By Wes Lilliman
Head Coach: Byron Scott
PG – Mo Williams
SG – Anthony Parker
SF – Antawn Jamison
PF – J.J. Hickson
C – Anderson Varejao
G – Ramon Sessions
G – Daniel Gibson
F – Jamario Moon
F – Christian Eyenga
F/C – Leon Powe
C – Ryan Hollins
And so begins another chapter in the quest for a championship for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Led by the likes of Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao, the group has its sights set on taking the foundation they’ve laid over the past several seasons and building towards the ultimate prize. They’ve come so very close in recent years, and although they’ve enjoyed much success, it simply hasn’t been enough.
Undaunted, the Cavs managed to retain the majority of last year’s squad, and are counting on some key offseason acquisitions to fill the voids left by few departures. They have a bold owner who has guaranteed triumph in the near future, and they’ve made changes to the coaching staff that Cavs fans hope will be the key in swinging the Eastern Conference balance of power from the likes of Boston and Orlando to Ohio’s resident roundball squad.
As mentioned, Dan Gilbert, proud owner of the team, made a proclamation that essentially said something along the lines of “… Cleveland will win a championship before a lot of other teams do!” I don’t remember the specifics, but the open letter to Cavs fans that delivered the message made it sound like he was pretty fired up! Anyhow, clearly, Gilbert was ready to move forward, and to do so, he needed to find a new leader to replace…
… former head coach Mike Brown, who was finally fired after years of extremely strong regular seasons and disappointing postseasons. Additionally, a vacancy was left in the general manager slot by Danny Ferry, who stepped down after Brown was dismissed. To replace them, the Cavs went out and got Chris Grant to fill the GM position and Byron Scott to be the man drawing up the “x’s and o’s.”
Scott is obviously no stranger to the places that Gilbert and Cavs fans want to see. He won titles as a player with the Lakers, and coached the Nets to a couple of NBA Finals appearances back in the early-90s. Granted, he’s been fired from a few coaching jobs in his day, but Scott will bring a fresh approach that is the antithesis of Brown’s ideas.
That fresh approach is called “coaching.”
Brown would often seemingly step aside and let the players make things happen with isolation or one-on-one concepts. Don’t expect that from Scott. The Cavs roster can expect to run what Scott draws up. Hell, they can just flat-out expect to run. Scott is well-known for being a tough coach who demands work from his players. He’ll likely get all that you can out of them, and they’ll likely hate him by the time the season is over.
The Cavs have a lot of dudes that aren’t quite stars, but decently equipped players who can, at times, excel. The most notable of the bunch is probably Jamison, who came over from the Wizards last year. He never quite found his groove amongst the new group, but I’d expect him to have a little more comfort this time around. Jamison will likely touch the ball a whole lot more, and he’s going to be needed to pick up some of the scoring slack left by the absence of…
… Shaquille O’Neal, who left after just one year with the Cavs and took his 12 points per game with him.The lack of Shaq and Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the middle also means that a number of different guys are going to have to step up. Outside of the hard-working Varejao, it’s pretty bleak. You’ve got Ryan Hollins and maybe Leon Powe as your backup centers, which is a bit concerning if you’re into this team. Literally everyone else is better suited to play small forward. J.J. Hickson is improving and will likely start as power forward but, overall, the Cavs lack size in a serious way.
They’ve also got a weird mix of guys who can support Jamison, but no real shooting guard. Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, and Christian Ayenga are all there, but chances are that Parker will slide over to start at the two, which isn’t really ideal in anyone’s eyes.
What they DO have are three guys who can play the point. Mo can create and score, and he’s ready when big games roll around (whether he’s effective or not is always a question, but you have to like his aggressive approach). Plus, he stands to benefit from the most significant roster change in their offseason…
… which would be the acquisition of Ramon Sessions. Sessions can be an effective guy off the bench that gives Williams room to breathe, and he can also work that open shooting guard position when Scott is looking to put a quick, scoring (albeit small) combo on the floor. Daniel Gibson is also available, and he’ll be looking to reestablish himself after sort of getting lost in the shuffle last year.
So, there you have it. The Cavs aren’t without some talent, but they’re incredibly deficient at certain areas and have little in the way of an identity. It’ll up to Scott to get this team working in a cohesive manner and believing in themselves.
IF THEY GET LUCKY: What I just said needs to happen, happens. If nothing else, most of these guys are no stranger to the playoffs, and they should show up with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, based on all of the negative opinions people have regarding their potential. They could be hungry, or…
IF THEY DON’T: … they could be lost. Big teams will dominate them in the trenches. Teams with more dynamic guards will make fools out of Williams and co. All of it could get old quickly, and they’d be stuck with a frustrated new head coach and a bunch of players who’d show up just to go through the motions.
REALITY: The Cavs have won over 60 games the past two seasons. I’d expect that to get sliced in half this year with somewhere in the range of 30 to 35 wins. It’s possible that they could scratch and claw their way to a few more victories than that and even squeak into the playoffs as the final seed, but that would take some serious good fortune and a lot of guys making pretty dramatic improvements to their game(s). I’m saying that won’t happen.
(CAVS BONUS) LET US NOT FORGET…
… Cleveland was once the home of one of the most-electrifying players to ever grace the league with his presence. Standing near 6’9” yet possessing the agility of a cat, the guy has a rich career of All-Star appearances and league-wide respect. That’s right, the big “L-word” you were waiting for:
If you have the time, make the right DECISION and watch some poor-quality yet engaging footage of the HIGH-AYATOLLA OF SLAMOLA showing off his extra-terrestrial athleticism: