Skip to content

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):

image

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.

Latest Posts
  1. NBA considering charity All-Star game in South Africa

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:30 AM EDT

    Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela

    Collective Bargaining Agreement limits offseason charity games to United States and Canada

  2. Report: Gregg Popovich had hip-replacement surgery

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Game Five Getty Images

    Popovich signed contract extension with Spurs this offseason

  3. Durant says 2014 USA team better than 2010 version that won gold

    Jul 29, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT

    Image (1) durant_usa_fun-thumb-250x159-20234.jpg for post 4140

    “That 2010 team was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I think we have a team that’s even better.” —Kevin Durant

  4. Report: Magic signing Peyton Siva to unguaranteed contract

    Jul 29, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT

    Detroit Pistons v Orlando Magic Detroit Pistons v Orlando Magic

    Orlando reportedly plans to send former Pistons point guard to D-League

  5. Kevin Durant knows you’re talking about his free agency but isn’t giving many clues. He liked what LeBron did.

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:51 PM EDT

    2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice Getty Images

    “I just tell everybody that I’m here in Oklahoma City, I love it here. Who knows what will happen.” —Kevin Durant on his 2016 free agency.

  6. Report: Eric Bledsoe-Suns ‘relationship is on the express lane to being ruined’

    Jul 29, 2014, 7:11 PM EDT

    Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic

    Bledsoe reportedly resents how differently Pistons, Jazz and Rockets treated their restricted free agents

  7. Report: Mike Scott considering ‘lucrative’ offer to play in Russia

    Jul 29, 2014, 6:22 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Indiana Pacers - Game Seven Getty Images

    CSKA-Moscow wants to poach Scott from Atlanta Hawks

  8. Mavericks sign Ivan Johnson

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Atlanta Hawks Dallas Mavericks v Atlanta Hawks

    Johnson gets NBA contract after eventful summer league

  9. Report: Timberwolves told Kevin Love to sit out the World Cup

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

    Kevin Love Kevin Love

    I’m not sure Love is taking advice from Minnesota right now

  10. Byron Scott makes ridiculous optimism sound reasonable

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:11 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers Introduce Byron Scott Getty Images

    Lakers introduce Scott as new coach in press conference

  11. Derrick Rose told Carmelo Anthony that if he came to Chicago “the game would be easy”

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:24 PM EDT

    2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice Getty Images

    Rose said he was disappointed but he understands ‘Melo’s decision.

  12. LeBron James strips on stage, throws clothes into crowd (video)

    Jul 29, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT

    LeBron James LeBron James

    Want to see LeBron strip down to his underwear?

  13. Steve Nash: ‘I think this is my last season’

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT

    Steve Nash, Meta World Peace Steve Nash, Meta World Peace

    Lakers guard confirms he’s planning on retirement

  14. PBT Extra: Is this the end of Donald Sterling as NBA owner?

    Jul 29, 2014, 1:11 PM EDT

    Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano

    Donald Sterling isn’t going away, but he’s pretty much done as the Clippers owner now.

  15. Grizzlies name general manager Chris Wallace general manager

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT

    Yes, you read that headline correctly

  16. Is DeMarcus Cousins the big man Team USA can lean on?

    Jul 29, 2014, 12:22 PM EDT

    DeMarcus Cousins AP

    The question with Cousins is never talent, but his maturity seems to be there.

  17. Report: Gary Payton assistant-coaching candidate with Lakers, Bucks

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT

    Gary Payton #20 Gary Payton #20

    Jason Kidd or Byron Scott could hire former Seattle SuperSonic

  18. Kyrie Irving’s contract actually falls short of max

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

    Kyrie Irving Kyrie Irving

    Irving wouldn’t get full 30 percent of adjusted salary cap by triggering Derrick Rose rule

  19. Report: Hawks draft pick ‘very likely’ to play in Spain next season

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    Walter Travares, Walter Travares,

    Atlanta selected 7-foot-3 center No. 43 in 2014 NBA draft

Featured video

Why can't Lakers have a player-coach?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. T. Warren (4789)
  2. L. James (4121)
  3. K. Love (3557)
  4. D. Rose (3112)
  5. R. Allen (3013)
  1. J. Nelson (2994)
  2. C. Anthony (2899)
  3. K. Bryant (2636)
  4. A. Aminu (2049)
  5. C. Boozer (1984)