2009-10 Cleveland Cavaliers Predictions
by Robert Ferringo and Nolan Sinclair - 10/27/2009
So, did you hear about Cleveland's big offseason acquisitions? Yeah, I think that JaMario Moon is going to be solid.
The Cleveland Cavaliers appear to be doing everything that they can to hold on to King James. And that includes sparing no expense to bring in The Big Enforcer, Shaquille O'Neal. But the offseason tweaking in Cleveland didn't stop there. The aforementioned Moon and potential breakout forward Leon Powe have also been added to the mix to help the Cavs finally get that ever-elusive NBA championship.
Last year the Cavs had scoring punch from every spot on the floor and defensively they were already the best in the NBA. Now with the additions of their free agents the best just got better. It does appear that 2009-10 is shaping up to be the year of the King.
That said, let the record firmly show that I don't think that Cleveland made the most effective use of its offseason. I feel that they would have been better off going after Hedo Turkoglu and Rasheed Wallace, and that the move to bring in Shaq will really not pay off in the way that Cleveland fans hope it will. This signing just reminds me too much of Buffalo going out and grabbing a way-past-his-prime Terrell Owens in the NFL. And I think it's pretty clear how that is working out.
Now, Cleveland's starting five is impressive. In the backcourt, Delonte West came into his own last season at the point guard spot. He missed 18 games with an injury but he had been playing very sharp basketball prior to that. To enter the next tier of point guards however, West will have to increase his assists per game (3.5). With the added scoring punch in the post this can happen as soon as this season. Mo Williams was signed prior to last season to be the second scoring option behind James and he did a solid job while earning an All-Star spot. Mo averaged just less than 18 points a game while shooting 47 percent from the floor. Williams won't see as many double teams and won't see nearly the same amount of defensive focus with Shaq in the paint and LeBron getting better by the day which will help his offensive numbers improve.
However, it is still clear to me that the limited stature of their guards, and their limited defensive ability, could again be what holds this team back in the postseason.
In the frontcourt, Anderson Varejao and his hair ignite the fire and energy of the Cavs. At eight points and seven rebounds a game Varejao is the perfect fit at the power forward spot. He does an outstanding job of attacking the glass on both ends and his defensive intensity is unmatched. His points per game may dip a little this season but he will have plenty of opportunities to grab his 10 boards a night.
Shaq Daddy has arrived and many of us don't know what to expect. Will he clog up the lane? Will he slow down the Cavs offense? Will he be a defensive liability trying to stop the pick-and-roll? Shaq is still a presence that even at 37-years-old should be able to get the job done. Cleveland is not looking to Shaq to win games for them. Cleveland is not looking for Shaq to score 20 a game and grab 15 rebounds. Cleveland wants Shaq to do what he can, score close to the basket, grab close to 10 boards a game, block a few shots, and be the imposing presence in the paint on both ends of the floor. While I think that Cleveland could have made better offseason moves to help their squad I wouldn't say that he was altogether a terrible signing. He is still a pro and he's still taken three different franchises to the NBA Finals.
There's nothing I can say about LeBron that you don't already know or that hasn't already been said. James poured in 28 points, and nearly eight rebounds and eight assists per game last season for Cleveland. Even more important is the fact that he raised his free throw shooting percentage seven points to 78 percent. James has career averages of 27.5 points, 6.7 assists, and seven rebounds a game, and he won't be 26 until December. The sky is the limit with this guy and I for one can't wait to watch him go up against the Celtics tonight. His scoring may dip a little with the addition of Shaq, but his assists, rebounds, and shooting percentages all should improve.
Cleveland made strong moves this offseason to shore up their bench. Zydrunas Ilgauskas was bumped to the bench with the addition of Shaq and that gives Cleveland a former All-Star at their backup center spot that averaged 13 points and seven rebounds a game for them last year. Both Moon and Anthony Parker are do-it-all type players. This past season I was discussing with colleagues of mine that the Cavs needed to improve their defense and length at the forward spots. They needed to have someone to stop the bigger guards and longer forwards. LeBron can't guard everyone. Bringing in Moon and Parker were meant to address just that.
On paper the Cavs and the Celtics are No. 1 and No. 2 in the East as each can score when needed and play suffocating defense. If you took Kevin Garnett away from the Celtics and LeBron James away from the Cavaliers I would say that I like the Cs better. However, since that's not the case I give Cleveland the nod heading into the season. LeBron is a special player. All he needs now is to get that first championship ring and then the floodgates may open. That is if he stays in Cleveland.
With all of this said…bring on the 2009-10 NBA season.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained nearly +300 Units over the past three college basketball seasons. You can purchase his basketball picks here.
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