PACE: #19 95.6
OFFENSE: #29 99.5
DEFENSE: #29 109.0
The Cleveland Cavaliers showed last season why LeBron James has been arguably the best player of the league in the last 3 years. With basically the same roster minus James, the Cavs won just 19 games and established one NBA record by losing 26 consecutive games between Dec. 20 and Feb. 9.
Without James, the 3 most important players for the Cavaliers were Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao and unfortunately for them, all these 3 players battled through injuries all season long. This also helps to explain why the Cavaliers were such a bad team: they were the second worst team of the league in both ends of the floor!
It wasn’t a good first year for Head Coach Byron Scott and in part he was responsible for the debacle as his Princeton offense style is too complex and he admitted that midway the season. Probably this is why his teams struggled so bad in the first season: in New Jersey he went 26-56 in his first season, but then the Nets acquired Jason Kidd and went to the Finals the two following seasons and in New Orleans, the Hornets went 18-64 in his first season, got Chris Paul in the draft and turn them into one of the best Western conference teams.
Fortunately the Cavaliers got lucky in the draft and land Kyrie Irving with the first pick of the draft. Irving was considered by a wide margin the best player of the draft and he has the tools to be a terrific Point Guard: great feel for the game, excellent court vision and even a good shooting ability. He will likely have a great mentor in Byron Scott, considering the way Scott helped Kidd and CP3 in the past.
The rest of the backcourt remains basically the same and the continuity in his case doesn’t seem to be a good thing: Anthony Parker is now 36-years old and he coming from a season in which he shot 39.9% from the field; Daniel Gibson is a defensive liability and he needs other players to create offense for him and Ramon Sessions isn’t the player we thought he would be after watching him play in Milwaukee. All these players were used to stand around in a corner waiting for a LeBron James’ pass, but without him they simply can’t create offense. Irving might help them in this department, but the Cavaliers will have to refresh the backcourt in the near future.
On the frontcourt, Anderson Varejao looks to be completely healthy for this season and his presence is huge for the Cavs because he adds a necessary dose of toughness and physical play to the roster. Before he got injured last season, Varejao almost averaged 10 rebounds and 10 points per game and even though his defense wasn’t brilliant at the time, he was still the best defensive player of the team.
Antawn Jamison is on the decline of his career and the Cavs need badly to cut his minutes if they want to win. It’s hard to say something like I just said, but Jamison simply doesn’t want to play near the basket and wants to avoid contact. Last season he attempted just 2.9 FGA/game at the rim vs. 3.6 FGA/game from 16-23 feet and 4.7 treys per game!
The Cavaliers drafted Tristan Thompson with the 4th pick whose athleticism and 7-foot-2-inch wingspan have many expecting him to make an immediate impact on the defensive end. The contrast between Thompson and Jamison is pretty clear, so Byron Scott will have to manage properly the two players. Jamison can play at the Small Forward position as well. In fact he has been playing like that in the last years, so it wouldn’t be a great difference for him. Also Omri Casspi was traded in the offseason for J.J. Hickson and he will compete with Semih Erden and Samardo Samuels in the frontcourt.
With the current roster, I don’t expect any miracles from the Cavaliers this season. Byron Scott usually improves his teams on the second season, but truth must be told, it won’t be that hard to improve the Cavaliers from what they were last season. Nevertheless, I think that the Cavs will be one of the teams “fighting” for the best chances in next year’s draft once again.