The 2013-14 NBA season for the Cleveland Cavaliers is undoubtedly going to circle around the third year of star point guard Kyrie Irving. With another year of experience notched on his belt and with a better supporting cast now surrounding him in Cleveland, the Cavaliers are expecting big things from the player who made his first All-Star team last season.
As the Cavs opened their season against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, though, Irving struggled in terms of his scoring. He finished the night with 15 points on 4-16 shooting from the field and 0-2 shooting from long-range, but did add an impressive nine assists in 31 minutes of playing in the 98-94 victory for Cleveland.
However, Irving’s play was somewhat overshadowed by the relatively unexpected return of center Andrew Bynum to NBA action. Bynum checked in at the 3:40 mark of the first quarter after being cleared to play just before game-time and played eight minutes off of the bench. He finished the night with three points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks on 1-5 shooting in his limited time, but the most impressive part was how he and the Cavs’ bench unit performed together.
Bynum’s eight minutes of action were played alongside rookie Anthony Bennett, Alonzo Gee, Jarrett Jack and C.J. Miles. While they were on the floor, they were quite impressive. Posting a decent 52.9 percent true shooting percentage, the Cavs’ reserves posted an offensive rating of 119 points per 100 possessions and a defensive rating of allowing just 61.9 points per 100 possessions. Moreover, they played at a crazy pace for those eight minutes, averaging just under 107 possessions per 48 minutes.
The starting five for the Cavs, which was on the floor for 22 minutes against the Nets, averaged 93.19 possessions per 48 minutes on Wednesday night. Though there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s something that can make Cleveland’s bench-unit more dangerous.
Obviously eight minutes in one game is an incredibly small sample-size, but assuming that the Cavs’ reserves want to get out and run and that Bynum will only improve as he gets his legs under him more, this Cavs bench could be a major weapon for them. The Cavs made a concerted effort to improve their depth this off-season and it paid off on Wednesday night.
There is obviously room for regression in this instance with Cleveland’s bench, but their first outing together was quite impressive. They were able to score, attack, get to the line, and defend the Nets when they were on the floor together, while also controlling the pace in their favor. If that’s something they can do consistently, even with a bit of regression thrown in, this Cavs’ bench could help elevate them to a postseason team.