Now that Summer League has come and gone, things are probably going to be mostly quiet on the Cleveland Cavaliers homefront until training camp starts in late September/early October. Sure, the Cavaliers will likely sing restricted free agent Alonzo Gee at some point, they still have to decide whether or not to pick up Daniel Gibson’s team option (they probably will), and there’s always the chance of the Cavaliers being involved in some kind of trade. But for the most part, this is the quiet period for the team.
So in the meantime, while football is getting ready to start and baseball is going through all their trade deadline hoopla, here’s some random basketball thoughts to pass the time.
- I fully expect an Alonzo Gee deal to be done in same shape or form, whether it be simply Gee signing his qualifying offer for 1 season or the two parties agreeing to a multi-year deal. I also fully expect the Cavaliers to pick up Daniel Gibson’s option. The $4.792 million price tag isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s not a huge burden either.
Gibson and Anderson Varejao are the only remaining links to the LeBron era, and with that Gibson still brings some veteran experience and leadership that the team is lacking with the departure of Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker. We know Gibson’s peak, and it’s more or less an average SG with the ability to fill in a few minutes here and there at PG. But Gibson has also become a vastly improved defensive player and was one of the few players who really showed a lot of effort on that end of the court last season. I don’t see any reason for the Cavaliers not to bring back Gibson this season.
- So what will the Cavaliers roster look like this season? Well, to begin with, here’s the breakdown of players with a chance of making the team in training camp, at least as I see it today:
- Anderson Varejao
- Luke Walton
- Kyrie Irving
- Daniel Gibson
- Tristan Thompson
- Dion Waiters
- Alonzo Gee
- Omri Casspi
- Tyler Zeller
- Luke Harangody
- Jeremy Pargo
- Kelenna Azubuike
- Samardo Samuels
- Kevin Jones
- Donald Sloan
- Jon Leuer
The Cavaliers can keep 13-15 players. The 11 locks (i.e., fully guaranteed contracts) to make the team are Andy, Walton, Kyrie, Gibson, Thompson, Waiters, Gee, Casspi, Zeller, Harangody, and Pargo. That leaves 5 guys (Azubuike, Samuels, Jones, Sloan, Leuer) fighting for 2-4 spots.
I’m going to guess that Sloan will be the odd man out. I thought for sure he did enough in Summer League to warrant getting first shot at backing up Kyrie. But with the acquisition of Pargo on a guaranteed contract, I’m not sure the Cavaliers will want to carry another PG. I think Leuer and Samuels are virtual locks to make the team. Azubuike will come down to his health, and the same with Jones. If healthy, Jones will have a chance to show why many thought he would have been and should have been drafted.
If the Cavaliers decide they do like Sloan, one option would be to cut either Azubuike or Jones (my guess would be Jones) and keep Sloan but send him to the D-League to start the season.
- What kind of team will the Cavaliers be? Young and inexperienced for sure. I really think this team is going to struggle on defense as well. Yes, Tristan Thompson has the athleticism to be a great defender, but in the Summer League he didn’t show a whole lot of improvement in his footwork and discipline from last season. Zeller looks to struggle with foul trouble, Kyrie was a liability last season (hopefully he’s going to begin to show improvement there this season), Waiters has a lot of work to do on defense. Obviously Varejao is an elite defender when healthy, and Gee is a pretty solid defender. Gibson has been pretty good on defense the last couple years. Beyond that, though, there are a lot of questions and issues on defense.
On offense, we know Byron Scott wants his team to run. In their last year under Mike Brown, the Cavaliers were 24th in Pace (94.1 possessions per 48 minutes). In Coach Scott’s first season the Cavaliers jumped to 11th in the NBA in pace (93.0) and last year they were 14th in the league (91.3). Pace Factor doesn’t tell the whole story, but obviously the focus on playing faster is there.
The one thing the team lacked last season, though, was an offensive identity. If Kyrie wasn’t creating on offense, nobody ever seemed to know what to do. Their spacing was atrocious as was their shot selection, which lead to them finishing 29th in eFG% and 24th in offensive rating (points per 100 possessions). The team still sorely lacks outside shooters who can help spread the floor. That’s going to be a very serious problem.
I expect to see a young athletic team that tries to run and attack the rim as much as possible. I expect to see vast amounts of pick and roll, with Kyrie and Waiters trading off ball handling responsibilities. Both Andy and Zeller are excellent at operating the pick and roll, and Kyrie and Waiters are both capable of making plays happen out of those sets. It gives the Cavaliers a lot of versatility and the ability to quickly reverse plays to try to create and take advantage of mismatches.
- What should we expect/want for this season? Playoffs? I think we need to hold off on playoff thoughts. Unless Dion Waiters really is Dwyane Wade1, the Cavaliers having glaring problems. Where is the shooting on this team? How will they handle perimeter defense, especially against larger backcourts? Rookies tend to struggle and take time to acclimate to the professional game. Dion Waiters showed us in Summer League he has a lot of work to do to be an impact NBA player. These things take time.
I don’t think the Cavaliers are going to be a very good team. If Anderson Varejao stays healthy all year, the Cavaliers might make some noise and beat some teams. But he’s always an injury liability and could be traded at any point. No, I don’t think playoffs will be a factor yet. In fact, if Kyrie and Andy miss extended time again this season, I expect the Cavaliers to be right near the top of the lottery again. And you know what? That’s ok. Until the Cavaliers are ready to make a bold move up the ranks, I’m content to keep collecting high draft picks. At some point the team has to start showing improvement. I’m just not sure it will be this season.
- I hate this comparison so much….so unfair to Waiters [↩]