I am apparently in the minority that think this Cavs season is going great. Actually I might be the only one and I admit my perspective needs a little explaining (or heavy drug usage) to understand. So I will start from the beginning of this era.
Lebron rips out our hearts on national TV, leaving us with a team made up off players soon to be out of the league. Check this list out, in three years the roster of back to back 60+ win seasons fell apart.
West: Out of the league
Gibson: looking for a team
Moon: Out of the league
Jamison: hasn't played a min this year, on a vet min contract
Jawad Williams: out of the league
Powe: out of the league
From that team only 3 contributors plus Danny Green are doing anything in the NBA right now. Mo Williams and JJ Hickson are each on their 3rd team since leaving the Cavs, and Varejoa is still with us. In addition we didn't have a single pick in the 2010 draft.
You have to dwell on a painful memory to really let that sink in. Finishing high in the standings had left us with little drafted talent and chasing a ring had left our remaining players old and in serious decline for the most part. On a team with few assets the future was certainly bleak and the past two years have been just that. Coming into this season though many though we could contend for a playoff spot, a few (myself included) still think we can, one of the biggest difficulties that lies in wait for the Cavs though is age. As the 2nd youngest team in the NBA, older than only Philadelphia, and only ahead of Phoenix in terms of years of experience in the league, we have an immature group.
One of the reasons the Cavs are so young is because they have drafted young. Of the 10 players taken after Sergey Karasev this past draft eight of them were older than he was. The three picks immediately following the then 19 year old's selection were 21, 23 and 23. The Cavs were not just looking to the future with this pick, they were looking several years further into the future than most teams. Of their 6 first round picks the past three seasons 5 of them are currently 22 years old or younger.
This trend isn't only limited to their draft picks. When the Cavs signed a 30 year old Jarrett Jack it seemed like a sign that they were pushing for contention, that they were supplementing their core with veterans. When you contrast that signing with the three other players they have added the past two seasons you get a different picture. CJ Miles, Earl Clark and Andrew Bynum were all only 25 years old when the etched their names on the dotted line. The Jack signing that looked like a change in direction stands out more as an anomaly. If either Clark or Miles earns their-self another contract the Cavs will be getting their 27, 28 and 29 year old seasons. If Bynum's knees hold up and the Cavs and he come to an agreement they will like wise be getting what are normally prime physical years.
To belabor this point even further it was 10 months ago that the Cavs took on Speights and Ellington. The players have departed but the draft pick still remains. A draft pick that the Cavs will receive at the earliest in 2015.
With two exceptions, Jack and Varejoa, every part of the Cavs team has been built with a longer term future in mind. Our ROY PG in his third season is a year and a half younger than last year's ROY PG.
So why do I think this season is going "great" at 4-7? Several reasons.
1. Forging a defensive identity. Even if they aren't executing it perfectly you can see buy in from the team on the defensive end of the floor. Players with bad defensive reputations like Miles, Irving and Waiters have been giving clear and consistent effort. 28 of the past 30 teams that have been in the top 10 in Drtg at the end of the season have made the playoffs, and the two that didn't missed by small margins. The Cavs are currently #10 despite being young and installing a new system with some new major cogs.
2. Role players actually playing roles. The past few seasons we have watched Alonzo Gee fire up far to many shots for his skill set. Now his usage has dropped nearly in half from two seasons ago and his TS% is over 60% partially thanks to this change. If he maintains this production for the season he is a solid 3 and D player, the type who can positively effect games without being relied upon to win them.
3. Bynum already back and playing. Heck already starting. Rather than spending much of the season trying to discern if the Cavs will keep him around past his Jan 7th option the team can spend that time integrating one of the most difficult men to guard in the NBA, and a quality post defender to boot. They can also potentially limit Andy's minutes further and try to keep him on the floor for more games.
4. Dion shooting 40% from 3 so far. Small sample size but when you hear a guy talking book all summer about being a great three point shooter you like to see that progress right off the bat. Gives us confidence as fans and keeps him doing what he needs to do. With his defense so far this year shooting 40% from 3 would make him an above average SG already. If he can finish or get calls at the rim that is a borderline all-star quality player.
5. Another year of a weak Eastern Conference. Two veteran teams in NY are struggling and several of the expected up and comers are as well. Starting 4-7 in the West would give me heartburn but 4-7 has us in a 3 way tie for 8th. With 3 more road than home games and some tough traveling mixed in there 4-7 is not a death knell by any means.
6. Kyrie getting hotter. 8 times in his first 11 games in 12/13 Irving scored 20+ pts. So far he has done that only 4 times this season. Irving is an offensive savant and his game will come. The Wizards' game might be followed by some steps backward again but his game will come. When he is shooting 40% from 3 again teams wont be able to pack the paint so easily.
7. Drugs. I must be doing drugs because I love this Cavs team so much. 50 wins baby!