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New-look Cavaliers offer reasons for excitement: While We’re Waiting

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Happy Tuesday, WFNY!

Well, last week in this place I tried to spin some optimism with the Cleveland Browns and we saw how that turned out. Cleveland is a Browns town and everyone wants to talk about the Browns all the time, but at this point, I think I need to take a few weeks off talking about them. It’s just such a frustrating franchise to root for and to write about.

Instead, with Cavaliers media day happening yesterday, it seems appropriate to turn our attention to basketball season.

What do we make of the 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers? It’s a complicated question. We know the Cavaliers are going to be a very different team from what we saw last season. I think it’s safe to say the Cavaliers will be an even deeper team than last year’s team.

I mean, let’s take a look at the roster as it stands right now:

https://twitter.com/cavs/status/912337158345764864/photo/1

That doesn’t even include Dwyane Wade. But we all know Wade is totally going to play for the Cavs this season, right? So then, we should try to guess what the 15 man roster will look like.

  1. LeBron James
  2. Kevin Love
  3. Isaiah Thomas
  4. JR Smith
  5. Tristan Thompson
  6. Dwyane Wade
  7. Derrick Rose
  8. Channing Frye
  9. Jae Crowder
  10. Richard Jefferson
  11. Kyle Korver
  12. Jeff Green
  13. Iman Shumpert
  14. Cedi Osman
  15. Ante Zizic

Yes, that leaves Jose Calderon, Kay Felder, and Edy Tavares off the team. Oh, no Kendrick Perkins, either, who was something of a surprise name on the training camp roster. It’s possible the Cavaliers could make a different move to make room for Wade and Calderon. But look at that depth. Outside of Osman and Zizic, these are all players who have had varying degrees of success playing very meaningful minutes.

There’s no question the team is going to miss Kyrie Irving’s offense, particularly in the postseason. I think the Cavaliers will be a better regular season team than last year’s team, though. In fact, if the Golden State Warriors didn’t exist, I would think this would be one of the craziest rosters we’ve seen.

Of course, that’s the crux of the issue. The Golden State Warriors do exist. And while I think this Cavs team has potential to be really good and a lot of fun to watch, I’m not very confident it’s better than the Warriors. Especially not in the postseason, when the bench shrinks and depth doesn’t matter as much.

If we call LeBron and Kevin Durant a push1, the three next-best players on the floor will all play for Golden State. I think the Cavaliers will have the ability to better defend the Warriors than what we saw last year, but I’m skeptical that it will be enough to change the outcome if the Warriors are at full strength.

As for the Eastern Conference, there are certainly those who think the Boston Celtics did enough to surpass Cleveland as the best team in the conference. It’s certainly possible. With Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, etc, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in Boston. But I just don’t feel Boston is quite ready to supplant the experience and depth of the Cavaliers.

In fact, I don’t even believe the Celtics are the top challenger to the Cavaliers. I think the Toronto Raptors are still the team most capable of giving the Cavs problems, with the Washington Wizards right there. The Milwaukee Bucks remain an interesting team as well, and if they could stay healthy, they could surprise a lot of people in the East.

The Raptors are a team many are overlooking, but the addition of CJ Miles gives them an interesting look. They may not be as deep as other teams, but a starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, CJ Miles, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas is intriguing to me. Over the last three years, the Raptors are the only Eastern Conference team to put even the tiniest sliver of doubt into my mind, and I still think when healthy they can do things to bother the Cavaliers that the Celtics cannot.

In all honesty, though, I still view the East as Cleveland’s to lose. Last year, the regular season was a trying one. The team didn’t always seem the most focused, there always seemed to be at least one injury, and the results weren’t always what we expected. This season, I expect the regular season to be a little more fun. I think we will see a more focused team and it starts with a seemingly rejuvenated LeBron James.

Anyone who watched anything from media day yesterday saw a slightly different LeBron. All offseason LeBron has vigorously posted his workouts to social media, and in both words and actions, LeBron looks more energized than we’ve seen in previous offseasons. A lot has changed with the Cavaliers and while few are willing to say the Cavaliers are definitively better off without Kyrie Irving, the fact is this presents an opportunity for the Cavaliers to change some things about their dynamics both on and off the court. The Cavaliers have a chance to be a more defensive team than what we’ve seen the last couple of years. The offense can flow a little more freely without the push and pull of LeBron and Kyrie.

It’s far too early to worry too much about the ultimate outcome of this upcoming season and whether or not the Cavaliers did enough to close the gap on the Warriors. For now, I prefer to just relish the fact that basketball is right around the corner and for the first time in a few years, I don’t know how the team is going to look. There’s a genuine excitement about that and the opportunity for change. I can’t wait for the season to start.

  1. Of course I side with Team LeBron here, but for the sake of presenting some sense of objectivity, I’m willing to allow this to be a push. []

  • RGB

    2018 Browns Draft Position Watch.
    Currently: #1, #7
    Last Week: #7, #11

  • RGB

    Saquon Barkley and Minkah Fitzpatrick are going to look good in orange.

  • Chris

    *Orangier

  • scripty

    Iman Shumpert traded to Philly for a 2nd pick and cap space. Something like that.

  • mgbode

    Trading Shumpert will cost the Cavs draft picks, not the other way around.

  • scripty

    Cavs will jettisoning him Hot Fuzz style

    http://replygif.net/i/351.gif

  • Natedawg86

    KI needs to stay healthy if Boston has a chance. I was always worried he was going to get hurt. Guess I don’t have to worry about that any more. Where is that Shamrock guy?

  • scripty

    I’m really interested in seeing what the record will be when LBJ sits. It was inexcusably bad the last year. I don’t like taking cheap shots at Kyrie but that always bothered me.

    Back before he left for MIA, we went like 15-2 without Lebron those last 2 years with a lesser cast.

  • Harv

    Wade’s the rare 35 year old roster addition I’m excited about, because they have the depth to use him judiciously and save his legs. But think about this: Wade and Thomas and Crowder with LeBron in Cavs’ unis? Kyrie in green? The NBA is now a star-laden lava lamp, so best be careful who you love, who you hate.

    I respect but do not fear the Raptors, not when Lowry goes all David Price in late playoff rounds. And LeBron is burrowed way deep in that team’s cranium. I fear a healthy Bucks team, and their explosive cheetahs that now have some experience and confidence. They’re too young to be scared and Kidd has them playing with arrogance.

  • RGB

    And LBJ can go on long romantic walks along Edgewater Beach with his bff Wade.

  • Harv

    Hmm, seem like more of a Bratenahl couple. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • BenRM

    Last year, I called Boston just a bunch of guys. This year they are a bunch of young guys who haven’t Done it in their own and Hayward.

    Kyrie is a great player, but he couldn’t do much of anything for this team when LeBron was sitting. How is he supposed to lead this team?

  • Steve

    “I think I need to take a few weeks off talking about them.”

    Try a few years. It’s wonderful for your health.

  • Steve

    “Jose Calderon … off the team”

    I would bet against this. Thomas won’t be ready until January (hopefully) and Rose is tough to rely upon. I’m expecting him to bounce back from his three point shooting performance last year, and be somewhat useful. Green and Shumpert, I’m struggling to see where they get minutes.

  • woofersus

    I agree Calderon sticks around until Thomas is ready to play at least. Rose hasn’t exactly been durable throughout his career. I think they continue to find a place to move Shumpert, but Jefferson feels like a more plausible candidate for a straight waiver, if for no other reason than Shumpert could still be desirable to somebody and his contract might also be useful in salary matching maneuvers. Hard to see them dumping Green right after signing him, but he’s right at the end of the bench, too.

    In general on the excess of wings – I think Wade is a valuable addition when we get to the playoffs, but mostly for the depth he creates. I expect him to provide quality minutes, but not all that many of them, even if he starts.

  • scripty

    Boston’s little kumbaya bit with all these good feelings and Kyrie ISO will be trash come spring when in a tough game they realize they have nobody to rebound and Big Al can play for 20 minutes a night.

  • Steve

    I will make no quibbles over anyone preferring Green to Jefferson. I might too as I think about it some more. But I see no way that Shumpert is desirable to anybody. Even as a matching contract, he’s on the hook for another $11M next year, and the selling team will want to clear that cap space immediately, not after another year.

    I am dreading the Wade addition. Playoff rotations tighten, so depth is less important. He can’t shoot threes, and his defense next to Thomas will be … interesting. A bench scorer and leader who doesn’t let the team implode when Lebron leaves the court? I’m in, but fat chance that Lebron is on board with Wade as a 15 minute a night guy. Insurance in case Smith doesn’t bounce back from last year? Fine. But in the playoffs, we’ll need either the good Smith or to make a move for someone who can provide some backcourt defense and three point shooting. Wade isn’t that guy.

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