Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for Cleveland Cavaliers
That’s the second step they took to getting back into the postseason. The first was hiring David Blatt, the former head coach of Euroleague champions Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Euroleague reporter David Pick describes Blatt’s coaching philosophy for Justin Rowan of Fear the Sword:
He obviously scouts for the right guys to fit his system and style of play/pace – which is – open court, fastbreak, pick-and-roll. You won't find a single player on Blatt's team that is limited to one facet of the game. He needs his bigs to be able to stretch and shoot – that’s a must with all of 4 men and fair share of his 5 men. Andrea Zizic, David Blu, Devin Smith, Joe Ingles, Milan Macvan, Nick Caner-Medley have all played the 4-5 spot and can knock down from mid-range to deep. He needs versatile players because he loves going "small ball" at times so any (smart) point-forward who can push it up and has a wet jumper is on Blatt's list.
Keeping in mind Blatt’s coaching style, and looking at players currently under contract, this is a breakdown of the Cavaliers' expected depth chart and what may happen with each player.
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving
If anything is etched in stone, it’s that Kyrie Irving is going to be the Cavaliers' starting point guard next year.
Per Synergy Sports (subscription required), Irving scored 0.91 points per play running the pick-and-roll last year, which places him among the league’s elite. Blatt’s offense should make him even better.
There are two concerns about the reigning All-Star Game MVP, though. First, his field-goal percentage has declined every season (.469 in 2011-12, .452 in 2012-13 and.430 in 2013-14). Second, his assists have been relatively stagnant, with a career average of 5.8.
Both of those problems can also be resolved with Blatt’s new offense.
Having Wiggins, noted for his transition offense, should put the “oop” in Irving’s “alley,” too. Expect Irving to do a better job of discerning when to pass and when to shoot.
Reserve: Jarret Jack, Matthew Dellavedova
During 2012-13, Jarret Jack had a terrific season for Golden State, backing up Stephen Curry and finishing third in Sixth Man of the Year voting. Cleveland thought he would be a good backup to Irving and signed him to a four-year, $25 million contract the following summer.
However, Jack didn’t perform well last year. His player efficiency rating fell from 15.9 to 11.5. There is some discussion, per Marc Stein of ESPN, that the Cavaliers could trade him to the Brooklyn Nets for Marcus Thronton.
Look for the Cavaliers to find a new backup in free agency if that happens, as Matthew Dellavedova is an undrafted, second-year combo guard who isn’t ready to take a significant role on the team.
Alternatively, Jack could fill in minutes at the 2, as he has in the past.
Shooting Guard: Dion Waiters
Last season, there was much reported dissension in the backcourt between Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving. That has resulted in a good deal of speculation that Waiters will be traded this offseason.
Per Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, Waiters believes he or Irving will be traded. And no one else thinks that Irving is going to be traded.
It’s possible the Cavaliers keep Waiters around. He blossomed after the All-Star break last year, averaging 19.3 points and 3.7 assists.
The Cavs drafting Wiggins, though, could trigger a Waiters trade, with Wiggins assuming the starting job at the 2.
Reserve: Sergey Karasev
C.J. Miles was the other shooting guard primarily used last season, but he’s a free agent now. Sergey Karasev is listed as the next 2 on the depth chart, but Matthew Dellavedova played more minutes there.
In brief, it doesn’t matter who you list here. If the previously mentioned Jarret Jack for Marcus Thronton trade comes to pass, Thronton would be the backup. If not, the Cavs will be looking to add to this position in free agency.
Small Forward: Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins is a terrific athlete, noted for his transition game. As the roster stands, he’ll be the starting small forward because that’s where he fits best.
He’ll bring scoring at the rim and outstanding on-ball defense, a real point of weakness the Cavaliers need to address
However, the Cavaliers have cap space and can create more with trades. They are expected to make a play to bring LeBron James back, though that has a limited possibility of actually happening.
They could bring in someone else, such as Trevor Ariza, or they could install last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett (more on him next slide) here.
Reserve: Alonzo Gee, Carrick Felix, Scotty Hopson
The Cavaliers have three backups listed here: Alonzo Gee, Carrick Felix and Scotty Hopson. That is more an indication of a lack of depth than evidence of it. The trio combined for a grand total of 0.8 win shares last season. Of the group, Gee is the most qualified, but even he has a very limited skill set. It’s another reason I expect this to be the position Cleveland uses money on.
Power Forward: Tristan Thompson
Tristan Thompson has been improving since he was taken with the No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft, raising his win share total in both his second and third years.
Two things jump out at you when viewing his Synergy numbers: First, he’s excels as the roll man in the pick-and-roll, logging 1.06 points per possession. Second, he’s outstanding in transition, averaging 1.32 points per possession.
Both of those indicate he’s the kind of material Blatt should be able to work with. Expect Thompson to have a breakout year.
Reserve: Anthony Bennett
You simply cannot understate how bad Anthony Bennett’s rookie season was. To put things in perspective, consider this: The last time a No. 1 overall pick had fewer win shares than his negative-0.4 was Mark Workman in 1952.
And no, I have no idea who Workman was, which is what people might be saying about Bennett in 62 years if he doesn’t come around.
Bennett has more potential than his first season indicated, though. The arrival of Blatt will help. But new assistant coach Tyronn Lue, who is noted for being able to connect with players, could actually be the key to getting Bennett to realize his potential.
Center: Anderson Varejao
Anderson Varejao could be the starting center for the Cleveland Cavaliers, or he could be gone. He is owed $9.7 million but is only partially guaranteed $4 million. With so many teams looking to create cap space to chase LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, that’s a contract which could easily be moved.
Or perhaps Cleveland keeps Varejao around. When healthy, he can provide quality minutes. He has a player efficiency rating of 18.6 over the last three years, but the problem has been that “when healthy” part. He’s only played in 115 of 230 games during that span, missing time because of a torn tendon in his ankle, a broken wrist and a blood clot in his lung.
He has the kind of energy and athleticism that would work with the fast-paced system Blatt is expected to bring. He’s a bit of a poor-man’s Joakim Noah, and his contract is reasonable—if he can play.
Reserve: Tyler Zeller
Tyler Zeller saw his minutes fall from 26.4 to 15.0 in his second year, but their quality improved. His PER rose from 11.0 to 15.4.
He has the ability carve out a long career, but whether it’s as a high-end backup or a marginal starter is still up in the air. Cleveland may keep Varejao around if they feel Zeller's not ready to assume a starting role.