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Cleveland Cavaliers 2014-15 Season Preview

Fear the Sword editor Chris Manning joins Blazer's Edge to discuss the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers, continuing a month-long, 30-team NBA season preview feature.

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Over the next month, Blazer's Edge will be rolling out season previews for all 30 NBA teams. Continuing this feature, we discuss the Cleveland Cavaliers with Fear the Sword editor Chris Manning. (Yesterday's preview: Los Angeles Lakers)

Cleveland Cavaliers 2014-15 Season Preview

2013-14 Record: 33-49, No. 3 in Central Division, No. 10 in Eastern Conference

Roster additions: Lou Amundson, Joe Harris (rookie, No. 33), Brendan Haywood, LeBron James, James Jones, Alex Kirk (rookie, undrafted), Kevin Love, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, A.J. Price

Roster subtractions: Anthony Bennett, Luol Deng, Carrick Felix, Alonzo Gee, Spencer Hawes, Jarrett Jack, Sergey Karasev, C.J. Miles, Tyler Zeller

SB Nation affiliate: Fear the Sword


Blazer's Edge: How does Kevin Love fit in with what the Cavaliers are trying to do offensively? What will his role be?

Chris Manning: I think this is still a developing situation. With Kyrie and LeBron both missing some game time in the preseason, Love has been the alpha dog for about half the time so far. When LeBron is playing every game, he's only going to be the primary offense option maybe 25 percent of the time. If I'm correct, I think this means Love is going to be the lead offensive player when James and/or Irving are off the floor and will be the second option in most every set. I think for Love, the big change is going to be where he gets the ball on the floor. With the Timberwolves, he received the ball a lot in the high post on the elbow and some on the block and some behind the 3-point line. Now, I think you'll see a lot less of Love in the middle of the floor and a lot more either down low or on the outside. That's a product of both the new offense and his new situation.

BE: Is Kyrie Irving an elite point guard in the NBA?

CM: I think he can be, but he wasn't last season. His defense is still years behind his offense, as he's formed some bad habits defending pick & roll and is probably limited on that end. Offensively, I think you could make the case that he is, however. The Cavs' lack of success last year clouds that, but he compares favorably to the two point guards he's going to be most compared to over the course of his career: Damian Lillard of the Trail Blazers and John Wall of the Wizards. He had a higher PER than both, scored more points per 100 possessions than both and was relatively similar in other categories. Where he'll have to improve, though, is becoming more efficient with fewer touches where he has to create his own shots.

When people think of Irving, I tell them to think of what Zach Lowe wrote about him: "He's the Eastern Conference's Damian Lillard, only two years younger and with a higher ceiling." I think this is the year he starts to hit that ceiling and is widely accepted as one of the NBA's best floor generals.

BE: How is the LeBron James you're seeing on the Cavs now different from the one who played in Cleveland from 2003-2010?

CM: LeBron is wiser both on and off the floor. I think now, James is more patient in letting the players around him grow and understanding that side of it. I also think James, although this is going to sound cliche, really benefited from his Finals appearances with the Heat. He's been to the NBA's biggest stage now and won two titles. Overall, he's more mature and a better leader than he was in his first stint as a Cavalier. He's grown up. From a basketball standpoint, he's a more complete player than he was before. Early in his career, he wasn't necessarily a reliable jump shooter. Even now, I'd say the best way to defend LeBron would be to force him to shoot jump shots. But he's definitely improved in that area and he's also more trusting of his teammates than he was before.

BE: How does Dion Waiters fit into the equation? He's averaged about 15 points per game his first two seasons...will that continue?

CM: I love Dion more than most. I think he has a chance to be a really effective, important part of these Cavaliers. If he can take that next step this year, I think you could see a Dion that is a weird mix of what Lance Stephenson was for last year's Indiana Pacers and what Danny Green is for the San Antonio Spurs. He won't handle the ball as much as Stephenson did and he's not as good of a shooter as Green, but he'll be asked to do both at different times. So far, we've seen a player who is willing to be an efficient shot maker more than playing iso ball all the time. If all goes well, I think Dion can average around 15 points a game this year while also being a pest defensively and giving the team an edge that James, Irving and Love won't/can't provide.

BE: Where do you think Cleveland will finish in the Eastern Conference standings at the end of the year? Which teams will be their biggest challengers in earning a top seed?

CM: To start with the second question, I think the Chicago Bulls are the only real threat. I like the Washington Wizards, the Toronto Raptors and a few others are sure fire playoff teams. However, none of those teams seem good enough on paper or hold a huge advantage over the Cavs. The Bulls, however, do. If Derrick Rose is healthy and close to himself, he can be the catalyst to a Bulls team that, with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol inside, matches up excellently with the Cavs. The Bulls also have Jimmy Butler on the roster and Butler is arguably the best player in the league at defending James one-on-one.

But at the end of the day, I think the Cavs do get the No. 1 seed. It's going to be very close and it probably comes down to the last few weeks of the season. But I think the Cavs' offense is just going to be too explosive for most teams to even moderately contain and by the end of the season, I think the Cavs are going to be good enough defensively to contain most teams. I could be very wrong, however, as I do think the Bulls are a terrible stylistic match-up for the Cavs.

BE: The Cavs did a good job of defending the paint last year but struggled to stop the outside shot. What's coach David Blatt's defensive philosophy this season?

CM: I don't think we really know yet to be honest. So far, it seems like the Cavs are't going to press a ton. It also seems as if the Cavs are going to run some zone this year, which is a very interesting development. Under Mike Brown, the Cavs ran a strictly a man-to-man defense and were aggressive in hedging on pick and rolls. Now, the Cavs seem less inclined to both. Moving forward, however, I expect this to change and evolve as the season goes on. I also think Blatt is a coach who understands the importance of playing to your personnel and I also think the Cavs will run different defenses based on who is on the floor at a given time. I am very interested to see how this evolves over the course of the season.

Special thanks to Fear the Sword editor Chris Manning for taking the time to discuss the Cleveland Cavaliers' upcoming season with Blazer's Edge. Chris can be found on twitter @cwmwritesFear the Sword has you covered for Cavaliers news and analysis.

-- Chris Lucia | | Twitter