Wow, how things have changed in one city in the span of a year. This time last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers were thought to possibly be a playoff team if all of the right pieces fell in place. Well, with the team hampered by injuries to star point guard Kyrie Irving & big man Anderson Varejao & not having any real big time scorers in their lineup with the exception of Dion Waiters, who isn’t a consistent 30 points per game guy, the Cavs suffered – to the point where they gained the #1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Well, fast forward to July 2014. LeBron James has decided to take meetings in Las Vegas with the Miami Heat organization as well as the Cleveland Cavs (the latter we didn’t know about), & the people feel as though there is big support that LeBron is going to return home to his home state & to the area where he truly became a star initially.
Over the next several days, people are starting to speculate over what is really going on, then the reports start to come out that LeBron is moving his stuff from Florida up to his home in Akron & the moving trucks are being followed by all kinds of media, all the way to his home.
Then, its time for the decision & Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated had the scoop the whole time that LeBron was going to come home, even pinning the actual story as said by LeBron in LeBron’s own words.
Then it happened. James was shown back in a Cleveland uniform & all of a sudden, Kevin Love comes over from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Love, who was very disgruntled in Minnesota because of being a big time talent that the organization wasn’t putting enough great players around to get him into the playoffs, immediately stated that he wanted to play with LeBron as soon as possible. So the Cavs traded their #1 pick, Andrew Wiggins & last year’s top pick in Anthony Bennett back to Minnesota for Love.
Along with role players such as Mike Miller & Shawn Marion, the roster was basically set. The Cavs were & are ready to win an NBA Championship this year, which I truly believe that they will. Let’s break down the Cavs by position.
Obviously, LeBron is going to be the #1 option for the small forward position, & probably any other position he chooses! But when LeBron goes for the rest, Love has the quickness & ability to get into the small forward position & can be a mismatch offensively for most players who aren’t used to having to go out to the perimeter to match up with a guy who is 6″10″ who can drive to the basket as well as shoot the jumper consistently.
The combination of Miller & Marion will be great complements to keep LeBron fresh during those second quarter & third quarter breaks & are also able to knock down the 3s on a consistent basis. In the case of Marion, he also brings a veteran defensive presence who has the ability to play long & annoy small forwards & some shooting guards.
For the playoff run, James Jones, formerly of the Miami Heat, will be available to be that consistent threat off of the bench. Don’t expect Jones to see much PT during the season, he honestly isn’t going to be needed at all. His value is not going to be noticed during regular season games. The Cavs will be able to coast to a high seed in the NBA Eastern Conference without him. But in those matchups in the conference semifinals & further, having that veteran leadership & more championship experience is going to be vital to helping some of the younger Cavs who haven’t had the chance to taste winning will be important to have on the court & in the locker room.
Love & Tristan Thompson will make for a great combination at the power forward position. Love will be the starter, but with all that will be on his shoulders to deliver after LeBron most likely sets him up, Thompson can come in & has developed into a strong rebounder & solid defensive presence down in the post, an area where Love isn’t the best right now.
Brendan Haywood could be used at the power forward position at times, but don’t expect it too much. Love & Thompson should absolutely flourish in this area & with being able to play off of Anderson Varejao’s defensive ability & Love’s ability to stretch the bigs around the league to the perimeter, an area where most power forwards don’t like to guard because of their general slow play, the Cavs will provide formidable opposition down in the post.
Anderson Varejao will continue to be the dominant player in the middle for the Cavs & is there solely for defense. With his great defensive ability & his ability to get in the middle of a scuffle & be the muscle & attitude for the team, he will be the protector for the Big 3 & will be able to enjoy the fruits of rebounds & offensive chances that will be set up from the double-teams & intense attention to Love, LeBron & Irving.
Haywood is going to be the back up & if he can bring in around 12 points and 6 rebounds per game backing up Varejao, he will be a success. With Haywood being a big body in the low post, it will allow for him to draw fouls & pick up on the lack of offensive firepower that Varejao brings to the table.
Kyrie Irving is clearly the future of the NBA & of the Cavs franchise. He will be the man who will be charged with keeping the team together on the court & the addition of LeBron probably doesn’t mean more to anyone else outside of Irving.
Irving has been a great player in the league, but has had some inconsistencies at times & if healthy, he can be one of the best, if not the best, point guard in the entire NBA. Irving is part of the new wave of great point guards who are making a statement in the NBA, along with Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors & Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers. Derrick Rose would be included in that conversation but he has to stay healthy.
James will teach Irving how to be a great leader on & off the court & while many haven’t questioned Irving much, his ability to replace LeBron was questioned for the first 3 years of his career. That is no longer a question now that the Cleveland fans have both together on the same team.
Irving’s backup, A.J. Price from Connecticut, can be a wildcard in the rotation. Price has decent quickness & can score nicely. Price & Irving will be spoiled with so much talent around them that they should have no problem distributing the ball all across the court. Price is clearly not the defensive threat with his hands that Irving is, but he will learn quickly & while he may not see a ton of time this year, he could be a crucial piece come playoff time when bench play is going to be essential. If you are playing in fantasy basketball, take a strong look at A.J. Price.
The Cavaliers are very long at the 2-guard position, with all of the shooting guards listed on their roster at 6-4 or taller. Dion Waiters will be the starter at the 2 & has to show off early in the season & show that he can be consistent throughout the entire year.
Many people thought that Waiters was going to be one of the players dealt to Minnesota for Kevin Love because he hasn’t fully fit into the Cavs system as many had hoped, even though he is a great driver to the basket & knock down the 3. Having the new Cavs setup should make Waiters one of the most dangerous shooters in the league with the wide open shots he will see on a nightly basis.
Joe Harris from Virginia showed off great skills in the NCAA Tournament against Michigan State last year & proved that he can be a strong backup scorer with little pressure on him. He will not be asked to contribute much this year as I expect Harris to be “redshirted” & learn from the veterans for most of the season. Towards the end of the year, we could see more of Harris spelling some veterans, but I won’t hold my breath.
Overall, the Cavs are a loaded lineup & even though everyone is a fan of the Chicago Bulls right now, the Cavs should be able to lock down many teams around the league, similar to the Bulls style & if they can show that they can get past the Bulls in the playoffs, the West doesn’t have a team, in my opinion, that can match up against the Cavs for a 7-game series, hence why I will again predict that the curse of no championships in Cleveland will end this season.