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NBA Team Previews: Cleveland Cavaliers 2012-13

After bottoming out two years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers parlayed a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers into the first and fourth overall picks in the 2012 Draft. Injuries to Anderson Varejao and hotshot rookie point guard Kyrie Irving hindered this team, particularly down the stretch, and the Cavs finished with a 21-45 record. However, there are some positive signs going forward, even if Dan Gilbert's dream of a title isn't likely to come to fruition anytime soon. As a young, building team, Cleveland decided against making any notable free agent signings. Their biggest addition was C.J. Miles, he of the career average of 8.4 points per game, and they added Jeremy Pargo and Jon Leuer as well. Cleveland says goodbye to Antawn Jamison, a vestige of the LeBron James Era who was not part of their future, and Anthony Parker has moved on also. Instead, this team will rely on their young players. Irving, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, will get a full offseason with the team, and if he stays healthy could be one of the league's breakout players, and might even end up an all-star. They also have Tristan Thompson, whom they took with the fourth pick last year, and two rookies: Dion Waiters, this year's fourth overall pick, another surprise selection for Cleveland, and Tyler Zeller, a legit seven-footer coming off of a notable college career. The rebuilding process continues.

As a rookie, Kyrie Irving played 30.5 minutes a night, and as the cornerstone of their future, his numbers will likely only increase. This is partially due to the fact they do not have much behind him at point guard, with Jeremy Pargo likely serving as his main backup, picking up a scant few minutes here and there when Irving needs a rest. If Irving goes down, however, it is a bleak, barren landscape for this team. Dion Waiters may be given the chance to start at shooting guard, and could potentially see a few minutes at point guard. Cleveland has no reason not to throw him out there, and nobody really to block him, with Anthony Parker gone and Daniel Gibson the next best option. The Cavs might as well throw Waiters out there for 25-30 minutes per night; at least once he gets the feel for the NBA game. Omri Casspi will likely see a few more minutes per game, with Alonzo Gee being phased out a bit. Tristan Thompson played just under 24 minutes a night last season, and should see a few more minutes per game, although a healthy Anderson Varejao could cut into that a bit, particularly if the Cavs want to go big. Speaking of Varejao, before his injury he was getting about 31 minutes a night. He may see that come down a bit, at least early. Tyler Zeller may get 15-20 minutes a night at center. Jon Leuer and Luke Harangody might see a smattering of minutes as well.



Anderson Varejao: Varejao was having a career year last season, averaging a double-double through 25 games. Then he broke his wrist and missed the rest of the year. Fortunately, that's not the type of injury that should linger, and while Varejao's numbers will likely regress a bit toward his career averages, that still should mean quite a few rebounds.

Tyler Zeller: Zeller had a solid career at North Carolina before being chosen with the 17th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by Dallas before being sent to Cleveland. Zeller has size but despite that fact, he only averaged 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game his senior season. His upside is limited, but most folks think he can become a respectable starting center in this league. He will get enough playing time to pull down a handful of rebounds per game while swatting the occasional shot, but his points totals should not be all that special.

Michael Eric: Eric is big, but he is also a 24-year-old rookie who could not get drafted. His minutes will be sparse, and his stats will be insignificant.


Alonzo Gee: Given the most significant playing time of his career, Gee is one of the few Cavaliers who scored double-digit points last season, and he added 5.1 rebounds per game as well. He is not likely to improve upon that, but another 10-5 year could be in the works.

Omri Casspi: After an intriguing rookie season in Sacramento, Casspi's numbers and minutes have dropped every season, and the Kings sent him to Cleveland after only two years. That being said, Casspi is solid, if unspectacular across all categories. He could be able to help fantasy owners a bit in several aspects, but he is unlikely to make much of a dent in any specific category.

Tristan Thompson: Some folks were left scratching their heads when the Cavs took Thompson with the fourth pick in 2011. However, some of the advanced metrics love the big Canadian. As a rookie, he only averaged 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, but he is still a raw player with potential, and he could see an uptick in his performance this year.

Samardo Samuels: When Anderson Varejao went down with his injury, it meant more playing time for Samuels. Now, Varejao is back, and Tyler Zeller is in the mix as well. That could leave Samuels more or less bolted to the bench this season, and it is not like he produced fantasy relevant numbers last year either.

Luke Walton: Walton may have the second biggest salary on the Cavaliers this season, but that does not mean he will play much. His best days, when he did not exactly set the world alight, are behind him. He is mostly just cap ballast at this point.

C.J. Miles: When he started getting significant playing time in Utah, Miles started averaging a little more than nine points per game, while usually making one three-pointer per night. Playing in Cleveland, he could approach his career-high in minutes per game, 25.2, and that season he scored 12.8 points per game, although he is unlikely to contribute in any other categories.

Jon Leuer: Leuer did not enthuse the folks in Milwaukee, who traded him to Houston, who proceeded to waive him. He has a bit of potential, but not in
any way that will likely be fantasy relevant.

Luke Harangody: Harangody should find himself deep on the bench, with very limited playing time.

Kelenna Azubuike: Azubuike, who once averaged 14.4 points per game in Golden State's high powered offense, has played a total of 12 games since the 2008-2009 season. He spent more time in the D-League last year than in Dallas. Maybe he is a reclamation project, but it seems unlikely.


Kyrie Irving: Clearly, this team is building itself around Irving, and with good reason. Despite missing 15 games last season, he still won Rookie of the Year, although Ricky Rubio's own injury played a part in that. He looks like he was plenty worthy of the top overall pick, and he should only improve this season. Irving may not improve on last year's scoring numbers, when he averaged 18.5 points per game, but he should be in the same neighborhood, and his assist total (he averaged 5.4 dimes a game last year) should rise, in part due to the addition of Dion Waiters. Irving is the one Cavaliers player worth targeting in fantasy leagues this year, and should be one of the best point guards out there.

Dion Waiters: Despite less than stellar college numbers and rumblings about his attitude at Syracuse, Waiters saw his stock rocket in the offseason, and he ended up as the first surprise pick in the draft when he went fourth. He is expected to be able to get a ton of buckets, and there have been comparisons to Tyreke Evans, who you may recall had a nice rookie season of his own. Even better for Waiters, nobody is likely to mischaracterize him as a point guard, and the Cavs already have Irving. Waiters could be the second leading scorer for Cleveland this season as a rookie, and perhaps even first if things break right for him.

Donald Sloan: The addition of Jeremy Pargo and the return of Irving should be more or less the end of Sloan's minutes, and he is a limited player to begin with.

Jeremy Pargo: There is a good chance that Pargo ends up backing up Irving, but his production should be limited and not fantasy relevant.

Daniel Gibson: "Boobie" Gibson burst onto the scene back in the day with his three-point shots, but, while he still made 1.6 three-pointers per game last year, he has never turned into anything more than a bench player who gets run when the team needs some scoring. That is not enough to help most fantasy teams.


Dion Waiters: It's hard to find many players worth even considering for fantasy ownership in most leagues, and Irving is too known a commodity to be a sleeper. However, Waiters could at least get you points. Evans, whom Waiters has drawn comparisons to, scored 20.1 points per game as a rookie. If Waiters is even close to that, which is possible, he will definitely be a nice sleeper, although he may not help you much in any other category.


Tristan Thompson: It's not that Thompson is coming off a good season, or that the expectations are that high. It's just that the raw Thompson, while he has potential, could be another year away from being anything other than a bit player. Most of Cleveland's players won't even get a look from fantasy owners. Thompson might, and he seems the most likely to disappoint.