Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

As a site, we ranked all the NBA teams from worst to best for our release of season previews. Day twenty-eight’s release of a season preview ends up being championship runner-up, Cleveland Cavaliers. Eric Shreve will provide a recap of their past season, an offseason recap, and then finally the season preview all of us fans are eager for.

Cleveland Cavaliers:

Last season’s record: 53-29

Playoff status: Lost 4-2 to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals

Last season was one heck of a ride for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only did King James take his talents back to Northeast Ohio, they were also able to make a blockbuster deal to land superstar forward Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. With these moves, the Cavaliers assembled the latest big three in what has become an increasing trend in the NBA as of late. With their new team, the Cavaliers were instantly vaulted into serious title contender status, and they were expected to run away with the watered down Eastern conference.

However, the Cavaliers had a start that nobody expected. Not only were they stunned by the lowly New York Knicks on opening night, but they also stumbled to a 19-20 record to start the season. To make matters worse, Lebron James then missed two weeks to recover from various nagging injuries. Also, the Cavaliers had one of the worst defenses in the league, and they needed to make some changes to even make the playoffs. Cleveland needed to make a drastic change to save their season, so the Cavaliers made one of the best mid-season turnarounds in league history.  After flipping Dion Waiters and a couple of picks for Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, and J.R. Smith, the Cavaliers became one of the most dominant teams in the league. They were able to recover enough to snag the two seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, and they were reinserted as title favorites. 

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, this is where their luck ran out. In game four of their first round series against Boston, Kevin Love separated his shoulder fighting for a rebound with Kelly Olynyk, in which Kevin Love and many called a dirty play.The Cavaliers were still able to sweep the Celtics and advance to the second round against the Chicago Bulls, which was the consensus Eastern Conference Finals matchup when the season started. This is where things went from bad to worse, throughout the the series, Kyrie Irving was dealing with severe knee tendinitis and was visibly slowed. However, the Cavaliers were still able to make it past the Bulls and then sweep the Atlanta Hawks, even with Irving missing a few games. They finally made it to the NBA finals, where the would play the juggernaut Golden State Warriors. And in game one, the finals nail was driven into the Cavaliers title dreams as all of Irving’s knee issues culminated with a broken kneecap, which Irving still has not fully recovered from. Even though Lebron had arguably the greatest single finals performance of all time with averages of 35.8 ppg, 13.3rpg, and 8.8 assists per game, it was not enough as the Cavaliers will forever be left wondering what could have been.

The 2015 NBA Draft does not look like it will yield any contributors for this year. With the 24th overall selection, Cleveland selected Tyus Jones, a point guard out of Duke, but instantly traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In the second round, Cleveland selected Cedi Osman, an interesting wing prospect from Macedonia, and then Sir’Dominic Pointer. Neither player will be contributors this season, although if Osman can develop a consistent jumper the Cavaliers will have a deadly threat to bring over in a year or two.

The Cavaliers had a busy offseason making sure that they would finally bring a championship to Cleveland, willing to give out big contracts to all of their players. Here is a summary of all of the contracts that were signed:

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaKevin Love: 5-years, $113 million

                                           Lebron James: 1-year, $23 million

                                           Timofey Mozgov: 1-year, $5 million

                                           Iman Shumpert: 4-years, $40 million

                                           J.R. Smith: 2-years, $10 million

                                           Matthew Dellavedova: 1-year, $1.2 million

                                           Mo Williams: 2-years, $2.4 million

The only concern is that the Cavaliers do not have enough money leftover to pay Tristan Thompson, a key part of the Cavaliers playoff run. He is demanding a max contract worth $94 million over five years, but the Cavaliers are not willing to go over $80 million. So it appears that Thompson is leaning towards singing his 1 year qualifying offer worth $6.9 million, which would make him an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016, when the salary cap is projected to balloon to $89 million dollars. Thompson has stated he will sign for a three-year, $53 million extension, but the Cavaliers are still unwilling to offer such a limited player this type of money. Regardless of what happens, Thompson will be in Cleveland for at least one more year, and be able to contribute his rebounding and defense. 

Heading into the 2015-2016 season Cleveland is looked at as the team, who will represent the Eastern Conference in the 2016 NBA Finals. As long as Cleveland can avoid the injury bug, their starting five of Irving-Smith-James-Love-Mozgov provides an electrifying offensive attack, with a good defensive mix. The bench is full of shooters, which Clevland can release on their opponents at will. James Jones, Richard Jefferson, Mo Williams, Matthew Dellavedova, and Iman Shumpert will be key contributors off the bench, and all have the ability to start if one of the starters goes down. Tristian Thompson and Anderson Varejao will be the back-up bigs and they will bring a nice offensive and defensive punch off the bench. With all of the Cavaliers key players healthy and hungry, and some added veteran depth at guard, this is the year the Cavaliers might have the best chance to finally hold up that Larry O’Brien trophy next June.

By: Eric Shreve

Edited By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17

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