Go West, Young Men

July 12, 2012
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Dion Waiters
Unlike years past, when the Cavs’ Summer League squad was a mere shell of the team that would take the floor that following fall, the group that’s heading West this weekend – joining the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year in Vegas – shouldn’t be all that different that your 2012-13 Cavaliers.

This summer’s squad will feature the aforementioned R.O.Y. – Kyrie Irving – who’d reportedly been killing the competition as the select team prepares Team USA for the upcoming Olympics in London. Irving has been drawing rave reviews, including effusive praise from Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“Kyrie Irving is a player that literally you could move from one court to the other court,” Colangelo said, referring to the separation of the Olympic team and the select team on adjacent courts. “He’s that far advanced in terms of his talent.”

Along with last year’s top pick, Tristan Thompson – the top rookie rebounder in his class – will continue his first real offseason with the Wine and Gold. Thompson, the No. 4 overall pick in 2011, will join the Cavs’ No. 4 overall selection from this season, Dion Waiters.

Waiters’ performance at this year’s Summer League will draw plenty of attention from Cavalier fans and media – many of whom were surprised with his selection and are curious to see the skills that Cleveland’s brain trust did when they took him near the top of the first round.

His rookie classmate, Tyler Zeller, will also get his first run as a pro in Vegas. He’ll join a pair of young Cavalier veterans – Samardo Samuels and Luke Harangody – in the frontcourt.

The Cavs will play five games in six nights while in Sin City – July 13-22 – beginning with a matchup against Charlotte on Sunday evening. All games will be played at the COX Pavilion and Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. It’ll be the Cavaliers’ seventh straight appearance at Vegas Summer League, or every year since its inception in 2004. Last year’s invitational was cancelled, of course, due to the NBA Lockout.

The Cavaliers released this year’s entire roster on Tuesday afternoon. Each player attending has something to gain, including …

Luke Harangody – He’s played 42 games with the Cavaliers over part of two seasons, but this will be his first offseason with the Wine and Gold. Luke closed out last season as Canton’s top player and bounced back between the D-League and Cavs toward the end of the season. The classic underdog, a slimmed-down Harangody will try to carve his niche in a crowded frontcourt in Vegas.

Kyrie Irving – The one player who has almost nothing to prove next week in Vegas, Kyrie comes straight from Olympic workouts to run the Summer squad. He didn’t have the benefit of summer league one year ago and will utilize these games to get to know his new mates and establish himself as the club’s unquestioned leader.

Tristan Thompson – Coming off and impressive rookie season, Thompson has been working hard at CCC all offseason. Like Irving, Thompson was thrown into the fire last season. The 21-year-old big man could make the biggest leap of any player from last year to the next.

D.J. Kennedy – Injuries forced the Cavaliers to ink Kennedy late last season and all the former Johnnie did was lead the team in scoring in his first NBA game. The coaches will get an extended look at the athletic swingman next week in Vegas.

Rob Jones – A double-double producer at St. Mary’s, Jones will get plenty of opportunity at small forward at Summer League.

Garrett Temple – One of the Cavalier Summer Leaguers who actually has NBA some experience, Temple has had short stints with San Antonio, Milwaukee and Charlotte. He’ll be competing for time at the two-guard.

Dion Waiters – Probably the player Cavalier fans are most eager to see, the rugged shooting guard will share the backcourt with Kyrie Irving in what could be a powerful tandem for years in Cleveland.

Tyler Zeller – Already impressive in workouts at Cleveland Clinic Courts, Zeller can solidify his spot in the rotation – or perhaps as a starter – with a solid showing in Vegas.

Samardo Samuels – Dropped a ton of weight and it’s noticeable. Samuels knows the value of Summer League as well as anyone. It was his performance with the Bulls after going undrafted out of Louisville that earned him a Training Camp spot with Cleveland. Samardo can reinvigorate his young career this offseason.

Justin Holiday – Brother of Jrue Holiday, the 6-6 guard played in Belgium last year. He was a four-year guy at Washington and one of the best defenders in the Pac-10 during that time.

T.J. Campbell – The small-but-sturdy guard averaged 14.3 ppg in 36 starts with Canton last season. His height (5-9) is about the only thing working against him. He’s a strong shooter, solid defender and steady point guard. He’ll be a guy to keep an eye on in Vegas.

Matt Pressey – The son of Cavaliers assistant, Paul Pressey, the former Mizzou standout will back up Kyrie Irving in Vegas. He started all 35 games for a talented Missouri team on year ago.

Micheal Eric – One of the more intriguing players on the Cavs roster in Vegas. The native Nigerian started 68 games for Temple, averaging 9.0 points, 8.8 boards and 2.1 blocks per contest. The 6-11, 240-pounder will look to make his bones on the defensive end next week.

Donald Sloan – Sloan had a nice late run with the Cavaliers last season and will look to parlay that into a roster spot with the Wine and Gold this year. He’ll benefit from his familiarity with his teammates in Vegas.