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. Report: J.J. Barea leaning toward signing with Heat

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:11 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat Getty Images

    If he does, will Miami trade Mario Chalmers and/or Shabazz Napier?

  2. Report: Warriors, Draymond Green agree to five-year, $85 million deal

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game One Getty Images

    The Warriors are keeping the band together — and they will be at the top of the West for a while.

  3. 76ers get Nik Stauskas, first-rounder in salary-dump trade with Kings

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT

    Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Philadelphia takes Jason Thompson, Carl Landry from Sacramento

  4. Report: Pelicans finalizing deal with Omer Asik

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:04 PM EDT

    Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans Getty Images

    Asik will take some pressure off Anthony Davis

  5. Reports: Paul Pierce agrees to three-year, $10 million contract with Los Angeles Clippers

    Jul 1, 2015, 7:34 PM EDT

    Boston Celtics small forward Paul Pierce and head coach Doc Rivers react during a break in fourth quarter action against the Miami Heat in Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference basketball playoff series in Miami Reuters

    Would Paul Pierce agree to this if DeAndre Jordan were leaving town?

  6. Reports: Paul Millsap agrees to re-sign with Hawks for three years, $59 million

    Jul 1, 2015, 7:07 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Washington Wizards-Game Three Getty Images

    Millsap had been flirting with Orlando but chose a shorter deal in Atlanta.

  7. Report: Iman Shumpert to meet with other teams as he struggles to reach deal with Cavaliers

    Jul 1, 2015, 6:31 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    He is using this to leverage the Cavaliers, but the door is open.

  8. Report: Thunder reach deal five-year, $25 million deal to keep Kyle Singler

    Jul 1, 2015, 6:07 PM EDT

    Oklahoma City Thunder v Minnesota Timberwolves Getty Images

    This is a contract the Thunder can live with or move, depending.

  9. Report: Talks between Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors break down

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Two Getty Images

    Even if another team signs him to an offer sheet, the Warriors will just match it.

  10. Report: LaMarcus Aldridge rules out Lakers in free agent decision

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT

    LaMarcus Aldridge LaMarcus Aldridge

    Aldridge and Kobe Bryant didn’t quite click in their meeting.

  11. Report: Amir Johnson agrees to two-year, $24 million deal with Celtics

    Jul 1, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT

    Amir Johnson Amir Johnson

    Boston gets nice value on a short-term frontcourt upgrade.

  12. Report: Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson near five-year, $80 million contract

    Jul 1, 2015, 3:09 PM EDT

    2015 NBA Finals - Game Six Getty Images

    The road to the NBA Finals out of the East — and maybe to the Larry O’Brien trophy itself — goes through Cleveland.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (4573)
  2. D. Wade (4292)
  3. L. James (3470)
  4. J. Embiid (3453)
  5. K. Bryant (2929)
  1. K. Love (2869)
  2. T. Harris (2807)
  3. J. Butler (2759)
  4. G. Monroe (2629)
  5. D. Cousins (2338)