Team: Cleveland Cavs
Last Year’s Record: 66-16 (1st, Central Division)
Head Coach: Mike Brown
Comings: Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, Leon Powe, Shaquille O’Neal, Christian Eyenga (No. 30), Danny Green (No. 46), Emir Preldzic (No. 57)
Goings: Joe Smith, Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, Tarence Kinsey
Comparing the Starters:
Starting PG – Mo Williams (17.8 ppg, 4.1 apg, 17.25 PER) vs. Devin Harris (21.3 ppg, 6.9 apg, 21.65 PER):
Mo Williams was isn’t the best true PG around, but he wasn’t brought in to Cleveland to be a point (LeBron can do that). Williams was brought in to be the 2nd option on the Cavs. Williams ranked 63rd out of 69 point guards in assist ratio but he shot remarkably, finishing seventh at his position in TS percentage and averaging 20.4 points per 40 minutes.
Nets. I gotta go with Devin here because he is more of a “true-point.” Harris is a better ballhandler and scorer, even if Mo Williams is the better shooter.
Starting SG – Delonte West (11.7 ppg, 3.5 apg, 14.16 PER) vs. Courtney Lee (8.4 ppg, 1.2 apg, 10.78 PER):
Delonte had a breakout shooting year last year. West got a lot of open looks with most eyes focused on LeBron James and then Mo Williams. Those open looks allowed him to hit 39.9 percent of his 3s and 44 percent of his long 2s. Delonte ran some point too, and he was pretty efficient. West finished 12th among shooting guards in pure point rating.
Cavs. Ugh, this was a close one in my opinion. If Lee is able to keep up his shooting rates from last year, I would give it to him, but I am pretty sure those rates are going to go down as he gets extended minutes this year. Lee is the better defender, but I think Delonte is much better on offense.
Starting SF – LeBron James (28.4 ppg, 7.6 apg, 31.76 PER) vs. Chris Douglas-Roberts (4.9 ppg, 1.2 apg, 12.22 PER):
LeBron James is the best player in the game. Last year he had the third highest PER since 1973-74 (the other 4 were scored by MJ). James shot a phenomenal 68.5 percent in the immediate basket area, the second-best mark in the league among players with at least 200 attempts. When he didn’t convert, it was usually because he was fouled. He ranked fourth at his position in free-throw rate.
Cavs. These are the exact match-ups that scare me when CDR plays the 3. James has 50 pounds on CDR and he won’t be afraid to take him into the post and pound the ball inside.
Starting PF – Anderson Varejao (8.6 ppg, 7.2 apg, 14.62 PER) vs. Yi Jianlian (8.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 10.98 PER):
Varejao drew 51 offensive fouls last season, second in the league, and on a per-minute basis ranked seventh in the league. Usually this isn’t a stat you lead off with, but in Varejao’s case, this is possibly his most important contribution. Varejao is one of those high motor guys, and he was the one who always seemed to get the backbreaking offensive rebound that lead to a big time basket.
Cavs. Anderson Varejao is one of those players who can hang with Yi on the outside and will eat him up on the inside. Varejao will work Yi on the boards, and despite Yi being the better shooter, I don’t think that is enough to give him this match-up.
Starting C – Shaquille O’Neal (17.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 22.3 PER) vs. Brook Lopez (13.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 17.94 PER):
Shaq is playing with LeBron. Let that sink in. It is a really scary proposition, because there is no way you are going to be able to double Shaq. Who are you going to leave to send the double? Not LeBron. Not Delonte or Mo Williams. Shaq’s 60.9 shooting mark not only led the league, it represented a new career high. With O’Neal hitting a halfway respectable 59.5 percent (which is good for Shaq) from the line, his TS percent was easily the best of his career, too.
Cavs. With Zydrunas Ilgauskas there to help limit Shaq’s minutes, I think Shaq will have another season like last year. If that is the case, he will be able to put up better numbers than Brook. If you ask me the same question next year though, I could give you a different answer.
Boobie Gibson had an off year last year, but he should be able to find he stroke. You have Zydrunas Ilgauskas now coming off the bench, and with his injury-prone past, this could make him more effective. Leon Powe (when he returns from injury) can be the offensive spark the Cavs need from the 4. Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon provide even more offensive power off the bench.
Cavs. Not many teams have a former All-Star backing up their Hall-of-Fame center (the Nets have Josh Boone coming off of the bench). The Cavs can also bring a number of spot up shooters off the bench, and I see them all having big years this upcoming season benefiting from Shaq and LeBron getting all of the attention.