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SB Nation Cleveland Cavaliers Preview: Can Kyrie Irving power a playoff push?

The Cleveland Cavaliers have a lot of new pieces. What will the 2013-14 season have in store for Kyrie Irving and company?


The 2013-14 NBA season is nearly upon us and SB Nation is working on a comprehensive preview for all 30 teams. Let's take a look at the upcoming season for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Team Name: Cleveland Cavaliers

Last year's record: 24-58

Key losses: Head coach Byron Scott and virtually his entire staff of assistant coaches, Daniel Gibson (free agency, currently unsigned), Omri Casspi (free agency, signed with Houston Rockets), Marreese Speights (free agency, signed with Golden State Warriors), Shaun Livingston (free agency, signed with Brooklyn Nets), Wayne Ellington (free agency, signed with Dallas Mavericks), Luke Walton (free agency, currently unsigned).

Key additions: Head coach Mike Brown and entirely new staff of assistant coaches, Anthony Bennett (draft, 1st pick overall), Sergey Karasev (draft, 19th pick overall), Carrick Felix (draft, 33rd pick overall), Andrew Bynum (free agency), Jarrett Jack (free agency), Earl Clark (free agency)

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?

What significant moves weren't made in during the offseason? The Cavs had the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and used it on forward Anthony Bennett. Then they drafted Sergey Karasev with the 19th overall pick. Bennett will have plenty of time to ease into his role since he won't be the starting power forward -- that's Tristan Thompson's job. The Cavs also drafted Carrick Felix in the 2nd round and hope that he can carve out a niche as a defensive role player in his rookie season. But I wouldn't be surprised if Felix spends some time with the Canton Charge.

General manager Chris Grant and the rest of the front office decided that the team was going in a different direction and cut ties with head coach Byron Scott. Scott was the head coach of the Cavs for three seasons, but was fired shortly after the end of the 2012-13 season. Replacing him is a familiar face: Mike Brown. Brown returns to Cleveland with the hopes that he'll be able to help the team establish a defensive identity and make the playoffs for the first time since the last time Brown was here.

The Cavs were also active in free agency. They signed Jarrett Jack to a 4 year, $25 million deal to help bolster the bench and bring a veteran presence to the locker room. Jack was extremely successful in a reserve role last year and helped the Golden State Warriors establish a winning culture and make the playoffs. The Cavs are hoping that Jack can do the same thing in Cleveland. Chris Grant also decided that the Cavs would be the team to take a risk by signing Andrew Bynum to a 2 year deal worth up to $24 million. The deal doesn't carry that much risk, however, because only $6 million is guaranteed. Bynum will have to be healthy and on the court to earn the rest of that money. Earl Clark was brought in to compete for the starting small forward position. Brown coached him briefly when they were both with the Los Angeles Lakers and it's clear that Clark brings intriguing length and defensive ability to the Cavs.

There's a LOT of new pieces and a whole new coaching staff in Cleveland. The key will be getting all of those pieces to mesh and work together as a team to improve on last year's record. It probably won't happen right away, but there seems to be something exciting being built here.

2. What are the team's biggest strengths?

Kyrie Irving, mostly. Actually, the whole backcourt should be a strength. Another year of progress and improvement for Kyrie and Dion Waiters will help. The addition of Jarrett Jack should really add some consistency. It will also significantly improve the bench unit. CJ Miles is a pretty darn good three-point shooter as well. Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix probably won't provide much during their rookie seasons, but anything that they contribute to the Cavs' backcourt will be gravy.

Health permitting, the Cavs could also have a very good front court. A five man rotation of Bynum, Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller, and Anderson Varejao could be extremely good and extremely deep. But that's assuming that all of those guys stay healthy...

3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

Just looking at the roster, there don't appear to be that many glaring weaknesses. The small forward position leaves something to be desired, but it isn't a disaster if you have above average starters elsewhere. The weaknesses of this team are a little less tangible. Things like youth, inexperience, lack of familiarity with one another and the scheme, and durability are the most obvious flaws of the Cavs.

There will be some growing pains as these new guys learn to play with each other and learn to play for coach Mike Brown. The team defense was horrendous last year and that's why Mike Brown is the head coach now -- but that will take a while to really be implemented. It's hard to expect the defense to completely turn around at the beginning of the season. There's nowhere to go but up, but we'll probably only see modest improvements in the first part of the season.

The other glaring weakness is inexperience. It's fairly clear that this team has playoff aspirations, but the core (aside from Varejao and Jack) has no playoff experience. If they make the playoffs, the Cavs will be relying on a bunch of really young players getting their first taste of the postseason.

4. What are the goals for the team this season?

Make the playoffs. The Cavs haven't even been respectable in the past three seasons. The primary goal is to make the playoffs -- period. Some members of the Cavs have said that they don't just want to make the playoffs as an 8th seed, they want to really compete and make some noise. While that'd be nice, I don't think it's realistic. I think I speak for most Cavs fans when I say that making the playoffs and losing in the first round would be perfectly acceptable. Cleveland would get some home games in the postseason again and there would be real evidence that the young core is on its way.

5. Who is going to be Kyrie Irving's righthand man?

That's the biggest question that the Cavs need to answer if they want to be a team that competes for titles in the near future. Kyrie Irving is a stud. Now, they need somebody to step up and be his sidekick. If by some medical miracle Andrew Bynum stays healthy, that'd be an adequate 2nd option after Irving. But more likely it will be one of Anthony Bennett or Dion Waiters blossoming into a borderline all star. Both have the offensive talent to do so, but will need to score efficiently, develop great chemistry with Irving, and most importantly, play solid defense. Neither Waiters nor Bennett needs to become a star this season, but there need to be some serious signs that stardom is on the way. The Cavs have put a lot more talent around Irving this season, but the most successful teams tend to have two or more stars. Somebody has to step up and create a dynamic duo with Kyrie.

Check out these NBA season previews:

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics: CelticsBlog | Celtics Green | LucidSportsFan | CLNS Radio | Celtic Fan Chat | Truth On Causway | Sonics Rising
Brooklyn Nets: Nets Daily | Baller Mind Frame
New York Knicks: Posting and Toasting
Philadelphia 76ers:†Liberty Ballers
Toronto Raptors:†Raptors HQ

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors: Golden State of Mind
Los Angeles Clippers: Clips Nation
Los Angeles Lakers: Silver Screen and Roll
Phoenix Suns: Bright Side of the Sun
Sacramento Kings: Sactown Royalty |Baller Mind Frame

Index of all SBNation Previews