On September 18, it was announced that Andrew Bynum would probably miss the remainder of the season and is “nowhere ready” to be playing basketball yet.
When the Cleveland cavaliers chose to sign the Sixers’ big man this offseason, they knew his recovery would be gradual (hence the incentive laden contract, though still costly, I realize). I believe they still have a good shot at the playoffs without his presence this year.
The recent good news is Anthony Bennett is back on the court for 5-5, meaning he’s playing at full speed, full contact.
Without Bynum, the Cavaliers have a few looks to their personnel that will be favorable.
I imagine a starting lineup next year of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, and Anderson Varejao.
Firstly, lets not forget Varejao was the league’s leading rebounder before his health forced him to miss the last 57 games of the season. I don’t see why he won’t be somewhere in the top of the league this year, among company like Dwight Howard, Nikola Vucevic, Zach Randolph, and David Lee.
This lineup will allow Anthony Bennett to run the high pick and roll game with Irving and have Thompson and Varejao hitting the offensive glass. Varejao, as we’ve him progress, is also very effective in the pick and roll game with his developed jumpshot. We will also see Tyler Zeller playing the roll man when he comes off the bench after seeing him and Irving play for Team USA together during their intrasquad scrimmage, but we’ll talk his role later.
If Thompson’s switch of hand has truly improved his jumper, the Cavaliers front court is still potent, though young, without an absolute need for Bynum to be in playoff contention.
To utilize the fast break game with the athletes that the Cavaliers boast, they can play the aforementioned Zeller at the five, where he filled in for Varejao last year in his absence. Thompson and Bennett, and the interchangeability of Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee, show a front court that can move up and down the court while forcing turnovers with their length.
Whenever Bynum returns, he will make an immediate impact on the Cavaliers roster, likely making them in the top half of the East. But without Andrew Bynum, the Cavaliers are still a threatening team and have the potential to see postseason action without Bynum, especially if the young guys develop the way the Cleveland front office believes they can. The front court situation in Cleveland is an optimistic one, and with or without Bynum, they pose a threat to teams with their athletic ability. Look for Mike Brown to utilize this dynamic in the upcoming season with superstar Kyrie Irving at the helm.