Some of the good folks over at ESPN.com's Truehoop Network have been getting together and answering 5 vital questions regarding each team in the NBA. Not too long ago, the Cavaliers were the topic of discussion. Obviously, I do not agree with every answer to the presented questions. However, the bloggers offer valuable insight, often from unbiased points of view. The full article and answers can be found right here.
While the given panel offers their own educated answers, I figured it would be useful to answer these questions on our own as well. Patrick and I focus on the Cavaliers much more intensely than most people so here's how we answered.
1. Who should be the starting point guard?
Conrad: At the beginning of the season? Baron Davis. He showed plenty of veteran leadership and basketball ability during his time with the Cavs last season. While Kyrie Irving is obviously the future of the position for the franchise, Baron Davis has enough in the tank to gradually usher Irving into the role. People tend to forget that Davis was one of the elite PGs in the league while he was in his prime. I don't believe it will take very long for Irving to assume the role of starting point guard, but on opening night (whenever that may be), I would expect Byron Scott to start the player with experience and proven leadership ability. There is no anticipation of contention this season, so Scott will likely do his best to carefully groom Kyrie into the star floor general that the Cavaliers believe he can become.
Patrick: Kyrie Irving, without a semblance of a doubt. Irving isn't a developmental project, though he obviously will have room to grow in this league. You don't get the best player in the draft and then sit him, regardless of how weak that draft was considered. Irving is the man, and benching him in favor of a somewhat unknown quantity at this point in Baron Davis is not going to help anybody. Except for possibly other teams.
2. Who should start at small forward and power forward?
Conrad: Omri Casspi and Antawn Jamison, respectively. The Cavaliers had no viable candidate for the small forward job last season. Prior to the lockout, however, the front office made a move to secure the short-term solution to that problem. By trading J.J. Hickson to Sacramento, the Cavs acquired Casspi and opened the door for Tristan Thompson to eventually become the starting power forward. Casspi has little to no competition at the SF position and should be the starter. The power forward position is a little more complicated than that. It is true that the departure of Hickson allows Thompson to become the PF of the future, however, Antawn Jamison is still on this roster. Before going down with a broken pinky finger last year, Jamison actually put up respectable numbers and was nearly traded before the deadline. This time around, Jamison is in the final year of his enormous contract and his services may be appealing to a team in clear contention. The combination of Jamison's expiring contract and the presence of Tristan Thompson makes Antawn much more valuable to a contender than to a rebuilding Cavaliers team. The Cavs would be wise to start Jamison at PF to begin the season and attempt to trade him when his value peaks. If he has a good first month of the year, the Cavs should be able to unload him onto another team and get something of value in return.
Patrick: Omri Casspi is a no-brainer for the starting SF spot. That's why we traded for him, and it's not like there's anyone else to truly challenge him. PF is a different story. I say go with Thompson from the get-go next to Varejao at the center, and Jamison will provide scoring off of the bench.
3. Was the J.J. Hickson for Omri Casspi and a conditional draft pick a good move?
Conrad: It's too early to tell. I know that's the easy, cop-out answer, but it's the truth. In theory, it was a good trade for the Cavaliers but there are so many variables. The selection of Tristan Thompson made Hickson's departure inevitable but it is hard to know if they got enough in return for him. Casspi shows potential and certainly fills a need but Hickson is still young and if Thompson never pans out as expected, the Cavaliers could have an issue at the power forward position. The conditional draft pick is complicated and it remains to be seen if the Kings will ever be good enough to void the protections on it. As of right now, I like the trade for the Cavs but that could easily change in the near future.
Patrick: I would call it iffy. The notion of trading J.J. is excellent, as Thompson's drafting marked his imminent departure, but that draft pick is a stinker. I like Casspi and think he can flourish with the Cavs, but I'm not sure this was the best option out there.
4. Are the Cavaliers headed in the right direction?
Conrad: Without a doubt. For all intents and purposes, the Cavaliers were the worst team in the NBA last year. The addition of two young, talented players in Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson is clearly a step in the right direction. There's nowhere to go but up. I believe that the Cavaliers are still several years from making meaningful playoff appearances again, but are definitely on the right track.
Patrick: Yes. Irving and Thompson are going to make something of themselves in this league, and Casspi can be an excellent complimentary piece. With a few future trades and another couple high draft picks, the Cavs will be in the playoff hunt hopefully in the next 4 years.
5. Can we talk about the Cavaliers without mentioning LeBron James?
Conrad: Who? But seriously, I know that I can. If you read my posts consistently you know that I hardly ever mention LeBron. He's simply no longer on this roster and not a part of this franchise. The national media seems to think that Cleveland fans are perpetually whining about the loss of James but I believe that they are sorely mistaken. People in Cleveland do not like LeBron James, but that does not mean that we are still hung up on him. The Decision and everything that came with it is in the past and the focus is now on rebuilding this team. Cavs fans seem to understand this but the national media cannot resist tying LeBron into every story about Cleveland. The departure of LeBron James is clearly one of the main reason that the Cavaliers were so terrible last season, but there's nothing that can be done about it now. Where we are headed in the future, not where we have been, is all that matters now.
Patrick: I can, but most Clevelanders can't. Living among them, it's just something that comes up whenever I try to talk the Cavs, and it makes me cringe every time. We have to accept that Lebron happened, and that he is a part of Cavs history. That said, I prefer to think back on the good times, and hopefully more people will too once the Cavs start winning again.