The Cleveland Cavaliers will wrap up the 2012 portion of the 2012-13 season with a disappointing 7-25 record.
While watching Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets manhandle the Cavs on December 29, one thing was clear: Cleveland needs to get bigger.
Yes, 6'10 Anderson Varejao wasn't able to play that game and Tyler Zeller, at 7'1, is an ever-improving rookie, but the center position still needs an upgrade.
Varejao is a center for the simple reason that the Cavs need him to be one, though he's best suited at power forward. According to 82games.com, Varejao is registering a PER of 26.6 while at power forward. This number drops down to 21.1 while playing center.
Despite playing center in college, Zeller often looks overmatched when going up against the bigger centers in the league now. He's registering just a 10.4 PER while giving up a PER of 16.0 to opposing centers. Since he has a nice outside shot, it's not unreasonable to think Zeller's best NBA position may be power forward as well.
The Cavs need another big, a true center, to help them defend some of the games best big like Lopez, Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert and others.
Having someone who can score one-on-one in the post would help.
The Cavs haven't been very active in the trade market the past few years, which is fine but, for a rebuilding team, it's tempting to add some veteran players to squeeze some extra wins out of the roster.
The Cavs have instead opted to give big minutes to young players, a move that will benefit them moving forward.
That being said, Cleveland now has a substantial amount of young talent and future draft choices that could be used as trade bait. Kyrie Irving will certainly be off limits, but the Cavs shouldn't be too attached to anyone else if the right trade comes along.
This is, in the end, a susperstar-driven league.
If the Cavs can pull off a trade for another young star to pair with Irving moving forward, they should be willing to sacrifice some of the young talent and picks they've built up to do so.
Whether the Cavs decide to keep Varejao or trade him, an injured Andy won't be good to any party investing in him. Earlier in December, I expressed concern that the Cavs were giving Varejao too many minutes and they needed to do a better job monitoring his workload.
Sure enough, Cleveland played Varejao a whopping 39 minutes the next game against the Toronto Raptors and he hasn't played since due to a sore knee.
As good as Andy is, he's also 30 years old now and plays with a very physical style. The Cavs just can't keep throwing Varejao out there for 36 minutes a night without expecting looming health concerns from him.
The NBA's leading rebounder this season with 361 through New Year's, Varejao needs to be managed wisely due to his value to the team and any other team attempting to acquire him. He may be Cleveland's most valuable trade piece when talking to contenders.
Keeping Andy as healthy as possible is a must.
Kyrie Irving is a phenomenal young talent, and has been the Cavs only reliable scoring threat this season, scoring less than ten points as a starter on just two occasions, both nine-point efforts.
As of December 31, Irving was scoring 22.7 points per game, good for sixth overall in the entire NBA, which has been more than enough to lead the Cavs, who haven't had any else crack the 15 point-per-game plateau.
Rookie Dion Waiters is second on the team in scoring at 14.2 points a game, but has a very poor field goal percentage of 36.3 behind it. Anderson Varejao is third in scoring at 14.1 a game, but has been dealing with a sore knee and still isn't thought of as a great offensive threat, only scoring 20-plus points on four occasions this year.
Because of the lack of support, Irving has had to do more shooting and less facilitating. As a team, Cleveland ranks dead last in the NBA in assists per game. Irving leads the team with 5.6, a number good for just 24th among all starting point guards.
For Irving to truly be considered the NBA's best point guard, his passing stats will need to improve. The Cavs need players like Alonzo Gee (11.5), C.J. Miles (11.0), and Tristan Thompson (9.2) to help shoulder some of the scoring load and help take some pressure off Irving.
It took the Oklahoma City Thunder took three great drafts for them to build up enough star power to go from cellar-dweller to championship contender.
The Cavs have rebuilt in two drafts so far, taking Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller all in the first round. This third year will be crucial for them taking the next step as a franchise.
In their third year of rebuilding, the Thunder took f James Harden with the third overall pick. He was added to a nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green (traded for Kendrick Perkins) and Serge Ibaka to form the core of a team that reached the NBA Finals last season.
For the Cavs, small forward looks to be the biggest need they need to address in the draft.
My early favorite is UCLA freshman guard-forward Shabazz Muhammad who, at 19 years of age, is having a terrific season. A dynamic scorer, Muhammad is averaging 19.6 points and shooting 48.3 percent on three pointers. Just 6'6", he makes up for a lack of height for a small forward with a 6'11" wingspan that gives him great potential on defense.
Adding a player like Muhammad, Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller, Alex Len or others could make the Cavs a playoff contender overnight.