The undefeated Cleveland Cavaliers have a home date with the 1-2 Charlotte Bobcats tonight in Canton, Ohio. Neither of these teams were particularly good last season, but both teams took relatively substantial steps to try and improve heading into this one. Interestingly enough, the significant investments both teams made in free agency haven't made such a big difference thus far, and almost certainly aren't going to do so tonight. Why? First, Jarrett Jack has injured his knee and will hopefully only be out for 10 days or so. Andrew Bynum has still not been cleared for full contact basketball. And Earl Clark has been underwhelming thus far. For the Bobcats, Al Jefferson, who the team made a major financial commitment to this offseason, has sprained his ankle and is hoping to be ready for the Bobcats home opener.
But those weren't the only additions each team made this summer. The Bobcats added Cody Zeller with the 4th overall pick, a bit of a surprise, and the Cavaliers added Anthony Bennett, t
he clear-cut, 100% consensus number one overall choice. Both players are interesting. Both Zeller and Bennett have athleticism and can play an outside in game. Zeller is more developed in the post. Zeller is significantly taller, though Bennett's length helps to mitigate a lot of Zeller's edge. Bennett was more prolific from college three point range. Zeller's efficiency numbers were better both as a freshman and sophomore. These are players who I will be comparing for a lot of their careers. People will often want Zeller to play center, and I don't think it will ever be a perfect fit for him. People will often want Bennett to play small forward, and I don't think it will ever be a perfect fit for him. As an aside, I am not big on the "positions don't matter" idea. I think who you can match up defensively is huge. Both of these players can be great power forwards in entirely different ways.
Aside from both teams having rookie power forwards to develop, they also have young players that will require decisions to be made relatively soon. Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving, and Kemba Walker will all be up for extensions this summer and all three appear to be valuable NBA players. Dion Waiters and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had up and down rookie seasons, but have great promise in their own way. MKG may not be much closer to having a credible jump shot, but Tony Allen doesn't have one and is incredibly valuable. He remains a teenager. The difference here, though, is clearly Kyrie Irving. For as bad as the Bobcats have been, they remain in search of a potential star. Cody Zeller and MKG feel like longshots at this point.
Things to watch for: Can Dion Waiters keep up his efficient play? Will Tristan Thompson look more and more comfortable? How will Bennett look against Zeller? Will the Cavaliers team defense continue on an upward arc?