While the Cleveland Cavaliers will enter the 2013-14 season with serious playoff hopes, a lot of things will have to go right for this goal to be attained.
The offseason has been a big win for Cleveland, on paper at least.
Landing the first overall pick, signing one of the best big men in the game and adding other rookies and veterans all add up to high expectations from the Cleveland faithful.
Can the Cavaliers and company deliver?
A lot of it depends on these three main issues.
Hurdle No. 1: Mike Brown's "Offense"
Those who have followed the Cavaliers for the past 10 years will know why the word offense is in quotations.
While there's no doubt Mike Brown has a beautiful mind when it comes to designing team defenses, his coaching on the other side of the ball has been less than sensational.
From 2005 to 2010 it often became a "stand around and watch LeBron" stalemate that left many wondering what Brown was drawing up exactly during those time outs.
John Kuester was eventually brought in during Brown's first stint to handle the offensive side of the ball, to the delight of many Cavalier fans.
This time around, Brown has added a former head coach to his staff that, we assume, will take over offensive duties. Bernie Bickerstaff, an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers under Brown, brings 13 years of head coaching experience, and hopefully some knowledge of how to score the basketball as well.
It will take time for players to learn the system on both sides of the ball, and for all of the new players to jell. The faster this happens, however, the better chance the Cavaliers have at nabbing a playoff spot.
That is, if Brown does indeed defer to his Bickerstaff and his other assistants for offense.
Hurdle No. 2: Spreading Minutes Around
During the past few seasons, playing time was forced upon players at times due to injuries and lack of depth at certain positions.
Now, Mike Brown faces a tough decision when it comes to distributing minutes among the new wave of talent.
Power forward and center will be particularly interesting.
The Cavs have five players who could each carry a good starting argument for just two positions. Tristan Thompson started all 82 games for the Cavaliers last season, but Cleveland brought in No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, who they view as strictly a power forward.
Tyler Zeller started the majority of the games for Cleveland at center last season after the team lost Anderson Varejao to a leg injury in December. Varejao could get his starting job back if Bynum isn't ready to go, but what if he is?
Regardless of who Brown decides to start, he has five talented (and interchangeable) options at both power forward and center. Young players like Thompson, Bennett and Zeller will all need time to develop, while players like Varejao and Bynum will have to be monitored following injuries.
The Cavaliers also have a dilemma at shooting guard/small forward, where Brown will have to find a right balance in minutes for Dion Waiters, Jarrett Jack, C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Earl Clark, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix.
Playing time will now be earned, instead of just forcefully thrust upon players like in the past.
Hurdle No. 3: When will Andrew Bynum be ready?
Bynum was the Cavs' big free-agent pickup this offseason.
The former Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers (well, kind of) center is still rehabbing from knee surgery.
The questions surrounding Bynum include when can he come back, and when will we see the 18.7 point, 11.8 rebound a night player of 2011-2012?
Well, apparently not anytime soon.
Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio reports that Bynum "is nowhere near ready and is likely to miss the entire preseason."
This shouldn't be just a little concerning for the Cavs, it should be sounding the panic alarm.
The Philadelphia 76ers organization could probably tell you all about Bynum "looking good" and "being close to a return."
They heard a lot of the same chatter before last season, and that was before Bynum was coming off major knee surgery.
The main difference for Cleveland is, if Bynum can't make a recovery, the Cavs are only on the hook for about $6 million. In the last year of his contract with Philly last season, the Sixers paid Bynum nearly $17 million while seeing nothing in return.
Regardless of if/when Bynum makes his return to the court this season, the signing was a good one.
Bynum has top-center potential, and is only 25 years of age. By the time the Cavs signed Bynum, the free-agent market was pretty much dried up anyways. Short-term cap space was the only thing sacrificed in his deal.
Hopefully Bynum can continue to rehab and work his way back onto the court relatively soon. The Cavs will need him if they hope to jump some of the immediate hurdles they'll be hit with at the start of the season.
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