Team name: Cleveland Cavaliers
Last year's record: 21-45 (13th in Eastern Conference, last in Central Division)
Some other previews about the 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers:
How'd the Cavaliers' offseason go?
It was relatively boring. The Cavaliers are undergoing this massive rebuilding project and they're being very patient about it. Despite the fact that they have a ton of cap room and draft picks, the Cavs instead chose to make some very minor moves and focus on their young talent. They made a sneaky good move by trading D.J Kennedy to the Memphis Grizzlies for Jeremy Pargo, a 2nd round pick, and cash. Kennedy has already been waived by the Grizzlies and Pargo has earned some nice words from head coach Byron Scott. They also signed C.J. Miles and re-signed Alonzo Gee. Gee and Miles are both pretty versatile and help fill out the Cavaliers' weak wing positions.
The most important part of the Cavs' offseason was the draft. They shocked some people when they took Dion Waiters with the 4th overall pick, but Byron Scott and Chris Grant seem confident in the choice. Only time will tell if they made the right call. In another clever move, they packaged the 24th overall pick with two 2nd round picks to move up and grab Tyler Zeller. Zeller was impressive during Summer League and has a skill set that acts as a good complement to that of Tristan Thompson.
There were some rumors that the Cavaliers were involved in some big time trades, but nothing ever happened. It was possible for the Cavaliers to get Andrew Bynum, but for whatever reason, that never came to fruition. The good aspect of this is that Cleveland still has plenty of ammunition to swing a bigger deal when the time is right.
What are the team's biggest strengths?
The team's biggest strengths probably begin and end with Kyrie Irving. He's an incredible talent and seems to be growing into a great leader and floor general as well. Each and every night, the opposing team will be keying in on Kyrie and trying to slow him down.
There are some other factors that may act as strengths, but I make no guarantees. For example, this team is very young. Luke Walton and Anderson Varejao would be considered babies on the Lakers team, but they're the oldest members of the Cavs. The Cavs are super young and have a lot of athletic, mobile players. This should let the team play to Byron Scott's strengths -- focusing on the point guard and playing up-tempo, aggressive basketball. The youth in Cleveland could be a big help when we get into the dead of winter and other teams are wearing down. The young legs will keep on churning and they'll be able to run some teams out of the gym. But being so young comes with a price....
What are the team's biggest weaknesses?
Youth. Well, youth and general lack of talent. As I said before, this is a rebuilding project. It's going to take some time. The Cavaliers have had two drafts and this is only their first training camp. There are going to be some growing pains. Dion Waiters is going to look overwhelmed and erratic at times. Tyler Zeller is going to get bullied in the paint. Tristan Thompson is still working to get the most out of his skill set. Most of the time, I think "veteran leadership" is overblown. But in this case, the Cavaliers could actually be lacking it. Without Jamison and Parker in the locker room, who does the team look to as a role model? Who's the vocal leader? The Cavs are counting on Kyrie, Andy, Boobie Gibson, and Luke Walton (yes, Luke Walton), to be role models. It can work, but there's some risk of being a very young team. I'm warning you: there will be some downright awful nights with this team.
The lack of talent is less of a problem each year. The front office has done a nice job of getting young, talented players to Cleveland and will continue to do so. Waiters, Miles, and Zeller are three guys who are significantly more talented than the guys they had last year. It's a work in progress and one that isn't nearly finished, but it's getting there. Most NBA teams still have more talent and better players, but that's going to start to change. Cleveland fans are tired of waiting, but this team is on the right track. You need to have some patience.
What are the goals for this season?
Progress -- that's really it. We're looking for progress and potential. This team is littered with young players simply oozing with potential. The goal is to tap into that and see some of it realized on the court. We know Kyrie Irving is amazing. But what about Waiters, Tigger, and Zeller? Can C.J. Miles rejuvenate his career? Will Alonzo Gee continue to fill-out his game? Is half a Samardo Samuels really better than a whole Samardo Samuels? I'm not totally concerned about wins and losses, and I urge you to have the same attitude. The last thing you want is to be like Cleveland Browns fans (I am one, but I try to be rational). So many Browns fans lack the patience necessary to see out a full rebuilding project. Hopefully our fan base can be a bit more reasonable. The shortsighted attitude of "just win, baby" doesn't apply here. There's no reason to fire Byron Scott if they get off to another rough start (just like firing Pat Shurmur would be dumb). Let him get his players and install his system. Rome wasn't built in one day.
Kyrie and other players have admitted that making the playoffs is their goal. So I guess that's our goal, too. Making the playoffs would be awesome. Seeing Quicken Loans Arena supercharged with a playoff atmosphere again would give me goosebumps. But it's not "playoffs or bust." This is a team full of guys who can barely have a legal drink -- give it some time.
What will define the 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers?
Energy. Byron Scott wants to run. It's hard to run when you have washed-up veterans like Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison. Throw in an overweight Samardo and a goofy Semih Erden and you've got a problem. Despite all that, the Cavaliers were 14th in pace last year. Expect that to jump up to top-7 in the league. Zeller runs like a gazelle and Waiters excels in the open court. Samardo lost roughly a billion pounds and gained a bunch of explosiveness. Throw those guys around Kyrie and Tigger and we've got an exciting team.