"I feel like we're going to shock a lot of people this year just because LeBron left," Clarkson said, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. "I feel great about the team, coaching staff. They got a lot of belief in guys, so I'm just ready to strap it up and get ready for the season now."
If the Cavaliers are going to shock people, they'll need better production from Clarkson after he averaged a mere 4.7 points and 0.7 assists per game during the postseason behind ugly 30.1 percent shooting from the field and 23.9 percent from deep.
It was a far cry from his regular-season totals—13.9 points a night behind 45.1 percent shooting from the field and 35.2 percent from three-point range.
"That's a big thing for me this summer," Clarkson said when discussing his offseason plan he is undertaking with the hopes of putting last year's playoff run behind him. "I got a new strength guy out in L.A. that I've been working with. He's got me on a diet and stuff like that, so I've been focusing in the weight room so I can be ready for those times and keep prolonging myself so I can stay at a high level."
It is easy to dismiss the Cavaliers after they lost James considering his status as the unquestioned team leader and someone who consistently put Cleveland on his back while reaching his eighth straight NBA Finals. Teams don't just lose a four-time MVP and three-time champion who is in the discussion as the greatest player ever and not fall back multiple steps.
However, the Cavaliers still have Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Kyle Korver, JR Smith, George Hill and Clarkson. That core group has extensive playoff experience in an Eastern Conference that is fairly wide open after James departed.
The Cavaliers don't have the talent to reach the NBA Finals for the fifth straight season without some drastic surprises in the East, but a surprising playoff run isn't out of the question.
Clarkson is counting on it.