Understandably, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not made the playoffs since the 2009-10 campaign, the last season LeBron James rocked the wine, gold and navy. That summer, James went to Miami with some buddies in order to score on South Beach.
No, this isn't the tale of a college spring break.
Since then, James and his pals have scored twice for the Miami Heat, netting two NBA Championships in the past two seasons. All this while Dan Gilbert and Cleveland fans watched from afar.
Alas, times are changing and some winning is in order for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
*Stats and roster from ESPN.com
Kyrie Irving, drafted first overall in the 2011 NBA draft, received his first All-Star nod this past season (surely, one of many to come). He finished the year averaging 22.5 points, 5.9 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game in only his second season. This career arc is eerily similar to those familiar with Central Division point guards.
In his second season, Derrick Rose averaged 20.8 points, 6.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game on his way to his first All-Star game.
How did he fare in his third season you ask?
He won the MVP and led the Chicago Bulls to 62 wins and a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
I'm not saying Irving is going to be the league's most valuable player, but he will take a gigantic leap forward. Expect, at the least, for him to finish next season with All-NBA accolades. By this time next year, Irving will be mentioned with the Roses, Pauls, Parkers, and Westbrooks of the world.
For the first time in his career, Irving will have a viable squad of running mates. They snatched up Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark and, most notably, Andrew Bynum in free agency to really solidify their roster—leaving a depth chart that looks like this:
|Kyrie Irving||Jarrett Jack|
|Dion Waiters||C.J. Miles|
|Earl Clark||Alonzo Gee|
|Tristan Thompson||Anthony Bennett|
|Andrew Bynum||Anderson Varejao|
That's pretty good.
Last year, Bynum did sit out the entire season with the Philadelphia 76ers due to injury, but if he's prepared to show any resemblance of his old self, the Cavs can be special. This is a guy who averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in 2011-12.
If he can stay healthy alongside Irving and Waiters?
Now you're cooking with gasoline.
I didn't even mention this years No. 1-overall pick Anthony Bennett!
Before you close out the window thinking I've gone insane, consider the circumstances. Their roster is solid, and the Eastern Conference got considerably weaker.
It's highly doubtful that the Boston Celtics will make the playoffs after losing two of their three best players in the offseason. Count them out. I'd say it's safe to count out the Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers for playoff contention also. Let's also take the Milwaukee Bucks out of there.
The top five in the East are shoo-ins (Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks). That leaves four teams fighting for the three bottom playoff seeds: the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers.
It's a realistic possibility!
When healthy, the Cavs' roster might be the best of those four. Don't be surprised when the boys in Cleveland are still playing in late April.
The Summer of 2014
It's all speculation at this point, but the pieces are there: The Cavaliers will have the cap space, and LeBron James will have the option to opt out of his contract.
Could a LeBron return be in order a year from now? Where there's smoke, there's usually fire, but this one is too far in the future to call. There's definitely a chance. Why wouldn't there be?
The Cavaliers' roster is young and talented with a blooming superstar. I'm sure that'd be particularly enticing to a certain King James.
While I wouldn't get my hopes up if I was a Cavs fan, I would remain excited for next summer. If you lose out on James, keep in mind that Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and a slew of other players will have the opportunity to test free agency. Chances are you can come away with something.
What's most likely to happen?
The next 12 months will be a very exciting time for the Cavaliers. The emergence of Kyrie Irving, a talented roster, a possible playoff spot and money to spend in next summer's free agency are reasons to be excited.
However, keep in mind they play in a division with the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls. I wouldn't be too excited.
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