Cleveland Cavaliers : Five Questions Going Into Training Camp
Can The Cavs Contend In The East?
With training camp a little over two weeks away, the Cleveland Cavaliers have questions on that need to be answered.
Cleveland, who would finish last in the Central Division with a record of 21-45, would draft shooting guard Dion Waiters fourth overall out of Syracuse in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Cleveland would acquire former North Carolina center Tyler Zeller and veteran swingman Kellenna Azubuike from the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for their 24th, 33rd and 34th picks.
The Cavs would sign free agent shooting guard/small forward C.J. Miles formerly of the Utah Jazz, land former Milwaukee Bucks center/power forward Jon Leuer via waivers and rookie free agents in center Michael Eric and power forward Kevin Jones.
While some pundits have the Cavs as a sleeper team that may sneak into the final eighth seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, I respectfully disagree due to the lack of a quality wing player who can complement point guard Kyrie Irving.
I could be wrong—and hopefully so—as the Cavs are on the right track in terms of building a solid playoff contender, but due to the additions of Bradley Beal alongside John Wall for the Washington Wizards, Terrence Ross and Kyle Lowry for the Toronto Raptors and Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee, Cleveland is realistically another year away from contention.
That being said, here are the top five questions heading into training camp for the Wine and Gold.
Will Kyrie Irving Emerge Into One Of the NBA’s Best Young Point Guards?
The reigning 2011-12 NBA Rookie of The Year, Irving has a chance to really take his game to the next level in 2012-13, due to the additions of Miles and Waiters on the wing.
Irving, who would lead all rookies in scoring at 18.5 points per game is reportedly fully healed from slapping his hand against an unpadded wall during a Team USA practice and is fully expect to be healthy and ready to go in training camp.
If Irving can duplicate his impressive rookie campaign—and stay fully healthy—in 12-13, look for the Cavs to be a sleeper in the East.
Will PF Tristan Thompson Breakout?
Thompson, the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft from Texas, is being counted on for some very big things for the Wine and Gold in 2012-13.
The 6’9, 227-pound second-year power forward/center, selected fourth overall in the 2011 NBA Draft out of Texas, averaged 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in 60 games for the Cavaliers.
With former starting forward Antawn Jamison now with the Los Angeles Lakers, there is no reason why Thompson can improve upon his rookie numbers.
Projected as the new starter at the four, the Toronto-born Thompson may lack Jamison’s shooting and offense, but compensates with raw talent and a knack for being a high-motor defender with a knack for shot-blocking.
If Thompson can improve upon his 55.2 percent free-throw shooting and his mind-range shot, Thompson could be a future All-Star in the making.
Is C.J. Miles A Good Fit?
During the off-season, the Cavaliers would sign free-agent swingman, C.J. Miles to a two-year deal and provide both the Cavs with a wing player that can hopefully take some of the scoring load away from Irving.
Miles, 25, would averaged 9.1 points, 1.2 assists, 2.1 rebounds in 20.4 minutes for the Utah Jazz.
Miles would shoot 38.1 percent from the field, 30.7 percent from three-point range and 79.4 percent from the free-throw line in 20.4 minutes during the 2011-12 season.
What Miles’ role in Cleveland is yet to be determined, as he will either start at shooting guard over Waiters and six year veteran, Daniel Gibson or depth at the small forward spot behind Alonzo Gee and Omri Casspi, Miles’ athleticism appear to be a good fit for head coach Byron Scott’s up-tempo style.
If Miles can replicate his 2010-11 campaign in which he would average 12.8 points, 1.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds, this could be one of the best under-the-radar steals in free agency.
Is C Anderson Varejao Trade Bait?
One of the NBA’s top rebounders and “energy” guys, the very-popular—and fan favorite—Brazilian center Anderson Varejao is a player on the verge of All-Star status.
Varejao, 28, averaged a double-double in 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds in 35 games before missing the 2011-12 season with a hand injury.
In the last two years, Varejao has played in 56 games and miss 92 total games due to injury.
If the Cavaliers are out of contention after the All-Star break and a contender needs to add depth and hustle to their bench, do not be surprised if Varejao’s name is mentioned, as the Cavaliers have made it a recent habit of making moves.
Dion Waiters : Is He The Next Dwayne Wade?
When you are mentioned in the same breath as two-time NBA champion and NBA Finals MVP in shooting guard Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, you must be special.
In the case of Waiters, Cavs fans are hoping that Waiter’s game –at the very minimum—touches that proverbial ceiling.
Waiters, 20, would be selected fourth overall out of Syracuse. At Syracuse, Waiters averaged 12.6 points, 2.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds and would shoot 47.6 percent from the field, 36.3 percent from three-point range and 72.9 percent from the free-throw line.
At 6’4 and 220, Waiters is an aggressive, slashing guard who can create his own shot and has exceptional body control. Like Wade, Waiters is a pure athlete on the open floor as he loves to attack the rim, and is an exceptional ball handler.
While many Cavaliers fans were stunned by the selection of Waiters—considering the fact that he was the sixth man at Syracuse—the pick of Waiters is another example of how Cleveland is following the Oklahoma City Thunder’s blueprint of building a contender through the draft.
Oklahoma City would select Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in the first round of the NBA Draft from 2007 thru 2009.
If Waiters does pan out, he can thank Harden in making Cleveland’s pick easier. If not, the selection of Waiters will go down be one of the most head-scratching and maligned draft picks in Cavaliers history.
Robert D. Cobb is the NBA Network Manager for Rant Media Network, Featured Writer of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Featured Columnist for the Cleveland Browns and Arsenal Gunners. In addition to covering the NBA, I also cover MLB, NFL, NHL and Champions League soccer news, rumors and opinions, please follow me on Twitter at @RobertCobb_76