With the Cleveland Cavaliers set to open up the 2012-2013 season on Tuesday, what can fans realistically expect from this team?
First of all, fans should expect to be entertained. This team is young and has some talent.
Point guard Kyrie Irving is already a star and is on his way to big things not just for the Cavs, but also for the NBA. He is just starting his second year in the league, but he earned a great deal of respect with his play last season and in the summer practicing against the U.S. Olympic Team.
Irving can get to the rim, and drove the lane late last season to hit clutch shots at the ends of games. As he keeps improving, he is going to get even more exciting, and the Cavs are going to improve. He is on his way to being one of the best point guards in the NBA.
Rookie guard Dion Waiters should be playing beside Irving a great deal in the backcourt, and fans will love his game, too, once he adapts to the NBA. If Waiters and Irving can push the ball and get this team running up and down the floor, it will be fun to watch and it will lead to wins.
The Cavs are also young in the paint, where second-year player Tristan Thompson is coming off of a solid rookie year, and rookie Tyler Zeller will be out to prove himself. Thompson showed flashes last year, and he will be counted on to be a force down low this year. Zeller was a star in college, and he played well in the summer league and in the preseason.
If veteran Anderson Varejao can stay healthy, he will also be key inside with his defense and rebounding. Having a healthy Varejao back for whole season will make the fans happy, and will help the team have more success.
Free agent pickup C.J. Miles will be counted on to score at key times, and he can play guard and forward. If the Cavs can get Daniel Gibson to knock down shots, Samardo Samuels to rip down rebounds and Omri Casspi to stretch the floor, this team can do some good things. Several other solid players are on the roster, too, and will have the chance to contribute.
All of that being said, the team finished just 21 and 45 last season, 29 games behind Chicago Bulls in the Central Division. While that was bad, it was actually a big improvement from two years ago, when the Cavs finished 19 and 63, and were 43 games out of first place.
The team is very young and definitely has some weaknesses. Coach Byron Scott preaches defense, and he needs the team to get better on the defensive end. On offense, the team needs to become more consistent, and it will take some time for everyone to learn to play together,
Expect the Cavs to start the season slowly, in part because it is a young team and in part because the early schedule is tough.
When 2013 hits, though, the schedule will soften up a little, and the team should start getting a few more wins, as long as key players stay healthy.
If they stay healthy, and if the rookies contribute, the Cavs have the chance to finish around .500 and challenge for a playoff spot. The team made great strides last season, and fans should expect even more improvement this year.
In the Central Division, the Indiana Pacers will be very good, but every other team comes into the season with big questions, even the Bulls.