Cavaliers Training Camp Preview
The Cavs made it all the way to the NBA Finals in 2007, but were quickly dispatched by San Antonio. Find out what to look for in training camp as Cleveland tries to clear that final hurdle in 2007-08.
Going into camp, the two-deep depth chart looks like this:
|PG||Daniel Gibson||Eric Snow|
|SG||Larry Hughes||Sasha Pavlovic|
|SF||LeBron James||Ira Newble|
|PF||Drew Gooden||Donyell Marshall|
|C||Zydrunas Ilgauskas||Anderson Varejao|
Daniel Gibson appears to be the frontrunner at point guard after his impressive performance in the playoffs last year. Reliable veteran Eric Snow will back him up and provide stability should Gibson suffer a "sophomore slump". Larry Hughes, Damon Jones and Shannon Brown will get some spot minutes at the ’1′ as well.
Larry Hughes will get significant playing time as the starter at shooting guard. Sasha Pavlovic, if he re-signs, will be Hughes’ primary backup at the ’2′. Larry and Sasha will likely get the bulk of the minutes, but depending on the lineup being used, Daniel Gibson, Shannon Brown, Ira Newble and David Wesley may all see sporadic time at shooting guard.
LeBron James will gobble up major minutes at the ’3′, with defensive specialist Ira Newble giving him a blow for a few minutes per game. Because of the way this team is constructed, these may be the only two players who log minutes at small forward unless there are injuries or roster changes.
Drew Gooden will be the main man at power forward, and Donyell Marshall will bring his three-point shooting off the bench in relief of Gooden at the ’4′. If available, Anderson Varejao will also get some time at power forward in certain situations.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas will once again be the starting center, but despite his skills his ability to play heavy minutes is always in question. If Anderson Varejao makes it into camp, he will get the first crack at being the backup ’5′ and should get plenty of playing time behind "Big Z".
As Cleveland prepares to defend their Eastern Conference championship, they certainly have some problems to deal with. They have two important players who are still restricted free agents: Pavlovic and Varejao. The team is negotiating with both players, but representatives for both Pavlovic and Varejao say the sides are still very far apart in terms of contract numbers. According to numerous media reports, both Sasha and Anderson have suggested they might leave to play in Europe if this isn’t resolved soon. That seems unlikely, but regardless, getting these players on the court is key as the opening of camp arrives.
There is some uncertainty in the Cavs backcourt going into October. Daniel Gibson should get a shot to start at the point, but Cleveland may also look at a combination that has Larry Hughes at the ’1′ and Sasha Pavlovic starting at shooting guard. Gibson can then slide over to backup Pavlovic, leaving Eric Snow to spell Hughes. Sasha’s contract uncertainty and subsequent availability will be a determining factor in how these lineup combinations play out. If Pavlovic doesn’t get into camp early, it is more likely the Cavs will look at a Gibson/Hughes starting backcourt.
The Cavaliers had no picks going into the 2007 NBA Draft. Due to their solid roster and unwillingness to pay a steep price in trade, Cleveland decided to stand pat on draft night. If the Cavs get back to the NBA Finals this season, it will be without the help of any rookie talent.
With such a deep roster, the Cavs do not expect any big surprises in camp this year. However, one player who could take a step forward is combo guard Shannon Brown. The 2006 first-round pick out of Michigan State did not get much floor time in 2006-07, but showed flashes of quality play. There is tremendous competition for playing time in the Cleveland backcourt, so Brown needs to take his game to the next level if he wants to succeed with this team. Shannon has the talent to do just that…the rest is up to him.
The Cavaliers did not make significant changes to a team coming off their first appearance in the NBA Finals. The goal this season is to hone this unit even further so they can take that next step and bring home the championship hardware in 2007-08. If their free agents are re-signed, everything Cleveland needs to make that happen will be in place, including the presence of a go-to superstar. The Cavs’ quest to conquer the NBA begins next week!