2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers

2011-2012 Record: 21-45, 5th in Central
Stat Leaders: Kyrie Irving, 18.5 ppg, 5.4 apg. Tristan Thompson, 6.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg.

Depth Chart

C - Anderson Varejao
PF - Tristan Thompson
SF - Omri Casspi, Luke Walton
SG - Daniel Gibson (TO)
PG - Kyrie Irving

Unrestricted Free Agents: GF Alonzo Gee, F Antawn Jamison, C Semih Erden, G Manny Harris, F Luke Harangody, GF Anthony Parker, F Samardo Samuels, G Donald Sloan

The Good: Kyrie Irving was the absolute right choice as the first overall pick. He was tremendous as a rookie. He led the team in scoring and shot a very respectable 46% from the field. His assist to turnover ratio was not that great, but Cleveland relied on him so much to score due to lack of options. Once the team can get him some help, that ratio should improve. The ageless Antawn Jamison also had a very nice year, contributing 17 points per game while leading the team in minutes played. He will move on as a free agent, though. Tristan Thompson started off slow, but once the team intrusted him with more minutes he came through as a solid rebounder and shot blocker. His scoring remains a work in progress, however. Former undrafted free agent Alonzo Gee also had a very solid season for Cleveland, as he was their best on the ball defender.

The Bad: Cleveland simply lacked the talent to compete most nights, especially after the team lost solid rebounder and defender Anderson Varejao for the season. Irving and Jamison contributed to almost all of the teams scoring, as no other guys on the roster could get points consistently. As a result, the Cavaliers averaged only 93 points per game. The team also had little depth, relying on marginal NBA talent to play major minutes. Byron Scott is a good coach, but the Cavaliers just did not have the talent and depth to win most nights. Lester Hudson was actually third on the team in scoring, and he was cut in April. That says a lot.

Key Free Agents: Most of the bench fodder forced to play minutes for the Cavaliers are now free agents and will probably move on. Cleveland will probably want to resign Alonzo Gee and Manny Harris. Gee was the best of a terrible group of wing players for Cleveland, and Harris is only 22 and shows potential as a backup shooting guard.

Projected Cap Space: $26,894,202. Cleveland could generate another 4.7 million in cap space if they choose not to exercise Daniel Gibson's team option. It seemed like just yesterday the Cavaliers were in salary cap hell, surrounding LeBron James with nothing but terrible contract after terrible contract. GM Chris Grant has done an amazing job of clearing out bad deals and starting over post-LeBron. There is not a bad contract on this roster other then Luke Walton, and he will come off the books after this year. You could say Anderson Varejao is overpaid at 8 million a year, but when healthy he is a very solid starting center, and that is a bargain for 8 million in today's NBA.

Amnesty Possibilities: The Cavaliers chose to use the amnesty clause to wipe out Baron Davis gigantic contract off the books before last season started. Thanks to that they have an extra 15 million dollars to use this year.

Free Agent Possibilities: The Cavaliers have had trouble landing free agents in the past, but unlike the LeBron years, they aren't desperate to spend whatever money they have. Cleveland has been smart with the way they are rebuilding this roster and won't squander cap space so they can win a few more games. So expect them to go after some young players with upside as they fill out the roster. However, Cleveland is in a good position to go after one of the restricted free agents. If they strike out, no big deal, as they can save their space for next year. Eric Gordon, Nicolas Batum and Roy Hibbert would be great fits. A couple of unrestricted guys I like that can come in and start are Nick Young and Carlos Delfino. Both guys are good scorers and would compliment Irving well. Neither player would cause the Cavaliers to kill their cap.

Draft Possibilities: The Cavaliers can really fill out their roster since they have four of the first 34 picks in the draft. Starting with the fourth pick. The team will look to target a guy who has 20 point per game potential. Harrison Barnes has caught a lot of flack for his terrible NCAA Tournament, but in Cleveland he will be able to play with a point guard that can get him the ball. He has great size for the small forward position and looks like a guy who can score consistently in the NBA. Bradley Beal would be another good fit, as he and Irving would form a strong, high octane scoring back court. If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist falls to four, his defensive and slashing potential might be too good to pass up. Regardless, the Cavaliers will add wing help with their first pick. With picks 24, 33 and 34 they will look to fill out their bench with talent. At 24, they will most likely look to add size with someone like Andrew Nicholson, Fab Melo or Royce White. Cleveland has two very early second round picks, and in a draft as deep as this, they should be able to find two instant contributors. They could target an additional wing player and a backup point guard, perhaps Orlando Johnson and Scott Machado.

Contending, Rebuilding or Status Quo?: The Cavs are well on their way to rebuilding this team back into a playoff contender. They drafted very well last season, adding Irving and Thompson. The decision to take on Baron Davis contract was a huge win, as the team was able to amnesty him and the pick they gained from the Clippers turned out to be the first overall selection. Cleveland has dug themselves out of the salary cap hole they were in and now have plenty of money to spend any way they seem fit. More importantly, Cleveland has a ton of early picks to help shape the roster. Losing LeBron James was terrible for the franchise, but they have rebounded about as well as one could hope.

All logos courtesy of www.sportslogos.net

Jonathan Carrano

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