Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

With the NBA season just a few months away and the majority of player movement being done, I’m going to start previewing the teams. Based on my projected order of the standings, we’ll start at the bottom and work towards the top rotating between East and West. Past previews will be linked as well.

Atlanta Hawks

Chicago Bulls

Dallas Mavericks

Memphis Grizzlies

New York Knicks

Orlando Magic

Phoenix Suns

Sacramento Kings

courtesy of theshawdowleague.com — by Sean Taira
courtesy of theshawdowleague.com — by Sean Taira

Key Additions:

Sam Dekker F (trade), Channing Frye C (free agency), David Nwaba Wing (free agency), Collin Sexton PG (draft)

Key Departures:

Jose Calderon PG, Jeff Green F, LeBron James F

17-18 Stats:

Offensive Rating 110.6 (5th)

Defensive Rating 109.5 (29th)

Net Rating 1.0 (13th)

True Shooting Percentage 58.4% (3rd)

Assist Percentage 57.9% (20th)

Rebound Percentage 49.1% (22nd)

Turnover Percentage 13.7% (9th)

Pace 100.06 (12th)

Record 50-32

Overview:

With one notable departure a new era begins in Cleveland. Despite the departure of LeBron James, the Cavs should be fairly competitive with a veteran roster and a couple of promising youngsters. Collin Sexton has been deemed as the future of the franchise, but can be eased into that role with George Hill still manning the point. Kevin Love was dominant in Minnesota and will get every opportunity to try and recapture his old form. The Cavs built a team around LeBron, can they remain somewhat competitive without him?

The Kevin Love Reclamation

Despite all the criticism, Kevin Love is still a very good player. Similar to Chris Bosh in Miami, Love had to transform his game to fit with LeBron and Kyrie Irving. Offensively Love is very good, he can still score on the block and shot the three ball at an impressive 41.7%. Love will be the focal point of the offensive and his underrated passing ability should be on full display this season. The Cavs will take a step back for sure, but look for Love to put up numbers similar to his Minnesota days.

What Happens to JR Smith and Tristian Thompson?

Four years ago JR Smith was the bad contract that the Cavs were forced to take to acquire Iman Shumpert and Timothy Mozgov. LeBron helped transform JR into an irreplaceable piece on a championship team. Tristian Thompson held out for a max contract four years ago but now is an overpaid backup center. LeBron helped transform them into vital pieces, what happens to them now that he's gone?

Play Style Change

One thing to watch will be the way that the Cavs have to change their play style. Their offense ran through LeBron in his point forward role and was setup to space the floor with four shooters. Without LeBron the Cavs will probably have to run a more traditional offense with George Hill, Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and even Kevin Love creating opportunities for others. Expect their offensive efficiency to drop significantly this season.

Player to Watch: Jordan Clarkson

courtesy of uproxx.com — by Sean Taira
courtesy of uproxx.com — by Sean Taira

Coming over from the Lakers last season, Clarkson struggled to find his role with Cleveland. Besides Kevin Love post ups, the rest of the Cavs are not equipped to create their own shots. Clarkson is. Clarkson is a disaster on defense, but his offense will be sorely needed. Right now he looks like a poor mans Jamal Crawford (he can score but can't create for anyone else), but needs to improve as a creator and defender if he wants to break out of that mold.

Starters:

PG: George Hill

SG: JR Smith

SF: Kyle Korver

PF: Kevin Love

C: Tristian Thompson

Reserves:

PG: Collin Sexton

SG: Jordan Clarkson

SF: Cedi Osman

PF: Larry Nance

C: Ante Zizic

Westgate Projected Win Total: 30.5

Projected Record: 31-51 (11th Eastern Conference)