Last season was a breath of fresh air for the struggling Cavaliers. Having first round pick and potential superstar Kyrie Irving restored faith in Cleveland fans, who were still feeling the effects of LeBron’s departure.
2011 draft picks Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson have definitely made their impact on the court last season, with Kyrie Irving taking out the Rookie of the Year award. This however didn’t prevent the Cavaliers from finishing with a 21-45 record, last in the Central Division and 13th overall in the Eastern conference.
During the off season, the Cavs have overhauled their roster, rebuilding around star man Kyrie Irving and banking on the efforts of a younger team to continue their rebuilding process. Four rookies have been added to the roster, namely, Dion Waiters who was picked fourth overall in the 2012 Draft. Tyler Zeller who was drafted 17th overall was acquired by the Cavaliers in a trade that also landed Kelenna Azubuike in Cleveland from the Dallas Mavericks.
Seven players have been cut from the 11-12 Cavaliers roster, including Antawn Jamison, who found himself on an unstoppable Lakers side, and Anthony Parker who announced his retirement at the end of the season. Semih Erden and Manny Harris made their way to European leagues while Samardo Samuels and Luke Harangody have been dropped to the D-League.
Veteran Cavaliers Anderson Verajao and Daniel Gibson remain on the roster, with Verajao remaining the side’s starting Centre. Despite his lack of minutes, Daniel Gibson remains on the bench, continuing his tenure as a role player in Cleveland, with the addition of Waiters preventing him from taking a starting position.
The Cavs have also signed undrafted players Kevin Jones and Michael Eric each on independent contract deals. The signing of these undrafted players highlights the frustration and desperation for the Cavaliers, as they search for a winning formula to compliment the skills of point guard Kyrie Irving.
Free agent C.J Miles has also been signed by the Cavaliers, following the end of his seven year term with the Utah Jazz. Swingman Miles looks to be a standout player in Cleveland, as he tweeted that he was ready to be “part of something special”. His acquisition could provide the Cavaliers with a stronger offence as Miles scored his career high 40 points just last season, and looks to make the starting lineup for the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers offence has not been the best as of late, with players lacking in size and presence on the court being dominated by what is often a much larger defence. Often forcing the Cavaliers to take sloppy three’s and waste possession. The new roster doesn’t necessarily change this but provides a more solid attack with the explosiveness of Miles and rookie Waiters. Giving Waiters and Miles starting guard and forward positions respectively, is likely to increase the intensity of the offence, with attacking plays being run through more than just PG Irving.
Aside from the Cavaliers offensive efforts, the struggling team could do with some more big men to be of use on the defensive end. But with the lack of experience on the 2012-13 roster, this can prove to be a terrible weak spot for the Cavaliers. The addition of centres Tyler Zeller and Michael Eric is a welcome change, however both lack experience as both are entering their rookie season in the NBA.
While the Cavaliers roster remains unproven, the young side aims to make an impact, and finish with a record better than that of the previous two seasons. While this side is definitely not looking like a playoff side, a higher finish than last season is crucial to prove coach and former Los Angeles Laker Byron Scott’s leadership. Coach Scott was able to turn around a failing New Orleans Hornets side from a non-Playoff team, to make second overall in the Western Conference in 2008. It is this turnaround that keeps Cleveland fans hopeful that Scott is capable of coaching a sub-par side.
Cleveland fans must persevere and hold out as the Cavaliers don’t look to pose a real threat in the league until another few years. This however is typical of rebuilding teams, as these few years of prolonged failure on the court are lived through only in the hope of clawing their way back up in the league.
They say nothing interesting ever happens in Cleveland, and in the Cavaliers’ case, that just might be the truth. Well, at least for the next few years.
Mohammad Safar is a first-year student currently studying a Bachelor of Sports Journalism at La Trobe University. You can follow him on Twitter: @MoSafar23