Iiiiiiiiiiiiiit’s almost basketball time at The Q!
I can’t overstate how excited I am that basketball season is back again. While there are still issues with the current NBA system, there’s no reason that we can’t enjoy the promise of a new season and a new direction for our Cleveland Cavaliers. While this will almost certainly be a losing season, there is progress to be made, and we’ll be trying harder than ever here at WFNY to not just analyze the wins and losses but dig into who is improving and proving to be longterm options for the organization. While there were a lot of spare parts and bad fits last season, the process of acquiring young talent to infuse the roster has begun. So, I have just a few quick thoughts before the Cavaliers take on the Toronto Raptors tomorrow night in the Q.
1. Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson will get us through a lot of cold and lonely nights on the NBA slate. With Irving the Cavaliers very much have that consistent, dynamic, creative scoring threat that they lacked all of last season. I’m looking forward to watching the rookie point guard take his bumps (it looks like he’ll have his fair share of shots blocked) in this condensed season. With those lumps will come experience in leading an offense and trying to get other players involved. He’s shown in a short amount of time his ability to stop on a dime and shoot, get to the foul line, and provide a burst to the bucket. Kyrie has all the tools defensively, and I expect him to work hard on that end of the floor. With Thompson, there will be some nights where we say, “is Tristan Thompson even dressed tonight?”, but I also think there will be others when we see three Sportcenter Top 10-worthy plays in the same night. I expect the free throws to get better and the rebounding prowess on the offensive end to eventually carry over to the defensive end. In short, the Cavaliers have some gaping holes, but not too long from now, I don’t think point guard or power forward will be.
2. Byron Scott says that he will use a 8-9 man rotation before Semih Erden comes back and a 9-10 man rotation with Erden. So, if I were Scott, I would start Irving, Parker, Casspi, Jamison, and Varejao with a bench of Sessions, Gibson, Thompson, and Gee. The backup center battle will be the most fluid spot in the rotation the way I see it. I think with all things even, the Cavaliers would love to see Erden nail that spot down to get a good look at what they have. Ryan Hollins and Samardo Samuels are also candidates for that position, especially before Semih comes back. I would much prefer Samuels; to me, he has clearly improved the most in the offseason. You cannot doubt the guy’s effort, ability to move bodies underneath, and skill with putting the ball in the hole around the basket. He’s undersized for a backup center, but he’s everything that you want in a center in terms of toughness, charge taking mentality, and rebounding that Ryan Hollins, 3-4 inches taller, is not.
3. The roles of Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, and Anderson Varejao are to ground this team, not let them get too up or too down, and to provide consistent performances. The problem? Any and all of these three veterans could be shipped mid-season to a contender looking for a role player. If that happens for a couple of these guys, that’s a good thing because a) they will have stayed healthy, b) they will have performed well enough that a contender wants them, and c) it will improve the Cavaliers’ draft status. If you make me guess now, I say they hold onto Varejao and trade the other two for draft picks and/or young wing players. I suppose there’s an outside shot they still move Ramon Sessions, but they would have to get another point back in return.
4. I already like Byron Scott’s attitude for this season better than last season. Whereas his team struggled through learning the Princeton offense last season, this season, he took a simplified approach on offense, despite returning 11 players off last season’s roster. Instead, he has put the emphasis on defense. That’s what Cavalier fans are used to after years of watching Mike Brown-led teams, defense fueling the offense. That’s why last season (in particular, the three-point defense) was such a shock to the system of many. A NBA team can fight its way through offensive set issues based on talent, creativity, and pace. What a team does not have the ability to do is fake it on defense. If you don’t have a unified approach on that end of the floor, you have no approach. Teams will walk all over you, and adjusting that end of the floor to start will keep the Cavaliers in more games longer. Irving, Casspi, and Tristan Thompson are all plus defenders in my eyes, so expect the team to be better there. The poor defense of Jamison, Sessions, and the slowing legs of Parker will come into play, however.
5. Season outlook? I’m going with a 18-48 record for the Cavaliers and a 13th place finish in the East. Irving dazzles on a lackluster team, Thompson shows enough to understand why the Cavaliers took him at four, some veterans get traded, and the Cavaliers lose a lot of close games down the stretch because of Irving wearing down trying to carry this offense. The team will be better for it in the long run, though, because we know another top five pick is necessary to put a core together.
(Photo: David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images)