Everyone is expecting significant improvement from the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. The improved squad is expected to be somewhat competitive for the first time since…well, you know. Playoffs, playoffs, playoffs. I’ve been hearing a lot of that. Sure, I guess grabbing a hold of the 7th or 8th seed would be good for Cleveland’s self-esteem. Here’s a question I have: will this current roster, for the most part, be Cleveland’s team of the future? I’m going to tell you what I expect of them this season:
Guards (A-): Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Jarrett Jack, C.J. Miles, Carrick Felix (IR)
Nobody is ever going to fill in the shoes of LeBron James and everybody is well-aware of that. However, superstar Kyrie Irving is the closest it gets for Cleveland. The Cavs are fortunate to have gotten such a high-character talent after losing their everything. Now, this is Kyrie’s team and he is openly ready for the challenge. I’m not yet sold on Dion Waiters as the shooting guard of the future. He needs to improve a lot on his decision-making, especially when it comes to shot selection. Coming off a great year with Golden State last season, Jack gives Cleveland’s backcourt a lot of depth and versatility.
Forwards (C+): Earl Clark, Tristan Thompson, Alonzo Gee, Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev
Cleveland’s forwards are very young and inexperienced. They signed Eark Clark in the offseason, who’s apparently lined up to take the starting small forward job. I’m not too sure how that will work out. But I do know first overall pick Anthony Bennett must condition himself and prepare to be a small forward in the NBA. Even if he does fit better at power forward, Bennett absolutely needs to utilize the combo forward concept as it’ll make him that much more valuable. Thompson is another very young player who appears to be fitting well in the early stages of this franchise. He’s a very good rebounder and a decent defender, showing promising signs of improving on that end.
Centers (B): Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller (IR), Andrew Bynum (IR)
There’s no telling when Andrew Bynum will return to the court. I hope, for the sake of Cleveland’s organization, he does return soon in basketball shape. One more big injury and Bynum’s career is in serious trouble. With that said, Anderson Varejao must always prepare to be the starting center. He was having a career season last year until he went down with an injury, averaging 15.7 points and 16 rebounds per 40 minutes. Varejao has developed into a very good team motivator and provides the Cavs with maximum energy on the court.
Defense (C+): Cleveland gave up the highest shooting percentage to opposing teams last season at 47.6%. That will definitely have to change if they want to be a playoff team. As much as Irving is praised, he needs to improve on the defensive end. That isn’t easy to do and it’s not necessarily something you can practice like jump shooting. The best defenders have the toughest mentalities and put in extraordinary effort. Irving has to play hungrier on that side of the ball. With Varejao in the paint, opposing teams usually don’t get anything easy. Varejao seems to almost always be wherever the rebound is. He is a madman, running all over the court to make his impact known.
Shooting (B): Outside shooting is an area Cleveland has worked to improve over the last couple years. I think their shooting efficiency will steadily improve as Irving and the team continue to grow. When you’re feeling good as a team then you start to hit your shots. Jarrett Jack is a great example of someone who shoots the ball with confidence. Although there are dozens of better shooters than Jack, his confidence allows him to come through in the clutch. The addition of Earl Clark should also give Cleveland’s outside shooting numbers a small spark.
Experience (C): Cleveland is young but they are also talented. The best young players grow to learn the game quickly as well as understand how to exploit the opponent’s weak spots. Kyrie Irving is on track to becoming that one superstar the whole organization can look up to. The young Kyrie will have to be a leader for other young players such as Waiters, Bennett, and Thompson.
Standing – 9th East: I think the majority of NBA fans would be pleased to see Cleveland back in the postseason. Although they’d very likely be knocked out in the first round, it would be a positive sign of encouragement going forward. However, with Washington’s recent trade for Marcin Gortat, I’m bumping the Cavs out of the playoffs.
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