15 Bold Predictions for Cleveland Cavaliers' 2013-14 Season
Kyrie Irving an MVP? Mike Brown winning Coach of the Year? Or better yet, what about Andrew Bynum playing all 82 games?
OK, so maybe some predictions are just a little too bold.
Still, why not dream big, going into a fresh new season?
In less time than it takes coach Brown to design an effective offensive play, read on for 15 bold (yet realistic) things we could see from the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers.
Andrew Bynum Will Play Before Mid-November
Bynum continues to make his way back to the court, has been participating in three-on-three games and is close to practicing with the team, according to the Associated Press.
This is great news for Cavalier fans, as Bynum has been seen before games working with trainers and going through his post-move arsenal.
While there's never been any real timetable on Bynum coming back, it's very possible we could see him in the next few weeks.
Bynum had his best season under coach Brown in 2011-12 with the Los Angeles Lakers when he averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
If Bynum can come anywhere near these numbers, this will be a very dangerous Cleveland team.
Dion Waiters Will Average over 18 Points a Game
Last season, Waiters was second among rookies in scoring, at 14.7 points a night. He did this on a less than inspiring 41.2 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent from three-point land.
So why believe he'll be better this year?
For starters, Waiters enters into his sophomore season in much better shape than a year ago. He's also being more selective with his shots as well.
Waiters spent far too much time chucking three-pointers last season. He's at his best splitting defenders and getting to the basket.
In his first four games this preseason, Waiters has attempted 44 shots, with just six coming from behind the three-point line. This means his aggressiveness has been turned up, and he's not just settling for threes.
It's also worth noting that after the All-Star break last season, Waiters averaged 16.1 points on 45.8 percent shooting, up from his 14.2 on 39.6 shooting before it.
With Kyrie Irving looking to distribute more to all the new players, Waiters could easily push his scoring average up over 18.
Mike Brown Figures out an Offense
For all of his defensive prowess, Mike Brown has never been confused for an offensive mastermind.
Actually, far from it.
His Cavalier teams from 2005-2010 preferred to slow down the pace of play and watch LeBron James dribble around for 23.5 seconds.
In his five seasons, Cleveland never finished higher than 10th in the NBA in points per game, despite having the best player on the planet on their team.
So here's the bold prediction, ready?
Brown calls a timeout, captures the attention of his players, then draws up a brilliant play that is executed to perfection.
While this sounds like a typical coaching move, for anyone who watched the Cavaliers from 2005-10, this was an extremely rare occurrence.
Sergey Karasev Will End the Season Starting at Small Forward
While we still don't know who will begin the season starting at small forward for the Cavs, it's entirely possibly Karasev will take the job at some point this year.
Karasev is 6'7" and can play either wing position. He's started one game so far this preseason, and has struggled with his shot to this point.
That being said, there's a lot to like about the kid.
Still just 19, Karasev isn't coming in raw like so many other European players. He's shown a confidence and ability level of someone 10 years his elder. His shot may be off the mark so far, but it's looked smooth coming out of his hand. Some adjustments here and there, and Karasev should find his stroke soon enough.
Of course, his defense will be under the microscope from Mike Brown. If he proves he can defend while knocking down the three ball, Karasev could easily take the job from Earl Clark, Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles or whoever else is starting at the time.
Anthony Bennett Will Lead Rookies in Rebounding
I'm not going as far as to say Bennett will win Rookie of the Year, simply for the fact his playing time and usage should be well behind players like Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore and Trey Burke.
That's not to say Bennett won't do some good things, though.
Expect the first overall pick to snag an All-Rookie First Team selection, helped in part by leading first year players in rebounding.
In his first six preseason games, Bennett is averaging 6.3 rebounds in 22.5 minutes a night. He averaged 8.0 as a freshman at UNLV last season.
Other players like Alex Len, Kelly Olynyk and Cody Zeller will be in the mix, but ultimately Bennett will come out on top.
Cleveland Will Finish in the Top 10 in Team Defense
One reason Byron Scott no longer coaches the Cavaliers is their complete and utter lack of defense the past three seasons.
This should change under Mike Brown.
Last season, the Cavs finished 25th in the NBA in points allowed at 101.2 per game. The last time Brown coached the Cavaliers back in 2009-2010, they gave up just 95.6 a night.
Besides Brown's guidance, other factors will lead to an improved defensive team.
For one, Anderson Varejao returns. He was the NBA's best rebounder last season before getting hurt and is a solid pick-and-roll defender.
Getting Andrew Bynum on the court will also be huge. He can be a defensive anchor and averaged 1.9 blocks per game under Brown with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011-2012. No Cavalier averaged even a single block a game last year.
Tristan Thompson, Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee are all solid defenders and should be even better this year under Brown.
Anderson Varejao Will Play More Than 60 Games
Varejao has played just 81 games the past three seasons, so this is quite bold.
That being said, many of those injuries were isolated incidents, coupled with just plain bad luck.
Last year's split muscle occurred after Varejao was playing a team-high 36 minutes per night; way too much for someone of his activity level and age.
Mike Brown can keep Varejao healthy and on the court simply by using him the right way.
While Varejao will begin the season as the starter, he should get to return to a reserve role when Andrew Bynum is cleared to play. This means less minutes and less stress on the 31-year-old's body.
The Cavaliers also have Tyler Zeller at center and can slide Tristan Thompson over to the 5 when needed. Because of this, Varejao won't be relied upon as much as he has been in the past.
Keeping Varejao around 20-25 minutes a night instead of the 36 he was getting last season should help preserve him throughout the season.
The Cavs Send Two Players to All-Star Game
Kyrie Irving was a first time All-Star last season.
Could a fellow Cavalier be joining him?
It will depend on playing time, but yes. I'm predicting that Irving will be accompanied by either Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Bynum or Anderson Varejao.
Varejao would have likely made the game last season had he stayed healthy. 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds would have been hard to turn down.
Bynum is a previous All-Star who could very well make it. Few can match his skill set and postgame when healthy.
Waiters and Thompson are entering their second and third year, respectively. Both should see increased roles and expectations. Whoever steps up could produce All-Star numbers next to Irving.
While Cleveland probably won't see all six make the game, two is a very real possibility.
Jarrett Jack Will Win NBA Sixth Man of the Year
Last season, Jack finished third in Sixth Man of the Year voting after averaging 12.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists with the Golden State Warriors.
There's no reason to believe he won't be in the running this season, either.
Entering into a similar situation playing behind two upcoming stars with the Cavaliers, Jack should once again receive strong minutes while playing both guard positions.
Jack is a strong player across the board. He's a good shooter (.452/.404/.843 line in 2012-13), can play defense, and facilitate an offense when called upon.
If the Cavaliers go from lottery dweller to playoff contender like the Warriors did a season ago, Jack will win the best reserve player award.
Tristan Thompson Wins NBA's Most Improved Player
There should be quite a few players in the running for the title of most improved, but none have undergone as big a change as Thompson has.
Switching from a left-handed jump shot in favor of one on the right side, early signs point to a good decision by Thompson.
His jumper has looked much smoother this preseason. In his first six games, Thompson is shooting 54.9 percent from the field, up from 48.8 percent a year ago.
In 2012-13, Thompson put together averages of 11.7 points, 9.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game. His scoring should be improved thanks to a smoother jumper, which will also help to draw defenders out to him, thus opening up a driving lane.
Thompson's rebounding has always been a strong point and should only improve. He increased his average to 10.1 boards after the All-Star break last season and is leading the Cavs with 8.5 a game this preseason.
Thompson has always had a strong work ethic as well, and will at least be in the running for Most Improved Player this season.
Cavs Will Be Very Active Around the Trade Deadline
All could be used in potential trade talks for a star player to put next to Kyrie Irving.
While Irving is untouchable, it's likely Cleveland would be willing to part with any of it's other players if it meant landing a proven All-Star.
I won't go as far as to say Cleveland will pull off a blockbuster trade, but if a team like the Timberwolves begin struggling again, talks could open up.
Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters and two first rounders for Kevin Love and Kevin Martin, anyone?
Kyrie Irving Will Make All-NBA 1st Team
As you may know, only two guards can land on an All-NBA team.
Can Irving really surpass some of the game's best and finish in the top two?
In a word, yes.
Injuries could hurt Bryant (Achilles) and Westbrook (knee surgery) and will cause them to miss the beginning of the season, severely hurting their chances.
Wade will be 32 this season and isn't getting any more explosive.
That essentially leaves Paul, Harden, Parker and Irving vying for the top four spots.
Could Irving outplay two of them? Absolutely.
Don't be surprised to see Chris Paul and Irving on the 2013-14 All-NBA first team.
Cleveland Finishes 48-34 Overall
After finishing just 24-58 a season ago, is 48 wins really possible?
It certainly was for the Oklahoma City Thunder, another team who was built through the draft and quickly developed their young talent. And they didn't sign an All-Star center, either.
In 2008-09 the Thunder finished 23-59, a game worse than the Cavaliers last season. Despite this poor record, they played young stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook big minutes to help them develop.
Apparently, it paid off.
The following season, the Thunder went 50-32, earning a spot in the tough Western Conference playoffs.
Why can't the Cavaliers do the same?
A core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Jarrett Jack, if healthy, could easily win 48 games.
The Cavaliers Will Grab the 6th Seed in the Playoffs...
The Cavs are one of a number of teams fighting for what should be a wide-open, late playoff seed.
The Cavs will be right there with the Atlanta Hawks and possibly the Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards. Looking from a pure talent standpoint, none of those teams can matchup with a Kyrie Irving, Andrew Bynum, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson core.
Look for Cleveland to finish sixth in the conference and matchup against one of the top East teams.
Speaking of which...
...and Pull off a First-Round Upset over the Brooklyn Nets
A lottery team turning around to spring a playoff upset the following year? When does that ever happen?
Try last season out in Oakland.
The Golden State Warriors, also the No. 6 seed in the conference, knocked out the No. 3 seed Denver Nuggets in six games. The Warriors featured a young and talented backcourt led by a star point guard and strong play from their sixth man, Jarrett Jack.
This upset will likely depend on the team who ends up third in the East, but for now let's say it happens to be Brooklyn. Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett could certainly wear down Kevin Garnett while Dion Waiters blows past Joe Johnson on every drive. Andrew Bynum in the post would spell trouble for Brook Lopez, too.
The Nets would be a perfect first round matchup for the Cavs given their, well, oldness.
Hey, crazier things have happened in the playoffs.