Cavs at a glance
I have to admit, I generally dislike Cleveland teams. They usually underachieve to an almost comedic level, and their sports landscape is littered with cautionary tales.
That being said, there is a lot to like about the direction that this team is heading. They have their point guard of the future in Kyrie Irving, one of the top five young floor generals in the league. They have a very good shooting guard prospect in Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson showed some real potential last year.
Their last couple drafts have been inspired, and their free-agent moves have been measured yet excellent. C.J. Miles was a great pickup, Alonzo Gee has turned into a very nice gem and their combination of athleticism and activity in the frontcourt should make for an exciting team.
Their long-term financials are excellent, with only Anderson Varejao on the books for more than $9 million per season. They have some young guys who will need to be paid eventually, but those are a couple years away.
This team has financial flexibility and some real prospects for future growth.
Where Cleveland has the advantage
Cleveland has some really talented and defensively active big men. Varejao and Thompson anchor the defense, and Miles and Gee are very physical small forwards.
I think that Waiters is going to be a very good pro, but he really is the wild card in this group. He could hit the ground running if he is aggressive to the hoop and works on his defense. But if he struggles with his shot and plays the type of nonexistent defense that he played as a freshman at Syracuse, he could be in for a long season.
Irving remains the key to this team. If he is able to continue to develop as a distributor, he could be special. This year, however, he will need to score a ton in order for this team to be successful. Some have knocked his athleticism and durability, but I think he will surprise some people this year.
Where Detroit has the advantage
The Pistons have a better center, small forward and shooting guard. Stuckey should give Waiters serious trouble, and Prince's length should frustrate Miles and Gee. Varejao and Thompson will have their work cut out for them with Monroe, especially in the high-low post game.
Knight isn't nearly as talented as Irving right now, but this year should be a preview of some future epic battles between the two sophomore point guards.
These two teams are largely in the same boat. Detroit has the better future frontcourt with Monroe already leagues beyond Thompson, and any contribution from Drummond should be a bonus. True, the Cavs also have Tyler Zeller who should contribute right away, but you still have to like the Pistons up front going forward.
The Cavs are very talented yet incredibly undersized at small forward and somewhat so in the backcourt, but you have to love what they are doing as a team.
And if Waiters develops into have the player I think he could be, this team could contend for a playoff spot right away.
You have to put Cleveland a hair above Detroit right now in development based simply on how much better Irving is than Knight.