All for One, One for All

With the preseason in the books and the regular season set to tip off on Tuesday night in Beantown, the Wine and Gold come into the 2008-09 campaign with lofty expectations.

Here’s a quick player-by-player look at how the Cavaliers looked in the preseason and what we can expect moving forward as the 82-game journey begins …

Delonte West – West missed a considerable chunk of the preseason to deal with personal issues, but bounced back over the past week to have a very strong preseason. In just five games, West easily led the Cavaliers in assists (5.2) and managed to challenge for the starting spot at the two. It’s easy to see why Delonte will be such a vital piece to the Wine and Gold this season.

Mo Williams – Williams didn’t do anything spectacular in the preseason, but he really didn’t have to. Williams is the best point guard that LeBron James has played with and has already changed the entire tempo of the team. He averaged 14.0 ppg over the last three games of the preseason and is the primary reason the Wine and Gold are brimming with confidence heading to Boston.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas – Big Z will be asked to do a little less this year, but that doesn’t mean that he’ll be any less effective. Working the pick-and-pop to perfection with Mo Williams, Ilgauskas should get plenty of open looks this year. Z netted double-figures in six of the Cavs’ eight preseason games, leading the club in rebounds and averaging nearly 11 points per contest.

Daniel Gibson – Boobie has been very good throughout the preseason, finishing as the Cavaliers' third-leading scorer (10.8 ppg). Gibson has added a new wrinkle to his game – attacking the basket and either trying to score or collapsing the defense. In what should prove to be a dynamic backcourt, the third-year guard is one of its most versatile weapons.

Sasha Pavlovic – Though he may get the start at the two when the Cavaliers tip off against the Champs, no one is really sure which Sasha Pavlovic is going to show up. Still battling nagging injuries that limited him to just five preseason games, Sasha showed glimpses of brilliance against the Sixers. Pavlovic’s play might just be the barometer of the Cavaliers success.

Jawad Williams – Definitely one of the feel-good stories of Camp, Williams – who played his high school ball at St. Ed’s and won the National Championship at North Carolina – made the 15-man roster on the second-to-last day of the preseason. The injury to Darnell Jackson helped, but mostly Williams helped himself with a strong showing early in the preseason and an excellent summer.

Ben Wallace – Big Ben is Big Ben. He’s not going to light up the scoreboard and he may not put up mind-boggling rebounding numbers anymore, but there still isn’t a more intimidating defensive presence in the low post. Wallace should benefit from the Cavaliers’ improved firepower, and – while defenses are focused on LeBron, Mo and Z – get some easy looks at the basket.

Lorenzen Wright – Wright is in the twilight of his career, but is a strong insurance policy for the Cavaliers heading into the long 82-game grind. The 12-year vet from Memphis can still manage to stick the open jumper and has always been able to bang with the bigs down low. He may not see a ton of minutes, but his veteran leadership has already paid dividends with the rookies.

Wally Szczerbiak – Szczerbiak’s role with the Cavaliers could fluctuate throughout the year, depending mostly on how he shoots the ball. Wally averaged a solid 8.1 ppg through the preseason, got a couple starts, and was an impressive 47 percent from the floor – including 43 percent from long-distance. He could wind up starting some games this year or be a lethal weapon off the bench.

Tarence Kinsey – In what is the Cavaliers deepest backcourt of the LeBron James Era, Kinsey will have difficulty getting a lot of floor time this year. But the coaching staff and brass love his length and athleticism and at 6-6, gives Mike Brown another big guard to work with.

Anderson Varejao – Maybe the most-improved Cavalier in the preseason, the Wild Thing came into Camp in the best shape of his career, and it showed. He’s been doing all the things he normally does on the defensive end, but has truly elevated his offensive game. He shot 53 percent from the floor in the preseason – and not all from close range – and gives the second unit frontline a much-needed burst.

Darnell Jackson – Originally selected by the Heat with the 52nd overall pick this past June, the former Jayhawk comes to Cleveland with a Championship pedigree. He injured his wrist halfway through the preseason, but has already left a great impression on the coaching staff. The man they call “D-Block” shot 58 percent through four years of college and 63 percent through four games of the preseason. Could be a solid contributor as a rookie.

J.J. Hickson – The rookie from N.C. State will never be labeled a “finesse player,” but Hickson did prove that he could be a very intriguing piece of the Cavaliers puzzle as a 20-year-old. In limited minutes, Hickson showed off his strength and athleticism, finishing second on the team in blocks during the preseason and occasionally exhibiting his mature moves in the post.

LeBron James – What’s left to be said about the 23-year-old prodigy from Akron? He came into the league with maybe the greatest expectations of any player ever and he’s blown past them like the hordes of helpless defenders that have tried to stop him. Mike Brown has been careful with LBJ’s minutes in the preseason, but in his most extended run – against Washington on Friday night – James showed why he’s the prohibitive favorite to win this year’s MVP award. It’s hard to believe, but the Chosen One actually looks better – and bigger – than he has in the previous five years of his already-brilliant career. The last time LeBron suited up in Boston, he dropped 44 points on the Celtics. What’s in store for Tuesday night and beyond is anyone’s guess.