All things considered, there should actually be optimism regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kyrie Irving appears to be the face of the franchise that Cavs fans hoped they were getting with the top overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. With four of the top 34 picks in the 2012 NBA Draft and a ton of cap space, management should look to build around Irving this off-season.
Cleveland Cavaliers (21-45 last year)
2011-12 Season Summary:
I make a weekly appearance on a radio show based out of Cleveland, and it’s actually rather amazing that a month and a half into the season we were having legitimate conversation as to whether or not the Cavs were going to be a playoff team. However, that talk quickly put to rest as they finished with the third worst record in the league.
Still, there were some bright spots; particularly the play from first round picks Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. Irving performed better than most expected during his rookie season and every indication appears that he will be their franchise player moving forward. Thompson had a solid rookie campaign even though he spent a decent amount of time late in the season playing out of position at center.
Even with the bright play of their rookies, it was clear that the Cavs simply lacked the talent to truly be competitive especially after losing Anderson Varejao to a fractured wrist midway through the season. The team also made a move for the future by dealing Ramon Sessions to the Lakers for a first round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
That left players like Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, and Alonzo Gee to shoulder the load as Irving also missed a chunk of time late in the season due to injury. With Jamison’s outrageously over-priced contract finally coming off the books and the likelihood that the team will not pick up the almost $4.8 million team option on Daniel Gibson’s contract; Cleveland will have a ton of cap space this off-season. That provides them with the opportunity to be aggressive in free agency if they choose to do so.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Anderson Varejao/*Semih Erden
PF: Tristan Thompson/*Luke Harangody
SF: Omri Casspi/Luke Walton
SG: *Alonzo Gee/#Daniel Gibson
PG: Kyrie Irving/David Sloan
NBA Free Agents:
#G-Daniel Gibson (TO)
*SG-Alonzo Gee (RFA)
*C-Semih Erden (RFA)
*PF-Luke Harangody (RFA)
PF-Antawn Jamison (UFA)
SG-Anthony Parker (UFA)
PF-Samardo Samuels (UFA)
G/F-Jason Kapono (UFA)
SG-Manny Harris (UFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $29 million
1. Wing Help: From the likes of Luke Walton and Anthony Parker to Mychal Thompson, Manny Harris, D.J. Kennedy, Ben Uzoh, and Christian Eyenga; the Cavs had quite the revolving door of crap trying to plug the hole at shooting guard and small forward last season. They sorely need a wing player who can help take some of the pressure off Kyrie Irving. Expect Cleveland to target either Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Harrison Barnes with their lottery pick. They should still look to add another proven perimeter scorer or use one of their other picks on a wing player in hopes of finding an upgrade.
2. True Center: When Anderson Varejao went down with a season-ending injury, the Cavs lacked any sort of inside presence. Guys like Semih Erden and Ryan Hollins don’t even deserve to be in the league and Cleveland was forced to play undersized power forwards Tristan Thompson and Samardo Samuels in the middle. Even though Varejao will be back next season, he is not a true banging, physical presence down low. The Cavs need to find a serviceable big body to clog up space in the paint, and preferably not named Erden or Hollins.
3. Veteran Point Guard: Since dealing Ramon Sessions, Cleveland has a void behind Kyrie Irving at point guard. Ideally, finding a veteran who can play 12-15 minutes a night if needed while also providing some guidance to help further Irving’s development would be a smart addition.
4. Patience: The worst thing management can do this off-season is blow their cap space by over-spending on mediocre talent or acquiring expensive, long-term contracts. General Manager Chris Grant needs to stick to the script and follow the Oklahoma City Thunder blueprint of building through the draft and wisely using the team’s cap space on short-term deals for veterans who can temporarily fill-in where needed.
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.