Cleveland played very well throughout the night, and the game was really only in question for a short amount of time in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving looked sensational, Anderson Varejao was a monster on the boards, Tristan Thompson put up a solid double-double and Dion Waiters played very well in his NBA debut. The offense was in rhythm, the defense played extremely well and the hustle to get to loose balls and pull down rebounds was exceptional.
It was nice to see the Cavaliers put together a strong game and start their season off on the winning track. Some people are disregarding the win because Washington was without John Wall and Nene, but Cleveland fans know that things are starting to swing upwards for the Cavaliers.
The only really bad part about the night was the performance of Alonzo Gee. Gee went two-of-nine shooting, scored only four points, recorded three rebounds and had two assists. He did not look very good defensively either for the Cavaliers. Gee's performance left Cavaliers fans questioning their starting small forward's ability to start in the NBA.
In the offseason, the Cavaliers obviously needed to address the two-guard position and answer questions at the center position. The small forward role was obviously a concern, but for a team that had so many positions to fill, it was put on the back-burner. Cleveland drafted Waiters to fill the two-guard spot and also traded in the draft to get Tyler Zeller to help add some depth to the center position.
In the move for Zeller, the Cavaliers had to send their second-round pick, Jae Crowder, a small forward from Marquette with tremendous ability, to Dallas as part of the deal. The move was the right thing to do, but the Cavaliers would have been stronger at the small forward position with Crowder, and the trade put a lot more pressure on Alonzo Gee to have a big season this year.
Gee played very well for the Cavaliers at times last year, which was one of the major reasons why the small forward position was not a pivotal focus in the draft, but the Cavs were hoping for him to do the same things this season. Through Game 1, Gee has not delivered, but he has 81 more chances to deliver for Cleveland this season.
Friday night will be a big test for the Cavaliers and for Gee. The Chicago Bulls are still a playoff-caliber team even without their superstar Derrick Rose, and Cleveland will need its starting five to all be up for the challenge. That means it is Gee's chance to shine and show Cleveland fans that they need not worry about their starting small forward.
The Cavaliers have built a great core of players to work around. Irving, Waiters, Thompson and Varejao provide four quality players for the Cavaliers to put out on the court each night. Gee is a bit of a mystery though. If things do not pan out with Gee, we can still expect a good season from Cleveland, but it will be frustrating to watch at times. If things do pan out with Gee though and he proves to be a valuable asset to this team, the process of building a playoff team in Cleveland will expedite.
Things are looking up in Cleveland right now, but if Alonzo Gee steps up for the Cavaliers, the playoffs may be on the horizon a little sooner than expected.