become a really good janitor. He can get to the basket as well as the Wades and Hardens of the world, but his shot doesn’t go in. Last season, Waiter’s field goal percentage was .412. I hate to see what it looks like around his toilet seat.

Tyler Zeller, PF/C
Strengths: Tall.
Weaknesses: Weak.
Season Prediction: Coming out of the draft, the word on Zeller was he had a low ceiling and a high floor and that’s exactly what he is. What we saw from him last year is what we’re going to get.

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