The Cleveland Cavaliers will make the playoffs in 2014.
The team has a terrible record this season and plenty of problems, but the Cavaliers have also shown great potential and significant improvement.
Before I get too far here, I should say that if they have any major injuries, then that could derail a playoff push. Barring any big losses, though, they will be a playoff team next season.
Several factors point to the Cavaliers becoming winners again, and the biggest factor is All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving is one of the best point guards in the NBA already, and he is on his way to become one of the best players in the league. Although he is only in his second year in the NBA, Irving has already proven that he can be counted on to score in big moments. Playoff teams need players that they can look to for points late in the fourth quarter, and Irving can be that guy for the Cavaliers.
Irving also makes the other players around him better when he is in the game. Defenses have to key on him, and that opens up more space on offense for other Cavaliers to score. He also is a good distributor and knows how to get other players involved.
The second-year guard still needs to improve on defense and in other areas of his game, but that will come in time.
Along with Irving, the Cavaliers have a young nucleus with second-year player Tristan Thompson and rookies Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller. Thompson, Waiters and Zeller have all looked very good this season, and they should be even better in 2013-2014. Thompson in particular has a chance to become a real force inside next season.
The Cavaliers also added solid veterans Marreese Speights, Shaun Livingston and Wayne Ellington during the season, and they have made the Cavaliers bench unit look very good at times.
All of that being said, the Cavaliers do have a record of just 22 – 46, and they are very far away from the playoffs this season.
Fans need to remember, though, that the Cavaliers have had several huge injuries this season, with Irving and Anderson Varejao out for significant amounts of time and other players also missing games due to injuries. Also, the Cavaliers played their worst basketball early in the season, before Livingston, Ellington and Speights were added to the roster. With those three as part of the team, the Cavaliers have played much better and the record has improved.
Over the summer, the Cavaliers will have the opportunity to add to the roster in the draft and through free agency. They will have a high first round draft pick and should be able to pick up one or more players who can have an impact. Hopefully they will pick up a small forward who can drive to the rim.
The Cavaliers may also be able to pick up another free agent who can help the team on defense and in other ways.
This Cavaliers team that is finishing the 2012-2013 season is much better than the team that started the season, and it should be able to move forward in the off-season. The Cavaliers have turned into a good team that can play with anyone. Next season, they will be a playoff team.