Cleveland Cavaliers: Five Keys to Future Success
After two years of lottery draft picks, the Cleveland Cavaliers' future is beginning to take shape.
GM Chris Grant has formed a solid core of players, led by Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving.
The future of the Cavaliers can either lead to stardom or irrelevance. The following are five ways the Cavs can, once again, become a solid playoff contending team.
Dion Waiters Must Reach His Full Potential
Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE
To contend in today’s NBA, having multiple All-Stars on a roster is essential.
There is no reason to believe Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving will not develop into an All-Star as soon as this season. In his rookie season, Irving averaged more points in less minutes than former Rookie of the Year Award winners Derrick Rose and Chris Paul (via ESPN).
Rookie shooting guard Dion Waiters has the potential to become the sidekick All-Star next to Irving.
While his Summer League performance didn't impress anyone, Waiters has shown flashes of high-level basketball. His athleticism, paired with a solid slash-and-finish ability, has left Cleveland fans and scouts salivating. While Dwyane Wade comparisons are a bit far-out, Waiters has every skill necessary to become a star.
Waiters must develop into an All-Star, not a solid starter. Teams full of solid starters, such as the Memphis Grizzlies, have continually lost to teams with multiple All-Stars, such as the Oklahoma City Thunder. All-Star development is essential in bringing Cleveland back into contention.
Tristan Thompson Must Develop His Offensive Skills
David Richard-US PRESSWIRE
For the past year, Cavaliers fans have been split on the decision to pass on Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas to draft power forward Tristan Thompson. Valanciunas will enter the NBA this season, so this year will start to show if the Cavaliers’ Front Office made the correct decision.
To help his case, Thompson must improve on the offensive end of the court. Last season Thompson averaged 8.2 points per game, shooting under 44% from the field. Even worse, Thompson shot only 55.2% from the free-throw line.
Those numbers are unacceptable if Thompson wishes become a significant part of the Cavaliers’ rebuilding effort.
Fortunately, Thompson has spent the offseason working with two-time All-Star Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He has shown improvement: In the Summer League, Thompson averaged 10 points per 15.8 minutes while shooting about 60% from the field. To make a significant contribution to the Cavaliers, he must be able to transfer these averages into the regular season.
The addition of Tyler Zeller will also provide Thompson with better opportunities to succeed this year. Thompson’s biggest weakness, jump shooting, is one of Zeller’s strengths. Defenses will pay more attention to Zeller in the high-post, allowing Thompson to thrive in the low-post.
Thompson is essential to the Cavaliers’ future; he must prove to Cleveland that he was worth his high draft selection.
Injuries Must Be Limited
David Richard-US PRESSWIRE
Last season, the Cavaliers got bitten pretty hard by the injury bug.
When Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving went down with injuries, the Cavaliers went from possible 8th-seed playoff contenders to, sadly, one of the worst teams in basketball.
Unfortunately, Kyrie Irving is injury prone. In his sole season at Duke, he was limited to 11 games due to foot problems. Last year, Kyrie missed several games due to shoulder problems. His prior injuries, combined with his current broken hand, have left Cleveland fearful that Irving may be fragile.
Anderson Varejao’s wild, high-energy style of play leaves him prone to injuries as well. Varejao missed the final 41 games last season due to a wrist injury, leaving the Cavaliers without an adequate center. The good news is, for now, Varejao is healthy: he was able to play for Team Brazil in the recent 2012 Olympics.
The Cavaliers need a healthy lineup in order to be successful. They are only in their second year of rebuilding; there is not enough depth on this roster to allow the team to compete if the starters go down.
Injuries are inevitable, but hopefully Cleveland doesn’t have to suffer through more season-ending problems.
Varejao Must Be Traded While His Stock Is High
Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE
As much as Cleveland will hate to see him go, Anderson Varejao must be traded while his value is still high.
By the time the 2012-13 season begins, Varejao will be 30 years old. Varejao’s increasing age, combined with constant injury concerns, will inhibit his high-energy type of play.
At the moment though, Varejao’s stock is high enough to be traded for substantial value: the Cavaliers were reportedly offered Golden State’s #7 2012 draft pick for Varejao and the Cavaliers’ #24 draft pick. Andy averaged a double-double last season, proving he can be an effective sixth-man for a playoff contender.
At the time of this publication, the Cavaliers have eight power forwards/centers on their roster. Since a final roster can only have 12 active players, some of these big men will either be cut, traded, or sent to the D-League.
All signs point to Varejao’s departure. Due to long-term rebuilding plans, he has been involved in Cavs’ trade rumors for two years. GM Chris Grant would be wise to pull the trigger on a Varejao trade as soon as possible while the stock of the "Wild Thing" is still up.
Future Draft Picks/Other Teams' Success
David Richard-US PRESSWIRE
Oddly enough, the Cavaliers’ future is directly effected by a few other teams’ final records.
GM Chris Grant has done a phenomenal job of acquiring future draft picks: aside from the Cavs’ own picks, they potentially have six other draft picks over the next three years.
For the 2013 draft, the Cavaliers have the potential to own three first-round draft picks.
It is almost certain the Cavaliers will retain the Miami Heat’s 2013 first-round bid: the pick is only top-10 protected. “Top-10” protected means as long as Miami doesn’t somehow drop into the bottom 10 teams, the Cavaliers will keep the pick.
The Cavs also own the rights to the Sacramento Kings’ 2013 1st round draft pick. This pick is top-13 protected; so unless Sacramento jumps from a low lottery team to a playoff contender, the Cavaliers will have to wait until next year for the opportunity to retain the pick. All in all, the Cavaliers need the Kings to succeed.
Grant also has the opportunity to swap any of the Cavs’ 2013 first-round picks with the Los Angeles Lakers’ first pick.
Looking further, the Cavaliers have additional second-round picks in 2013 and 2014, with an additional first-rounder coming in 2015.
The rebuilding effort is full-go in Cleveland. This will be an exciting team to watch for years to come.