Blazersedge staff writer Chris Lucia will be writing team-by-team previews over the next month as we count down to the start of the 2013-14 season. All team previews can be found right here.
2012-2013 record: 24-58, No. 5 in Central Division, No. 13 in Eastern Conference
Roster additions: Anthony Bennett (Rookie, No. 1 overall), Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark, DeSagna Diop, Jarrett Jack
Roster subtractions: Omri Casspi, Wayne Ellington, Daniel Gibson, Kevin Jones, Jon Leuer, Shaun Livingston, Jeremy Pargo, Chris Quinn, Samardo Samuels, Donald Sloan, Marreese Speights, Luke Walton
The top five playoff teams in the East should be a combination of Miami, Indiana, Chicago, New York and Brooklyn. The next three playoff spots will be awarded to the best of the other six teams out East that aren't throwing their 2013-2014 season away in hopes of receiving a better draft position next spring. The Cavs join the jumble of teams hoping to snatch either the sixth, seventh or eighth seed. The players are optimistic about making a serious run toward the playoffs, but are their egos writing checks their bodies can't cash?
Kyrie Irving is one of the best young guards in the league, and will garner most of the minutes available at the point. He scored over 22 points a game last year with a 45.2 shooting percentage and shot almost 40 percent from downtown. Irving is a threat to score from just about anywhere on the court, and teams will be forced to focus on him. Jarrett Jack was brought in to be a steady veteran in the backcourt, and will allow Irving to potentially play off the ball. Last year, that experiment was tried with Dion Waiters at the point and ended with less than stellar results.
Now that Waiters has found his permanent home as the starting shooting guard, expect him to improve on a decent rookie season that had him scoring almost 15 points a night. He struggled with his shot a bit, ending the season shooting 31 percent on three-pointers. With Irving on the court, Waiters should be able to cash in on the work he put in with a shooting coach this past summer. Defenses will pay a lot of attention to Irving, clearing up space for Waiters on the wing and allowing him to operate more freely.
First overall pick Anthony Bennett comes in from UNLV and should be an immediate contributor at both forward positions. At 6'8'', he's a bit short to be a traditional power forward, but his strength and athletic build will allow him to play the four in certain lineups. He scored 16.1 points and pulled down 8.1 rebounds a game in college, and the Cavaliers are hoping those skills will translate over to his NBA game.
Forward Tristan Thompson improved across the board in his second season, and in an unprecedented move, decided to switch his shooting hand this past offseason. He claims the transition from lefty to righty will be for the better, but ultimately, time will tell. Earl Clark was brought in to provide depth at the position, and he will certainly push Thompson for minutes at power forward no matter which hand Thompson decides to shoot with. Coach Mike Brown will have a tough job carving out roles for a group of versatile forwards that includes Bennett, Thompson, Clark and Alonzo Gee, but there is a lot of young talent there and all of the players competing for minutes have shown potential in their young careers.
Rounding out the lineup are centers Anderson Varejao, Andrew Bynum and Tyler Zeller. Varejao is one of the best rebounders and paint defenders in the league, and will hold down the starting job to begin the season. Bynum is a force on both ends of the court who has averaged about 15-20 points, double-digit rebounds and about two blocks a game in his best years. Zeller had a promising rookie season and the Cavs fully expect him to develop into a solid role player behind the experience of nine-year veteran Varejao.
The main roadblock for this team is going to be its health. On paper they look like they could compete every night, against any opponent. With the offensive potential of the young guards, the versatility of the forwards and the elite rebounding and defensive presence of the big men, the Cavaliers could manage one of the most improved records in the league following a 58-loss campaign a year ago.
Yes, injuries are a detriment to any team in the league. There's no question about that. But look at how many games these guys missed last year:
That's a lot of games played with the rotation at less than full strength. No one is expected to play every single game, and the tolls of an 82-game season manifest themselves in nagging injuries for every team, but these guys all missed some serious time last year. If they can get on the court together consistently and establish a solid team identity, look out. This is a pretty well-balanced roster bursting with potential, and if the top rotational players can limit their time on the injured list, Cleveland should be among the best of the second-tier teams in the East.
-- Chris Lucia | Twitter