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NBA Team Previews: 2009 Cleveland Cavaliers Preview

Jay Cole

Jay Cole

Jay Cole writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.


CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
By J. Cole
RotoWire Writer


STATE OF THE FRANCHISE


Coming off of a franchise-record and NBA-best 66 wins for the 2008-09 season, everything was aligned for the Cavaliers heading into the playoffs - until they ran into the Magic whose versatile big men posed match-up problems that LeBron James and the Cavs could not overcome. Make no mistake, James did everything you could ask a superstar to do, virtually leading the team in every meaningful category during the regular season and playoffs, but the team still fell short. As a result, it added some veteran leadership and muscle in the middle by signing Shaquille O'Neal.


Alongside O'Neal, the other key players the Cavaliers acquired were Jamario Moon from Miami, Anthony Parker from Toronto and second-round draft pick Danny Green. With these added wing players, the Cavaliers should be more flexible on the defensive end to match up against the Magic and Celtics for the Eastern conference crown. More will also be expected from Mo Williams this year in the backcourt alongside Delonte West (assuming his gun arrest doesn't affect his status for the season). With Anderson Varejao signed to a new long-term deal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas now backing up O'Neal at the center position, the Cavaliers feature a deep front court, and Moon's addition will add versatility and defense. Because James wants to test the free-agent market this summer, look for the Cavaliers to finish what they started and make a serious run at a championship.


PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION


Starting with the back court, Mo Williams and Delonte West played 35 and 33 minutes respectively last season. Williams should be on par with virtually the same amount. West on the other hand may see his minutes dip a little, with the arrival of Anthony Parker. West is looking at 26-29 minutes a contest while Parker should garner 10-15 minutes at the shooting guard spot and a little time at small forward. Daniel Gibson, who will be the primary backup to Williams, should see no more than 15-20 minutes a game. At forward, James will see 37 minutes per game, which stays in line with last season, but off his 40-minute-per-game career average. Varejao should be right at the 30 minute mark. Now that Cleveland can go small, Jamario Moon will be easily looking at 23 minutes a game, simply because he can play both forward spots. J.J. Hickson, Varejao's main back-up at the power forward spot, logged 11 minutes last season. With the new additions, look for Hickson to log spot duty right at around 8-10 per game. At the center position, the Cavaliers will be looking to keep O'Neal as fresh as possible. O'Neal should be anywhere in 27-30 minute range. Now that Ilgauskas can come off the bench to relieve O'Neal, Ilgauskas will be looking at 20-23 minutes a game.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS



Center


Shaquille O'Neal: O'Neal will team up with LeBron James to make a run at the championship. Last season while with the Suns, O'Neal had a bit of resurgence - he averaged 18-points and eight rebounds a game and played in 75 games. O'Neal has vowed to be in even better shape, and playing alongside James should keep O'Neal's numbers on par with his production last season. The Cavaliers will monitor his minutes closely, but a fresher O'Neal will make for a more productive O'Neal.


Zydrunas Ilgauskas: Ilgauskas is in line for a different role this season. He'll be backing up O'Neal thus giving him the opportunity to play largely against second teamers. Ilgauskas should continue to be a decent threat on the offensive end, and with fewer minutes, he should also have more energy to block shots while he's on the floor, though his totals could still suffer with the reduced opportunity.


Forward


LeBron James: James is coming off of another banner year. One statistic that saw a dramatic improvement was his free-throw shooting - a seven-point bump to 78 percent. You can expect James again to flirt with triple-doubles on a nightly basis, of course, with threes, steals and some blocks, to boot. But if he can continue to shoot close to 80 percent from the line, he can challenge Chris Paul for eight-category roto supremacy.


Anderson Varejao: Now that the contract issues are behind him and he has moved into the starting lineup, Varejao should improve on the nine double-doubles he logged last season. Varejao will contribute in four main categories; rebounds, steals, blocks and field-goal percentage, but he's no more than a role player for your fantasy team as any low-post offense will typically run through Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.


Jamario Moon: Moon will be welcomed with open arms in Cleveland. His combination of length, quickness and athleticism is exactly what the team was missing when Orlando's perimeter forwards Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis ran circles around Cleveland's plodding defenders. Moon will also take advantage of James' play-making ability for multiple put-backs and dunks. From a roto perspective, the biggest impact for Moon will be on the defensive end, mainly concentrating in the steals and the blocks category. Although, Moon will spend a lot of his time playing behind James, he will also get opportunities when the Cavaliers go with a small ball approach. Moon should be one the league's top sixth men with the fantasy numbers to back it up.


J.J. Hickson: He's a former first-round pick that the Cavaliers are still high on. The problem now is finding him more minutes. With the Cavaliers in championship mode that may be tough, especially after the acquisitions of Shaquille O'Neal and Jamario Moon. Hickson will be a part of the rotation, but it may just be spot duty as in making sure the front court keeps out of foul trouble. If someone does go down, Hickson will have a nice opportunity, especially in the rebounding area.


Jawad Williams: Williams will be battling his former Tar Heel colleague, rookie Danny Green. It's going to be tough making the team, let alone cracking the rotation. As of now he sits third on the depth chart at small forward.


Danny Green: Green will have a role mirroring Jamario Moon's. Green will see limited action, but his youthfulness along with the multiple facets of his game will make for some spot duty as the season progresses.


Darnell Jackson: Jackson broke his wrist early in the season last year, so that really hampered his growth. Jackson's game is mainly based on strength in the low post. He mainly will get his work banging against O'Neal and Big Z in practice.


Leon Powe: Powe is the real wild card here. He's coming off a torn ACL and the dreaded micro-fracture surgery. He's not even going to hit the court until February at the earliest. If he does contribute it would be down the stretch and in the playoffs.


Guard


Maurice Williams: With new additions such as Shaquille O'Neal, Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker, Williams will have more of an opportunity to improve on his 4.1 assists per game last season. Williams is a do-it-all point guard, shooting the deep ball solidly and knocking down free throws at 91-percent clip last year. LeBron James and now O'Neal should ensure that Williams has plenty of open looks - so don't be surprised if his field-goal percentage is once again very solid for a point guard.


Delonte West: West should continue to provide Cleveland with that extra offensive pop. What will keep West on the floor likely will not be his clutch shooting and nice decision making, but rather his on ball defense of the NBA's elite two-guards. West however, looks to lose some of his playing time to the newly acquired Anthony Parker, and could see a league-imposed suspension for a gun arrest in September.


Anthony Parker: Parker's 6-6 frame is something Cleveland really needs especially on the defensive end. Parker shoots the ball pretty well from long range and from the charity stripe. You can expect Parker to back up both Delonte West and LeBron James at the shooting guard and small forward spots, respectively.


Daniel Gibson: Gibson will maintain his backup role at point guard - however, the acquisition of Anthony Parker may cut into his minutes a little this season. Gibson should be a decent long-range threat. The question is how many opportunities he will actually get.


Sleeper


Jamario Moon: Moon has the ability to play three positions - shooting guard and both forward spots. While he had a bit of a down season in Miami, Cleveland's faster paced offense should allow him to thrive. A more active Moon on the offensive end should result in put-backs, offensive rebounds and even some threes. And the defensive stats - steals and blocks - should be a given.


Bust


Zydrunas Ilgauskas: Ilgauskas has been a solid option at center for seven years, but his outlook is worse this season with Shaquille O'Neal now in Cleveland. Unless O'Neal were to go down early in the season, Ilgauskas is looking at reduced minutes, and he's not the kind of player who can put up big numbers in limited playing time.


Article first appeared on 10/1/09

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