Sep 26, 2013, 8:45 AM EST
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.
Mar 7, 2014, 3:35 AM EST
Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while wondering how you could read a novel in 90 minutes, well, there’s an app for that… Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns. If all you think Gerald Green can do is dunk, you need to watch the tape from Thursday night. It may have been true…
Mar 7, 2014, 2:39 AM EST
Adidas and the NBA will tell you that the sleeved jerseys are selling faster than they had projected, which is why you are seeing more of them (including the “Latin Nights” series of games, that are going on) . All-Star weekend commissioner Adam Silver said math showed that shooting percentages were almost identical when players…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:40 PM EST
In the first meeting of the season between the Heat and the Spurs, Miami had little trouble securing victory in the Finals rematch, in large part due to the fact that the Spurs were cobbling together a lineup that didn’t entirely feature the team’s best players. The rematch of the rematch, however, saw the Spurs…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:21 PM EST
Plenty of teams are rolling out throwback jerseys these days, but the ones the Raptors are planning for next season may be some of the more highly-anticipated. Toronto will wear the team’s original “Dino” jerseys for select games during the 2014-15 season, according to an official release. “We are excited to bring back a piece…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:14 PM EST
Zydrunas Ilgauskas will have his jersey retired in Cleveland this weekend, and his former teammate with the highest league-wide profile will be in attendance — despite the implications that many will attempt to ascribe to that gesture of personal support. LeBron James will be there when the Cavaliers raise Big Z’s jersey to the rafters,…
Mar 6, 2014, 8:01 PM EST
Dwight Howard returned to Orlando as a member of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, and as part of the Magic’s 25th anniversary season, they played a video tribute to Howard between the first and second periods. Plenty of fans let their disapproval be heard, and boos rained down on Howard as the video began. Howard…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:55 PM EST
And in some very surprising news, a college basketball coach supports the college basketball system. Larry Brown brings some credibility to this — he is the only coach in history to win an NCAA title (1988 Kansas) and an NBA title (2004 Detroit) and is remains one of the great teachers of the game. He’s…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:02 PM EST
If you ask league executives, pretty much everyone expects a 2017 lockout. They see the owners putting in the groundwork now for another work stoppage in three years and most people see it as inevitable. The only question is how long it lasts and if it costs games. Three years from now, the summer of…
Mar 6, 2014, 4:28 PM EST
I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember the Shaq Fu video game. What I do know is that people didn’t really like it. Which is putting it kindly. So Shaq is trying to do a sequel. Of course. Dan Devine at Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie has the details. O’Neal and his partners at Big Deez…
Mar 6, 2014, 3:32 PM EST
Suns rookie Alex Len is the only current Ukrainian on an NBA roster. Ankle injuries combined with surprisingly good play from the Suns existing front line (Channing Frye, Miles Plumlee, the Morris twins) have kept him on the bench much of the season. However Thursday night he is going to get the start against the…
Mar 6, 2014, 2:34 PM EST
If you want to beat the best, you need to learn from the best. Paul George wants to beat the best, and right now the best is LeBron James. LeBron may be the most physically gifted player in the game (arguably ever) but he also has maybe the best basketball mind in the game. Team…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:49 PM EST
We told you last week to expect this and now it is a reality: Royce White is now a member of the Sacramento Kings. The Kings announced Wednesday the signing of White to a 10-day contract. He was immediately assigned to the Kings D-League affiliate Reno Bighorns. White was the No. 22 pick of the…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:34 PM EST
You know what Tupac Shakur is doing right now? Having lunch with Elvis, Jim Morrison and Andy Kaufman. In heaven (or your afterlife of choice). Because they are all dead. Outside of a hologram at Coachella you are never going to see Tupac again… but then who was that at the Warriors/Celtics game on Wednesday…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:55 PM EST
Tommy Lasorda is a motivator. The legendary Dodger skipper was never a managerial genius with moves that wowed baseball’s intellegentia, but his players would run through a wall for him. He understood enough that is a limping Kirk Gibson wants to pinch-hit in the World Series you send him out there, but mostly he just…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:14 PM EST
The last time the Philadelphia 76ers won a game it was Jan. 29 in Boston. Since then the Sixers have lost 15 in a row, by an average of 19.8 points a game (a couple 40+ point losses skew that number). Coach Brett Brown is not sure his team will win another game this season…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:03 PM EST
The Orlando Magic showed their Dwight Howard tribute video, and as expected, fans booed (though not as thoroughly as I would have hoped during the entire video). Presumably, Chandler Parsons, now Howard’s teammate with the Houston Rockets, was not among the jeerers. But in a different time and place, he could have been. Jonathan Feigen…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:33 AM EST
The Nuggets got a pretty good bargain signing Nate Robinson to the bi-annual exception. But in exchange for paying Robinson such a low salary, they had to give him a player option for the second season of his two-year contract. That way Robinson wasn’t stuck being underpaid if he had a strong year, and he…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:07 AM EST
After ranking third in the NBA in 3-point percentage last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have slipped to below league average this year. So, it appears they’ll target outside shooting with their vacant roster spot. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The Thunder is filling its 15th and final roster spot with the signing of shooting…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:36 AM EST
Reports Carmelo Anthony could sign with the Chicago Bulls this offseason are nothing new. Even Melo has stoked the flames of the rumors. But most published work on the subject has focused on where Melo desires to play. Sure, by trading Luol Deng for Andrew Bynum and draft picks, the Bulls signaled a greater interest…
Mar 6, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
The Detroit Pistons couldn’t do much to bother Joakim Noah, who had a triple-double in the Chicago Bulls’ 11-point win Wednesday. But the Pistons’ mascot, Hooper, sure scared the Bulls center after the game. Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $50,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Thursday night’s games. It’s $25 to…
- Thursday night NBA grades: Gerald Green just couldn’t seem to miss 0
- After rough shooting night LeBron says he’s “not a big fan” of sleeved jerseys 3
- Spurs get a little revenge, along with season’s signature win in takedown of Heat 21
- Suns’ rookie Alex Len takes to court with #prayforukraine on shoes 18
- Paul George wants LeBron James to be his mentor 41