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ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

Sep 26, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT

Kyrie Irving AP

Last season: Kyrie Irving became the youngest All-Star since LeBron James, but the Cavaliers were decidedly awful throughout the year, finishing 24-58. Only the Bobcats were worse both offensively and defensively, Injuries took a major toll (more on that below), but the season never looked promising at any point, regardless.

On the bright side, Dion Waiters made the All-Rookie first team and Tyler Zeller the second team. It was the second-straight season Cleveland received such honors with Irving (first team) and Tristan Thompson (second team) doing it the year before. Plus, per recent custom, the Cavaliers made a big splash during the playoffs by winning the lottery.

Signature highlight from last season: Maybe, someday, Irving’s best game-winners won’t come against the Bobcats and Raptors. But this one would have been awesome against any team.

Key player changes: With the No. 1 pick and gobs of cap space, the Cavaliers were primed for a huge offseason, and they certainly took advantage of their position. Cleveland drafted Anthony Bennett (No. 1) and Sergey Karasev (No. 19) and signed Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark.

Rotation-types Omri Casspi, Marreese Speights, Shaun Livingston and Wayne Ellington left in free agency. The incoming players are better than that group, but it’s worth pointing out the Cavaliers lost at least a little talent.

The Cavaliers also hired Mike Brown, whom they fired just three years ago. This is the NBA’s coaching circle at its best.

Keys to the Cavaliers’ season:

1) Who stays healthy? Kyrie Irving missed 23 games last season, Andrew Bynum 82, Anderson Varejao 57, Dion Waiters 21 and Earl Clark 23. Even Anthony Bennett missed pre-draft workouts with a shoulder injury. If they stay completely healthy – an unreasonable standard for any team, but we’re talking in hypotheticals – the Cavaliers should easily make the playoffs. Whether they reach the postseason in reality could very well come down to just how severe of injuries their injury-plagued players suffer this season.

2) Can Mike Brown make them good defensively? The Cavaliers went from No. 7 to No. 29 in defensive rating after firing Brown. Obviously, losing LeBron James had something to do with the drop, but Cleveland is hopeful Brown can instill sound defensive principles in ways Byron Scott never could.

To review how the Cavaliers fared before, during and after Brown defensively (the Brown years in wine and other years in gold):


It should probably give Cavaliers pause that their defense regressed in Brown’s first season compared to the year prior.

3) Just how good are Cleveland’s young players? Kyrie Irving is somewhere between a superstar and very good starter. Dion Waiters is somewhere between an above-average starter at his position and a gunner whose team would be better if he accepted a reduced role. Tristan Thompson is somewhere between the hustle starter every team needs and a player who’s overmatched unless a backup. Andrew Bynum is somewhere between the NBA’s best center and a complete zero in terms of impact. Anthony Bennett is somewhere between Larry Johnson and Michael Olowokandi.

All those players are young enough to have a wide range of future outlooks, and where they fall on the spectrum will determine not only Cleveland’s season, but its future.

Why you should watch the Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving alone is worth the price of admission, an offensive star at the position where a player can have the greatest offensive impact. If defense and rebounding is more your style, Anderson Varejao is a madman (in a good way). I’m curious to see why Anthony Bennett shot up Cleveland’s draft board, too.

Most of all, Andrew Bynum’s hair.

Prediction: 41-41. Simply because of injuries, Cleveland has one of the higher variances in preseason projections. I think most prognosticators have a firm grasp of what this team could be, but it’s nearly impossible to predict injuries. The Cavaliers seem to be competing with the Wizards, Pistons, Hawks and Raptors for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spots. Cleveland certainly has the talent to make it, but how much time that talent spends on the court is a different question entirely.

  1. jimthebuilder27 - Sep 26, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    It was a mistake to rehire Mike Brown. He’s a good defensive coach, but that’s it. He’s inept offensively, and has difficulty managing players.

    He’s not someone who will get you over the hump. He’s the NBA’s version of Norv Turner: a good assistant, terrible head coach.

    Prediction: Cavs will improve if Bynum plays, doomed to mediocrity if he doesn’t. Sorry Cavs, but Mike Brown isn’t the answer.

  2. losangelesbillsofbuffalo - Sep 26, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    This is a great analysis of the Cav’s season potential. They have the talent to really turn some heads and solidify themselves as a perennial playoff competitor in the Eastern Conference. Their youth and apparant inability to stay healthy could slow that process down considerably. I say they win 49 games.

  3. dysraw1 - Sep 26, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    quietly i want to see the Cavaliers make the second season, but oh boy do they have a lot of ifs. health being a major factor anytime you think of these guys. but damn i like watching the second coming of the Pearl

  4. badintent - Sep 27, 2013 at 1:00 AM

    Happy to see the Cavs are throwing some love and $$$ at Coach Mike. After all, he had to make do on the Lakers $ 4 million dollars for doing nothing last year. I hope he hires Bernie to be his bench coach to stick it to Jimbo Buss.. Good luck Coach. Go beat the Cs every game you play them.

  5. onlyavoice - Sep 27, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Mike Brown Would Be An Assistant Coach If Not For Lebron.
    Irvings 15 Minutes Of Flash Is All NBA Hype. He Would Be A Liability Coming Off The Bench On A Real Contender.
    The Cavs Are Built For The Lottery. Lemonade Dan Is Building A Team On Hype To Sell Seats.

  6. clevelandschronic2 - Sep 29, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    Hey voice you are an idiot. What has dan g done wrong besides the letter? Nothing the man is one of the best owners in sports. He passionate about Cleveland and hes done nothing but spend his money to better the entire Cleveland area by getting a casino and all the tax money from that back into making Cleveland better. Same goes for the cavs he wasted money by taking on baron davis’ contract. Who he amnestied when we got kyrie with the clippers pick. Everyone hates on Dan for a letter he wrote(yes it was dumb in hind site) but he apologized for it. Take the letter away and tell me why hes such a bad owner for our Cavs??

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