As the Cavaliers enter the third year of “Life after LeBron James“, they will look to make more progress off of their second season, which had more positive results than the first. Kyrie Irving has serious potential to become a star, but does Cleveland have enough to make a playoff run by the time next year rolls around?
Irving had a very impressive rookie campaign. Despite missing time with a concussion, Irving averaged 18.5 points per game and shot 40% from the three-point line. Even though Irving was stellar, it’s clear that management will need to add another piece or two around Irving for the Cavaliers to compete for a playoff spot.
That could be a reason why they drafted combo-guard Dion Waiters, out of Syracuse, with the No. 4 pick in the draft. I still think they took Waiters too high, and had other needs they should have focused on, but it’s obvious they thought highly of him. The Cavaliers also selected center Tyler Zeller in the first round. Zeller should provide some help inside, both on offense and defense, and should see solid playing time in his rookie season.
Cleveland might be a year or two away from competing for a playoff spot, but I think they are headed in the right direction after James left them high-and-dry.
Point guard(s) – Kyrie Irving: He will look to build on his solid rookie season and help lead his team to more wins. I think he could become an All-Star as soon as this year. He plays calm and under control, even when the game is on the line. I think Cleveland definitely lucked-out when they drafted him after seeing him play only 11 games in college.
A group of point guards (depending on who makes the roster), could back up Irving. I think Donald Sloan has the inside track.
Position Grade: B
Shooting guard(s) – Dion Waiters: Cleveland didn’t draft him as high as No. 4 to have him come off the bench, at least not right away. I think he will see a significant amount of playing time, especially in crunch-time. Paired with Irving in the backcourt, if Waiters plays well, Cleveland won’t look so stupid for taking a Syracuse player so high in the draft.
C.J. Miles will back up Waiters,
Position Grade: C+
Small forward(s) – Alonzo Gee: He has the inside track to become the starting small forward on this team. Even though I listed Miles as the back up to Waiters, Miles could become the starting small forward because of his height and athleticism. Gee is also athletic and a decent overall player. He won’t fill-up the box score, but he is reliable to a point.
Either Miles or Omir Casspi will back up Gee.
Position Grade: C
Power forward(s) – Tristan Thompson: He came on strong at the end of last season. Even though he saw inconsistent minutes, I think the Cavs liked what they saw from Thompson. He is an athletic forward, who has a “still in progress” offensive game, but is already a solid defender. I think if Thompson takes a big step forward, the Cavs could have something nice in the near future.
Samardo Samuels and Jon Leuer will compete for back up minutes.
Position Grade: C+
Center(s) – Anderson Varejao: Despite missing significant time due to injuries, Varejao averaged a double-double. I have never been a big fan of his, but I will admit that, when he played, he played at a high level. It’s clear that his role might decrease some because of the draft pick the Cavs used on Zeller, but nonetheless, Varejao will be valuable.
Tyler Zeller will back up Varejao.
Position Grade: B-
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Kyrie Irving
G: Dion Waiters
F: Alonzo Gee
F: Tristan Thompson
C: Anderson Varejao
Starting Lineup Grade: B-
G: Donald Sloan
G: C.J. Miles
F: Samardo Samuels
F: Tyler Zeller
Bench Grade: C+
Coaching Grade: B- (Byron Scott)
The Cavaliers will be an improved team this year, but won’t be up to par with the playoff contenders in the East. I have them finishing 4th in the Central Division.