Cavalier Questions

August 30, 2012

As with any young up-and-coming team, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Wine and Gold with Camp Scott rapidly approaching. We might not know the answers until April, but decided to pose the questions now …

1. What will the big man rotation look like?
The Cavaliers will go into this season with a good stable of young bigs. Anderson Varejao will be 30 when the season starts, but the next-oldest forward on the roster is Luke Harangody, who’s 24.

Anderson VarejaoVarejao has been bitten hard by the injury bug over the past two seasons – playing in just 56 total games. The Wild Thing was playing at an All-Star level in both seasons before being sidelined. Cavalier fans still haven’t seen Andy and a more-seasoned Tristan Thompson together on the court. The 21-year-old Thompson, who’s been working hard at Cleveland Clinic Courts all summer, is poised to make another leap.

The 17th overall pick, Tyler Zeller, had a solid showing in Summer League, averaging 11.4 points, 7.2 boards and a block per contest. A slimmed-down Samardo Samuels was equally impressive. Defensive-minded rookie Micheal Eric averaged 9.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a senior at Temple. And Jon Leuer, inked off waivers in July, will help to space the floor.

The Cavs haven’t answered all their questions in the post, but if they stay reasonably healthy, it’ll definitely beat the revolving door that the pivot became late last year.

2. How about small forward? Will the Cavs sign Alonzo Gee and will Omri Casspi be more comfortable and confident in year two? In his 103-game tenure with the Cavaliers, all Alonzo Gee has done is continue to improve. Assuming he re-ups with the Wine and Gold, the uber-athletic SF needs to work on ball-handling and mid-range jumper. After his first season with Cleveland, he was asked to work on his shooting and did exactly that, playing in Poland before the Lockout was settled. There’s no reason to think he can’t make another step up.

Omri Casspi started 35 games – averaging 7.1 ppg on .403 FG shooting – before being supplanted by Gee last season. Casspi’s numbers have declined in each of his three years, but he’s been working hard in Independence and is currently playing for Israel in the EuroBasket Championships.

The wildcard in the mix could be Kelenna Azubuike, who the Cavs acquired in the Draft night deal with Dallas. Azubuike played in a game last April, but that was his first since November 2009. The former Cavaliers Camp invitee had his best season in 2008-09, when he averaged 14.4 ppg with Golden State.

3. How much better will last year’s rookies – Kyrie and Tristan – be in 2012-13?
Kryie Irving had a rookie season on par with players like Bird, Magic, Jordan, LeBron and Oscar Robertson. He was the top scoring and shooting freshman and finished second in assists – easily winning Rookie of the Year honors in the process. It’s hard to improve upon that.

RookiesBut the point guard is the team’s quarterback and Kyrie is now the unquestioned leader. His progress from this point on will be measured on how many wins he can lead the Cavaliers to. His hand should be fully healed by Camp and it’ll be interesting to finally see how he works alongside Dion Waiters.

Tristan Thompson’s rookie season wasn’t as spectacular as Kyrie’s, but he was still rock solid – averaging 8.2 points and 6.5 boards in 23.7 minutes per contest. As a starter, he improved to 10.4 points and 7.5 rebounds (3.8 offensive) per game. He finished 12th in scoring among all rookies; third overall in blocks.

The former rookie duo made a big splash in their first year in Cleveland. But now Kyrie’s been given the keys to the car and Tristan joins Andy as the leaders of the frontcourt. Their sophomore seasons will be another that requires heavy lifting.

4. What about this year’s rookies?
The Cavs surprised some fans and pundits when they tabbed combo guard Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick.

Waiters performed to mixed reviews at Summer League in Vegas. He was aggressive and physical and played well with the ball in his hands. And he led the Wine and Gold with a 12.3 ppg average before sitting out the final two contests with a sore left knee. But the former Big East Sixth Man of the Year also shot just 30 percent from the floor, including 17 percent from long distance.

Tyler ZellerTyler Zeller was solid at Summer League, leading the Cavs in rebounding. The tagline on the former ACC Player of the Year was that he’d be a “big man who could play in the NBA for the next dozen years.” And he looked like that player after one week in Vegas.

Both rookies had their ups and downs in Vegas. But their real test will come when they run with Kyrie and Co. and under the watchful eye of Coach Scott in about a month.

5. What role will C.J. Miles fill?
C.J. Miles comes to the Cavaliers as a battle-tested veteran of seven seasons – and he’s only 25 years old.

Miles is an iron man and his numbers had gone up every year that he played in Utah. But even last year, he averaged 9.1 ppg. In the previous non-Lockout season with the Jazz, he averaged 12.8 ppg in 78 games.

Over the last two seasons, the Cavs have lacked athleticism and versatility on the wing. Miles fills both voids. He’ll challenge for time at the small forward and provide some rookie relief to Dion Waiters at the 2.

7. Where will Daniel Gibson fit in?
Like fellow tenured vet, Anderson Varejao, Boobie’s had his past two seasons shortened by injury.

Daniel GibsonLast year, a torn tendon in his left foot and ankle sidelined the six-year veteran from Texas. Before the injury, Boobie was once again the team’s best perimeter defender, despite his three-point shooting taking a slight dip.

When healthy, Boobie is still a strong defender and still has a .419 career percentage from beyond the arc. He can back up both guard positions and check bigger opponents.

The additions of Jeremy Pargo and C.J. Miles – plus Donald Sloan’s play late last year and in Vegas Summer League – may make it a tough squeeze for Gibson. But Boobie’s battled (and beat) the odds before.

6. Can Kevin Jones make the Cavaliers roster out of Training Camp?
Likely because of his size and the fact that he’s a “below-the-rim” type of player, Jones – a second-team All-American – went undrafted in 2012. A broken bone in his heel kept him off the Cavaliers’ Summer League roster, but it won’t keep him from joining the Wine and Gold in Camp on October 1.

Jones’ game isn’t pretty, but he still managed to lead the rugged Big East in scoring (19.9 ppg) and rebounding (10.9 rpg) while shooting 50.9 percent from the floor.

The Cavaliers aren’t afraid of developing undrafted players – especially a guy like Jones who excelled against stellar competition in a tough conference. (UConn’s Jim Calhoun called him the best player in the Big East.) Cleveland took a shot on Samardo Samuels and it could start paying dividends this year. Kevin Jones might take a similar path.