Cleveland Cavaliers 2011-12 Season Review: Better Than You Might Think

Benjamin Flack@@ClevelandFlackSenior Analyst IMay 1, 2012

It’s weird.

Conventional wisdom would say that finishing 21-45 with the third-worst record in the NBA would not constitute a successful season.

I, on the other hand, would say it does.

Now don’t get me wrong; I hate losing. In fact, I even wrote about this dilemma earlier this season.

I hate watching the Cleveland Cavaliers lose basketball games. I miss the winning days.

But I’m smart enough to know that in the NBA the best way to get good is by losing. It’s stupid and I hate it, but it’s how the system works.

The Cavs struck gold last year winning the lottery and getting Kyrie Irving in a draft where you could argue there wasn’t a single other guy who will make multiple All-Star games (I’m not willing to count out any of them ever make an All-Star team because you never know. But multiple times? Don’t think so.)

Kyrie is great. He’s fantastic. He’s everything that a team could ever ask for out of a draft pick who only played 11 games in college.

And to think that I was on the “draft Derrick Williams and Kemba Walker” bandwagon.

We all make mistakes. I’m big enough to admit I was very wrong.

I find it refreshing that Kyrie is also getting noticed around the league. He’s hands-down the only guy experts think should be considered for Rookie of the Year.

He’s already leaps and bounds better than the previous year’s No. 1 pick, Jon Wall.

Kyrie might actually be the best shooting point guard in the entire NBA. You can call me crazy if you want, but you better come up with someone who’s better.

I’m going to relish in the fact that I get to watch Kyrie Irving on the Cavs for many years to come. He is a legitimate star and we should all enjoy it while it lasts.

But the Cavs are going to need more than just Kyrie to get back to the playoffs and to contending for championships.

I’m not thrilled with Tristan Thompson so far. Not gonna lie.

If he’s ever going to be a long-term starter at the power forward position, he’s going to need to score more. He doesn’t do enough else on the floor to make up for his lack of offensive production.

I can live with Anderson Varejao’s limitations offensively because he’s a very good defensive player and one of the best rebounders in the league. He does so many things well on the court that I don’t mind that he only scores 10 points a game.

But Thompson doesn’t give me what Varejao does.

Now I’m probably being too hard on him. He is just a rookie and we all knew coming in that he was very raw.

I just don’t want to see happen to Thompson what happened to Christian Eyenga.

Eyenga is a guy that has all the athletic ability in the world that you could want out of a wing player. But he has not been able to develop that into functional basketball ability. And that’s why he isn’t on the Cavs anymore.

I don’t want that to be Thompson’s fate.

Going forward, this team needs Tristan Thompson.

We also need a really good player in the draft this summer, which is the main reason that this was a successful season.

The Cavs needed to finish as low as they could this season, especially considering the draft is a little deeper than last year.

At the best we can get Anthony Davis (13.8% chance of winning the lottery) and at the worst Harrison Barnes (at pick No. 6). I’ll take that.

It would be awesome if we could get Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who’s a terrific wing player (something we sorely need) and incidentally was Kyrie’s high school teammate.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll have the whole summer for draft talk.

Back to the season we just had. I thought we found out a lot about the players currently on this roster.

I think Alonzo Gee went from being a D-League call-up just hanging on to one of the worst teams in the league to being a legitimate NBA small forward. I don’t think there’s a team in the league that wouldn’t take Gee as at least a rotational player.

I think the past two seasons have taught us how valuable Varejao is to the Cavs. Both seasons saw the team go from on the fringe of competing for the playoffs to fall drastically to bottom of the league when he went down.

I do worry that Andy might just be fragile. I don’t buy “well, the way he plays he’s always going to be hurt” thinking. He broke his hand getting hacked by Drew Gooden (no call by the way…thanks, refs), not by diving for a loose ball. I don’t think the way he plays gets him injured. I think it’s just that he’s a little fragile.

And that happens to athletes in all sports. Look at Andrew Bogut. I don’t know if he’s had the same injury more than once, but it seems like he’s always injured. And that’s the way it is for some players.

I hope I’m wrong and I hope that Varejao plays a full season next year because we need him in the worst way possible.

If the Cavs can stay healthy and if the young players develop like we hope they will, I see no reason why the Cavs can’t contend for the playoffs next year.

I know a lot will hinge on how the draft goes and if we can get a contributing player with that Lakers pick.

But I really believe that Kyrie will make the jump to becoming an All-Star next year. He’s just a special player.

And let’s face it, in the Eastern Conference, you don’t have to be world-beaters to get into the playoffs.

We were in it this year until Andy went down and Antawn Jamison decided that as long as he wasn’t going anywhere, he might as well stay and shoot a while…or a lot.

Jamison put up good stats but it rarely felt like his whole play on both ends of the court won us ball games this year. He’s obviously not a part of this team going forward, which is a good thing.

All in all, I’m excited about the future of the Cavs. I think this offseason can be a great one in Cleveland. That draft pick is going to be huge. Chris Grant has to hit on it.

If we can get a good pick, then I’m done with losing. I won’t accept it going forward. And I think that Byron Scott is the perfect coach to make that happen.

Scott’s track record is all about turning around bad rosters and making them into playoff teams. And probably most importantly, he has his point guard in place like he had Jason Kidd in New Jersey and Chris Paul in New Orleans.

Cleveland needs to start expecting their teams to win and stop being complacent and accepting of losing. I understand that losing is part of the process. But going into next year, we need to start demanding results. I’ll freak out if I hear people talking about tanking again.

I think Dan Gilbert is expecting to win as well. I love that these past two years of losing have killed him. He’s dying for the Cavs to be a winning team again. He expects to win. I expect them to win as well.

The biggest negative of this season though may have also been one of the best things…Lester Hudson.

Oh, Lester, you came into our lives and stole our hearts. And then just as quickly as you burst onto the scene, you were gone. Like a fleeting dream, you drew us into believing you were real, only to wake up realize it was all for naught. Did we all just get “incepted”?

I suppose it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I’ll be rooting for Memphis in the playoffs just because of Lester.

One last thing, last summer I wrote a review of every Cavs player and titled their review with one of the movies from that summer. It went really well, I thought.

I’m planning on doing something very similar again this summer, so stay tuned to that.

With that, it’s on to the summer! I can’t tell you how excited I am to have Summer League basketball back in my life. Yes, I know… I’m a bit of a basketball nerd.

This is the summer that the Cavs really make a big turn back to the playoffs, folks! Jump on the bandwagon before it becomes overrun with posers!

Go Cavs!



You can follow Benjamin Flack on Twitter @ClevelandFlack.


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