The Critical Improvement Each Young Cleveland Cavaliers Player Must Make
The Cleveland Cavaliers are attempting to do what precious few have done: rebuild a team on the fly after losing a superstar and become stronger after the fact.
This is not unprecedented; the Detroit Pistons not only survived the loss of Grant Hill, but actually became a better team as a result of his exodus.
But in order for this squad to come full circle, its young core is going to have to improve, and improve quickly.
Here are the biggest points of emphasis for improvement for each of the Cavaliers under the age of 26.
Kyrie Irving, PG
It would be tempting to say that this budding superstar need only to avoid injury to improve.
But Irving is not without his faults.
Although he is a score-first point guard, he still needs to do a better job of distributing the ball. Five assists per game isn't enough for a point guard, especially when contrasted against his over three turnovers per contest.
He also needs to continue to improve his shot selection and his perimeter defense.
For a guy as quick as Irving, just over one steal per game isn't nearly enough.
That being said, for a 20-year-old, Irving is way ahead of the curve.
Omri Casspi, SF
Cavs fans tore me apart for suggesting that Casspi could be the starting small forward for Cleveland this year.
Never mind the fact that Casspi is only 24 and started over half the games for the Cavs at small forward this year.
Cavs fans hated the effort that Casspi gave and cursed him as an overrated shooter and scorer.
Obviously, Casspi is a terrible defender and is not much of an athlete.
But he can shoot (last year's numbers not withstanding), and he has good size.
But Cavs fans deserve more effort, and even the semblance of decent defense.
Daniel Gibson, G
Booby Gibson built a reputation as a good shooter in clutch situations.
But he isn't a shooting guard, and he isn't a point guard.
He really reminds me of Anderson Hunt from the old UNLV teams of the late '80s.
That being said, he needs to figure out what he is. If he wants to be a "tweener," specialize in shooting the ball.
If he wants to be a point guard, start consistently driving to the hoop and distributing.
He still could be a really good player, but he has to choose his path.
Luke Harangody, F
It is hard not to love this kid's game.
He has a lot of hustle, loves to muscle down low and can score in a crowd.
But he isn't big enough to be a power forward and isn't quick enough to be a small forward.
He needs to work on his positioning and become a Brian Cardinal-type of player.
Jon Leuer, F
Jon Leuer has a high motor and good basketball smarts.
He also has the desire to mix it up down low.
That being said, he still is raw offensively and has a weak lower body for low post defense.
That isn't to say that Leuer isn't going to be a decent professional.
But he shouldn't have a career that exceeds Jon Koncak's.
C.J. Miles, G/F
C.J. Miles is an athletic swing man that loves to play defense, especially on the perimeter.
That being said, he still needs to work on his mid-range game, perimeter shooting and his ability to play help-side defense.
He can body up anybody, but can he really stop the elite ball players?
Alonzo Gee, F
Gee was a fan favorite last year, and with good reason. He is athletic, strong and loves to play defense.
That being said, he is a weak shooter, can't shake anyone off the dribble and shouldn't be called on by anyone to break down the defense off the dribble.
Gee is a situational defender at best.
In a lot of ways, Samuels reminds me of Jason Maxiell. He loves contact, is wide and has above-average athleticism.
That being said, it is tough to determine if Samuels has the chops to be any good at the next level.
Donald Sloan, PG
Donald Sloan reminds me a lot of Raymond Felton.
Both are used to big pressure situations, and both love to take it to the hoop.
But Sloan is younger, more humble and eager to keep his stuff together.
Sloan should be Irving's primary backup this year.
Tristan Thompson, F
Last year, Thompson showed the ability to challenge shots and grab boards.
He figures to be the focal point of the Cavs offense and should become a gallant cavalier.
Dion Waiters/Tyler Zeller
Waiters is just the dynamic scorer that Cleveland needs at this point.
Dion needs to be more efficient on the perimeter and needs to get to the hoop with regularity at the next level, but there is nothing to suggest that he can't.
Zeller is your prototypical energy guy off the bench with the ability to grab boards and block shots.
This squad should be better than most think.