Friday, October 24, 2008

Pre-Hibachi's: Cleveland Cavaliers

Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers racked up a respectable 45 wins while losing 37 times, having a slightly inconsistent year but good enough for 2nd place in the Central Divison (behind veteran powerhouse Detroit) and a 4th seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Led by their superstar swingman LeBron James, the Cavs matched up with the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year, taking them down in six games. After defeating Washington, Cleveland found themselves face-to-face with the 66 win veteran-powered Boston Celtics, the favorite over the less-proven Cavaliers. In these semis, the Cavs surprisingly took the Celtics to game seven, which at the time was the second rubber match in Boston's playoffs after being pushed to the brink by the young Atlanta Hawks. Cleveland fell to the Celtics in a thrilling 97-92 finish, highlighted by a 41 point performance by future Finals MVP Paul Pierce, and by a 45 point showing by the Cavs' LeBron James. After coming so close to the ECF and falling, Cleveland is back and ready to show who's boss in the East.

(Probable) Starting Five

PG: Mo Williams
Acquired in the large three team deal involving Cleveland, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, a large part of the season rests on the shoulders of young court general Mo Williams. While all of the pressure was formerly put on the Cavs' (seemingly) superhuman swingman LeBron James, Williams should take some of the playmaking and ball handling duties off of Bron so that he doesn't have to bring the ball up and other things off that sort. Not a pure point guard by any means, the 6'1" 25 year old has improved every year, having one of his best seasons in the Bucks' 07-08 campaign, averaging 17.2 points, 6.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals a game, stellar with the NBA's lack of great point guards nowadays. A proven scorer, Williams can also shoot pretty well, with a .385 three point percentage last year. The good ball handler also has the ability to play good defense on the perimeter. Williams should help Lebron improve, and he is a great reason for the Cavs to have hope for this year.

SG: Wally Szczerbiak
Wally Szczerbiak, the 6'7" two guard, is definitely on the decline. Getting on the older side at 31 years of age, his numbers have decreased since his best days, from about 2001-2006. Still a good three point shooter with a .365 percentage last year, it still isn't enough to save the rest of his worsening game. Szczerbiak's gawd-awful defense is enough to let any player in the NBA beat him easily, making him possibly the worst defender in the league. An upside to Wally is that he is an outstanding free throw shooter, .878 last year, and he gets to the charity stripe a good amount of times. He is also a decent midrange shooter, making him a good option on the offensive side. But don't look for his 22.2 minutes per game in 07-08 to increase at all this year.

SF: LeBron James
LeBron James is arguably the best player in the Eastern Conference (best in the league? I'd argue yes, but there are many others who would argue against that. I'm not gonna get into a Kobe-LeBron debate on this post though, OK?). LeBron highlighted the potential all-star filled 2003 NBA draft among other hyped stars such as Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. And since he was picked first overall out of St. Vincent - St. Mary HS (OH) he has taken the league by storm. During his five years in the NBA, James has averaged 27.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game, stellar statistics. LeBron has also improved his rebounds and assists per game every year, coming somewhat close to averaging a triple double in 2007-08, with 30.0 points, 7.9 boards and 7.2 dimes per game, and for his career he has had 17 of them, 14 in the regular season and 3 in the playoffs. Standing at 6'8", big for a man of his skill and position, he uses his freakish athleticism, quickness and unusually strong upper body to blow by his opponents on offense, and to stop them in their tracks on defense. An incredible player to have on your team, LeBron already has a Rookie of the Year award, a scoring title (2007-08), two Olympic medals and four all-star appearances (two of them for MVPs) under his belt. He also holds or shares 49 Cavaliers' records, and he is the Cavaliers' all time scoring leader. Watch out for LeBron James in 2008-09, y'all (MVP?). Oh yeah, and he's only 23 years old (!).

PF: Ben Wallace
Big Ben used to be an incredible defensive player. At his peak he won four Defensive Player of the Year Awards, in '02, '03, '05 and '06, and was undoubtedly the greatest defenseman in the league at the time. Now Wallace is still an effective four man, but he is merely a shadow of his former self, being 34 years of age. At an undersized 6'7" (well, he's listed at 6-9, but he's admitted to be 6-7), Big Ben is still an unusually good stopper, playing great outside D and inside D and he is still great at stopping the penetration. But, the biggest downside to Ben is that his hair is better than his work on the other side of the floor (or worse, whatever you think, but the hair overshadows it). A disaster when he makes trips to the charity stripe, Wallace has shot .418 from the line for his career, and he can't score very well, averaging 4.2 points per game in 07-08. Still able to clean the glass, averaging a respectable 7.4 boards last year, he isn't at the point where he was getting over twice that per game (2002-03), but that is what Cleveland is going to get from Ben. His minutes have also decreased every year; he averaged 26.3 per game last year. Without an offensive game and with him getting older, this is a weak spot in Cleveland's system, and hopefully for the Cavs he can stay healthy for the whole year.

C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Zydrunas Ilgauskas is a great asset for the Cavs. The 7'3" Lithuanian (very) big man is the second tallest player in the NBA behind mammoth Yao Ming. Unlike other centers (except for Yao) Ilgauskas is a great free throw shooter, shooting .802 from the line last year, and he frequently takes the technical foul shots. Able to score from the post easily on smaller centers and pretty well on the bigger guys, he uses a good turnaround J and hook shot down low to his advantage. Ilgauskas can also shoot the straight up 15 footer, and he averaged 14.1 points per game last year. Zydrunas is also great at tipping in missed shots, something that is often overlooked in someone's game. Exceptionally good on the offensive boards and adequate on the defensive ones, he averaged 9.3 rebounds per game last year, a career high. His shot blocking ability is mediocre for a man of his size, and he won't take a charge. He didn't draw one offensive foul last year, becoming the only player to play at least 1,000 minutes and not do so (he played 2,226). Ilgauskas is still a quality center, but at 33 years of age, gone are his all star days. But we haven't seen many signs of him slowing down; Ilgauskas's consistency is one of his great attributes.

Key Bench Players
  • Daniel Gibson, G: Boobie is the best shooter on the Cavs, shooting .440 from long range last year, and there are only good things to come from the 6'2" 22 year old, including significant minutes; there is a good chance he will be the starting two man by the end of the season.
  • J.J. Hickson, F: Drafted 19th overall from N.C. State in the 2008 selection, the 6'9" Hickson should be a good tool for Cleveland to use; a young forward, something that they are lacking in, even though his immediate impact probably won't be very big at all.
  • Anderson Varejao, F-C: The 26 year old Brazilian flopmaster with the big hair is good on the boards, averaging 8.3 rebounds per game last year. The 6'10" backup is good to put in if you need some rebounds, but his scoring ability isn't great.
  • Sasha Pavlovic, G-F: Pavlovic is an average utility man on the bench, able to play shooting guard or small forward, but his numbers are mediocre. The 6'7" 24 year old averaged 7.4 points, 2.5 boards and 1.6 dimes per game last year in 23.3 minutes.
  • Delonte West, G: West could probably start on a good deal of NBA teams, but with such a great starting point for Cleveland, he is a great backup to have. The 6'3" 25 year old averaged 10.3 points, 4.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game last year in 30.1 minutes, pretty good numbers, while shooting .367 from long.

Bottom Line:
The Cavaliers have a great point guard in Williams, an extreme superstar in James, a solid center in Ilgauskas, strong D in Wallace and a good stroke in Szczerbiak, making the starting five above average in the NBA. While their interior players are not that great, their guards on the bench and starting are very good, and maybe a possible midseason trade could fortify the inside. I predict 48-55 wins this year for the Cavs and a 3rd or 4th seed in the East. LeBron gives them a chance to win each night, and if Williams can give what Cleveland thinks he can give them, the Cavaliers have a chance to make it to the ECF, or to the NBA Finals. They lost to the Spurs in the NBA Finals in the 2006-07 season and almost made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Who's hungry?



BETCATS said...

"J.J. Hickson, F: Drafted 19th overall from N.C. State in the 2008 selection, the 6'9" Hickson should be a good tool for Cleveland to use; a young forward, something that they are lacking in, even though his immediate impact probably won't be very big at all."

If you replaced "a good tool" with "a tool who should have stayed in college and will now suffer the same fate as ex-NC State Bigs who left too early (Josh Powell and Cedric Simmons) aka sucking a$$." and deleted everything else, it would have been so much better.

Teddy-the-Bear said...

3 for 3 Moose! You might have written more previews, but I've only read 3 of them including this =\. Anyways, good job man.

Teddy-the-Bear said...

PS: James the balla is sooo g@y!

RV said...

Good job moose, feel free to shorten your previews since we're crunched for time. I'm not sure how many more you wanted to do, but let me know if you want to reserve any. The remaining teams are Dallas, Det, Denv, GS, Sac, NY, Wash, Mia, Toronto, Indy, and Milwaukee.

Moose said...

Thanks again, Teddy. RV, is it possible that we can get Eboy to do the Heat and TAD to do the Pistons quickly? Just an idea, because we don't have that much time. Yeah, I'll shorten them a lot, and I guess I'll do Toronto and GS.

Moose said...

RV, I'll actually prolly cover more than two. I'll prolly have three by the time the season starts . . .

RV said...

Moose that's cool, i'll ask them, but i think we'll finish in time either way

Moose said...

RV, I'll un-reserve GS. I don't wanna reserve any of them.

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