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2013-2014 Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 10, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
For a still-growing NBA stud, the third season is the charm. It is then that a young player usually makes a significant leap, and if that holds true for Kyrie Irving, the impressive haul that the Cleveland Cavaliers have reeled in this past summer may put them in the playoffs for the first time in the post-LeBron James era.
If the newly signed Andrew Bynum can stay healthy, he and Irving can form one of the Eastern Conference’s best tandems, and with combo guard Jarrett Jack and promising forward Earl Clark joining them, optimism reigns for the young Cavaliers. If Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson make even marginal strides in their respective games, the Cavs may be one of the surprise teams of 2013-14.
Additions: Anthony Bennett, Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Carrick Felix, Sergey Karasev
Subtractions: Wayne Ellington, Omri Casspi, Shaun Livingston, Marreese Speights, Kevin Jones, Chris Quinn, Daniel Gibson*, Luke Walton*
*Unsigned Free Agent
“If” is a great word to use when talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ upcoming season, because so much of their success hinges on hypotheticals. The Cavs are a playoff team if Kyrie Irving, Andrew Bynum, and Anderson Varejao can stay healthy for a majority of the season. They’re a playoff team if Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson can take a giant step forward as pros, and if rookies Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev can come along and contribute quickly. There is a lot to like about this roster, and new (old) head coach Mike Brown is a great guy to lead them back to the postseason. But a lot of things have to fall just right for that to be the case, which is why it’s hard to call them a sure-thing playoff team. Remember, they only won 24 games last year.
4th place – Central Division
– Joel Brigham
This could be the season that the young Cavaliers end their three-year, post-LeBron James playoff drought. If Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao are healthy and return to All-Star form, Cleveland could be a very scary team. They would have one of the best frontcourts in the league, alongside a very strong core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. The Cavaliers also have a much-improved bench with the additions of Jarrett Jack, Anthony Bennett and Earl Clark among others. Mike Brown will make his return to Cleveland, which bodes well for the Cavs since he has never missed the playoffs when coaching for a full season. Entering this year, the playoffs aren’t just the goal in Cleveland but rather the expectation. While that may seem like lofty expectations for a team that finished last season with a 24-58 record, the Cavaliers have the talent to finish among the Eastern Conference’s top eight teams. There’s no question that the Cavs’ best basketball is a few years away when Irving, Waiters, Thompson, Bennett and company are in their collective prime, but this could be the first year that Cleveland makes some noise.
3rd place – Central Division
- Alex Kennedy
It took a few seasons to recover from LeBron James’ departure to Miami but the Cleveland Cavaliers persevered and now have their eyes set on making a playoff run in 2014. Whether those dreams are realized this season comes down to the health of Kyrie Irving and to a lesser extent centers Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao. All three will need to step up. There is solid collection of talent up and down the roster. The Cavaliers drafted Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft and signed veterans Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark in free agency. The confidence is flowing in Cleveland but the team may still be too green to legitimately reach the playoffs in 2014.
5th place – Central Division
- Lang Greene
It’s one thing to say that you want to become a playoff team; it’s another thing to go out and make the moves in order to become one, which is exactly what the Cavaliers did this offseason. After drafting Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall they went out and signed veterans Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark and Andrew Bynum. Bynum is one of the biggest wildcards going into next season. If he can rediscover the All-Star form he developed the last time he played under Mike Brown, who the Cavaliers brought in to replace Byron Scott, the playoffs are a near certainty. Unfortunately, Bynum is a year removed from his last action and as of early September still hasn’t been cleared for full basketball activities. However, the Cavaliers are far from reliant on him. They have plenty of depth, which makes their playoff aspirations realistic with or without a healthy Bynum. Either way, though, they won’t be good enough to pass two certified contenders in the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers in the Central Division.
3rd place – Central Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
The post-LeBron James era enters its fourth season and things are looking up for the Cavaliers. Some luck in the NBA draft lottery over the past few years has yielded an impressive array of youngsters. Among them is a pair of number one overall picks in Kyrie Irving (2011) and Anthony Bennett (2013), along with new acquisitions Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark and oft-injured Andrew Bynum, the Cavaliers should no longer be a laughingstock in the Eastern Conference. The team is still a few years away from contending, but if Irving can put together an MVP-caliber season like Derrick Rose did in his third season, the Cavs may surprise some people. Still, those are not the kind of things that wise minds bet on. The Cavs have hope of winning big in the future, but not so much this season.
3rd place — Central Division
- Moke Hamilton
Top Offensive Player: Kyrie Irving. Irving increased his scoring output from 18.5 points per game as a rookie to 22.5 points per game last season. He is as adept at finishing around the basket as he is at pulling up for a three. He is a proficient midrange shooter as well, and has good court vision. His paltry 5.9 assists per game last season are not indicative of his ability to set the table for his teammates.
Top Defensive Player: Anderson Varejao. When healthy, Varejao is one of the top defensive frontcourt players in the entire league. He has good lateral quickness and defends pick-and-rolls exceptionally well. Though he is not a great shot blocker, he rarely misses an assignment or fails to challenge attempts. He plays with a very high energy level and is one of the NBA’s top rebounders, pulling down about 13 rebounds per game over his last 50 contests.
Top Playmaker: Jarrett Jack. Although Irving is one of the game’s future superstars, at this moment, Jack is a superior playmaker. Jack sees over the top of defenses, reads pick-and-rolls well and excels at finding open teammates around the basket or behind the three-point line. Last season, in a head-to-head per-36 minute comparison, Irving managed just 5.9 assists to 3.2 turnovers while Jack yielded 6.7 assists to just 2.4 turnovers.
Top Clutch Player: Kyrie Irving. In the 2012-13 season, Irving scored 145 points in the final five minutes of games in which the point differential was five or less. Only Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant scored more in such situations. He hit three impressive buzzer-beating game-winners and rode his newfound “clutch” reputation into the record books. After gaining league-wide notoriety for his dramatics, Irving became the seventh player in NBA history to become an All-Star before the age of 21.
The Unheralded Player: Earl Clark. For the first four years of his career, Clark struggled for consistent minutes before earning a career-high 23 minutes per game as a member of last season’s Los Angeles Lakers. Clark showed that he can provide valuable bench scoring and hit an occasional three-pointer while having the lateral quickness to defend smaller players. Standing at 6’10, he can effectively defend all three frontcourt positions, while still positively contributing offensively.
Best New Addition: Andrew Bynum. The Cavaliers also added Jack, Clark and rookie Anthony Bennett, all of whom can be impact players for Cleveland. Jack significantly improves the bench, Clark is a solid role player and Bennett has immense potential. However, Bynum is one of the NBA’s top centers when healthy. It wasn’t long ago that he was an All-Star and he has two titles on his resume. If he returns to form, Cleveland could be a very scary team.
- Moke Hamilton
1. Jarrett Jack — The Golden State Warriors overachieved last season and Jack was a major reason why. Playing alongside Stephen Curry, Jack orchestrated the Warriors’ offense in key stretches and allowed the sweet-shooting Curry to play off of the ball. In Cleveland, Kyrie Irving is likely to enjoy the same benefit. With the Cavs dearth of three-point shooting and Irving’s 39 percent mark from long distance last season, employing Irving as the shooting guard makes sense, even if sparingly. Jack also provides a very steady hand controlling the offense and is capable of making big plays down the stretch of close games.
2. Anthony Bennett — Along with Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, the Canadian-born Bennett became the fourth lottery pick for the Cavaliers in the past three years. Bennett has the skills of a power forward, but is a bit undersized at just 6 -feet 7-inches tall. Still, in today’s NBA where small ball is the norm, he provides the Cavs with a rugged power player who should easily score 12 points per night, and he can do it at either forward position. Though mostly a power player, Bennett has a decent mid-range shooting touch and provides some offensive versatility.
3. Andrew Bynum — According to Bynum, he moved to Cleveland a week after his introductory press conference and has been hard at work at the team’s practice facility since then. Though there is no timetable for his return, even at 85 percent, he can make a world of difference for the Cavaliers. Bynum’s impeccable timing will take time to return after missing all of the 2012-13 season, but all indications are that he is working hard to get back to in-game action as soon as possible. For a team that has the potential to show some evident progress in its rebuilding situation, that is good news.
4. Dion Waiters — Waiters is an intriguing talent who believes he has the potential to be one of the top shooting guards in the entire NBA. In this league, confidence is the half the battle. While there is a thin line being confidence and arrogance, if Waiters puts the time in and works on some of his game’s deficiencies, he can help the Cavaliers achieve quite highly this season. According to him, that is a burden that he is willing to carry. Specifically, his three-point shooting must improve if he is to share time on the floor with Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao.
5. Dan Gilbert — Across the NBA, Gilbert is one of the league’s more popular owners, though not necessarily for the best of reasons. Still, two things about him are undeniable. First, he cares greatly about competitive balance in the league, and that is actually a good thing. Second, he desperately wants nothing more than to deliver a championship to the fans of the Cavaliers—one of the most loyal (and tormented) sect of supporters in the league. He has spared no expense in trying to deliver and for that, he deserves an immense amount of credit.
- Moke Hamilton
Anything the Cavaliers hope to accomplish this season begins and ends with Irving, who has taken the league by storm. But newcomer Jack provides a solid second orchestrator for the Cavs. Because Jack is a capable distributor and shooter, he and Irving can share time on the floor, interchangeably playing point guard and shooting guard. As a member of the Golden State Warriors last season, Jack excelled in a very similar role, playing with Stephen Curry. With Irving and Jack, the Cavs have one of the league’s more formidable one-two point guard punches.
Last season, the Cavaliers shot just 35 percent from three-point range, ranking 22nd in the league. Bynum and Anderson Varejao will look for the bulk of their scoring opportunities on the interior, so losing proficient three-point shooters such as Wayne Ellington, Donald Sloan, Daniel Gibson and Omri Casspi presents a concern. Waiters will be leaned upon for scoring, but must improve his outside shooting. It will be difficult to have him play with Bynum, Varejao and Irving for extended minutes if his outside shot remains inconsistent.
- Moke Hamilton
Will Andrew Bynum stay healthy?
Bynum helped the Los Angeles Lakers win consecutive NBA championships in 2009 and 2010 and is one of the NBA’s top two-way centers when healthy. If he is near full strength, he can propel the Cavs into the playoffs. However, since the Lakers won their last championship in 2010, Bynum has missed 116 of 230 games, including the entire 2012-13 season when he failed to appear in a single game for the Philadelphia 76ers. Former Cavalier Zydrunas Ilgauskas had similar injury issues early in his career, but got healthier over time. Maybe history can repeat itself in that regard.
- Moke Hamilton
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