2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers Preview
By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor
(Sports Network) - This will be season No. 2 of the Kyrie Irving era for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Season 1 netted Irving the NBA's Rookie of the Year Award.
It only netted the Cavaliers two more wins, although it was the labor- shortened season, so that's progress.
The Cavs aren't really about wins and losses at this stage in their process. When a certain someone took his talents elsewhere and the Cavs took Irving No. 1 overall in 2011, this team was going to take a long while to be competitive.
Irving didn't help the team's growth this past offseason when he slapped a wall after a turnover in a Cavs practice and broke his hand. He required surgery on that right hand, but came back to Cavs training camp healthy and ready to go.
And head coach Byron Scott expects even more out of the reigning Rookie of the Year.
"I expect him to be a great leader," said Scott. "You have to lead by example. I expect him to be in here and working hard just like he was all summer long. I'm very pleased with his work ethic this summer. But I expect him to carry that out through the preseason, through training camp and through the regular season as well."
Irving agreed with his head coach.
"I feel like this is my time to step up vocally," said Irving. "And lead by example. That's what I plan on doing."
Scott also indicated that there will be a time that Irving is going to run the offense himself.
"I don't know when that's going to be," said Scott. "But, there will come a time this season where I'll tell him to basically take over."
That's a lot of pressure to put on a second-year player, but someone has to be the leader of this team and the point guard, and unquestionably best player makes sense.
The Cavaliers are a very young team. They addressed Irving's running mate with the selection of Dion Waiters No. 4 overall in the last draft and the draft- day trade for center Tyler Zeller is a possible steal.
2011-12 Results: 21-45, fifth in Central; Missed Playoffs.
ADDITIONS: G Dion Waiters, C Tyler Zeller, F Jon Leuer
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Kyrie Irving SG- Dion Waiters SF- Alonzo Gee PF- Tristan Thompson C- Anderson Varejao
KEY RESERVES: G Daniel Gibson, F Omri Casspi, F/G C.J. Miles, F Jon Leurer, C Tyler Zeller
FRONTCOURT: Gee might not start if Scott gives Casspi or Miles the nod. Gee is a former D-Leaguer turned NBAer. He is athletic, but not a great shooter or decision-maker.
Thompson was the fourth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and got the starting nod toward the end of last season. When Varejao went down with injury, Scott gave Thompson the center job, but he's a power forward and now, with Antawn Jamison in Los Angeles, he's the man.
Thompson showed some glimpses during the season and came close to averaging 10 PPG. His numbers improved once he got into the starting five and could make a big leap in season two.
You have to love Varejao. His effort and intensity are unmatched in the league and it would be easy for him to complain or ask to go to a contender, which might happen if Zeller develops rapidly. Varejao could be a great leader for this raw team. He may be hurt more than most with the league's new flopping rule, so he should bring his check book with him wherever he goes.
BACKCOURT: Irving is explosive and dynamic. He shot close to 40 percent from beyond the arc in his rookie season. The assist numbers should go up from 5.4 once more talent comes to Cleveland.
Irving's 18.5 PPG is a staggering figure for someone with one season of college experience, and even that was cut short by a toe injury. Irving's game is dizzying. He likes having the ball with the game on the line. He is a true star in the making.
Waiters was an interesting choice at No. 4. He did not start at Syracuse, but in his sophomore, and final, college season, he averaged 12.6 PPG. Waiters is supposed to come in and be a scorer and shooter and he should be able to do both decently.
Waiters showed up overweight for the Las Vegas Summer League, but apparently shed all of the extra lbs. Unfortunately, he incurred the wrath of Scott in an early preseason loss to the Bucks when Scott yanked Waiters just a minute into his run in the fourth quarter.
"I took him out in the second half because I drew up a play, guard ran the play, he messed it up," Scott told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "To me that was a lack of focus so I figured he didn't need to play the rest of the game."
BENCH: Gibson is a solid hand off the bench. He can shoot and there are plenty of teams that could use that, perhaps if Cleveland is looking to completely rebuild with youth.
Miles and Casspi were once starters in the West and can easily reclaim some form of that game.
There's a lot to like from Zeller. He moves well, gets the game and was a winner at North Carolina.
Leurer isn't a household name and his journey to Ohio was a fascinating one. He was taken in the second round of last year's NBA Draft, then thrown into the Milwaukee Bucks' trade for Samuel Dalembert. The Houston Rockets, who got rid of everyone but the hot dog guy in an attempt to clear cash for Dwight Howard, waived him.
Cleveland plucked him and got a player who started 12 games for the Bucks and shot 33 percent from the 3-point line. That's solid for a 6-10 forward no one seems to want around.
COACHING: Scott won the NBA's Coach of the Year award in 2008 with the New Orleans Hornets. It was there he nurtured a young Chris Paul into superstardom. That's the intent here with Irving, although Irving's not going to be as good as Paul.
Players play hard for Scott. He doesn't wear on them and he's fully prepared to hand over the reins to Irving.
OUTLOOK: The Cavaliers are headed to another lottery, although the improvement will be there. Irving has to avoid the dreaded Sophomore Slump, which he should. Irving is just that special.
But Waiters and Thompson need to do their part. They are critical for this team to move forward. As fourth picks in drafts, being role players is not an option.
The Cavaliers could jell brilliantly and contend for the eighth seed, but that's not too likely.
10/26 10:34:40 ET