Since LeBron James bolted to South Beach in the 2010 offseason, things have been very bleak in Cleveland. Slowly but surely, though, the Cavaliers have put together a roster filled with young talent. With recent offseason acquisitions, internal development of the roster and turmoil in the Eastern Conference, this team is poised to make the 2014 NBA playoffs.
This offseason, the Cavs have been busy adding talent to surround their young, developing core.
In giving Andrew Bynum a low-risk, high-reward contract, they give themselves another legitimate big man to pair with either Tristan Thompson or Anderson Varejao. On top of that, signing Jarrett Jack to back up Kyrie Irving is an excellent insurance policy for the oft-injured point guard. Bringing Earl Clark in from the Lakers gives them a possible upgrade over Alonzo Gee at SF, as well.
In the draft, Cleveland shocked the world by drafting Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 selection. Bennett looks to be an undersized power forward, which is surprising given the emergence of Tristan Thompson. Still, his talent is undeniable, and he should see significant minutes in his first year.
The 19th overall pick, Sergey Karasev, shouldn't be ignored either. He may not have the long term upside of Bennett, but the 6'7" Russian is a "solid lefty shooter with quick release and NBA range, [has a] good basketball IQ, and moves well without the ball" according to his NBA.com draft profile. Look for him to make an immediate impact on the receiving end of dishes from "Uncle Drew".
In essence, the Cavs added an elite starting center (if healthy), a possible starting small forward and three very talented rotational players. In an NBA in which most of the top teams are composed of stars with massive contracts, this team has been built in the right way.
As it goes for any team loaded with former lottery picks, the Cavaliers' young core is only getting better. Players such as Irving, Thompson and Dion Waiters are all 22 or younger, giving them plenty of room to grow as basketball players.
Irving is entering his third year in the NBA, and seemingly the only thing holding him back is the injury bug, which has kept him out of 38 games in his first two years. If Irving can stay healthy, though, watch out. As you can see in this video, he might have the best handles in the entire league.
Dion Waiters is a second year shooting guard out of Syracuse. He was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, averaging 14.7 PPG in 28.8 MPG. Look for his statistics to make a jump with added playing time and a possible increase in shooting percentage.
Tristan Thompson is a third year power forward out of Texas, and he has made big strides in his play recently. Check out this table to look at his progression just from year one to year two:
|Minutes per game||Points per game||Rebounds per game||Field goal percentage|
If these players can continue to take steps forward and stay healthy, the Cavs should be very competitive.
Eastern Conference Picture
No one will argue that the Cavaliers were a good team last year, but, unlike many teams in front of them, they had an infusion of talent.
The Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks all look to be significantly worse than last year's versions of those rosters, opening up three playoff spots. For our purposes, we will call the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets locks to make the postseason.
The Wizards look to make a step forward with a healthy John Wall and an improving young roster of their own. Other than that, the rest of the Eastern Conference looks to be a bunch of very bad teams. Philadelphia, Toronto, Charlotte and Orlando should all continue to struggle.
While making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference is in no way comparable to doing so in the Western Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers look to be a much improved squad entering the 2013-2014 season. After all of the struggles that the fanbase has been through, I think we can all agree that it's about time that some good news arrived.