The 5 Most Pivotal Players for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2012-13
The Cleveland Cavaliers finally have clawed their way back to respectability.
The next step in their progression will be making a serious run at the playoffs.
But don't start looking for playoff tickets just yet.
This is a team with many holes and loads of questions that need to be answered.
Who will start opposite Kyrie Irving? Who will be the first big man off the bench? Where will the scoring come from?
While everyone on the roster needs to step up their respective games, their are a few players in particular that most of the team's success will largely hinge on.
Here are the five most pivotal Cleveland Cavaliers for this upcoming season.
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Alright, so this one is pretty obvious.
Kyrie Irving is the face of this franchise and in his rookie season he showed why the Cavs may have a bright future. He displayed excellent quickness, range and court vision.
That being said, there still are lingering questions about his durability. He missed the majority of his college career at Duke and as an NBA rookie he missed another 15 games.
In order for Cleveland to take the next step as a franchise, they will need a healthy and effective Irving.
They also will need him to score quite a bit as their offense could struggle on most nights.
If Irving misses more than 10 games this year, the whispers about durability will grow louder, and the team is likely to lose the bulk of games played without their star PG.
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Coming out of college, Dion Waiters was viewed by most people as the most natural scorer at the shooting guard position in the entire draft.
He can get to the hoop seemingly at will, and while his jumper isn't yet consistent from the perimeter, he shows plenty of potential.
What makes Waiters so crucial to this team is what appears to be a dearth of scorers on the roster. Besides Irving, there are not a lot of automatic buckets in this lineup.
The Cavs need Waiters to be a serious scoring threat in order for free up easy buckets for the big guys underneath.
The real question will be how Waiters plays alongside Irving. The ideal sidekick for Irving would be a guy with a bit of a better three-point game, but it is hard to knock the potential in Waiters' game.
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Last year, Tristan Thompson made the Cleveland brass look awfully smart.
Defensively, he looked to have excellent instincts and footwork. He provided the Cavs with a much needed shot-blocking presence and even pitched in with some highlight reel worthy dunks.
Offensively, he is very limited. He has very little range and his shooting percentage of less than 44 percent is concerning for a guy that plays so close to the hoop.
What was impressive were his numbers when he was given extended minutes. Per 36 minutes, he averaged close to a double-double and nearly two blocks per game.
The question becomes what should the Cavs do with him? Should they attempt to play him and Anderson Varejao up front, giving Cleveland one of the most offensively challenged frontcourt's in the league? Do they start him and rookie Tyler Zeller together? Or do they bring him off the bench to provide energy and defense for the second unit?
Whatever his role, he is sure to play a critical one this upcoming season.
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C.J. Miles was one of the most underrated signings this offseason.
But just because this signing didn't come with a lot of fanfare, it doesn't mean that it wasn't one of the more intriguing moves completed over the summer.
Miles, who is entering his eighth NBA season, brings this team a lot. He is an excellent defender, has solid range and is a smart player.
Miles was originally a second round pick out of high school by Utah. He worked hard and eventually earned the trust of his coaches. Used primarily as a reserve, Miles showed what determination and hard work can earn a player.
In Cleveland, Miles will be asked to do much of the same. Perhaps his biggest role will be as Dion Waiters' sparring partner and mentor. Waiters is loaded with potential, but he likely will not supplant Miles in the lineup without earning it. And given Miles' background, it would appear that he will make this very difficult for the rookie.
Though not generally seen as a scorer, Miles is certainly capable of lighting it up from time to time, as evidenced by his three 20-plus point performances last year. But the real goal for him will be to take defensive pressure off of Irving and knock down the occasional open three-pointer.
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While many fans are looking at Waiters as the most important player in this year's draft for the Cavs, Tyler Zeller has largely slipped through the cracks.
And while Waiters has a much higher ceiling, it seems likely that Zeller should have a better start to his career.
Zeller is a mature, physical player that comes from a wildly successful college program. He is used to winning and likely will be a positive influence on and off the court.
He also provides something that is desperately lacking on this team—a semblance of an offensive post game. Zeller is far from Hakeem Olajuwon down low, but he does have a solid scoring game from 10 feet in.
Zeller also is a very good rebounder and a decent shot-blocker. Defensively, he probably won't be confused with Tristan Thompson, but he won't be a major step back, either.
While it probably stands to reason that Zeller will initially be a bench player, it is definitely not outside of the realm of possibilities that he wins the starting center gig.
Whatever his role, he figures to be a huge piece of the puzzle this year.