Excitement surrounds the Cavaliers entering into the 2013-14 season, and for good reason.
Cleveland, who has been stockpiling draft picks and conserving cap space for years, suddenly decided to go on a mini spending spree this offseason. This free-agent activity, coupled with growing young talent and the first overall pick in the draft, have set the stage for what should be an exciting Cavs' season.
Have the Indians or even the Browns pushed the Cavs to the back of your Cleveland sports priorities?
That's fair, for now.
When you're ready, here's everything you need to know to get you caught up on all things Cavaliers with a preview of their upcoming season.
But first, let's take a look back at how last season ended.
- 24-58 record
- 5th place finish in Central Division
- 13th place finish in Eastern Conference
One reason for their struggles was inconsistent rebounding. For example, when it came to grabbing opponents misses, the Cavs were dead last in the league with just 28.8 defensive rebounds a game. Cleaning their own glass was a different story, however. For as poor as they were on one end of the glass, Cleveland was actually seventh out of 30 NBA teams with 12.2 offensive boards a game.
The biggest storyline to follow heading into the season is the overall health of the team. With so many question marks surrounding the wellness of key players like Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving, Cleveland's promising season could go downhill quickly if these players can't stay on the court.
The knees and overall rehabilitation of Bynum is something to keep an eye on all season long.
Key Additions & Losses
-Mike Brown, Head Coach, Five years, $20 million
-Andrew Bynum, C, Two years, $24 million ($6 million guaranteed)
-Jarrett Jack, G, Four years, $25 million
-Earl Clark, F, Two years, $9 million
-Matthew Dellavedova, PG, Two years, $1.3 million (non-guaranteed)
-Anthony Bennett, 2013 1st overall pick
-Sergey Karasev, 2013 19th overall pick
-Carrick Felix, 2013 33rd overall pick
-Byron Scott, Head Coach
-Wayne Ellington, G (signed with Dallas Mavericks)
-Marreese Speights, PF (signed with Golden State Warriors)
-Omri Casspi, SF (signed with Houston Rockets)
-Shaun Livingston, PG (signed with Brooklyn Nets)
-Daniel Gibson, G (unsigned)
-Luke Walton, F (unsigned)
Biggest Addition: Andrew Bynum
Biggest Loss: Byron Scott
Adding Bynum is a potential game-changer in Cleveland. The thought of 21-year-old Kyrie Irving and 25-year-old Bynum growing together would be one of the best guard-big combinations in the NBA. Bynum probably won't be ready for the beginning of the season, but if he's near 100 percent come playoff time, the Cavs could be a dangerous team.
On the other hand, losing Scott hurts. The Cavs decided to let Scott go after three years on the job in favor of former head coach Mike Brown. Many, including this writer, felt Scott should have gotten one more year to prove he was the man for the job, now that he actually has a talented roster to work with. Brown is a fine defensive coach, but his ability to run an offense is questionable at best.
Depth Chart Breakdown and Training Camp Breakdowns
Here's how the Cavs' roster breaks down, by position.
|Position||Starter||Reserve No. 1||Reserve No. 2|
|Point Guard||Kyrie Irving||Jarrett Jack||Matthew Dellavedova|
|Shooting Guard||Dion Waiters||C.J. Miles||Carrick Felix|
|Small Forward||Earl Clark||Alonzo Gee||Sergey Karasev|
|Power Forward||Tristan Thompson||Anthony Bennett|
|Center||Andrew Bynum||Anderson Varejao||Tyler Zeller|
While there are some clear starters among the list (Irving, Waiters), some other positions aren't so set in stone.
Training Camp Battle to Watch
Perhaps the most intriguing battle for minutes at any position will be at the power forward spot. Tristan Thompson started all 82 games for the Cavs last season, but No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett possesses the offensive upside that Thompson can't hope to match.
While no official starter has been named yet, one has to think that Thompson holds the edge heading into the season. He's entering his third year and was second in the NBA in offensive rebounding last season. For the year, Thompson averaged 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds, up from 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds his rookie season.
That being said, first overall picks aren't drafted to come off the bench for long. Bennett has greater offensive versatility and an outside jumper that Thompson will probably never equal.
Thompson should begin the season as the starter, but how long he can hold off Bennett for starter minutes will be interesting to watch.
Kyrie Irving is the team's star, but we've come to expect 20-25 points on any given night from Uncle Drew.
Instead, it's his backcourt mate, Dion Waiters, who could really make the biggest difference for the Cavaliers this season.
Early in the 2012-13 season, Waiters didn't much resemble a fourth overall pick. He shot just 36.9 percent from the field in November and was even worse in December at 34.2 percent. In November, 5.3 of Waiters' 15 shot attempts per game (35.3 percent) came from behind the three-point line. Waiters was settling for long jumpers and three-pointers instead of making a concentrated effort on getting to the basket.
By February, however, Waiters was showing vast improvements. He cut his three-point attempts from 5.3 down to just 2.0 a game. This resulted in a huge spike in field-goal percentage, rising from 36.9 percent up to a 51.4 clip. During this time, only 16 percent of his shots were from deep, compared to the 35.3 percent from just a few months before.
If Waiters can capitalize on his late season success, he, and the Cavs, could be in for a big year. Developing into a consistent scorer and play-maker would take a considerable amount of pressure off of Irving and help keep his body fresh.
Besides Wade, there aren't any elite shooting guards in the Eastern Conference. The best case scenario for Waiters is that he becomes the second best off-guard in the East, and makes his first All-Star game.
Worst-case scenario, Waiters falls in love with the three-point shot again and doesn't attack the rim like we know he can.
For the season, expect averages of around 17.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.4 blocks, 16.5 PER and 32 minutes per game from Waiters. His progression and scoring may be the biggest X-Factor for Cleveland this year.
Best-Case, Worst-Case Scenarios and Predicted Win-Loss Record
The Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks are all near locks to make the playoffs. This leaves three open spots in the East for the Cavs to try to grab to make their first postseason since 2010.
For Cleveland, their ideal situation would be to finish sixth in the Eastern Conference. A sixth seed would mean a likely matchup with the Bulls or Nets instead of the Heat, which would be a huge plus for a young Cleveland team.
A worst-case scenario would be to miss the playoffs altogether. It's playoffs or bust in Cleveland, no matter the seeding. Byron Scott received the axe after his third season. While Chris Grant has done a great job thus far, one has to think he'd be in danger of losing his job as well should the Cavs miss the postseason. It's now year four of the rebuilding process, and significant progress needs to be shown.
For the Cavs, this means the playoffs. Period.
2013-14 predicted record: 42-40
Where will the Cavs finish in the East?
The 2013-14 season for the Cavaliers is all about taking the next step as a team and as a franchise.
The Cavs are finally exiting their rebuilding mode and should start reaping the benefits of playing young talent through tough times. Cleveland has set themselves up for a successful future by drafting players with big upside and giving them early opportunities to prove themselves on the court.
Following five straight seasons in which they won at least one playoff series, Cleveland is now looking to end a three-year playoff drought.
If stars like Kyrie Irving, Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao can stay healthy, they just might do it, too.