The Cleveland Cavaliers have been the brunt of many jokes ever since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. The team hasn't quite found that big turnaround they've been hoping for, and every time owner Dan Gilbert makes a comic sans promise that the team will win a championship before LeBron wins another one, LeBron wins another one. This summer, the Cavs had a nice, albeit under-the-radar, off-season and signed some solid contributors. Adding veterans to their young core may finally give fans in Cleveland something to hope for.
Head Coach: Mike Brown is back in Cleveland after 5/82 of a disastrous seasons in LA. Brown will most likely employ the Princeton offense, which relies on a lot of back door cuts and drive-and-dishes, which works well when you have a lightning quick point guard with ridiculous handle.
Last Season’s Record: 24-58. Last year was supposed to be a turnaround year for the Cavs. It was supposed to be the year they worked their way into the playoffs as a dark horse. However, injuries took down stars Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao and the team was once again in the cellar. It worked out, though, as they earned the number one pick in the draft and selected UNLV forward Anthony Bennett.
Key Player Losses: Marreese Speights. Speights had a career year last season, averaging over ten points a game for the first time and shooting a personal best 81% from the free throw line. He also added 5.1 rebounds and .7 blocks. He signed with the Golden State Warriors in the off-season.
Key Player Additions: Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev, Earl Clark, Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack. Bynum is the wild card as no one knows how much he will play, if at all. The Philadelphia 76ers rolled the dice on Bynum, sending away Andre Iguodala in order to get him. Bynum played exactly zero minutes for Philly and they let him walk. His contract with Cleveland is only partially guaranteed so the risk is somewhat low. He could turn out to be a big reward for them, or he could wind up being a 285 pound seat cover. Bennett was a surprise as the number one overall pick in the 2013 draft, but he's got a Larry Johnson-like game that extends out to the three point line. Sergey Karasev may be the best shooter to come out of that same draft. Clark and Jack are very low profile signings, but they could both contribute big off the bench.
Best Player: Kyrie Irving. This kid has one of the tightest handles in the entire NBA. Don't believe me? Ask Brandon Knight. He can also shoot the ball (he is the reigning three-point shootout champion) and has excellent vision. If he's not already, he will soon be in the conversation as the best point guard in the league. He just needs to stay healthy.
Worst Player: Carrick Felix. The 33rd overall pick in the draft is a 6'6" swingman from Arizona State. He may find himself spending some time in Canton with Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles and Karasev ahead of him in the rotation.
Player due to breakthrough: Tristan Thompson. The 6'9" forward decided to switch his shooting hand this off-season. After playing his whole life believing he was left handed, Thompson has switched to his right and found out he may have been wrong this whole time. During a post-practice shooting contest, Thompson hit 3-of-5 three pointers right handed. If he can improve his jump shot and even extend his range, he could have a breakout season.
Random Seattle Connection: Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff filled that same role for the Supersonics from 1985-1990
Best Case Scenario for the Season: The Cavaliers are once again in the dark horse position, hoping to sneak into the playoffs. They have a good chance with a decent young core. If Irving, Varejao and Bynum can stay (or in Bynum's case, get) healthy, they could easily make a seventh or eight seed and possibly even surprise some people in the postseason.
Worst Case Scenario for the Season: The worse case for Cleveland would be Varejao and Kyrie once again going down with injuries and Bynum missing the entire season. Irving missed his freshman season at Duke, but the Cavs still selected him number one overall, and he has had a string of injuries ever since. Varejao has been a man of glass, missing more games than not, and Bynum has knees made of tissue paper.
Most Likely Scenario for the Season: The Cavs will most likely make the playoffs, which is a good sign for them. Their team is very young and continuing to improve. They just need to avoid injuries.
Prediction: I think the Cavs can make the playoffs. Irving is blossoming into a great leader and Waiters is developing his own game. I like the Bennett pick and I think he helps them immensely. They are deep at center, but injuries may cause Tyler Zeller to see more minutes than anyone would like. Jack is a good backup at PG and can help Irving not only by sparing him some minutes, but also as a mentor. Earl Clark may wind up being the steal of free agency.