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2011-12 Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

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I know this is wishful thinking, but if, by some miracle, we have an NBA season anytime soon, this preview will come in handy. Now, indulge me as I carry on my merry way pretending that the 2011-12 season is actually happening. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

2010-11 record: 19-63

Key roster moves: Addition of Omri Casspi, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson; loss of J.J. Hickson

Team needs: Basically everything. More specifically, offense and defense.

1. Cavaliers' biggest needs in the off-season:

Where do I begin? I suppose the most glaring void is at the shooting guard position. The Cavs desperately need a consistent scoring threat. They need someone who can make scoring plays with the ball in his hands. The front office was unable to address this need in the draft because there was simply no 2-guard worth taking with either the #1 or #4 picks. If the Cavs have a chance to add a shooting guard through free agency or a trade once the lockout is lifted, that is an option they will probably explore. However, Cleveland is probably better off just waiting to draft a scoring threat in the 2012 NBA draft. There are plenty of high profile prospects in college basketball today so the Cavs should be able to grab a talented playmaker near the top of the draft. 

Furthermore, if the Cavs are able to trade some of their veteran pieces for young players or additional draft picks, they need to do it. Ramon Sessions, Antawn Jamison, Anderson Varejao, and Baron Davis are all guys that the front office should be actively shopping. We're rebuilding, let's go all-in. 

2. Cavaliers' biggest strengths and weaknesses: 

Strengths: N/A

Weaknesses: Yes.

I honestly looked for something that the Cavaliers did well last season and came up empty. There's not one facet of the game that the Cavaliers could claim to be above average in. Towards the end of the season, the players seemed to catch on to Byron Scott's offense a little bit better, but the reality is that they still sucked. On both sides of the ball, the Cavs were simply garbage. Their offensive and defensive ratings both ranked 29th in the league. Yuk. 

In order to address these abundant weaknesses, the Cavaliers need to establish an identity. They just got an influx of young talent in Irving and Thompson and they need to set a foundation. This is obviously a rather extensive rebuilding project and it will be made that much harder without some sense of direction. The franchise needs to stick to a plan on offense and allow the young players to develop within the system. The Cavs will be looking to simply add the most talented, young players that they can acquire and it would be incredibly helpful if there was some sort of structure to follow as they progress. I know that it's hard to have an identity when you don't do anything particularly well, but that should change this season. The team obviously needs to focus on the development of Irving and Thompson, so I expect to see a plethora of pick and rolls between the two of them. 

It will come as no surprise that the defense also needs a complete overhaul. However, getting Anderson Varejao back from injury will certainly help things out. Andy is an excellent post defender and should be able to help the young bigs play better D. Ryan Hollins, Samardo Samuel, and Semih Erden all showed flashes of potential last season. Once Antawn Jamison and Varejao went down, however, they had no veteran presence to help them on the court. The defense will probably still be bad next season, but it can't possibly be as bad as it was last year.

3. If the 2011-12 season is gone completely, where do we stand for 2012-13?

I already addressed this point in a previous post but I'll look at it from a more basketball-specific angle. Ultimately, it will suck to see Irving and Thompson miss their rookie seasons and never get a chance to build some actual chemistry with the team. They will still be practicing with their old college teams, but the lack of organized competition will undoubtedly have an impact. As far as 2012-13 is concerned, it depends on the draft. The 2012 Draft will happen regardless and it is absolutely stacked. It remains to be seen how the NBA will determine the draft positions, so it's hard to speculate on what type of player the Cavaliers would get. As I stated before, it makes most sense for the Cavs to pursue athletic wings that can flat-out score the basketball. The key for a rebuilding team is consistency. If the Cavs have PG and PF locked down for the foreseeable future, they will likely go for a 2 or 3; Harrison Barnes of UNC and Michael Gilchrist from Kentucky come to mind. 

4. What one change would you make to the NBA's new CBA?

This is tough. The new CBA is a tricky issue and I can (kind of) see why it's taking so long for them to agree on a deal. The main sticking point seems to be the BRI (Basketball Related Income) split, but there are also system flaws that need to be addressed. I suppose that I am most concerned with process equity. In other words, I want competitive balance. Now, understand that that does not mean I want every team to go 41-41. There will always be good teams and bad teams, much of which has to do with the management of the team. I simply want all 30 teams to be able to have a realistic chance at competing. As a blogger for a small market team, I don't want to see super teams forming in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. I want to see more stars sticking with their original teams, like Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan. If there is a way to implement additional incentives for players to stay in their original cities, I would most likely be supportive of it. 

5. Overall, what should I expect from the Cavaliers in the upcoming (?) season? 

To put it simply, growing pains. This team is in complete rebuilding mode and there's no hiding it. I cannot accurately express how excited I am to see Kyrie and Tristan in wine and gold, but I also know that I need to maintain realistic expectations. They will struggle at first. Games that make your jaw drop will be followed up by games that make you wish we never drafted them. Omri Casspi is another guy that intrigues me. I didn't see much of him while he played for Sacramento, but his fans claim he has untapped potential. If the Cavs managed to flip Hickson for their small forward of the future, that'd be crazy awesome. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see how the organization handles the situations regarding Baron, Antawn, and the other veterans on the roster. How many of them will still be Cavaliers when the trade deadline rolls around?

There's quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the Cavs, but along with that comes excitement. I know that as soon as the season tips off, I'm going to be wrapped up in this team. There's no shame in becoming fully invested in this team, even if they lose most of their games. The rebuilding process is off to a good start and with a few successful drafts and trades, the Cavs could become competitive sooner than we realize.