Cleveland Cavaliers: Five Bold Predictions for the Cavs' 2012-13 Season
For Cleveland faithful, it’s never too early to start getting excited for next year.
Granted, it takes a bit of voodoo magic to accurately predict the future season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had a roller-coaster year last season, showing improvements before injuries took the team down.
Don’t be fooled by the team’s 2012 record; the Cleveland Cavaliers are quietly becoming a solid squad.
The following are five predictions for the 2012-13 Cavaliers season.
Anderson Varejão Will Be Traded
We all love the Wild Thing.
Unfortunately, he does not fit in the Cavaliers’ rebuilding plan.
Andy will be 30 years old once 2012-13 season commences. Realistically (unless Andrew Bynum ends up in Wine and Gold), it will take a few seasons before the Cavaliers will be true title contenders.
Varejao plays a high-energy, max-hustle style of basketball. Between his injuries and increasing age, he may not be effective enough in his mid-30s to warrant a $8 million-$10 million contract.
Varejao could be a vital piece on a playoff contender right now. Before he got hurt last season, Andy averaged 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, causing All-Star candidate whispers.
His effect on the court is known: Varejao helped the Cavaliers to a 10-14 record. Once the big man went down, the Cavs lost 20 of their last 31 games.
Around the league, there has been interest in the Wild Thing. According to Probasketballdraft.com and ESPN, respectively, Varejao has been included in Bynum trade rumors, while Golden State reportedly offered their No. 7 2012 draft pick for Varejao and the Cavaliers' No. 24 pick.
Cavs GM Chris Grant needs to pull the trigger on a trade while Andy’s stock is still high.
Sophomore Surge, Not Slump, for Kyrie Irving
When I heard the news that Kyrie Irving broke his hand, I almost cried. Seriously.
Fortunately for the Cavs, Irving will be fully recovered by the time training camp begins.
Even without an offseason, Irving stepped into Cleveland and became an NBA top-10 point guard, earning Rookie of the Year honors. He has earned the respect of future Hall of Famers, sponsors, and coaches.
With the NBA lockout taking away training camp, Irving did not have the time to properly learn the intricacies of his offense. Coach Scott’s Princeton Offense is complicated: each player is constantly in motion, trying to create high-percentage shots from off-the-ball screens.
Now, Kyrie can fully learn his scheme alongside his future running mates.
Aside from Antawn Jamison, Irving did not have a reliable scoring threat. The additions of Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller, coupled with the developments of Alonzo Gee and Tristan Thompson, will help propel Kyrie to the next tier by giving him additional offensive talent.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban often speaks about “placing your player in a position to succeed”. Given a full offseason with up-and-coming players, Irving steps into The Q in the position to become a superstar.
Tyler Zeller Will Outshine Dion Waiters...This Year
While I fully believe Dion Waiters will be a stud (some call it Cleveland optimism), Tyler Zeller will have a better rookie campaign.
Zeller, due to his four years of college experience, is currently the more NBA-ready rookie. While it is not wise to put too much thought into the Summer League exhibition games, Zeller’s performance exceeded expectations.
Shooting 46.3 FG% , Zeller averaged 11.4 points per game in the Summer League. More impressively, Zeller averaged 7.6 rebounds per 22.6 minutes (via hoopdata.com). The League allowed him to showcase his mid-range shooting ability and his fundamental defense, proving he is an NBA-ready center.
Waiters’ Summer League performance tells a different story.
Although he averaged 12.3 points per game, Waiters only made 30 percent of his shots. His offense is not his main concern, though: Waiters’ defense was disappointing.
On multiple possessions, his man was able to spin off Waiters, leaving a clear path to the post. He seems to be disinterested on the defensive end of the ball, which will send him straight to Coach Scott’s doghouse.
Long-term, Dion Waiters will be a better all-around player than Tyler Zeller. But for this upcoming season, Zeller will be looking like the higher draft pick.
Alzonso Gee Will Be a Top-3 Cavaliers Scorer
When the Cavaliers extended a qualifying offer to Alonzo Gee, he became a free agent.
That being said, it is safe to expect Gee to be rocking Wine and Gold this season. As the free-agency excitement begins to cool down, Gee is left without the eight-figure offers he was hoping for.
The lack of interest, combined with Gee’s desire to play in Cleveland, mean the swingman will most likely be a Cavalier for at least another year.
With Antawn Jamison leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers, there is a primary scoring gap on the Cavalier roster. Kyrie Irving will, without question, be the leading scorer most nights, but who will pick up the slack? It will take some time for Dion Waiters to come into his own and be effective.
It’s time for Gee to shine.
In order to be effective in Coach Byron Scott’s Princeton Offense, the small forward must be able to cut off the ball and score at the basket. In 2012, Gee showcased his dunking ability, boasting an impressive 58.7 FG% at the rim.
Take a few steps back and Gee struggles: from 3-9 feet from the basket, Gee shoots 19.7% (via hoopdata.com). Gee’s aggressiveness around the rim allows him to attack the basket, allowing him to score 10.6 points per game. Gee has the raw talent to thrive if he keeps improving on his numbers.
Given a full offseason, along with a brand spankin’ new contract, expect Gee to perform.
The Cavaliers Will Be Mid-Lottery at the End of the Season
There is going to be a bit of a learning curve for our young team this season.
That being said, there is absolutely no reason to think the Cavaliers can’t exceed national expectations. When the 2013 season comes to a conclusion, the Cavaliers will improve to the middle of the draft lottery.
Byron Scott’s offense revolves around athleticism; Grant has drafted players to fit the bill. Assuming Gee remains a Cavalier, four out of the five Cavaliers starters will be 25 years old or younger. Each “building block” player fits very well into Coach Scott’s scheme and will be given every opportunity to succeed.
On the flip side, the Cavaliers need time to develop.
While Zeller and Gee will perform at respectable levels, Thomson and Waiters will need another year or two to develop into starter-quality players. The Cavaliers bench is in the same situation: newcomers, such as Jon Leuer and Jeremy Pargo, need to keep developing to tap their potentials.
While it seems like every team improved in the offseason (Orlando doesn’t count), the Cavaliers will make bigger strides than most. The young players will run the transition offense beautifully, chalking up some “W”s for our city.
Cleveland fans know the pain of “one more year,” but there should be nothing but optimism for the Wine and Gold’s future.