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How Each Cleveland Cavaliers Youngster Can Improve

Greg SwartzCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJanuary 29, 2013

How Each Cleveland Cavaliers Youngster Can Improve

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    As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue their rebuilding process, it's important to recognize each player's strengths and weaknesses moving forward.

    With 10 players on the roster 25 years old or younger, the Cavs are loaded with young talent, and their share of growing pains.

    This is a team that is building the right way, drafting well, and making smart, calculated trades.  While there's still a long way to go, the Cavs and their fans have a lot to look forward to.

    Their future success will depend heavily on the growth of their young players, and here's how each can improve.

Wayne Ellington, G, 25

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    Area to Improve: Passing

     

    One of the newest Cavaliers, Ellington came over in the Memphis Grizzlies trade and is currently in his fourth NBA season.

    Ellington's best quality is his ability to hit the three-ball, as he's shooting 43.3 percent from deep this season.

    Unfortunately, when the ball makes it to Ellington's hands, it rarely finds it's way back to a teammate. Despite being a guard, the former North Carolina standout is averaging just one assist in 18.4 minutes per game for his career.

    If this trend continues, defenders will know to stick closer to Ellington and not worry as much about a potential pass, choosing instead to closeout better on his shots.

    Better closeouts from defenders means tougher shots, and ultimately a lower shooting percentage. Ellington needs to become more than just a one-dimensional shooter for his career to continue.

Kevin Jones, F, 23

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    Area to Improve: Post defense

     

    We haven't seen a whole lot of Jones on the Cavs, as he's appeared in just 15 games this season.

    A strong scorer and rebounder in his college career at West Virginia, Jones was a premier college player who may be a bit undersized now in the pros.

    While Jones may be solid in other areas, his post defense is severely lacking.

    In 135 total minutes on the court, Jones has amassed exactly zero blocked shots. 

    While there's certainly more aspects of post defense than just swatting away shots, the fact that Jones hasn't even blocked one on accident has to be a bit alarming.

    Continued work on his defense would certainly be helpful when seeking more minutes on the court for Jones.

Omri Casspi, F, 24

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    Area to Improve: Shooting (from everywhere)

     

    This may be a mute point since Casspi likely won't be back with the Cavs next season, but his shooting just has to improve.

    It's worth noting that in his four professional seasons, Casspi's field-goal percentage has gone down every single year he's been in the league.

    Now at a career-worst 37.7 percent from the field this season, Casspi just hasn't lived up to any of the expectations he came into the NBA with. His free-throw shooting this season is also a career-worst at 55.6 percent.

    You know things are bad when the majority of your minutes are going to Luke Walton.

    Facing unrestricted free agency this summer if the Cavs refuse to extend him a qualifying offer, expect both parties to part ways after this season.

Alonzo Gee, G/F, 25

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    Area to Improve: Shot selection

     

    Gee has been a strong defender for the Cavs this season, often matched up on the opposing team's best perimeter player, no matter their position.

    As good as his defense is, Gee's shot selection leaves a lot to be desired.

    Confidence is obviously a good quality to possess as a professional athlete, but sometimes too much can actually hurt you.

    In Gee's case, I see him often times attempting to drive to the basket when there isn't much of a lane available at all. For every thunderous dunk we get to see from Gee, there's another five drives that result in a missed shot, turnover or charge.

    For the season Gee is shooting just 40.7 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from deep, numbers that have both dropped from last year.

    Still figuring out his offensive game, Gee needs to know when to attack the basket and when to swallow his pride and pass to a more open teammate.

Tyler Zeller, C, 23

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    Area to Improve: Strength

     

    Zeller is a mobile big who can run the floor and hit the 18-foot jumper.

    Such skills are rare from a big man, and the Cavs could very well have the next Zydrunas Ilgauskas on their hands.

    What Zeller lacks, however, is enough upper body strength to guard some of the bigger post men in the game today.  Players like Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez and others represent especially tough matchups for Zeller due to their superior size and strength.

    The Cavs tallest player at seven feet, an offseason of weight training should do Zeller wonders and could help build onto his already 250-pound frame.

    If Zeller could make it up into the 260-265-pound range, that would help him guard bigger opponents more successfully while still allowing him to maintain his mobility on the court.

C.J. Miles, G, 25

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    Area to Improve: Consistency

     

    In and out of the starting lineup this season, Miles lives and dies by the three-ball.

    While he's shooting a very respectable 37.6 percent from deep this season, a little more consistency would be nice.

    Take, for example, these four games from earlier this month.

    Date 3PM-3PA 3P%
    1/2 1-7 .143
    1/4 4-9 .444
    1/5 1-6 .167
    1/7 4-7 .571

    Miles has been all over the place in terms of his shooting this season.  He's a valuable offensive weapon when on, and is shooting 46.5 percent from deep in Cavs' wins.

    In losses, this number drops down to 34.8 percent.  Miles' production is crucial to the Cavs' success, and some more consistency would certainly be welcome.

Marreese Speights, F/C, 25

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    Area to Improve: Staying out of foul trouble

     

    Speights has played three very good games for the Cavaliers so far, and there's really not much to complain about at this point.

    Looking at his career numbers, however, and one can see that foul trouble may become an issue given increased playing time.

    It takes six personal fouls to foul out of an NBA game, and Speights has flirted dangerously with that number in his career.  Per 36 minutes, Speights averages a solid five personal fouls per game, including 5.3 with the Grizzlies this season.

    Such a big body down low is sure to draw some contact, Speights just has to be careful so that the Cavs can utilize his talents for the full game.

Dion Waiters, G, 21

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    Area to Improve: Shot selection, form

     

    My pick for most frustrating player to watch on the Cavs, Waiters has spent this season flashing the offensive repertoire of Dwyane Wade at times and Ira Newble at others.

    While January has represented his best shooting month, Waiters' overall shot selection leaves much to be desired. He consistently feels the need to fade away even when left open, and has a leg kick on some of his shots that would drive even elementary school coaches crazy.

    Waiters is at his best when he's driving and slashing his way to the basket. He can split a double-team with precision and has been above average at finishing at the rim.

    Like Wade, Waiters needs to take advantage of his athleticism and get to the basket as much as possible. This not only leads to easier baskets, but also forces defenders to back off a little as they prepare for another drive. When this happens, Waiters will find he has more room for jumpers which should also lead to a higher shooting percentage.

    While his rookie season has been fine so far, I'm sure we all expect more and will see more from Waiters in the future.

Tristan Thompson, F, 21

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    Area to Improve: Shot-blocking

     

    Thompson has blown me away with his improvements from even the beginning of the season until now.

    He's established a reliable go-to move with his baby hook that he can hit with either hand, and has thrown more than his share of dunks down in traffic.

    Earlier in his career Thompson was seeing a lot of his shots get blocked around the rim, but was also blocking his fair share as well.

    Lately, Thompson has seen his scoring, rebounding and shooting percentages all go up, but not his blocked shots.

    For someone who's 6'9" with a 7'1" wingspan, we should be seeing more than a fraction of a block per game.

    The Cavaliers have no real defensive threat inside anymore with Anderson Varejao hurt, and it's largely up to Thompson to put some fear into opponents when they try to drive the lane.

Kyrie Irving, G, 20

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    Area to Improve: Defense

     

    Irving is quickly becoming a household name across the country, and for good reason.

    The 20-year-old has handles like you wouldn't believe, and can beat anyone he wants off the dribble at any time.

    That being said, his defense has been anything but impressive thus far. From John Hollinger, formerly of ESPN:

    As good as Irving was on offense, he was a horrifying, flaming train wreck on defense. Synergy rated him the worst defensive player in the league with at least 300 plays defended, opposing point guards ripped him for a 19.0 PER according to 82games.com, and the Cavs gave up 5.0 points per 100 possessions more with him on the court

    Ouch.

    The good news is that those numbers reflected his production, or lack thereof, last season.

    Irving has been better this year, but is still allowing opponents to register a PER of 17.7 against him.  For comparison purposes, Chris Paul holds opponents to a 13.8 PER average.

    Irving may be the future of the Cavs and point guards in general, but even he isn't without his share of weaknesses.

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