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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

SDH's 2012/2013 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 25. Cleveland Cavaliers

Overall Win/Loss Record :  21-45  fifth place Central Division

Last Season’s Rank

26
Projected 2012/2013 Finish

25
Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank
  • Points Scored: 93.0 (25th)
  • Points Allowed: 100.2 (26th)
  • Team FG%: .422 (29th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .467 (27th)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.3 (14th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.8 (20th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders
  • Scoring: Kyrie Irving (18.7)
  • Rebounds per game:  Anderson Varejao (11.5)
  • Minutes per game: Anderson Varejao (31.4)
  • Assists per game: Kyrie Irving (5.4)
  • Steals per game:  Anderson Varejao (1.4)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Tristan Thompson (1.0)


Projected Starters Based on Last Season’s Performance, Veteran Seniority and Projected Impact
  • C: Anderson Varejao
  • PF: Tristan Thompson
  • SF: Kelenna Azubuike
  • SG: CJ Miles
  • PG: Kyrie Irving


Key Reserves Based on Last Season’s Performances, Veteran Seniority and Potential Impact.
  1. Daniel Gibson (G)
  2. Tyler Zeller (F/C)
  3. Omri Casspi (SF)
  4. Jon Leuer (F/C)
  5. Jeremy Pargo (PG)

2012/2013 Projection:  25-57, fourth in Central Division, fun to watch but will end up whipping boys of the Eastern Conference.

Analysis:

Count Cleveland in as another city who owes a humungous debt of gratitude to NBA Commissioner David Stern.  A year after losing their hometown franchise hero to big city money, the Cavaliers were injected with a new breath of life as they miraculously won the number one pick of 2011 NBA Draft.  That pick later turned into Kyrie Irving who would not only win league Rookie of the Year honors, but also single-handedly bringing both the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland back from the dead.  The arrival of Irving injected the city with fresh hope flushing away the grief and resentment that hovered over Cleveland with the departure of the one whose name cannot be mentioned (unless it is said under a sea of boos and hisses by Cleveland fans.)  And it is all thanks to the cute, small hobbit-like hero who goes by the title of league commissioner.

Stern, as most officials and stake holders in the league most probably surmise, is powerless to stop the bigger and richer market teams from sucking up the talent.  No matter how high he and the league raise the luxury tax, bigger and richer team will be ready and willing to pay it.  Teams such as the Knicks, the Heat, the Nets, Mavericks and the Lakers have the resources to absorb any additional costs caused by the luxury tax and still profit while despite the taxes.  Unless there is a fairer financial structure, aka a hard salary cap, there is no way that a smaller market team can ever have a chance to compete financially with bigger and richer teams.  So in an effort to maintain some sort competitive balance, the only way that Stern and the league can intervene is the draft lottery; although many may criticize such methods, it’s probably the only way to even the playing field, so to speak.

The ability to pick Kyrie Irving not only gave the city of Cleveland a light of hope after suffering so much despair, but it also gave the Cavaliers a jumpstart in rebuilding their franchise.  Kyrie Irving, despite not being nearly as talented as Lebron James was, proved that he can be the perfect center piece for the Cavaliers rebuilding efforts.  Iriving led the team in both scoring and assists and despite winning just 20 games last season, showed great poise and leadership as an NBA rookie.  Within a couple of years, Cleveland can cut off much of the dead weight holding the team back and add pieces through the draft to best complement Irving.  They have already gotten started adding not just one but three young talents that can grow and mature with Irving for the new few years.

The first piece was Tristan Thompson, who was selected by the Cavs three picks after Irving at number four.  Although still rather young (only turning 20 this season) and athletically raw, Thompson has shown a keen ability to get to the basket and an eager willingness to get down and dirty in the paint.  Given time, Thompson may be molded into a solid starter able to score off pick and rolls to pair alongside Irving’s speed, quickness and solid basketball IQ.  The Cavs added two other solid picks to pair alongside Irving and Thompson selecting Syracuse’s Dion Waiters in this Summers draft along with acquiring via draft day trade North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller, arguably the best center in the 2012 NCAA College Basketball Season.  Just those four players alone will give Cleveland fans something to smile about despite watching their home team lose game after game.

Although the Cavaliers have jumpstarted their rebuilding process thanks to these four players, there is still much to be done until this team can become near respectable.  Much dead weight remains from the previous regime and needs to be exorcised in order for the Cavs to move forward.  One of those holdovers is Anderson Varejao, who can be a solid contributor on a team looking for a championship; however, is unfortunately an odd man out in this new era.  The same goes for Daniel Gibson who shined during the Lebron James era only to come up flat once he had left.  Once Cleveland deals with those loose ends replacing them with more complementary pieces to their new star, Kyrie Irving, the Cavs’ return to respectability might begin sooner rather than later.