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Cleveland Cavaliers Preview: What to Expect From the Wine and Gold this Season
As Cleveland Cavaliers fans are well aware, there have been many changes to the team since the end of last season. As always, with change come questions. There is no shortage of questions for this upcoming season when it comes to this Cavs team. Let’s delve into some of these questions and examine what we know and what we might be able to expect for the Cavs upcoming season.
Can Kyrie Irving reach superstar status and lead the Cavs to the playoffs?
Kyrie Irving recently turned 21 and is ready to take on his third season in the NBA with full force. Critics have called his maturity, loyalty and injury history into question throughout the past year (all of which this writer thinks is overreaction), but the things he’s said and done this offseason make it evident he’s ready to lead the Cavaliers into a new era.
Irving is already approaching superstar status in the NBA and the next step is for him to lead his franchise to the playoffs. Cavs fans already know what Irving is capable of and now it’s time for him to showcase that on the national stage, a la Stephen Curry in this year’s playoffs. With a much-improved roster and playoff expectations on the line for the first time since he was drafted, this writer fully expects Kyrie to step up to the challenge and become that leader the Cavs need. He’s the future Chris Paul of the league.
Can Dion and Thompson take the next step and cement their roles in the future of the franchise?
Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson look poised to take the next step in their progression as well. Thompson stepped up after Anderson Varejao went down this past season and averaged 13.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in 32 minutes per game in that 57-game stretch. Now that he has switched his shooting hand, he might be even more efficient. If he gains a consistent mid-range jumper, he could be lethal.
As for Dion, he already looks to be in better shape than his rookie season and seems determined to get better. He shouldn’t have to shoulder so much of the load on offense this year with the additions of Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Bynum. This writer expects Dion to play smarter, be more efficient and get others involved more within the improved lineup. This should be quite a revealing season for him and should shed some light on just how good he can actually be in this league.
Who will be starting and how deep will the Cavs be?
The Cavs will field their deepest roster in quite some time. As far as backup point guards go, Jack is about as good as they come. His presence will allow Kyrie to get rest whenever needed and help him stay fresh for the end of games. Jack also gives Mike Brown plenty of options to play around with when it comes to the backcourt. Jack can play alongside Kyrie or Dion as well and will take pressure off of both players.
CJ Miles proved to be a worthy backup shooting guard to Dion last season and this writer would be surprised if he doesn’t at least marginally step up his game this season. He is a veteran presence and should continue to have a positive effect on Dion and the team. This includes rookie Carrick Felix, who most likely won’t see much time this season but could be a valuable role player down the road.
This will be the first season since LeBron left that the Cavs will actually have some depth at the small forward spot. Alonzo Gee, who had no right starting every game last season, and Earl Clark should obtain the bulk of the minutes at small forward this season. Clark is an improvement over Gee at the position and should take over the starting role soon after the season gets underway. While it’s likely both of these players will be gone after this season, the combination should be enough to hold down that position for a year. 19-year-old Sergey Karasev is unlikely to see too much time this season, but should ultimately be the future key reserve here. This writer believes he has a bright future and hopefully his game will transition to the NBA level sooner rather than later.
Number one overall pick, Bennett, will be taking the court again any day now after recovering from his shoulder injury. He has stated how excited he is to start playing again and how he’s ready to help the Cavs win this season. Bennett has an arsenal of weapons on offense and should be a serviceable backup for Thompson right away. The interesting question here is how Brown will divvy up the minutes between Bennett and Thompson, and whether Bennett will ultimately see some time at small forward as well.
Cavs GM Chris Grant said earlier this month that he’s already impressed with Bynum’s work ethic and that Bynum seems determined to get back to his Lakers days where he was one of the most dominant big men in the league. Varejao is reportedly completely healthy right now after recovering from injuries and a deadly blood clot. He looks ready to pick up right where he left off last season by dominating down low. Tyler Zeller looks to be going from starting 55 games his rookie season, due to injuries, to the third option at center this season. He has reportedly bulked up over the offseason and it will be interesting to see how he fares against backup centers this year.
Can the Cavs stay healthy?
This is by and large the biggest question going into this season. A healthy Bynum, Kyrie and Varejao make the Cavs a different team entirely. If those players can get/stay healthy for even majority of the season, the Cavs could make a run in the playoffs this year. This writer is much more optimistic about Kyrie and Varejao avoiding injuries than Bynum, but we can only wait and hope at this point. Even without Bynum, this Cavs team can make the playoffs and be a dangerous first-round opponent. If he can get and stay healthy into the playoffs, that’s another story entirely.
If the Cavs are fortunate enough to field a healthy roster this season, the chemistry comes together, and everyone takes a step forward; this could be an extremely fun season.
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