Cleveland Cavaliers: 6 Reasons the Cavs Will Be Ready to Compete in 2012-13
After a dreadful 2010-11 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have set themselves up to be competitive next year.
However, a new savior has arrived in point guard: Kyrie Irving.
With Irving leading, Cavs fans are beginning to believe again that the team can compete for an NBA title in the future.
It's common knowledge how starved the city of Cleveland is for a title, and of all the teams in the city, the Cavs are the only hope for the foreseeable future.
Here are six reasons why the Cavaliers will be able to compete with the best next year.
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The 2011 draft seemed to lack the kind of impact player at the top that was seen in previous years.
Few doubted that Kyrie Irving would be selected with the No. 1 overall pick, but he didn't have the kind of headlining name that Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin or Dwight Howard had. He was certainly nowhere near the level of the last man drafted No. 1 by the Cavaliers.
He only played 11 games in his one year at Duke.
Yet, the point guard is pretty much a lock for the Rookie of the Year award.
Irving leads the Cavs in points (18.5) and assists (5.4). His PER (21.55) is also 24-best in the league.
Also, there's no doubt as to whether Irving is ready to be a leader on the team.
He wasn't going to let anyone else take the last shot in a game against the Celtics back in January. He drove to the hoop and scored the game-winner with 2.6 seconds to play.
Point guards in general are such a commodity in the league. The Cavs are at a huge advantage to have one of the best young points in the game.
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The Cavaliers aren't burdened with expectations this year, nor will they be next year.
Sure fans and experts alike will think that they should be a good basketball team, but really, the Cavs can play much more carefree basketball then some other teams around them.
Granted, he is the best player in the league, LeBron James has a massive monkey on his back every time he's in the playoffs. It's hard to argue that the weight of expectation hasn't hurt him in his quest for a title.
Then you have a toxic situation with the New York Knicks only made worse by the New York market.
None of that is going to happen with Cleveland.
The team doesn't have to worry about overcoming previous playoff struggles or trying to appease highly demanding fans.
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Dan Gilbert appears to be something of an oddity in Cleveland: He is an owner who is willing to spend what it takes to win.
Cleveland fans have had to put up with the frugal Dolan and Lerner families for the past couple of years.
That might be a bit harsh to Randy Lerner, but there's do doubt he has probably devoted more of his attention to Aston Villa in the English Premier League. He has taken a much more hands-off approach with the Browns.
Gilbert, on the other hand, has been a very public owner.
It was he who wrote the ill-advised open letter following The Decision in which he "guaranteed" the Cavs would win a title before LeBron (via Cleveland.com).
At the time, that sounded completely crazy and it still does. However, Cavaliers fans are in no doubt as to Gilbert's desire to bring a title to Cleveland.
Progress This Season
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Few Cavs fans can forget that this team lost 26 games in a row last year. They still managed to have only the second-worst record, though, at 19-63.
Granted, the Cavs weren't really as bad last year as their massive losing streak would indicate, but they were still not a very good basketball team.
Little has changed with this team aside from Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, and yet, Cleveland sits only three-and-a-half games outside of a playoff spot.
Anything that doesn't result with this team being one of the worst in the NBA would be a step in the right direction. If the Cavs can finish close to a playoff spot, it would be considered a minor miracle.
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It's not as good as last year, but once again, Cleveland has two first-round draft picks.
More than likely one of those picks will be in the lottery while the other comes from the Lakers and is top-14 protected.
Still, though, this offers the Cavs the chance to build this team in a way that will allow them to be competitive for years.
As much as Dan Gilbert said he wanted to win now, he has been smart in not trying to rush things and sign ill-advised free agents.
He's sat back and let general manager Chris Grant do his job.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are a perfect blueprint for the Cavs. They built much of their team through the draft, and it looks like Cleveland is doing the exact same thing.
The Eastern Conference
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The road to the postseason is much easier in the Eastern Conference.
The 20-24 Milwaukee Bucks are just a half-game away from the last playoff spot in the East. Whereas the Cavs would be sitting 13th in the West right now, they're 10th in the East—only three-and-a-half games from the eighth spot.
They have a very realistic shot at making the postseason next year.
Upon reaching the playoffs, anything can happen, really. It just takes getting hot at the right time and the Cavs could make a deep run.
This would not be possible so soon if Cleveland was playing in the West.