CLEVELAND CAVALIERS PREVIEW 2011
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
Last year simply wasn’t the Cavaliers’ year. On July 8, 2010, Akron native and fan favorite, LeBron James, announced he would be signing with the Miami Heat. For fans in Cleveland, a city that hasn’t won a professional sports championship in 46 years, the news was devastating. James’ departure affected more than the fans, as the Cavaliers lost an NBA-record 26 games in a row and finished with an conference-worst 19-63 record. Byron Scott’s first year as head coach wasn’t what he expected. Antawn Jamison (finger) missed the final 26 games, Baron Davis (back) missed 24 games and Anderson Varejao (ankle) missed the last 51 games. Coming into this season, the Cavaliers expect the trio of Varejao, Jamison and Davis to be a huge part of their team’s success. These three cagey veterans will be relied upon to mentor one of the youngest squads in the NBA, providing the team with the experience and leadership they desperately missed last season. Eleven of the 16 players on the Cavaliers’ roster are 25 years old or younger, including this year’s top draft pick, Kyrie Irving, and this year’s fourth pick overall, Tristan Thompson. Davis and Irving will be a strong point-guard tandem and the power forward duo of Thompson and Jamison should be solid as well. With an infusion of new playmakers, there should also be more space for Cleveland’s shooters, such as Omri Casspi, Daniel Gibson and Anthony Parker, to operate. Bottom line: while the Cavaliers may not have the most star-studded team in the league, look for them to take a big jump in the standings this year, as a healthy group of veterans will team up with an exciting collection of young and athletic players. The Cavaliers hope to erase the memory of last year’s dismal season and begin their rebuilding phase.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Varejao will be the starting center and see around 30-35 minutes a night, with the remaining 10-15 minutes split by Semih Erden, Ryan Hollins and Samardo Samuels. Erden, Hollins and Samuels could receive even more time if Varejao’s injury issues continue. Jamison and Thompson will split time at power forward, as both will log about 25-30 minutes per game. Samuels will be given the majority of leftover minutes at the four. Casspi will start at small forward and total 30-35 minutes per game, due in large part to a lack of competition at the three. He will be spelled for brief stretches by either Christian Eyenga or Alonzo Gee. The shooting guard minutes will be fairly evenly distributed amongst Manny Harris, Anthony Parker and Daniel Gibson, who should each receive 15-20 minutes per game. The Cavaliers’ point guard situation is very similar to their power forward situation, as Davis and Irving will both log between 25-30 minutes per game. Either Davis or Irving will likely be the Cavaliers’ sixth man and both players could see time at the two. Expect Irving and Thompson’s minutes to increase as the season progresses.
Anderson Varejao: One of the elite rebounding big men in the league, Varejao’s 2010-2011 season was decimated by injuries. He missed the final three-and-a-half months with a ruptured tendon in his right ankle. With successful surgery on his ankle in February, he says he is now close to 100 percent. Prior to his season-ending injury, Varejao was averaging career-highs of 32.1 minutes, 9.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Given the Cavaliers’ lack of depth at center, Varejao will at least match those numbers if he remains healthy this season. With his ankle continuing to be a concern, he could be an excellent value pick this year, especially for a team lacking rebounding production.
Semih Erden: The defensive-minded backup center, Erden will miss the first two months of the season. Erden broke his left thumb while playing for Turkey’s Besitkas during the lockout, but he was probably not in line to help anyone’s fantasy team even if healthy.
Ryan Hollins: An athletic specimen with long arms and freakish jumping abilities, Hollins will begin the year as the Cavaliers’ backup center. If Varejao remains healthy, Hollins will not play enough to be fantasy-worthy.
Antawn Jamison: The most proven scorer on the Cavaliers, Jamison comes into his 13th season in the NBA healthy. He is entering the final year of his contract (worth over $15 million) and needs a solid season to keep his options open for the future; a lackluster year plagued by injuries could force him into retirement. When healthy, not many can match Jamison’s combination of three-point shooting, rebounding and overall scoring, as he was averaging 18.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and shooting 34.6 percent from behind the arc last year before he got hurt. Jamison is still a force, he is entering a contract year and there will be a nucleus of young guys to compete with this season. He should be a solid pick in any fantasy league if he can stay healthy.
Tristan Thompson: Thompson has the athleticism and skills to make an immediate impact. However, at the tender age of 20, it is unclear what his role will be, especially with Jamison back and healthy. After playing just one year at the University of Texas, where he averaged 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, expect Thompson to help the Cavaliers’ tremendously on the boards and with points in the paint. If Jamison’s season is cut short again by injuries, Thompson could see his minutes skyrocket and instantly becomes a top-20 power forward.
Samardo Samuels: A monster on defense and a rebounding force, Samuels can play both the four or the five. Due to a vast amount of frontcourt injuries last season, he averaged 26.2 minutes, 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the month of February. If the Cavaliers’ frontcourt ends up with the same bad luck this year, Samuels will again be a solid waiver-wire pickup.
Luke Harangody: One of the last players on the Cavaliers’ roster, Harangody is a decent scorer and nothing more. He will rarely get off the bench this season.
Omri Casspi: One of the best pure shooters in the league, Casspi came to the Cavaliers late last season after being traded by the Kings for J.J. Hickson and a conditional first-round draft pick. With Cleveland’s lack of depth at the three, Casspi will be given ample court time and his numbers should improve. He provides the team with decent rebounding and three-point totals and he should find plenty of space with the addition of playmaking point guard Irving. Casspi could be a solid later-round pick, depending on the size of your league.
Christian Eyenga: Arguably the most versatile and athletic player on the roster, Eyenga is a tenacious defender with an above-average mid-range game. He showed glimpses of star-potential last season and even grew two inches this offseason. However, the Cavaliers have a plethora of young backups, so playing time this year will be difficult to come by. Keep him off your cheat sheets but in your memory bank.
Alonzo Gee: Another of Cleveland’s young backups, Gee is a slasher who gets to the rim. He will not see enough court time to be fantasy-worthy.
Kyrie Irving: The future of the Cavaliers, Irving will make a huge impact in his rookie season. Irving’s electrifying speed, great court awareness and exceptional ball-handling ability will be on display from the get go. He will be one of the top contenders for the Rookie of the Year award as he will produce solid steal, assist and point totals.
Daniel Gibson: One of the league’s top three-point specialists, Gibson is coming off a career year. He battled a nagging quad injury last season but still managed to average career-highs of 11.6 points, 3.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds. With Irving’s arrival, Gibson will see his minutes decrease but will also be given more space on the floor. Don’t expect his numbers to go up from last year, but Gibson’s three-point shooting prowess makes him a solid later-round pick in most standard leagues.
Anthony Parker: The Cavaliers’ defensive stopper and the oldest player on the team, the 36-year-old Parker will be more of a mentor than anything else this season. He will compete with Gibson for the starting shooting guard spot in camp. Even if he wins the job, Parker’s ceiling is set at producing decent steal, point and three-point totals.
Manny Harris: Another young and athletic backup, Harris will only see the court if the Cavaliers’ backcourt is depleted by injuries. He is almost entirely a one-dimensional scorer and on a Cavaliers team that gave up over 104 points per game last year, Harris’ lack of defensive effort will keep him off the court.
Ramon Sessions: One of the league’s premier backup point guards, Sessions is coming off a year in which he averaged a career-high 13.3 points per game. Sessions was forced into the starting lineup last year but with Irving in the picture this year, expect the vet to rarely see the court.
Baron Davis: – Davis was waived by the Cavs via the amnesty provision and is believed to be joining the Knicks.
Antawn Jamison : Thanks to Jamison’s injury-plagued season a year ago, many people will be scared to draft him in the earlier rounds. However, when healthy, there are few who can match his production across the board. Jamison is a power forward who can nail the deep ball, pass the rock and crash the glass. Thompson is too unpolished to be a real threat to his minutes and Jamison is still a 20-point scorer at his best. If you’re in need of a solid forward who can do a little bit of everything, look no further than Jamison.
Tristan Thompson : Every year, people fall in love with rookies only to watch them sit on the bench or put up terribly inefficient stats. With the Cavs planning to give Jamison a lot of minutes, Thompson won’t be able to produce at the levels some people are hoping. He has tremendous talent, but to expect too much from him is putting the cart before the horse. Watch his development, but don’t rush out and spend a high pick on him.