Every year NBA.com comes out with its team by team report cards meant to evaluate how strong each team is in five categories. The categories are as follows: Frontcourt, Backcourt, Defense, Bench and Coaching. Like in school each category is given a letter grade weighted as follows:
A = Superior - B = Above Average - C = Average - D = Below Average - F = Failing
In reading the explanations for these grades they were fairly consistent, as well as fair. In only giving the Front Court group of Bynum, Varejao, Thompson, Bennett and Zeller a C+ rating, they acknowledged that the grouping is long on what if's due to health concerns, uncertainty surrounding player growth, as well as the unknown that comes with a rookie that hasn't played an NBA game yet. While this rating might be the floor for this group, I think there are enough pieces in play to warrant a slightly higher mark. The depth of this unit should hopefully reduce the strain, and therefore the injuries that these players incur. Even if they have injury issues the ability for Tristan to play center, and Clark at power forward if need be gives them enough versatility to preform at around above average. While I realize the question marks exist, my personal grade would come to a B-.
The presence of Kyrie Irving alone takes the backcourt ranking to "above average". While Kyrie looks to make the jump from rising star to superstar; the spotlight then turns to Dion Waiters. While Waiters took a lot of lumps as a rookie, he ended up straightening himself out as the the season progressed. This season will answer a lot of questions about whether his improved play was a mirage, or if he can establish himself as a top young SG in the league. We know what we are getting out of Irving, it's on Waiters to raise the level of this pairing from above average to elite. As for the ranking, I agree with their assessment: B+.
When it comes to the Cavaliers defense this season a lot of questions remain. Will Waiters be able to step up to Mike Brown's challenge to put himself in the same category as Avery Bradley and Iman Shumpert when talking about elite defenders at the guard position? He certainly has all the physical tools, and while he looked lost last season, leading to horrific results on that end he did show flashes of great man to man defense and produced steals at a decent rate.
The ranking also stayed consistent with the questions about the long term health and durability of Bynum and Varejao. Personally I don't believe that you can say Varejao is "injury prone" due to the lack of recurring injuries that he has dealt with. However you can certainly see that he has had bad luck battling injuries and other ailments throughout his career. While Bynum and Varejao have the ability to impact the game significantly on the defensive end, the inability to count on their presence at this point has to be reflecting in the team's grade. While the additions of Earl Clark and Mike Brown should help this team grow on this end, the fact of the matter remains that we just don't know how the team is going to look on this end of the court. As a result of this the grade probably lands between "Below Average" and "Average", so a D+ feels appropriate.
The bench depth coming into this season compared to last season is fantastic. Instead of Sloan and Pargo, the Cavs have one of the best sixth-men in the league in Jarrett Jack. The arrival of Earl Clark, Sergey Karasev, Anthony Bennett, Carrick Felix and Andrew Bynum, paired with returning bench contributors in Tyler Zeller and CJ Miles, also form a great upgrade over the train-wreck the Cavs had coming off the pine for most of last season. I included Bynum as part of the bench unit as he likely will come off the bench until he works himself into shape in my opinion. Either way the combination of depth and internal competition should make the Cavs a lot better this season. When you create opportunities for internal competition between Thompson and Bennett, Gee with Clark and Felix, Waiters with Jack and Miles with Karasev, it pushes everyone to become better and not become complacent. As long as it is managed in the proper way it is a major asset for the team this season. I think the grade for this should be a little higher than the Cavs received. I give it a B+.
Finally we come to coaching. While it was strange to see a team bring back their former coach after three seasons apart, there are not many people who believe Mike Brown is not a good coach. He usually tends to get the most out of his rosters, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I also believe that his ability to hand over the coordination of the offense to his assistant coaches shows maturity, as well as a firm grasp on who he is as a coach. In the report card it raises concerns on whether Mike Brown will hurt Kyrie Irving's ability to be creative on offense. While this seems to ignore the fact that Brown will not be calling plays on offense, I don't seem to recall LeBron not being allowed to be creative on offense during his time with Mike Brown. I don't see the offense as a concern going into this year and believe that Mike Brown is the right man for this job. For coaching I give the Cavs an B+.
So how do you feel about the grades the team received? Do they reflect where the team is at in your mind?