NBA Picks: Cleveland Should Enter Playoff Fight
by Aaron Smith - 9/4/2013
The Cleveland Cavaliers franchise took a major nosedive as soon as LeBron James left for Miami, but there are some real signs of life in Cleveland of late. The Cavaliers have been fortunate enough to get the No. 1 draft pick twice, and you have to think that is going to pay off in the future. The city of Cleveland badly wants a winner. And while this team has quite a bit of room for improvement, it seems clear that they are about to enter the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
What is Cleveland doing right? What do they need to work harder on in the season ahead? Let’s take a look at how the Cleveland Cavaliers look in the offseason as they prepare for the 2013-14 NBA season.
Star Point Guard Leads the Way
Kyrie Irving gives Cleveland one of the best point guards in the game. Many in the league would probably take him above any other young point guard if given the chance to start a new team with a point guard to build around. Irving is such a versatile point guard, and versatility is often the difference between a good guard and a great guard. He can shoot it from the outside very well (39 percent from three-point range). He increased his assists per game to 5.9 last year. Irving also averaged 1.5 steals per game last season. There’s really nothing that Irving can’t do well on the floor.
The one thing that must change is his health. The most games Irving has played in any season were 59. Irving has dealt with several minor injuries during his first two years in the league. If Cleveland is going to contend for a spot in the playoffs, they absolutely need him on the floor and healthy all year long.
Offseason Player Moves Improved Team
The Cavs stunned everyone with the selection of Anthony Bennett as the first pick in this year’s draft, but I think he has a chance to be a big asset for this team. Bennett is a unique hybrid player on offense, and that should help the Cavaliers get more open looks. The acquisition of veteran Jarrett Jack should be great for the Cavs. He gives the team a veteran leader to back up Irving. In the past, the Cavs had no real second option at the point guard spot.
Bringing in Andrew Bynum is certainly taking a chance, but if he happens to be healthy it will be a major boost to the team. Cleveland is clearly lacking in frontcourt depth, and Bynum has proven in the past that he can produce if he can stay healthy. Tristan Thompson has already been with the team, but his move to change to a right-handed shot during the offseason is almost unprecedented. The early reports say that Thompson is shooting the ball from the free throw line much better than he did last year. If Thompson develops an outside shot, he’ll be a much more dangerous offensive weapon.
Mike Brown Back as Head Coach
The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised quite a few people when they announced Mike Brown as their coach once again last April. Brown was fired by the Cavaliers in 2010, and he was later fired by the Lakers early in 2012.
Will hiring Brown be a good move for the Cavaliers? Time will tell. I’ll be the first to admit I was more than a little skeptical when I first heard the news. It’s hard to figure out why the team would want to go back to a guy that they ran out of town just three years ago. Brown is known as a good defensive coach, and if he can instill some defensive principles in this young team it might end up being a good move.
NBA Picks: Cleveland Cavaliers Futures
The oddsmakers are understandably still fairly low on the Cleveland Cavaliers as we head into a new season. BetOnline lists the Cavs at +5,000 to win the Eastern Conference. Bovada has the Cavs listed at 66/1 to win the NBA title in 2014.
Cleveland should be a much better team in the year ahead, but no one should expect them to contend for any kind of title just yet. Remember, the Cavaliers did go 24-58 last season. It will certainly help them that the bottom of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference is very weak. At the same time, they are still going to have to improve in a big way to get up to about the .500 mark.
Cleveland has a terrific young nucleus of stars, and there is no doubt that this is team that will be much-improved this season. The health of Irving and Bynum will play a major role in just how much this team improves. In the end, I expect the Cavs to be in the thick of the race for the final spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
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