Well, well, well….It’s a cliché, but apparently you can go home again after embarrassing a franchise on national TV and deciding to leave to join up some super friends and win NBA titles.
LeBron James (27.1 points per game, 6.9 rebounds, 6.4 assists, and 1.6 steals) was the biggest free agent since….well the last time he was a free agent and he left for South Beach, breaking the hearts of Cavs fans and incurring the wrath of owner Dan Gilbert.
We’ll see what King James can do without Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade now and make no mistake, the expectations are through the roof in Cleveland. Anything less than a Finals appearance this season will be deemed a failure.
The Cavs didn’t stop there, they also went out and acquired a player that should fit perfectly next to James in 3-point shooting power forward in Kevin Love. They got him in return for #1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thad Young (from the 76ers), and a 6.3 million trade exception. Last years starter at PF Tristan Thompson (11.7 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per contest) will back up Love.
They added role players James Jones, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, and Lou Amundson, all seemingly chasing a ring since James has returned to the Cavs.
Marion, 36, was a solid starter for the Dallas Mavericks last season (10.4 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 48.2% shooting and 35.8% on 3-pointers) and should be able to provide 20-23mpg off the bench as their 6th man. Much like Vince Carter was for the Mavs last season. He’ll backup James at SF and may even see a little time at PF if Love or Thompson get hurt, he’s just that versatile as he’s shown throughout his long career.
Miller, 34, was brought in to provide timely outside shooting, he made 45.9% (on 3-pointers) last season and upped it to 48.3% in the playoffs. For his career, he’s a 41% shooter from downtown. He’s also an under-rated defender who will be counted on to backup Dion Waiters at shooting guard. Jones will be an insurance policy in case James or Miller gets hurt.
Amundson is a journeyman (having played for eight teams in eight seasons), but he’s a decent backup to have on your bench. He can bang down low, grab rebounds and play some defense.
The player that is going to have the biggest adjustment to make is the starting point guard in Kyrie Irving. He’s been the #1 option since being drafted by the Cavs and he is going to be responsible for running the offense and setting the table for James and Love.
Waiters is the starting SG who will have some wide open looks at the basket with James, Irving, and Love commanding most of the defense’s attention. Which means he could have a break-out season if he succeeds at making the most of his opportunities.
Holdover veteran Anderson Varejao is going to be the starter at center and he has to stay healthy because his backup will be Brendan Haywood. Haywood, 34, missed all of last season with a stress fracture in his foot. If healthy, he’s a capable backup for 15mpg.
They made great strides in adding James, Love, and the nice role players but I don’t think they are better than a healthy Bulls team or even the upstart Wizards who surprised many experts with their playoff performance. And the Wizards added their own veteran in Paul Pierce when Trevor Ariza bolted for Houston, in addition to signing their own key free agents.
I’ll say this, the Cavs will win 50-plus games and be a top 3 seed, but I have them behind Chicago and Washington when the postseason starts. Why? Simple, injuries. Now, a lot of people will say injuries can happen to any team…..that’s true, except the Cavs have three players who have a history of injuries in Irving, Love, and Varejao.
Irving has never played a full season and Love has averaged 60 games during his six year career. And Varejao has averaged just 36 games for the last four seasons. So this isn’t just a random “what if” scenario. It should give Cavs fans reason to pause and not just assume they are a lock for the Finals because they landed the biggest fish in free agency.
The Cavs added some depth to their bench, but if those role players are forced into starting and playing big minutes, they become one of the thinnest teams in the league and James is forced to do too much. And to go one step further, James is closing in on 30 and has averaged 76 games for his 11 seasons. Yet, he has managed to avoid a serious injury…..if he goes down with an injury the whole thing could go up in flames.
I’m going against the popular opinion they come out of the East and make it to the Finals, my prediction is they will win 53 games and lose in the second round of the playoffs to either the Wizards or Bulls.
Baby steps, Cavs fans. Baby steps.
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