Surprises and Disappointments from Cleveland Cavaliers' 2012-13 Season
As the Cleveland Cavaliers limp towards the end of their forgettable 2012-13 season, it's time to reflect on some of the highs and lows of the past year.
We've seen the emergence of young players like Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, the rise to stardom of Kyrie Irving and a rash of injuries that would make even a rugby team jealous.
Throughout it all, both positives and negatives can be found. Progress is being made, even if it's hard to see at times.
Here are your three biggest surprises and disappointments from the Cavs' 2012-13 season.
Disappointment No. 3
"That trade for Omri Casspi was probably a bad idea."
Oh, Omri. What promise you brought coming over from the Sacramento Kings back in 2011.
Acquired from the team where talent largely goes unrecognized, Casspi was supposed to be the Cavaliers' starting small forward of the future. He had good size (6'9"), was decently athletic and had a feisty defensive personality.
Two years, later, and we've yet to see any of these qualities (even the height, the man's a sloucher).
As tough as his 2011-12 season was with the Cavs, this past season was absolutely awful. Casspi is averaging 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in just over 11 minutes per game. He's shooting an embarrassing 39 percent from the field and 55 percent from the free-throw line. Casspi went from starter in 2011, to reserve, to afterthought, to "he's still on the team?"
Casspi will be a free agent in the offseason and will be hard pressed to get more than a one-year contract with any other NBA team.
Things with Casspi and the Cavs didn't work out, and both parties will go their separate ways this summer.
Surprise No. 3
"Luke Walton Really Isn't That Terrible"
Be honest, that previous sentence is what many of us were probably thinking throughout the course of this season.
No, Walton isn't what you would call an "option" on offense, nor is this defense particularly threatening.
But oh, that passing.
Walton can be a surgeon with the ball when he wants to be, something that I'm sure has come as a shock to most followers of the National Basketball Association. In April alone, Walton is averaging 13.4 assists per 48 minutes of play. For comparison, future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash is averaging 9.8 assists for the season in the same amount of time.
I'm not saying Walton is on Nash's level, or am I? OK, I'm not, but that's still an impressive number to consider.
Walton's true and underlying value may be in his expiring $6 million contract, but one has to admit his play off the bench and tying the second unit together has been a very pleasant surprise.
Disappointment No. 2
"Sooo, when is Tyler Zeller going to look impressive?"
At this point, your guess is as good as mine.
During mid-February, I thought Zeller was starting to turn a corner. He played extremely well against the San Antonio Spurs, dropping 16 points to go along with nine rebounds and four assists. He followed this up with 10 points in a win against the New Orleans Hornets and then a 16-point, seven-rebound effort in a win over the Orlando Magic.
Sadly, it would be 10 games and nearly a month later before Zeller would hit double digits in scoring again. Fatigue had begun to set in, understandable for a rookie thrust into a starting job.
The fact of the matter is, Zeller just wasn't impressive this season. He's highly skilled, intelligent and hard working, all of which should bode well for his future, however.
If the Cavs expected their starting center position to be filled for the next 10 years with Zeller, they'll be gravely disappointed.
If they want a solid big who can play either post position effectively off the bench, then Zeller should be able to meet expectations for years to come.
Surprise No. 2
"Tristan Thompson could actually be really, really good."
Thompson wasn't the popular draft choice at the time, but few are second-guessing general manager Chris Grant now.
A double-double machine now in his second pro season, Thompson has seemingly been getting stronger as the season goes along. A career night against the Boston Celtics on April 5 saw Thompson rack up 29 points and 17 rebounds while going nine for nine from the charity stripe.
For the season, Thompson is averaging 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. In April alone, these numbers go up to 14.1 points and 10.6 rebounds a contest.
Add in the fact that he's played every single game this season, and the Cavs could be looking at a potential All-Star power forward on their hands.
The NBA world is slowly starting to recognize Thompson and his accomplishments.
Soon, his play on the court will be hard to forget.
Disappointment No. 1
"Maybe next season Anderson Varejao will stay healthy."
Injuries were a huge problem for the Cavs this season, and no loss was felt more than that of Anderson Varejao.
The 30-year-old center was having a career year and leading the NBA in rebounding at 14.4 per game. His loss meant forcing Tyler Zeller into big minutes, something the rookie clearly wasn't ready for.
Varejao and Irving together were among the best duos in basketball, and together formed a nice pick-and-roll combo.
This is the third straight season Varejao has played in 31 games or less, an alarming number for the Cavs and any other potential trade partners.
Varejao would have easily been one of the Cavs' best surprises of the season had he lasted longer, but instead now becomes one of their biggest letdowns.
Surprise No. 1
"Kyrie Irving is already one of the NBA's best."
Coming into the season, ESPN.com had Irving ranked as the 22nd best basketball player in the NBA.
Some felt that this was too high, as Irving was just 20 and with only one year of experience under his belt.
Needless to say, Irving has proved the doubters wrong, and then some.
The latest rankings from the worldwide leader has Irving jumping up 10 spots this season, all the way to No. 12 overall.
Not the 12th-best point guard, but the 12th-best player in the entire NBA.
Many people believed that Irving was destined for stardom coming into the NBA from Duke, but who predicted he be this good, this fast?
The sky is the limit for Cleveland's stud point guard, and hopefully a better Irving means a playoff Cavs team for years to come.