The Cleveland Cavaliers' Top Training Camp Storylines
Finally, folks in the Midwest, the NBA season is upon us! Cleveland fans can forget about the abomination which was the second half of the season for the Indians and the disappointing start to the Browns season.
As odd as it may seem, the Cavaliers are coming to your rescue!
Granted, this is not a title-contending team, but it is a team on the rise. Armed with an explosive point guard, and having made several moves over the past two seasons, this team is trending in the right direction.
Here are the five biggest questions facing the Cavs this preseason.
Can Kyrie Irving Stay Healthy?
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The Cavaliers have their point guard of the future.
The Cavs won the lottery in more ways than one when they drafted Kyrie Irving. They secured their point guard in a guard-centric NBA present/future.
Irving met or exceeded expectations as a rookie, showing tremendous ball-handling, passing and shooting skills. Irving really was all that Cavs fans could hope for.
However, he did miss double-digit games in a lockout-shortened season after an injury-plagued freshman year at Duke.
The questions about his health are going to continue until he shows that he can play a full 82-game season, or at least close to one.
Let's face it: If Irving misses an extended period of time, this team has no shot at a .500 season, let alone a playoff run.
Can (And Should) Tristan Thompson Be a Starter?
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Tristan Thompson was a pleasant surprise for Cleveland fans last year. He showed excellent defensive instincts, was a very underrated rebounder and was a solid finisher.
True, he is about as far from a polished scorer as you can be, but he has the right attitude to develop that aspect of his game. Remember, Charles Oakley began his career as an offensive liability, but he eventually developed into a stud on that end of the court.
But the question for Cleveland is whether or not it can afford to have its two big men starters be offensive weak points.
Anderson Varejao is the incumbent starter up front, but he largely brings the same type of game as Thompson: big on effort, small on offensive skill.
The Cavs will be running plenty of pick-and-rolls. Another big, athletic body will be ideal, but they also will be struggling to score most nights. Having an offensive liability at both the center and power forward spots could be problematic.
So who else could be the starter up front? Rookie Tyler Zeller could pair very well with Varejao, giving the Cavs a very big frontcourt and allowing Thompson to come off the bench and provide energy and defense.
The key to this position battle will be who pairs best with Irving.
Position Battle: Dion Waiters vs. Alonzo Gee
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The Cavs continued their excellent offseason when they drafted perhaps the most talented shooting guard in the draft and signed C.J. Miles as a free agent.
In addition, they re-signed Alonzo Gee. He was a surprise last year in taking over for the largely ineffective Omri Casspi and adding toughness and hustle.
Two of these guys will start this year at the swing positions, and the smart money is on Miles being one of those starters. Since Miles and Gee basically play the same way, either can play small forward or shooting guard.
The real wild card here is rookie Dion Waiters. The Cavs need offense, and neither Gee nor Miles are scorchers on that end of the floor. Waiters can create his own shot and can use his strong upper body to get to the hoop.
The real question comes down to defense. Will the Cavs trust Waiters to help out the diminutive Irving? If he plays as terrible on that end of the court as he did in his first year at Syracuse, the Cavs may be tempted to go with Gee.
But if Waiters can be even somewhat solid on that end of the court, he will have the advantage over Gee.
Does Daniel Gibson Have a Role with This Team?
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Gibson is one of the few remaining players from that squad and, surprisingly, is only in his mid-20s.
He has never been a player with a true position. He lacks playmaking skills as a point guard and the size to be a shooting guard.
While the Cavs certainly need scoring this year, Gibson may be the odd man out. Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles and Dion Waiters figure to get the bulk of the minutes at the shooting guard and small forward spots, and obviously Kyrie Irving is going to play a ton of minutes at the point guard spot.
So where does that leave Gibson?
He will probably be on the bench. He could be a situational shooter, but the days of Gibson playing 25-plus minutes for this team are over.
Who Will Be the Second Option on Offense?
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The Cavs love what they have at point guard, and with good reason. Irving could become one of the best point guards in the league within the next few years.
But rarely do point guards flourish on teams that do not have a good secondary scorer. Isiah Thomas had Joe Dumars; Magic Johnson had James Worthy; Tim Hardaway had Chris Mullin.
Even if you don't have a dominant post option, point guards need someone that can take the offensive load off of their shoulders from time to time.
The Cavs are hoping that Dion Waiters is that player, but there are no guarantees with a rookie.
C.J. Miles and Alonzo Gee are slashers that are defensive-minded but lack elite perimeter games. Anderson Varejao can score around the hoop but lacks a solid post game. Tristan Thompson is a liability on offense.
So who does this leave? Rookie Tyler Zeller could be a stud in this system. He can run the court, he has excellent size and his instincts and footwork are well above average on the offensive side of the ball.
He may not have an elite back-to-the-hoop game, but he has shown flashes of post moves. He is far from a sure thing, but he could really help this team in the upcoming season.