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The Best and Worst Case Scenarios for the 2015-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers

Chris and Trevor are back for another round of booms and busts for the Cavaliers roster.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Prior to last season, Chris and I did a best and worst case scenario post as a preview for the 2014-2015 season. While we were off on some (I thought Mike Miller could do things, while Chris thought $9 million per year would be a great reward for a good Tristan Thompson season), we nailed others (Chris on Shawn Marion, my disturbingly accurate Kevin Love assessment). Given how fun that was, we decided to roll things back for the 2015-2016 season, this time with the entire roster. As always, let us know how wrong we are in the comments, especially about Matthew Dellavedova.

LeBron James

Best Case - Even as his turns 31, LeBron pushes away Father Time for at least another year. From day one, LeBron looks refreshed after taking the summer to hang out on banana boats with Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade and is the dominant, energetic LeBron James we are used to. At the end of the year, LeBron's TS% hovers right around 60 percent, he shoots better overall and wins another MVP award as the Cavs win 60-plus games in the East and cruise to an NBA title, with LeBron winning Finals MVP. - CM

Worst Case - Not winning the title and leaving Cleveland after the season, just like last year. Barring catastrophic injury, I'm not worried about LeBron declining at 31. Mileage and intensity are concerns, but it's not like he's Kevin Garnett last year or Lakers-era Steve Nash. LeBron might start regressing any year now, but even if he does, he's still going to be a top-10 player in the league. He's not gonna stop being a star at 31 because that's never happened to a star without a notable injury history. LeBron leaving is about the only bad thing that could happen. -TM

Kyrie Irving

Best Case - Kyrie hitting his rehab hard helps him fully recover from his patellar fracture and come into the season in the best shape of his career. He misses the first month of the season, but plays 55 games and hits another level offensively. Another year helps people notice how much he has improved defensively, as well, and he is widely recognized as one of the most likable players in the league. While the first month of inactivity keeps him from being an All-Star starter, Irving easily grabs All-NBA 2nd team at the end of the season. His health continues into the playoffs, and Kyrie wins Finals MVP by ripping an aging Tony Parker apart in the Cavs' sweep of the Spurs. -TM

Worst Case - Kyrie actually does have to sit out until January and as a result, he doesn't get into a flow again all season. When he does come back, Kevin Love and LeBron have developed a dynamite two-man attack and it takes the Cavs about a month to get Irving back into the fold. Irving being out for roughly half the season feels like the one thing that could derail Irving at this point. - CM

Kevin Love

Best Case - The Cavs - looking at you David Blatt and LeBron - remember that Love is freaking stud when operating out of the elbow and on the block. Roughly 7-8 times a game, Love is the first option on offense and he gives the Cavs the offensive versatility they were lacking last season. In a bounceback season, Love makes the All-Star game and his statline falls somewhere between his last season with the Wolves and his first year with the Cavs. - CM

Worst Case - Love never really gets in a rhythm due to lingering back issues, missing 25 games and posting career-low rebounding numbers. Because of this, David Blatt makes an unconventional decision and promotes Thompson to the starting lineup over Love, and Love is forced to reinvent his image and career as a role player. Compounded with Love continuing to make cryptic comments about wanting to remain a Cavalier even though he's under contract for five years, Love goes from "polarizing" to just "weird." - TM

J.R. Smith

Best Case - J.R. is more regular season J.R. than playoff J.R. and whether he's starting or coming off the bench, he provides the Cavs with needed shooting and ball handling while also being serviceable on defense. He also maintains his above 40 percent 3-point percentage with fewer shot attempts per game. - CM

Worst Case - Copy and paste 2013-2014 Knicks version of Smith, combined with the Cavs signing Kenyon Martin in February, who decides to take the opportunity for some unfinished business with ol' Earl. The fun thing about pulling J.R. Smith's worst case for this exercise is we've seen this movie before, and yet it still feels like he could top it. - TM

Tristan Thompson

Best Case - Tristan takes another step forward as a defender, cementing his legacy as Sane Dennis Rodman by becoming a better perimeter and post defender to complete his all-around skill package. Thompson leads the league in offensive rebounding percentage and his midrange jumper turns the corner, giving no one anything to complain about. He's picked as the unanimous Sixth Man of the Year and makes an All-Defensive team, and is instrumental in helping the Cavs knock off the Thunder in the Finals by handling many switches onto Kevin Durant and even guarding Durant down the stretch in a couple of close games. Moving forward into the summer, the Cavs are able to let Timofey Mozgov leave in free agency, promoting Thompson to the starting center spot. - TM

Worst Case - Thompson, after signing a max deal, fails to develop on offense and his offensive flaws make the Cavs easier to defend when he's on the floor. Additionally, the Love-Thompson pairing that was so effective and mobile last season isn't quite as good this year. This forces Thompson to exclusively play with Mozgov or as a five when LeBron slides down to the four, thus limiting his effectiveness and keeping him off the floor. - CM

Timofey Mozgov

Best Case - While Mozgov doesn't make huge jumps as a defender, his shooting continues to develop, and Mozgov becomes a great threat from the elbows the way Anderson Varejao did a few years ago. He still is good for one or two thunderous dunks a game, and while he plays less to give more minutes to Thompson, he becomes more effective overall in shorter spurts. The playoffs are where Mozgov really shines, though, as a path through the Raptors, Heat, and Bulls in the Eastern Conference allows Mozgov to showcase his talents against two quality frontcourts, and also the Bulls. Mozgov averages 16 points and 8 rebounds in the Cavs' rematch with the Warriors, ruining Andrew Bogut for good and totally neutralizing the Dubs' small-ball tactics. For his services, Mozgov is given a $60 million contract in the offseason by the Dallas Mavericks, which he agrees to but backs out of three days later to remain a Cav for less money. - TM

Worst Case - In year two, Mozgov's role is marginalized by Love, Thompson and perhaps LeBron. He also regresses as a shooter and while he protects the rim well, he isn't quite the success he was last year. When the playoffs start, his minutes are cut by Thompson as the Cavs look to play small and he makes far less on the open market next summer than he would if he'd been a free agent this past summer. - CM

Iman Shumpert

Best Case - Shumpert takes another step forward as a defender, becoming a legitimately great perimeter stopper. Offensively, consistency is the name of the game, as he is able to shoot 37-38 percent for most of the season from three and he cuts down on turnovers. While he doesn't do anything flashy, Shump becomes a more overall effective member of the Cavs, and with J.R. struggling in April, he is promoted to the starting lineup for good. Then, in the playoffs, lockdown efforts against Jimmy Butler in the Conference finals and Klay Thompson in the Finals help Shump be a vital part of the Cavs' championship run. You should be sensing a theme for the best cases of the role players. - TM

Worst Case - If everything goes wrong, Shumpert regresses as a shooter this season - perhaps due to injury - and, as a result, he puts in less effort on defense.  Teams are able to sag off him on offense and this puts more pressure on Irving and Love to create space for every other player on the floor. And due to his defensive struggles, he is unable to spell LeBron and this forces the Cavs to rely more on J.R. Smith than they'd like to.  - CM

Mo Williams

Best Case - In a perfect world, Williams will show that his past few seasons were a product of what teams he played rather than him aging poorly. Taking less shots per game, Williams becomes a killer off-ball shooter and runs the offense when Kyrie Irving is on the bench. Defensively, Williams puts in enough effort to be passable and in Williams, the Cavs find the extra ball handler and shooter they could have used last season.  - CM

Worst Case - Mo Williams is the Mo Williams he has been for the past three years. He continues to be a mess defensively, shoots less than 34 percent from three, and is continually tries to go one-on-five, even when sharing the floor with his team's best players. If you are skeptical of this happening, recall that as a member of the Jazz, Blazers, and Timberwolves, these were all things that consistently occurred. Worst of all, comparatively he makes Matthew Dellavedova look great, sparking wars on Cavs Twitter. Williams is deemed a complete liability by the Cavs' front office, and they trade him to his fifth team in three years for a 2nd-round pick. - TM

Richard Jefferson

Best Case - Jefferson has one more year of usefulness in him, and his three-point shooting and athleticism help him fit nicely into the role James Jones played last season. This allows the Cavs to play more small-ball units with LeBron at the four and Jefferson at the three, and these groups are less terrible defensively than similar groups with Jones last year, making this a more effective strategy. As a result, the Cavs are able to shift gears into a run-and-gun squad for the playoffs, which is particularly necessary and effective in a path that includes the Knicks, Wizards, Bulls, and Grizzlies in the Finals. Jefferson is instrumental in all of this, and he's able to get his first championship ring by being a key contributor for this team. - TM

Worst Case - Jefferson, at 35, turns into Shawn Marion 2.0. He loses too much of his quickness to be passable on defense and he doesn't shoot well enough to stay on the floor and give LeBron a night off from time to time. Jefferson is then supplemented by James Jones, who at least can shoot, in the rotation and doesn't matter come the end of the season. As the result of Jefferson's struggles, LeBron is worn down more than the Cavs would like when the playoffs start.. - CM

Matthew Dellavedova

Best Case - Dellavedova is able to stick to a niche a quasi-backup to both point guard and shooting guard. The Cavs are able to play Dellavedova in lineups where they can emphasize his shooting and defensive abilities while hiding his struggles as a creator. Playing 12-15 minutes a game, Delly plays well enough for the Cavs to offer him a multi-year deal with guaranteed money next summer and he is a Cav for at least two or three more years.

Worst Case - Lingering issues for Kyrie and a Mo Williams injury lead to Delly playing 35 minutes a game for longer than a six-game finals series, in which time opponents figure out many of his tactics. Compounding matters, Delly shows little to no improvement, and goes into a month-long shooting slump in March where he shoots 15 percent from three. Referees are keen to Delly's playoff game plan this time around, and he's ejected in Game 6 of a tight series against the Wizards for literally biting the ankle of Dejuan Blair. In Game 7, with zero point guards available, John Wall posts a triple-double, the Wizards beat the Cavs. Despite this, the Cavs throw Delly a four year, $36 million deal and we are stuck with him through 2020. - TM

Anderson Varejao

Best Case - Varejao stays healthy and his reduced role brings the best out of him. Playing just 15 minutes a game, Varejao's stat line reverts back his line from the 2013-14 season and Varejao sits a majority of back to backs in an effort to keep him healthy. He at least looks somewhat mobile coming off his Achilles rupture and is able to keep Sasha Kaun out of the rotation.  - CM

Worst Case - Andy comes back from his injury, but is a total shell of himself, barely able to move up and down the court because most of his quickness and jumping ability has been sapped by his Achilles rupture. Andy stays healthy for the most part, but is completely ineffective at the things that once made him effective. He is a complete liability, but continues to get minutes because the frontcourt, as a whole, cannot stay healthy. Teams are easily able to expose the Cavs with Varejao defending the pick-and-roll, and the defense suffers as a result. - TM

James Jones

Best Case - A repeat of last season would be fantastic. Jones hitting around 37-38 percent from three and doing his weird thing as a quasi-stretch four next to LeBron for stretches would be beneficial, especially if he can avoid a stretch like last December where he looked twice his age on the floor. Even though I expect Richard Jefferson to take a huge amount of Jones's minutes, We will still probably see him play 15-20 minutes in about 20 games and drop an 18-point night to swing a playoff game. - TM

Worst Case - Jones is pushed out of the rotation by a healthy Kevin Love and Richard Jefferson. He doesn't play much and only sees time when the Cavs are blowing out lesser teams at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Additionally, Jones slows down enough and if he does have to play as a regular part of the rotation, Jones is too slow to play defense and ends up being unplayable. - CM

Sasha Kaun

Best Case - It turns out Kaun is an NBA rotation-level player, and he slides in seamlessly as a scrappy fourth big who can play well with each of the other Cavs bigs. The Cavs are able to use him selectively against multi-big lineups as a post defender and rebounder, and he plays 6-8 minutes a night allowing for extra rest for Mozgov and Love. Mozgov and Kaun unleash a deadly interior passing game that they've worked on in the cold, harsh Russian summers, and thanks to Blatt's familiarity with both players, lineups including these two become a breeding ground for experimentation with the more advanced concepts in Blatt's offensive arsenal. Kaun's role shrinks in the playoffs, except for brief stretches in an Eastern Conference Finals series with the Bulls where Kaunzgov thrashes Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, after which the team celebrates another finals appearance by spraying Stoli instead of champagne. - TM

Worst Case - Kaun comes over, but is both outmatched, outplayed by a healthy Anderson Varejao and is unable to find a spot. With the Cavs playing more small ball, there just aren't minutes for Kaun in the rotation and he racks up DNPs like he's Brendan Haywood or Kendrick Perkins. When he does play, Kaun is too slow to actively defend the paint and his high field percentage in Russia is proven to be an aberration. Kaun makes no impact and isn't an upgrade over the Cavs' fifth bigs from last season. - CM

Joe Harris

Best Case - Harris again splits time between Canton and Cleveland but begins to show signs of potentially becoming a rotation player a year from now. In Canton, he averages 18 points per game while shooting 40 percent from threes and plays in at least 25 games with the Cavs. - CM

Worst Case - A huge run of injuries leads to this: sarting at shooting guard, from Virginia....... -TM