Well, who knows when the Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21) will be back on top again? With the departure of LeBron James, the dismantling of the frontcourt with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Shaquille O’Neal being let go and the firing of GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown, this team won’t be on top again for some time.
In the frontcourt, Antawn Jamison (.461 FG%, .344 3PT%, .647 FT%, 8.4 RPG, 18.7 PPG), who has been a durable vet, is the designated starter at power forward. He’s got a dozen years behind him and you have to wonder how many more good ones he has in him? The good news is that there’s some fine depth behind him, including Leon Powe (.429 FG%, .000 3PT%, .587 FT%, 3.1 RPG, 4.0 PPG). Powe played just 20 games last season due to injury. If he can post some comeback numbers, that will be a huge help for the Cavs. Additionally, JJ Hickson (.554 FG%, .000 3PT%, .681 FT%, 4.9 RPG, 0.5 APG, 8.5 PPG), now in his third season, offers size and strength upfront.
Small forward will be manned by three-year player Jamario Moon (.462 FG%, .320 3PT%, .800 FT%, 3.1 RPG, 0.8 APG, 4.9 PPG). He has those mighty big shoes of LeBron James to fill. Talk about impossible? The backups are average and the fall off will be noticeable at this spot in every way.
Anderson Varejao (.572 FG%, .200 3PT%, .663 FT%, 7.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 8.6 PPG), who is really a power forward, mans the center position. He’s a tough defender and rebounder who likes to mix it up inside. This season, he’s going to see major playing minutes. He’s got decent hands and is a solid defender.
There’s bad news at the point as starting guard Mo William (.442 FG%, .429 3PT%, .894 FT%, 3.0 RPG, 5.3 APG, 15.8 PPG) will sit out until mid-October due to a groin injury. Williams’ scoring chops will be much in demand now that James is gone. If he does not stay healthy, the Cavs are in deep trouble. Backup Ramone Sessions (.456 FG%, .067 3PT%, .717 FT%, 2.6 RPG, 3.1 APG. 8.2 PPG) will also be asked to play and contribute more than he has in the past.
At shooting guard, the Cavaliers list three players. It’s tough to say who will be the ultimate starter, but the job could go to Anthony Parker (.434 FG%, .414 3PT%, .789 FT%, 2.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 7.3 PPG). Parker is a seven-year NBA role player. Another option would be to move Williams to the shooting spot and start Sessions at point.
On offense and defense last season was last season for this team. The man with the highest PER was James at 31.19. The team’s Offensive Efficiency was 108.8 (4th) and its Defensive Efficiency was 101.5 (7th). Cleveland was the league’s second best defensive rebounding team. All of those numbers mean little with the major loses this team has experienced since the end of the 2009-2010 season.
Cleveland has hired Byron Scott (352-355) as their new head coach. Scott has a decade of coaching experience that includes stints with the Nets and Hornets. Although not noted for being very good with young players, Scott does know how to get the most out of his vets.
With no true star power on the roster and a new coach, the Cavs are a team undergoing a major transition. They have power and strength in the frontcourt but they lack the dynamic that James brought to the court. The big question is will they simply limp along for awhile or will they try to rebuild quickly? This is a team with good players and some decent guys coming off the bench. But major go-to guys just aren’t on the roster.
Cleveland is a last place team. They will finish fifth in the Central Division and 13thin the Eastern Conference. They do have some things to build on, including a solid three-point game and some decent defense. If both Sessions and Powe come to play off the bench, this team has a chance at the postseason. But more than likely the lack of offensive output, age and major adjustments due to coach Byron’s arrival will be this team’s undoing. Wait until next year or the year after that.
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