My prediction- the Cavs are the 6 seed in the East this season. To get there we simply go back to last season and frankly the Cavs were terrible last season.
1. PG- We had an ALL-STAR PG! On the other hand we had a series of terrible to almost mediocre backups at PG throughout the year. Kyrie had a PER of > 21 but all the time he missed and the backup mins were so bad our average PG production was ~17.5. And that is counting Daniel Gibson's play solely at SG.
How did we improve PG? JJ had a 16 PER last season and an 18 the year before in almost 4000 total mins. We basically are stagnant at the PG if we get 48 mins worth of JJ play, if we get 2012/13 kyrie+ JJ play (and a handful of terrible mins form our 3rd stringer) we have a nice improvement.
How do we Improve more at PG? Timing. The 2nd to 3rd season jumps for a lot of top end players have been huge in recent history. Durant went from a 21 to a 26 PER, Wade 23 to 27, and Lebron "only" went from 26 to 28. In terms of PGs Deron went from 17 to 21, CP3 22 to 28, Rose 18-23. These aren't perfect age/experience comps but they show the potential for a massive improvement in play. Even factoring in only a small improvement + JJ + a few more mins (ie a few less games lost to injury) we could go from slightly above average PG play to very good PG play. A big increase in production and games played for Kyrie puts us in "best PG production in the NBA" discussion.
2. SG. The majority of our SG mins went to Waiters (13.7 PER), Ellington (13.9) and Daniel Gibson (7.7). That is just a poo-poo platter of production at that position. Everyone mocked our production from the SF spot this year but you could argue that CJ, Gee and Casspi were as, if not more, productive than our SG rotation. Yes there is some overlap between the positions but the point is we stunk at both spots last season.
How do we improve at SG? Obviously Dion is huge. Not counting his 28 mins played in OCT his best shooting % per month went FEB, APR, MAR, JAN, NOV, DEC. And the gap between NOV/DEC and the other months was huge. Simply maintaining that 2013 play and cutting out the 2012 play would make him an average SG. Add in JJ instead of Ellington/Gibson and you have average play from your SG instead of below average. If Dion's offseason pays of quickly you have potentially above average play and a leap for the entire position.
3. SF was partially covered above, suffice to say it wasn't good.
How do we improve at SF? Earl Clark in for Gee. His career stats are pretty comparable to Gee in most categories with the exception of rebounding. Clark is much better over his career as you might expect from a guy listed as 4 inches taller. 2-3 extra rebounds a game won't catch your eye or make the Cavs a contender on its own but it will be an improvement for one of the worst rebounding teams in the league last season and at worst there is no reasonable expectation of the position producing less than it did last year.
4. PF- TT was one of the few bright spots last season. Playing in all 82 games and posting a nice jump in PER he started to justify his draft position. Unfortunately playing 30+ mins per game in 82 games still left quite a hole that was filled by Leuer, Samuels, Walton and Kevin Jones. Even counting some of Speights' mins at PF you still end up with below average production.
You know the question by now. and you know a good chunk of the answer. The year 2-3 leap could happen for TT as well as for Kyrie. In addition instead of 4 guys on the fringes of the NBA the primary backup will be the #1 overall pick in Bennett. Even if he posts a 13-14 PER as a rookie it would be a production bump from the players we watched backing up TT next season. We could see the biggest jump in production at this position and the downside (as long as TT plays 70+ games) is virtually non-existent.
5. C- Poor Andy. Three seasons of playing less than 1,000 mins due to injuries. Poor Zeller, shoved into the starting lineup as a rookie and getting pushed around, wracking up the 4th most mins of any player without being particularly good at anything. Speights a lone bright spot briefly but he spent only 700 mins on the court for the Cavs- almost 200 fewer than Andy's abrupt season.
How can this get better? Any number of ways- better health from Andy obviously. He has stayed healthy enough before to play in 76, 81 and 81 games in the 24-29 mpg range, even 50 games would be a huge step forward. Improvement from Zeller in his second season- heck just hitting his mid range shot like he did in college would mitigate his poor play to a nice degree. Better rebounding and defense could be in the cards as well. Solid play from our #1 pick and an occasional dose of Earl Clark at PF could allow us to slide TT to C for stretches without opening a gaping hole at PF like it did last season. The situation here is volatile but lends itself to expectations of improvement for sure. How much? Probably the hardest position to even guess at.
Holy crap was it bad to watch last season. Mike Brown is obviously going to make this a priority as he put the summer league team through 4 straight practices of only defensive drills and boy did it show in their offensive production last night. It also showed in their defensive production as they held the Lakers to 62 pts, and a quick scan makes that look like the second lowest point total for a team so far in the summer league.
An average defensive team would be a huge step forward and could be worth 10+ wins easily. I trust MB on this front to both devise schemes and get committed buy in from most of his players as he did his first go round with the Cavs.
The Cavs will likely start the season with a hole at SF and needing development from their youngsters but I liken this team to the 08-10 Thunder. The 08-09 team was bad- winning 23 games and the 09-10 team was good, winning 50 games and taking two off the eventual champs in the first round of the playoffs. This was basically off the back of Durant's leap (ie hopefully Kyrie's), Westbrook's step forward (hopefully Dion's) Ibaka joining the team (ie Bennett). While not a perfect parallel (we have no Harden, they no Andy) it shows how fast a young team can burst into relevance. In addition the East looks just as weak as it did a year ago when ATL was the 6th seed with 44 wins.
I have skipped the elephant in the room (though hopefully he hasn't put on that much weight while missing last season) in Andrew Bynum for a reason. It is really hard to predict anything substantial from him, but you can also be very optimistic about the coming season without the bonus of an all-star big man springing back into form half way through the season.