State of the Franchise: Cleveland Cavaliers
April 14, 2011 Leave a comment
All you need to know about the difference from 2009-10 and 2010-11 is that one team had LeBron James and one team didn’t. You don’t need to guess as to which team had him and which team didn’t. The scary thing for Cavaliers fans is that the only real difference between the 2009-10 team and 2010-11 team is LeBron James. That’s it. The rest of the roster is constructed pretty similar.
At one point this season, the Cavs lost a NBA-record 26 consecutive games. However, they were able to defeat LeBron’s Miami Heat once this season, bringing some form of vindication to team owner Dan Gilbert. But, that’s also where the vindication stops for this team. In Byron Scott’s first year as head coach, the team ranks in the lower third in points per game, rebounds per game, team defense and assists per game. The Cavs moved former All-Star point guard Mo Williams in a salary cap related move for aging veteran Baron Davis at this year’s trade deadline, and lost last year’s big trade deadline acquisition, forward Antawn Jamison, to an injury that shelved him for the remainder of the year after the All-Star break. Starting center Anderson Varejao was limited to 31 games this season due to injury, as well. So, with what the Cavs did have, they were never completely healthy at any point in the season.
For what small positives you can take away from this season, you can look towards the continued development of power forward J.J Hickson. At last year’s deadline, the team was reluctant to include Hickson in any big trades to bring in talent to help support LeBron. This year, the team relied heavily on Hickson’s development to keep them afloat. While Hickson’s line of 13.8 points and 8.6 rebounds while starting 65 of 79 games, those numbers don’t convince many in the business that Hickson will ever be more than a solid third or fourth scoring option for a contending team.
Looking further down the Cavs roster, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone that isn’t better than a replacement starter or a bench piece. The team likes what they have seen this season from point guard Ramon Sessions, enough so that they traded Mo Williams to make room in the starting rotation for him. Sessions averaged 13.1 points and 5.2 assists as the slashing guard got 37 starts this season. Sixth man Daniel Gibson provided some offense off the bench, contributing 11.7 points, 3.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds.
The team was encouraged as the season went on from young players Samardo Samuels and Alonzo Gee. Gee, getting 28 starts after being acquired at the trade deadline, contributed 7.5 points and 3.9 rebounds. However, in April, Gee was up to 12.4 points and 5.1 rebounds, and the team hopes that he is a piece they can build on going forward. Samuels, meanwhile, averaged 7.8 points and 4.3 rebounds for the season. Like Gee, his playing time increased throughout the season and by March, Samuels was averaging 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds while getting 10 starts.
While the Cavs had a bad year, they were able to rally and not finish with the worst record in the NBA this year. That dubious honor belongs to the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, this incoming draft class is one of the weakest in recent history, and there aren’t any true front-line game changers available to choose from. This season may have been a preamble to a long, lonely stretch of struggling basketball in Cleveland.
Again. Thanks, LeBron.