Wednesday, September 12, 2012

It's Moondog's Time

 Yes my boss is Moondog and yes, that blonde haired female is my co-worker!

The Cleveland Cavaliers!  We are just under a month away from the NBA preseason (Cavs open up Monday, Oct 8 against some Euro team).  Since the NHL probably will be postponed a few months by this weekend with ANOTHER lockout, I figured let's get the hoops talk started.  If you follow the Cavs at all you know the last bit of any meaningful news was that Kyrie Irving broke his hand slapping a wall.  Well that's basically healed at this point and Camp Scott, as the players call it, is right around the corner.  What to expect this upcoming season?

For starters, here's the current roster or at least the guys you'll see around camp time plus I'm sure a few extra invites (the blank line is where I deleted Anthony Parker because he sucks):

Kelenna Azubuike-G12.16.832156-5Kentucky
Omri Casspi36F6.22.882256-9Maccabi Elite
Micheal Eric50C6.24.882406-11Temple
Alonzo Gee33F5.29.872196-6Alabama
Daniel Gibson1G2.27.862006-2Texas
Luke Harangody44F1.2.882466-8Notre Dame
Kyrie Irving2G3.23.921916-3Duke
Kevin Jones-F8.25.892516-8West Virginia
Jon Leuer30F5.14.892286-10Wisconsin
C.J. Miles-G3.18.872226-6None
Jeremy Pargo8G3.7.862196-2Gonzaga

Samardo Samuels24F1.9.892606-9Louisville
Donald Sloan15G1.15.882056-3Texas A&M
Tristan Thompson13C3.13.912276-9Texas
Anderson Varejao17C9.28.822606-11None
Dion Waiters3G12.1.912156-4Syracuse
Luke Walton4F3.28.802356-8Arizona
Tyler Zeller40C1.17.902507-0North Carolina

With the new rule stating teams can now have 13 active and dressed players and 15 total, who's going to be on this team based on this roster?

1) Guard - Kyrie Irving - Duh! Reigning rookie of the year and best player on the team and possibly the face of the NBA point guards of the future including Team USA.  High hopes for this kid for his second year.  Oh yeah, he'll still be the youngest guy on the roster.

2) Guard - Dion Waiters - A surprise pick in this past summer's draft at the #4 overall selection.  The 6th man on a very good Syracuse team, many people wondered who this kid was/is.  Coach Byron Scott loves him and he's close friends with Irving.  This is going to be one heck of an athletic back court.

3) Forward - Alonzo Gee - This guy literally signed in the past 24 hours to a new contract.  A former D-Leaguer, he has become a dependable scorer and a really good defender for the Cavs.  Expect a bigger contribution for #33 this year, especially if he wants to keep wearing that number.

4) Forward/Center -Tristan Thompson - Similar to Waiters two years ago, Thompson is going into his second full season with the Cavs.  Much more raw than Irving, Tristan has plenty of room to grow, especially offensively.  He's a workout machine so you'll always know he has the work ethic.

5) Center - Anderson Varejao - Still the #1 fan favorite and basically 1 of 2 guys left over from the LeBron era.  Coming off an injury riddled season, Andy had a good Olympics for Brazil and looks to be back in beast mode for Cleveland.  However, don't be surprised to hear his name on the trading block throughout the season as the Cavs experience more growing pains.

6) Center -Tyler Zeller - Trading the rest of their draft picks on draft day to Dallas, Cleveland in return got the rights to this former UNC standout.  This 7 footer can run the floor.  He's going to be a bit of a project similar to TT (above) but he should be able to contribute immediately.

7) Guard - Jeremy Pargo - In late July, the Cavs traded for this guy and a 2nd round pick for a nobody, a freakin steal IMO.  A serviceable back up, JP will eat up minutes when Irving comes out of the game.  The former stand out at Gonzaga looks to carve a niche here because he'll get quality minutes.

8) Guard/Forward - CJ Miles - This guy is 6 days younger than me! As the 6th man for Utah, he had a fairly successful run there.  There's plenty of potential here with his size and shooting ability.  He's my sleeper pick on the team to make some noise on this roster.  Plus he's hilarious on Twitter (@masfresco #BelieveLand).

Those are the 8 I feel fairly confident will be playing in the regular rotation game in and game out once the regular season begins.  With 7 spots left, here are the guys who for some reason may have a spot on the team:

  • Michael Eric - Free agent from Temple is a back up center.  He's from Nigeria.  Coach Scott went as far to compare him to Serge Ibaka of OKC.  Let's pray that is at least half way true with this guy.  No one knows who he is!  He's the new Erdeh (now back in Turkey).
  • Luke Walton - A whatever piece we got for the Ramon Sessions trade last year with the Lakers.  How long can this guy ride the coattails of his dad?  My goodness go away already.  Oh that's right, he's under contract because the Lakers gave him $6 million a year.  Wow, that's dumb.
  • Luke Harangody - He's actually got a 1 year guaranteed deal so we're stuck with him for some unknown reason.  He's legendary in the blogosphere because he's just that inept at the game of basketball.
  • Jon Leuer - Seriously, I have never even heard of this guy.  He's 30 and the Cavs picked him up on waivers.  Decent shooter from Wisconsin and played in Germany last year.  Expect nothing from this dude.
  • Omri Casspi - a player the Cavs were high on trading for really failed to meet expectations this past season, especially defensively.  Some will cry we lost JJ Hickson in the trade but he's terrible too.  He better show up with a new attitude this year because he's way too talented.
  • Kevin Jones - having also just signed in the past 24 hours, the WVU stand out went undrafted and the Cavs were smart to pick him up.  High basketball IQ permeates his game because he doesn't do anything extraordinarily well.  However, a great sense gives him the edge in his rebounding but he's a tad undersized.  Also, we are log jammed at power forward so it will be tough to get minutes.
  • Samardo Samuels - Since he and I attended the University of Louisville at the same time, I can say whatever I want about him even if I only saw him a few times.  He left too early but he lost mad weight this summer and looks super fit and it showed during summer league.  He's got the offensive touch to his game this team needs so I really hope he makes the squad.  I'll be pulling for him.
  • Donald Sloan - a career D-leaguer who played halfway decent for the Cavs late in the season but I'm not sure he has enough to stick full time.  I see him back in Canton here soon.  A potential back up PG scenario if injuries once again catch up with KI.
  • Daniel "Boobie" Gibson - the second fan favorite still left from the LeBron era blew out his ankle this past year and is not expected to play right away once the season is underway.  Let's face it, this guy's career in Cleveland should be over but he's under contract so he'll ride the bench.  He's serviceable for short stretches (only 1 more year left though!).  Another viable trading block piece along with Andy.
  • Kelenna Azubuike - a former college stand out for Kentucky, this guy has never been healthy his whole life and I don't see him making the roster whatsoever.
So if you can count, that's 10 guys for 7 spots. Walton and Harangody are on the team with guaranteed contracts.  Boobie is still under contract but technically could be bought out or even traded.  Casspi will also be on this roster for all intensive purposes.  With 3 spots left logically, I see it a battle between 4 guys who play the same position.  Eric, Leuer, K Jones, and Samardo.  Personally, as long as Samuels and Jones are on it, I don't care who gets the last position.

Gold Uniforms
Cavs new home opening night jerseys against Washington, 
The Cavs finished last in the Central Division, 3rd to last in the East, and had the 4th overall pick in this year's draft.  They won 21 games in a lockout shortened season of 66 games.  They stunk.  Granted, injuries haunted this team with Irving, Varejao, and Gibson all missing significant time.  However, even then, they were a fringe playoff team unlikely to finish higher than the 8th seed.

In most statistical categories as a team, they were in the bottom 10 of the league minus rebounding.  They have to get better on both sides of the ball to challenge in the East.  Speaking of which, here are the teams I believe will be in the playoffs next year:  Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, and the Philadelphia 76ers.  Up in the air teams include the Knicks, Nets, and Hawks.  Milwaukee, Detroit, and Toronto all finished ahead of Cleveland last year.  Luckily for Cleveland, the Magic are now terrible as well as Washington (improved though) and the always bad Bobcats.  If Cleveland CAN STAY HEALTHY and put some runs together, they could finish as high as the 6th seed in my opinion.  However, the more realistic finish is around 10th place.

Why should we be excited for this season?
KeyBank Leg
Who doesn't love the Christmas Story bobbleleglamp giveaway?!!
For actual basketball reasons, while it's frightening to see so many rookies potentially make the roster, it gives the fan base a reason for excitement because the front office believes this team can run up and down the court in an up tempo system.  Coach Byron Scott is definitely the man for the job.  If anything, this team will be exciting to watch.  If Irving continues to make the leap into the elite, that will make a huge difference.  He's no LeBron James but do we want him to be?  No we do not.  But as the facilitator on the court, his game improves everyone's around him.

Most Likely Biggest Surprise and/or Disappointment - Dion Waiters
This guy could be both.  He's got high draft status attached to him and everyone thought it was too high of a pick.  However, if he shows any glimpses of explosiveness and chemistry with Irving, this will be a great pick.  The duo of KI and Dion will be what I will most be looking forward to this upcoming season.

Biggest Basketball Struggle - Scoring
The team has improved but their PG Irving is still the #1 option of offense.  It's great if you are Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls but you saw what happened when Rose got hurt.  Irving has that kind of potential, he just needs help.

What You Can Bank On - Hustle
No team in the NBA will work harder than a Byron Scott coached team.  This team will be fit and in shape once the season starts.  For a city like Cleveland, that's all the fans really want is a tough working team that gives 100% each night.  There's a lot to like about this team.

Biggest Strength - Rebounding
With an up tempo system, rebounding is huge, especially on the defensive side of the ball in your transition game.  This was the strength of last year's team and will continue to be.  Rebounds = possessions which translate into more points.

Biggest Inherent Weakness - Youth
You can't get around the rookie factor.  Irving is the leader of this team and he's still the youngest guy on the team.  Waiters will start and Zeller will see big minutes.  The team also expects a lot more from Tristan Thompson down low.  There will be more growing pains but with a solid mix of veterans like Andy, Pargo, Miles, etc, we should see improvement over the regular 82 game season.

Yes it's Cleveland.  More people care about the Browns and Indians during the summer, fall and winter months.  However, at least you can go inside and watch a basketball game without worrying about weather. And trust me, there are a lot more likeable players on the entire Cavs roster than there are on the Browns and Indians rosters combined.

Wait for the