Scott: The opening tip is just a few hours away. Speculation and prognostication has ranged from dreamy to dreadful—the Wine and Gold could be on of the league’s surprise teams or they could fall flat on their collective face. The youth and patience that Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant have been touting could finally pay off or the amalgamation of lottery picks could prove to be a bowl full of bust.
With all of this in mind, what do you all expect from the Cleveland Cavaliers? For the sake of chronology, let’s start with the offseason. The Cavs had quite the summer with regard to the draft and free agent market. Which newcomer will prove to have the biggest positive impact for thee Wine and Gold by season’s end? My thoughts on Jarrett Jack are well-documented by this point, but do you guys feel the same way?
Andrew: I’m going to choose to be optimistic and say Andrew Bynum. I just like the things I’ve been hearing about his work ethic and his conditioning at this stage. I think by the end of the season, Bynum will be fully acclimated to playing again and will make a big impact on the franchise.
Jacob: By season’s end, Andrew Bynum. That’s me making my bold prediction already. Even just 20-30 games for Bynum at 90 percent of what he did in 2011-12 is a huge difference-maker and nearly better WAR-like production than 80 games of healthy Earl Clark. I love Jarrett Jack, don’t get me wrong, but productive Bynum still is at another level.
Ryan: While Bynum by far has the most upside of any off season addition, Jaret Jack will be the guy Cavs fans come to love and appreciate night in and night out. He’ll bring leadership and stability to a young bunch both on and off the court. When opposing teams key on Kyrie and Dion is being Bad Dion it will be Jack who takes over the offense, takes big shots, and rights the ship.
Rick: Depending on how many games Bynum plays, he should be the answer. As one who doesn’t have high hopes in that regard I am going to say Jarrett Jack.
I see opportunities for Jack to get plenty of minutes and make an impact. I really liked the small line-up we saw in the preseason with Irving at the 2 and Jack at the point. But even if he just backs up Kyrie and Dion, he has plenty of value. Several media outlets have called him a legit sixth man of the year candidate. I tend to agree.
Kirk: I’m going to go with Jarrett Jack as well. I thought about picking Bynum, but then I thought, even if he stays healthy, Jack will have a more vital role. I expect to see plenty of the Kyrie-Dion-Jack trio together in crunch time. Jack running the offense allows Kyrie and Dion to focus on getting open and taking good shots. His leadership and confidence will be contagious. He won’t be afraid to take the last shot if the ball swings his direction.
Ben: Due to his outside shooting, I think Sergey Karasev will make the biggest impact for the Cavs. Having Karasev to stretch the floor will make Kyrie’s life easier, to say nothing of the space he’d allow Andrew Bynum (assuming Bynum even plays). Of course, Karasev only sees the floor if he Ds up, but he looked neither lost or afraid on the defensive end during his preseason minutes.
Craig: I’m also going with Karasev. I have no idea really, but based on my glances at pre-season I see a kid that isn’t scared and has an ability – shooting – that translates immediately to the NBA.
Scott: A lot of you mentioned Kyrie Irving already, so we’ll switch gears to the third-year point guard. He has made it be known that All-Star endorse machine isn’t enough for him—he wants to be the best player in the league. While this may be something that will take more than this season, what do you expect from the 21-year old? Will he improve defensively? Will he shift the scoring load to others? Will he, most importantly, finally stay healthy?Craig: I think Irving will take the teachings of Mike Brown and become more than just a young up-and-comer. I know it’s vague and it won’t show up in the box scores, but he will seem more complete and more mature this year. Whether it’s finishing games, leading his team on the court or being hard on younger guys who need some scolding, Kyrie Irving is going to seem older to Cavs fans by year end in a good way.
Andrew: I too fully expect Mike Brown to get better defensive effort out of Kyrie. I think Kyrie is serious about wanting to be the best player in the league, and Coach Brown will drill the idea into Kyrie’s head that you can’t be the best player without playing defense. I don’t know how to predict whether he will stay healthy or not, but I do think Kyrie will continue to improve and will be a better all-around player this year than he was last year.
Kirk: I expect him to correctly be in the short conversation for best point guard in the association. He will improve defensively, though I’m not expecting miracles. I just want the olé blow-bys to disappear and for him to force some more steals to get out and run. I think some of the scoring burden can and will be shifted to Waiters, Bynum or Varejao, and Tristan Thompson. Health is the limiting factor, of course. I’d consider 70 regular season games from him a success. I think he’ll end up somewhere between 65 and 72 games played.
Rick: Simply improving defensively shouldn’t be very difficult for Kyrie, but I think Mike Brown’s insistence on defense will help Kyrie take a big leap forward in that department. Consider this, Kyrie played fewer than 20 games of college basketball. He came into the league trying to prove that he was worthy of the risk the Cavaliers took on him offensively. He’s also just 21 years old. I believe that Kyrie can grow tremendously on the defensive end. Can he be a top defender? Maybe not. But even an above the mendoza line defender would be a step up.
Ryan: It would be fantastic to see Kyrie dishing out double digit assists game after game, but it’s his ability to create his OWN shot that makes him so special. His defense will improve to the point it’s not a liability but will still be far from a strength. I expect him to earn 3rd team All NBA honors and play around 70 games.
Jacob: I expect a fairly similar season for Kyrie Irving. He’ll play more 2-guard than in the past with the addition of Jack, thus bringing down his assist numbers. He’ll showcase enough defense to be taken seriously, but the peripheral numbers will be similar. He’ll finish with 71 games played, a large increase on last year’s 59 but still not perfect.
Ben: I think Kyrie is due for a monster year. His assists should go up with better, healthier teammates. It seems like he’s buying into Coach Mike’s defensive philosophy. Also, I imagine he’ll play through some of the injuries that might’ve sidelined him these past two totally not tanking seasons.
Scott: Assuming that Irving is joined by Dion Waiters, Earl Clark, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao in the starting five on Opening Night, what are the odds that all five players are members of the Cleveland Cavaliers come March? Who, if anyone, is no longer here?
Rick: I would say that those five are around come the trade deadline. For fun, I would put the order of being traded in this group would be 1) Varejao 2) Clark 3) Waiters 4) Thompson 5) Irving.
Kirk: I’d say there’s a 85% chance of them all being here after the deadline. Kyrie, Dion, and Tristan aren’t going anywhere, nor should they. Clark could be dealt on the cheap if Mike Brown chooses to go with Alonzo Gee, CJ Miles, and Sergey Karasev at the 3 and Clark falls out of the rotation. In my eyes, the season would have to go really wrong to trade Andy. He’s cheap for his production when healthy, and because of the health issues, they won’t get fair value for him in a trade.
Andrew: I doubt anyone goes but if anyone I could see it being Dion. He’s 21 and has the ability to take over games offensively. Dion is a valuable trade asset but I expect Gilbert to try and add rather than subtract at the deadline. So if Dion goes it’s part of blockbuster deal.
Jacob: I’ll go with a March starting lineup of Irving-Waiters-Clark-Thompson-Bynum. The biggest trade piece the Cavs have is Anderson Varejao. He doesn’t seem to be a long-term fit, despite his clear short-term value. Anthony Bennett will need more minutes, while a rotation with Tristan Thompson and healthy Bynum makes the older Varejao a bit more expendable.
Ben: I’d also say Dion, with Tristan as a close second. With multiple lotto picks on rookie deals, some expiring contracts and a bunch of future picks, the Cavs are primed for a big trade. Dion makes the most sense to be moved, as he kind of duplicates a lot of what Kyrie does. But really, the only guy I really expect to be on the roster in June is Kyrie. Everyone else can be had in my opinion.
Craig: Anderson Varejao is always a possibility to be traded because he’s the old man on the block right now and any contender that wants to be marginally better on defense will covet his skill set. That being said, I don’t expect the Cavs to trade Andy this year and I don’t foresee anyone else being traded either. It’s probably my naiveté.
Ryan: I personally doubt that anyone goes but if I had to pick someone, I too could see it being Dion. He’s 21 and has the ability to take over games offensively. Dion is a valuable trade asset but I expect Gilbert to try and add rather than subtract at the deadline. So if Dion goes it’s part of blockbuster deal.
Scott: Several talking points in with a slew of tangents and not one of us has muttered the name Anthony Bennett. What are your expectations for Bennett, a player who may be the most under-discussed No. 1 pick in recent memory?
Ryan: Bennett has the luxury of not having to carry a team as the No. 1 pick. He can come off the bench, use his irrational confidence to his advantage and give the Cavs a valuable scoring option off the bench. Unfortunately I don’t think he’s closing games out come the end of the year.
Kirk: I’m being realistic. Bennett will have some nights where he will hardly get off the bench if Bynum and Varejao are both playing. But, I think if Brown can put some trust in his rookie, he could win them some games with his offensive hot streaks. I’d like to see a small ball unit with Thompson and Bennett down low form. His fouls, fatigue, and defensive breakdowns will limit him to 18-20 minutes per night, but I can see him averaging 9-10 points and 6-7 rebounds, using it as a stepping stone for better days down the road.
Jacob: Say 20-25 minutes of standard production. Perhaps 10 points and 6 rebounds per night. He’s a good rebounder and potentially elite scorer, but that’s about it. He’s not much for assists, per his UNLV production. The defense is a question mark, although many fans will overlook that and call for him to start over the unheralded Tristan Thompson. He’ll provide a few great games of 20-plus points to keep fans excited for the future.
Andrew: My expectations are pretty low, mostly because—as Kirk alluded to—I think Mike Brown is too stubborn to play him. It’s the one thing I don’t like about Coach Brown, his lack of desire to play young players. I guess there’s a reason his winning percentage is so high, and part of it is he always plays the players that give him the best chance to win that night. But that comes at the expense of a lot of player development, and it’s a concern with young players like Bennett and Karasev. I hope Brown finds a balance, but until that happens, I just don’t think Bennett will play much or have much of a chance to improve and get used to the league.
Rick: So hard to nail this one down. My hope would be that Bennett plays a reserve role for half the season until his production starts to force Mike Brown’s hand. I have high hopes for Tristan Thompson this season however. If Bennett can average 8 or 9 points a game with 5 or 6 rebounds in 18-20 minutes I would be happy with that.
Craig: My expectations are that he gets into shape and becomes a decent bench contributor in the second half of the season. I really would love to see him put up stats like J.J. Hickson did in his second year in the NBA—he put up some double-doubles and scored 20-plus points eight times. I’d like it to look a little bit better on my TV and in the arena than Hickson’s stats did being accumulated, but that’s what I want. Pretty modest for the No. 1 overall pick, huh?
Ben: I think 10 points and 4-6 boards off the bench is doable. I’m going to be really interested to see how Brown handles his minutes, bc Coach Mike had a pretty short leash with rookies like Shannon Brown and Hickson during his first go round. I really really like the idea of having Bennett come off the bench and going against the other teams second unit. I think he’ll be a lot of fun.
Scott: So given where your expectations appear to be for Bennett, who do you all foresee as being the Cavaliers’ “breakout” player for this coming season? Can Kyrie take things even further? Will Tristan finally crack that double-double average? Or will it be someone we don’t even expect? Conversely, who will disappoint?
Andrew: I’ll just flip a coin and say Dion Waiters will have a breakout year. I’ve commented a lot about rookie shooting guard struggling their first year and then improving in Year 2, and I think Dion Waiters will follow that arc. I think he has a better understanding of how the NBA is going to defend him and how he can attack that. I’m not saying Dion Waiters is going to be a borderline All Star this year (although that would sure be awesome if he was), but I do think he’ll show the most growth and development as a player of anyone on this roster.
Regarding the disappointment, I’m tempted to say Anthony Bennett here only because I’m not sure how he gets minutes if/when Bynum and Tyler Zeller are both back. That said, I’ll say Jarrett Jack will be the biggest disappointment. Not because he won’t be good, but I think fans’ expectations for Jack have been growing out of control and I don’t think he can possibly live up to them. Jack is always a bit of a streaky player who, while his effort is consistent, will have a lot of nights where he doesn’t look good but his confidence will cause him to keep pressing. I think Jack was a huge pickup and will be an important part of the turnaround this season. But fans seem to have already elevated Jack to hero status and I worry that he just won’t be able to live up to those expectations.
Jacob: Dion Waiters seems like an appropriate candidate after his inefficient rookie season. He’s a borderline top-100 player in the NBA, too. With Irving and Jack dominating the point, Waiters has one main goal this season: Work on his off-ball game to become a more efficient scorer. He’ll do so, although not all the time, and remind folks of his long-term potential.
Jarrett Jack will disappoint. He’s solid but not that great; I think the team might eventually regret his contract. He’s dependable and steady, but fans will clamor for Irving-Waiters lineups when it matters.
Rick: Like I mentioned earlier, I am hoping that Tristan becomes a 15 and 10 player and a cornerstone of the franchise.
I’ve been the Andrew Bynum detractor since the signing, but since I have no real expectations for him, I can’t really claim him as a disappointment. Which brings me to Dion Waiters. I REALLY hope I’m wrong about Dion, but I’m not seeing enough from him to make me think he’s the future at the 2 guard for the Cavs. I’d love for him to show me up. I don’t see him fitting in as well with the Mike Brown philosophy.
Kirk:Tristan will be the popular pick and I agree that he’ll have a great year, but I too am going with Waiters. He got disrespected a lot last year for a rookie shooting guard when you look at their numbers historically. Yes, his field goal percentage was horrific, but without the rookie hazing from officials, I expect it to increase 3-4 percent with plenty more trips to the free throw line. Unlike Kyrie, I think Waiters can be coached up with some already existing defensive qualities and be at least an average defender. If he learns to move without the ball and keeps his shot selection in check, I think the Cavs have the young backcourt everyone is envious of by season’s end.
As for disappointments, there are couple candidates here, including Bennett, Earl Clark, and Bynum, but I’ll go with Anderson Varejao. He’s got to stay healthy, and I think Tristan may start doing certain Andy-quality things better than Andy. Can Andy consistently play the four anymore? If Bynum succeeds, Varejao will have to do so part time.
Ryan: Can I say Kyrie Irving? While he won’t appear too different to those in Northeast Ohio, as the team wins more game Kyrie’s rocket ship to superstardom will blast off. i.e. Steph Curry in 2013.
Dion is my choice for disappointment. Sorry guys. I love Dion and his confidence but unfortunately I think after 2013-14 Bradley Beal will be the better 2-guard from last year’s draft.
Ben: I’m going to go against the grain and say Sergey Karasev. His name never comes up during any national previews but I think NBA Twitter will fall in love with the sweet shooting lefty.
My disappointment is also Dion. I hope I’m wrong, but the moment he has a bad game you’ll see folks on Twitter complaining about Harrison Barnes and/or Victor Oladipo.
Craig; Add another vote for Dion Waiters as a disappointment. He will have an up-and-down year and ultimately won’t be consistent enough, despite showing flashes of a much improved player at times.
As for my breakout, I’m stickin’ with Karasev. If the Cavs are in playoff contention, it will be an X-factor bench guy and I’m betting on the shooter.
Scott: Ah. Playoff contention. That’s a solid segue to the record prediction discussion. When it’s all said and done, what does your crystal ball say for these guys? For what it’s worth, I’m on record with them finishing 42-40, a marked increase over last season’s dismal returns. This should be good enough for the sixth or seventh seed in the East.
Craig: Come this April, the Cleveland Cavaliers will finish the season with a 39-43 mark, and be the 8th seed in the East.
Ben: I will blend the two of you: I think they’ll finish with 42 wins, but will slot in as the 8th seed.
Rick: I will go with 38-44, finishing 9th in the East.
Jacob: Let’s go with 43-39 and seventh in the Eastern Conference. That likely brings them away from a Miami Heat first-round showdown.
Andrew: I’ll say the Cavaliers will go 41-41 and finish 8th in the East, but I really have no idea. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team with such a wide array of possible outcomes for a season. Literally anything could happen with this team this season.
Ryan: I’ll add a few more wins. They’ll go 44-38, taking home the 6-seed and losing to the Pacers in six games in the first round.
Kirk: I was the bull on the Indians this spring and will keep it going with the Cavs. They’ll finish 45-37, good enough for the 6th in the East. Taking it a step further like Ryan, they’ll lose to the Brooklyn Nets in seven games, but it will be one of the best series in the entire playoffs. It will also set the stage for…
Scott: Oh no you didn’t. All right…as a final word of sorts, finish this sentence: The summer of 2014 will be…
Kirk: A killer on my eyes, ears, heart, liver, and twitter feed. I hope it’s all worth it in the end, whatever the outcome, and the Cavs are title contenders next year.
Rick: …Disappointing for most as the free agent market doesn’t pan out to be as spectacular as everyone hopes.
Jacob: Annoying. I keep hearing positive murmurs about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Regardless, fans will remain optimistic about the exciting and emerging combination of Irving-Waiters-Bennett-Thompson. It’s an odd fit, but great talent.
Ryan: Oh so glorious. Time to swallow our pride and bow as the prodigal son returns.
Andrew: …ridiculous in every way.