For the first time since LeBron James departed in 2010 the Cleveland Cavaliers are coming into an NBA season with enough talent to contest for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The starting lineup will feature a blend of proven NBA veterans and talented young players. Coming off an injury plagued 24-58 season, the Cavaliers made some wholesale changes that included the dismissal of coach Byron Scott. The Cavaliers decided to bring back a familiar voice in Mike Brown in an attempt to improve the teams defense, which ranked among the worse in the league. Cleveland’s defense gave up 101.1 points per game and a league-high .476 field-goal percentage during the 2012-13 season.
The Cavaliers return a very young nucleus that includes Kyrie Irving, one of the NBA’s premier point guards. The 21-year-old All-Star is coming off a very good season where he averaged 22.5 points and 5.9 assists per game. Kyrie will be joined in the backcourt with 2012 #4 overall pick Dion Waiters. The 2nd-year shooting guard from Syracuse averaged 14.7ppg as a rookie last season. One of the key free-agent acquisitions made by general manager Chris Grant was the signing of veteran point guard Jarret Jack. Jack will add a spark off the bench and provide veteran leadership to a very young backcourt.
Coach Mike Brown will be reunited with center Anderson Varejao (14.1 ppg and 14.4 reb), who was putting up All-Star statistics through 25 games before suffering a season-ending injury. Varejao has been hampered by injuries for the past 3 seasons and will see fewer minutes thanks to the signing of All-Star center Andrew Bynum. Bynum is returning after a year off due to a knee injury but is in great shape and seems to be healthy for the first time in almost 2 years.
Playing power forward for the wine and gold is another fabulous young talent in Tristan Thompson. The 22-year-old averaged a career high in points (11.7 ppg) and rebounds (9.4 rpg) last season. Rounding out the starting lineup is newly acquired forward Earl Clark, who came over as a free agent from the Los Angles Lakers. Clark adds a defensive presence at small forward and will be an upgrade over Alonzo Gee. Gee will be coming off the bench along with 2013 #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and veteran C.J. Miles. Not too many NBA teams will notice the improved Cavaliers in October but by the end of the season, the young Cavs could be that team nobody wants to play in the postseason.