The Cleveland Cavaliers had some pretty good talent on the roster last season. Kyrie Irving was an all-star, Anderson Varejao played like an all-star. Tristan Thompson made huge strides, and Dion Waiters was a serviceable NBA shooting guard as a rookie. CJ Miles and Alonzo Gee had moments. But even when everyone was healthy, the team was still bad. Why? Because the team had no depth. The bench was a catastrophe. The starters would leave the game, and everything would go to hell. We all remember Angelo's famous article breaking down the statistical failures and defensive lapses of Samardo Samuels, Jon Leuer, and Luke Walton. Oh, it was an article making yo mama jokes about how bad the Cavs bench was? Well that makes more sense.
But hey, the NBA draft rolled around, and then free agency rolled around, and despite some early irrational negativity from me on the 2nd day of free agency, the Cavaliers made some moves! We added some more NBA talent. Remember when the Cavaliers signed CJ Miles last summer, and our reaction was, "Well, I suppose we know we have at least 4 NBA players on the roster now"? No longer. Cleveland added three players through the draft, one of which will almost certainly be capable of playing 20 minutes of NBA basketball every night, probably at league average level or better, and two who have quite a bit of potential on the wing.
The Cavaliers then proceeded to add in veteran Earl Clark, coming off a season in Los Angeles where he became a fan favorite of a team having a mostly miserable season. He isn't a good player, really, but the Lakers record when he played 20 minutes or more was substantially better than games in which he played under 20 minutes. His defense on small forwards was good, and there is a chance that his three point shooting, particularly if he would just stay in the corners, will allow him to help space the floor for Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack.
Ah yes, Jarrett Jack. Another player with the ability to play multiple positions, but Jack is actually a good basketball player. No caveats to this. He won't be good if he can improve in the areas of x, y, and z. He is a good basketball player who has been valuable for a team that won a playoff series. He provides insurance for Kyrie Irving, and a player who can anchor a bench unit and play alongside either Irving or Waiters.
And then they added Andrew Bynum. He says he is ready for training camp. I am not exactly all that optimistic we get that much from Andrew Bynum. But going from one injury prone center to two gives a little bit more depth and flexibility, right? Neither Varejao or Bynum should be getting more than 25 minutes a game, probably, but hey, 25+25 adds up to a bigger number than 48, the total number of minutes in NBA games.
The team made these additions while retaining Irving, Thompson, Waiters, Gee, and probably Miles, the best players to don the Wine & Gold last season. Sam did a great job breaking down who could start and what lineups mesh best together, but for the moment I just want to list the actual NBA players the team now has on the roster. Guys that are clearly better than developmental league guys.
Look, I am not here to tell you that these guys are all good players. But instead of Zeller playing 35 minutes a night in February, there is a chance that he won't even be in the rotation in February 2014. And it stands to reason he would improve with a full NBA season under his belt, so if an injury leads to him getting significant minutes, I am much more comfortable with that result. Bottom line, the Cavaliers have options, and that is a good thing.
Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers may or may not have wanted to tank. But you can't argue that they got tanked, to borrow Boosh's phrasing, with all the injuries that came their way. This season, the team appears more ready to handle injuries to Irving, Waiters, and Varejao. And what if those injuries don't come? What if Irving and Varejao play like all-stars, with Jack, Waiters, Thompson and Bynum providing valuable contributions as well? And what if a lessened role leads to a fresher Alonzo Gee, with better legs leading to better shooting? And what if C.J. Miles builds on his excellent first season in Cleveland? Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the first overall pick in the draft, Anthony Bennett. What if he is as dynamic as they say?All of these things won't come to fruition. They don't have to. The Cavaliers have a Plan B to their Plan A. And possibly even a Plan C to their Plan B. Last year, plan A involved Jon Leuer. It may have only been a year, but it appears that Cleveland has come a long way.