One Burning Question Facing Each Member of the 2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers are a team in transition.
Some teams transition from one era to the next at a snail's pace.
The Detroit Pistons still are struggling to shift gears from their championship days of the last decade.
And the Houston Rockets seem to be sitting in no-man's-land with little hope of a return to championship form.
While the Cavs didn't win a title during the days featuring He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named, they were among the elite teams in the league.
And unlike the teams mentioned above, it appears that they might be trending in the right direction and quickly.
The front office has made all the right moves, and they have assembled a very young yet very talented group of players.
That being said, many questions loom regarding this team and said assembled talent.
Here are the biggest questions facing each member of this year's Cavs squad.
Can he become an elite scorer this year?
The Cavs are a talented squad, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
However, they have shown that they can struggle for long stretches on the other side of the ball.
The entire offense flows through Irving, who wowed everyone last year with over 18 ppg and five apg.
He shot better than most thought (40 percent from three) and, though once knocked for a lack of athleticism, he showed that he certainly belongs in the discussion of future stars.
But for this Cavs team to take the next step and perhaps flirt with the number eight seed in the East, Irving is going to have to step up his scoring load.
Irving in a lot of ways needs to pattern his game around Chicago's Rose and call his own number quite often.
Kyrie needs to get his scoring up to around 23 ppg while keeping a solid assist count, perhaps in the seven to eight range.
Is it possible? Without question.
How quick can Waiters adapt to playing next to Irving?
Dion Waiters can flat-out score.
He is a dynamic player that can get to the rim, but also uses his strength to his advantage on the defensive end.
That being said, he has never played next to a point guard that is as amazing of a scorer as Irving.
This is Kyrie Irving's team, and Waiters needs to show that he can compliment Irving, not the other way around.
Personally, I would like to see Waiters embrace a defensive-minded role to begin with. Keep his guy in front of him, and score when needed.
Waiters personally might envision 20 ppg as a rookie; I think 13-15 is more reasonable in this offense.
He also needs to develop his jumper so that he can be a bail-out option for Irving on the kick out.
Otherwise, we could be looking at Allen Iverson and Jerry Stackhouse 2.0.
Can he become a more consistent scorer?
Anderson Varejao's name brings to mind two things: energy and defense.
Varejao is also an extremely talented rebounder and can draw charges like few others in the league.
What he isn't, however, is a consistent scorer.
So far during his career, Varejao has subsisted on garbage points and the occasional broken play.
But now that Tristan Thompson has emerged as a potential starter and Tyler Zeller looms as a first round pick, Varejao is going to have to step up his offensive game or else risk being relegated back to the bench.
I already highlighted how this year's Cavs team will struggle at times offensively and Thompson really doesn't add a ton in this department.
Therefore, it will be on Varejao to step up his game in order to take pressure off of the perimeter.
This is a difficult question to answer as Varejao does not have exceptional range. But with a little more work on his jumper from 10 feet out, he could add a new dynamic to his game.
Remember, Charles Oakley at one point was considered a one-dimensional player as well, but by the end of his career he was a dangerous weapon offensively.
What is Thompson's present (and future) role with Cleveland?
There is a lot to love about Thompson's game.
He has a lot of energy, a great knack for rebounding the ball and a wingspan that makes a future shot-blocking title well within reach.
However, Thompson is fairly short by today's NBA standards for a power forward.
Sure, his long arms cancel some of that out, but, at 6'8", he will routinely be going up against guys two, three or even four inches taller.
That may not seem like a lot, but near the hoop that is quite a chasm to leap.
There is a possibility that though talented as just about anyone playing the position, he might be better suited as an energy guy off the bench.
A starting lineup of Thompson and Varejao would be great on the defensive end, but pretty atrocious on the offensive side of things.
Can Miles start at the three?
First let me say that I love the move to obtain C.J. Miles.
He is a smart player that plays good defense and has a solid outside shot. He doesn't score a ton, but in the past he didn't really need to.
And despite going into his eighth year in the league, he still is only 25.
However, it is hard to see exactly what role Miles will have with this team. The Cavs are weak at small forward, and Miles would bring savvy and intelligence to the position.
But he doesn't bring much scoring.
His career high in scoring is nearly 13 ppg two years ago, but that was the only time he averaged over double figures. Also, he is fairly short for the position. At 6'6", will he be able to routinely guard players that are four or five inches taller?
The Cavs are already starting a somewhat short Waiters and Irving at the guard spots, and could run with Thompson and Varejao up front.
Can Casspi contribute to this team?
A more apt question might be "what happened to this guy?"
Omri Casspi came into the league in 2009 as an active energy guy with good range on his three.
After a promising rookie year, Casspi seems to have lost his way.
He started the year as the starting small forward for Cleveland, but eventually was pushed to the bench and later the doghouse due to inconsistent play and a non-existent midrange game.
He also is a terrible free-throw shooter and though he has good size, is not a great defender.
At this point in his career, he is little more than a long wing that can run the floor.
But Cleveland needs a scorer in this role and at this position, so even though Casspi is probably a little better at scoring than Miles or Alonzo Gee, he might struggle to see minutes with this team.
Can the Cavs afford to keep Zeller on the bench?
Tyler Zeller, in my eyes, was an inspired pick by this Cavs team.
He comes from a winning program, he can rebound and block the occasional shot, and he has good size.
He also, unlike Thompson and Varejao, has nice range on his shot and a smooth touch near the hoop.
So although the Cavs are high on Thompson, they really can't afford to start two bigs that struggle to consistently score and are relied upon mainly for their defense and rebounding.
And even though some teams are apprehensive in starting a rookie big man right out of the gates, the Cavs may be forced to do just that.
Will Miles take Gee's minutes?
Alonzo Gee essentially burst onto the scene last year to replace the largely ineffective Omri Casspi.
He brought energy, athleticism and a ton of strength to the small forward spot.
Gee can get to the hoop and is your prototypical "slasher". He also can play strong perimeter defense.
What he doesn't do incredibly well is shoot the ball.
Overall, his perimeter game could use a lot of work.
He also isn't terribly tall, going only about 6'6" on a good day.
That would be okay, if it weren't for the fact that Cleveland just brought in a guy that does a lot of those things already, and is the same height.
Gee is stronger than Miles, but isn't quite as good of a shooter. Gee is the better scorer, but neither is a game-changer. So the question is whether or not there will be enough minutes to go around.
Some would say that this is a good problem to have.
Is Gibson still capable of improvement?
Even as I write this, I am completely awed that Daniel Gibson is still just 26 years old.
It seems like he was breaking Detroit fan's hearts 10 years ago.
The seventh-year player has never truly put it all together.
He is a talented, albeit streaky, perimeter shooter, but he really doesn't do anything else well. He is most certainly a shooting guard, but he is small even for a point guard.
So with Cleveland drafting Dion Waiters to be their shooting guard of the future alongside incumbent star point guard Irving, it is tough to see exactly what Gibson is striving for.
True, every team could use a three-point specialist, but is that what we are relegating Gibson to become? After all, he still is in his prime, and it is tough to give up on improvement for guys like that.
But perhaps Gibson is destined to become the Craig Hodges of this team.
If that is the case, he needs to really commit to being the best spot-up shooter on the planet. Otherwise, he is destined to wash out without ever realizing his potential.
Will Leuer play more than 12 minutes per game?
Jon Leuer was obtained from Milwaukee this year by Cleveland, and on the surface he appears to be a solid player.
He has good size and range to his jumper. He runs the court well and given enough minutes could be a solid shot-blocker.
But therein lies the problem.
Where exactly is Leuer going to get his minutes?
He lacks the athleticism of Thompson, the strength of Zeller, or the combination of both of Varejao. Add to the mix the fact that he really doesn't have adequate bulk to play center, and you have a tough spot.
He needs to find a niche as a bench scorer and hope that the team struggles to score without him.
Can Azubuike truly come back?
Azubuike was destined to become one of those great NBA stories.
An undrafted kid from the United Kingdom, Azubuike caught on in the NBA after stints in the Developmental League, and would eventually become an impressive scorer for the Golden State Warriors.
Sadly, he blew out his Patella tendon in 2009 and has only played in 12 games since then.
The strength of his game was his athleticism, so it will be tough for him to come back.
Regardless, he is a low-risk, high-reward type of player for Cleveland if he pans out.
Is Sloan good enough to be Irving's primary backup?
Donald Sloan did a fairly good job as Kyrie Irving's primary backup last year.
He is a pass first, pass second type of point guard that can penetrate and create for teammates.
But he can't shoot. No seriously, he can't shoot at all. No midrange game, no three ball. Nothing.
The good news is that Irving looked pretty dependable last year and shouldn't need to take too many nights or minutes off.
But is Sloan really the answer as a backup?
The guess here is that Cleveland is probably looking for a veteran backup that is more talented than Sloan.
Luke Walton, Samardo Samuels, Jeremy Pargo, Luke Harangody, Michael Eric
Can any of these five make the team?
The Cavs are in an interesting position. They are a formerly-awful team that finally is adding real talent.
In a lot of ways, they are like the formerly-ugly girl that undergoes a top-flight makeover and now is the belle of the ball.
The Cavs can finally afford to be choosey.
The good news is that all of the above players are on one year deals and can be packaged and dealt or just cut outright and let the chips fall where they may.
Walton probably will be kept around. He is a veteran that adds championship pedigree to a young and inexperienced squad.
Samuels is big but offers little in the line of offense or real defensive prowess. He can be replaced.
argo isn't terrible, but like Samuels, is easily replaced.
Harangody really doesn't have any true value. He can't shoot, lacks athleticism, and can't play strong defense.
Eric didn't play at all last year, but is a solid rebounder and shot-blocker if his college numbers translate even somewhat to the pros.
Of these five, only Walton seems safe to make the squad, although I personally wouldn't dismiss Eric or Samuels too swiftly. But it probably comes down to just Walton and Eric.
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