Wow, the early returns from this season of Cavaliers basketball have been above and beyond expectations through 12 games. While it seemed the team was going to have another poor year (most pundits predicted about 13-18 wins) the team has been flying high of late and surprised us all quite a bit.
It's truly a credit to Byron Scott for urging these guys on to get some tough road victories that in a 26 game losing streak type of season they weren't going to come close to getting.
Contrary to what everyone thinks, the team hasn't really played some atrocious schedule to boost their 6-6 record. With the 19th ranked schedule right now that suggests the team is pretty close to the middle of the pack in terms of schedule strength.
Let's give some credit where it's due after the jump.
I'll be honest. I don't think the team is going to fall of the cliff and end up 18-48 or something garbage like that. The guys have shown me enough to get me believing in them and as I wrote the other day I believe they can hang in the mix for the 8th playoff seed into April. That doesn't mean I think they'll get it, because I don't, but hanging in there means sticking within striking distance until falling short by 3-5 games at the end.
The Cavaliers have simply picked it up big time at both ends of the floor this year. After looking at last year's numbers prior to the season I wanted to find something positive to write about regarding the 2010-2011 season and essentially all I could find was the Cavs got to the line a lot last season.
I guess that wasn't too surprising considering they finished 29th (out of 30 teams) in both offensive and defensive efficiency last winter.
This season the franchise's One for All, All for One motto has really rung true in my eyes because the team has made incredible strides through 12 games at both ends. Seriously, it is stunning to see them up to 12th in offense and 13th in defense in the early stages of this season.
It's a toss up whether you want to give the bulk of the credit player wise to Anderson Varejao or Kyrie Irving. Varejao has come back from his injury to truly be a force in the middle thus far. I hardly notice much from him out there but then at the end of the game he often time finds himself with another double double. As usual, his defensive effort has sparked the team many times and he even has been the top offensive rebounder in the league through 12 games. If he keeps up his play through the entire season this will be his best year as a Cavalier.
We've talked about it often but Irving has been a sensation at worst through the opening games. He's on quite the roll now of racking up 20 point games, is a deadly shooter from the line and behind the arc and is starting to quietly earn a reputation on Fear The Sword as a big time clutch player down the stretch. Last year there was nobody on the team who was a must watch for me. This year I'm very interested in seeing Irving (and Tristan "Tigger" Thompson) every single game.
Even the much maligned Antawn Jamison has had flashed of pretty solid hoops for the Wine and Gold.
The weakness of the team to me has easily been the SG and SF positions. The quartet of Omri Casspi, Daniel Gibson, Anthony Parker and Alonzo Gee hasn't really done enough consistently to get me very excited yet. Here's to hoping at least one of those players steps up through the meat of the season.
Sure, the Cavs are still rebuilding but the team is going to start building some excitement back amongst its fans much sooner than later and they have definitely moved up quite a few notches from being either the 29th or 30th best team in the NBA last year.