Better Know: Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving

Today’s installment of Better Know An Opponent focuses on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Let’s take a look.

Projected Starting 5

Kyrie Irving Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving (Stats)

Dion Waiters Cleveland Cavaliers

Dion Waiters (Stats)

Andrew Bynum Cleveland Cavaliers

Andrew Bynum (Stats)

Tristan Thompson Cleveland Cavaliers

Tristan Thompson (Stats)

Alonzo Gee Cleveland Cavaliers

Alonzo Gee (Stats)

Key bench players: Anderson Varejao, Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack, Anthony Bennett, Tyler Zeller

2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers By The Numbers:

Cleveland Cavaliers LogoW-L: 24-58
Playoffs: DNP
Offense: 100.8 points per 100 possessions (23rd)
Defense: 106.9 points allowed per 100 possessions (27th)
Net: -6.1 points per 100 possessions (27th)
Pace: 94.95 possessions per game (12th)

Games vs. the Brooklyn Nets:
October 30th — Brooklyn Nets @ Cleveland Cavaliers
January 4th — Cleveland Cavaliers @ Brooklyn Nets (StubHub)
March 28th — Cleveland Cavaliers @ Brooklyn Nets (StubHub)
April 16th — Brooklyn Nets @ Cleveland Cavaliers

Key Additions: Mike Brown (coach), Anthony Bennett (draft), Sergey Karasev (draft), Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack

Key Subtractions: Byron Scott (coach), Omri Casspi, Daniel Gibson, Shaun Livingston

Why you should watch: I watched a lot of basketball last year at Barclays Center. You name an NBA star, I saw them play. That’s how this works. I saw LeBron, Durant, Kobe do battle with Brooklyn. But I say this without hyperbole: Kyrie Irving was arguably the most entertaining opponent I saw play the Nets last year.

He’s the league’s best young point guard, whether or not he has a beard and makeup on. He’s incredible. His body control and center of gravity are mesmerizing to watch. I pause life often to watch this highlight reel.

Ok, back to reality. The big question mark: the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers are banking on Andrew Bynum being healthy for at least one of the next two years. If that’s this year, the Cavaliers look formidable and poised to take a mid-tier playoff spot. If he’s not? Nobody seems to know what to think. They haven’t been successful with Irving running the point yet, but they’ve never had a low-post threat like Bynum. This should be “the year.” Is it?

Strengths: They’ve got a ton of young talent. Dion Waiters has good scoring potential as a shooting guard. Tristan Thompson is a good young forward and has given the Nets fits in the past. Anthony Bennett was the first overall pick, which probably means something, even though he’s coming off the bench. Sergey Karasev was a good pick in the late first round and someone the Nets coveted. If Anderson Varejao is healthy, he’s got a claim as the league’s best backup center for his defensive presence. This team should be one of the most interesting teams to watch all season.

Weaknesses: Andrew Bynum’s knee. It’s hard to stress just how much of their season is reliant on a dude who didn’t play one minute and who was perpetually confounding us with pseudo-costumes all last year. Anthony Bennett was the #1 overall pick and he’s not even a projected starter, and it’s not because Tristan Thompson is considered a savior. Their team is young but lacks defensive acumen, and their depth at the guard positions leaves much to be desired.

Asking The Other Side: Cleveland Cavaliers blogger Conrad Kaczmarek of SB Nation’s Cleveland Cavaliers blog Fear The Sword.

Most important move: Most people will probably point to Andrew Bynum, but I’m going in a different direction. It’s the hiring of Mike Brown. The Cavs have been a horrible defensive team for three seasons and they desperately want to change that. Brown was the one who completely changed the culture of the Cavs and got those championship caliber teams playing defense at an elite level. The team is hoping that he’ll be able to do that again and get this core of young players to defend better and win more games. 

Expectations? I expect somewhere between 38-46 wins. If everybody stays healthy, this team can be very good. A full season of healthy Varejao and Bynum means that this team could be pushing for the 5th seed in the East. If injuries hit the team again, I still think they’ll be much improved from last year’s 24 wins thanks to an improved defense and the aforementioned depth. 

What’s the team system? It’s kind of hard to say right now because of the coaching change. Couple that with the huge roster turnover and we really don’t know. It makes it pretty hard to project what they’ll do going forward. What we do know: any offense will focus around Kyrie Irving. Having Bynum and Varejao in the paint could make this team pretty dangerous offensively. 

Matching up with Brooklyn: Once again, it’s pretty hard to predict. We’re talking about two teams that have undergone enormous offseason changes. When healthy, I think the Cavaliers match up decently with the Nets. Both teams’ best players are at point guard and center. The battles of Kyrie vs. Deron and Bynum vs. Lopez would be pretty fun to watch. The Nets are obviously much more experienced, but it remains to be seen how either team meshes immediately. It’s pretty safe to assume that this opening night battle will look a whole lot different from the final night of the season. 

The Cavaliers in under 100 words:

This Cavaliers team is relatively unknown, with exciting upside. It seems like they have the perfect balance of depth, young talent, and coaching to be a team that will surprise a lot of people. They’re a trendy pick to make the playoffs and be this year’s version of the Golden State Warriors. If everybody stays healthy and improves throughout the season, the Cavaliers will be a team that people do not want to face in the first round of the playoffs.