Last Year’s Record: 61-21
Key Losses: LeBron James, Zydrunas Illguaskas, Shaquille O’Neal, Danny Green, Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair
Key Additions: Joey Graham, Samardo Samuels, Manny Harris, Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins
Life after the “LeBron Era”
The Cleveland Cavaliers went from one of the NBA’s most underprivileged franchises to one of the leagues most up-and-coming teams when the ping-pong balls fell in their direction in 2003.
The LeBron James era seemed to end as quickly as it began when the greatest player in franchise history decided “to take his talents to south beach” and join fellow all-stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Cleveland fans were in a state of shock after “the king” decided to leave his familiar surroundings of Akron/Cleveland and head to Florida.
Even more surprising, however, was days later when the longest tenured player in Cleveland history, Zydrunas Illguaskas decided to join LeBron in Miami. He cited that after serving the franchise loyally for 14 years, it was time for him to be true to himself and chase a championship.
With the leagues best player and the target on it back both gone from Cleveland, the remaining Cavaliers seem to be taking a “it’s our time now” approach with several players who shared the court with James looking to finally assert themselves.
Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson, JJ Hickson, Anderson Varejao, Anthony Parker are the guys who will try to prove that the Cavaliers weren’t just a team with an MVP and role players.
2. Off-season Acquisitions
The Cavaliers have added a few players to help fill the voids at both small forward and center.
Signing former Nugget Joey Graham will give the Cavs some depth off the bench. The former first round pick has never lived up to his billing and looks for a fresh start on a team who could desperately use some production at his position.
Ramon Sessions seems to be a guy who is thriving in his new environment. Brought over in a trade from Minnesota the point guard has done a good job in pre-season of not only running Bryan Scott’s new offense but also being a scorer and facilitator.
With the loss of both Illgauskas and O’Neal, the biggest hole in the Cavalier’s roster is the seven foot void at center. Varejao will slide from power forward down to center in order to make room for JJ Hickson. He isn’t, however, a natural center and in order to fill a need and add some depth the Cavs acquired Ryan Hollins in the trade with Minnesota.
The seven footer from UCLA saw some meaningful minutes last season for the Timberwolves and should do the same for the Cavaliers.
Manny Harris is another young player who has shown some flashes in pre-season. The undrafted guard out of Michigan showed an understanding of the pro game and garnered himself a spot on the Cavaliers’ 15-man roster.
New Coaching Staff, Mindset and Franchise
After losing LeBron James it almost seems like the Cleveland Cavaliers are a brand new franchise and maybe that will help them get past what a monumental lose James really was.
With new coach in Byron Scott, the Cavaliers will be playing with a new style of offense, an offensive game plan is something most fans believed the team lacked under Mike Brown.
The fast paced, Princeton style of offense should allow for the Cavaliers to stay in games where they might be at a disadvantage in terms of talent.
Not only will the coach and mindset be new, but the uniform and home court at Quicken Loans Arena have been changed as well.
Whether it was in an effort to do away with memories of James remains to be seen but the Cavaliers have the feel of a new team all together, not just a team lacking its two-time MVP.
Hours after James departed from the franchise for Miami, owner Dan Gilbert made a move that resembled something wacky owners like Mark Cuban and Al Davis might do.
He posted an “open letter” which thrashed James but more importantly made a claim that shocked everyone who read it.
Months later, it almost seems silly to read, but what can the Cavaliers do to consider this season a success?
Unless a divine miracle can occur, Cleveland will not be hoisting NBA Championships come June. With that being said, however, they can still consider this season a success if they can make the playoffs and also see it’s young talent progress.
Guys like Hickson, Gibson, Hollins, Sessions need to improve and show that they can be talented members of a young franchise.
Especially Hickson, who is a guy who Scott seems to be centering the team around.
The Cavaliers don’t have James but the roster isn’t filled with schmucks like some observes might think after watching the Cavaliers flounder in the playoffs.
For fans though, a successful season, especially the first one without their “Chosen 1” might just mean getting a win or two over the Miami Heat.