The DEFEND Cleveland Show

Cavalier Season Preview: Part 2

Bennett O2

Read Part 1 of Cavaliers Season Preview by clicking here

 

“What can the Cavaliers get out of Anthony Bennett this season?”

At this point we’ve seen Bennett play 136 preseason minutes, and despite some flashes of the talent that got him selected #1 overall in the first place, it hasn’t been pretty.  He definitely has not been afraid to shoot, averaging 9 field attempts per game while averaging 22 minutes per night, but the results haven’t been pretty.  He’s shot a meager 37% from the field, 68% from the charity stripe, and 35% from the land of 3.  That isn’t to say I’m down on the guy as a talent.  A guy his size with range out to the three point line and the ability to knock down turnaround jumpers while also taking guys off the dribble isn’t something that comes around every day in the NBA, but this isn’t an article on the Cavs’ future beyond this season, it is about now.

Luckily, Bennett will probably only be asked to play around twenty minutes a night, if that.  I’m not sure you could get much more out of him now anyway.  His propensity for fouling, averaging 4.5 fouls a game in the preseason, and the fact that he looks like he might be the first player in the history of the NBA to petition the league to play with an oxygen mask don’t bode well for him being a huge contributor this season.  Priority number one for him is to just get into shape.  As much as everyone is raving about his frame, and it is a beauty, that frame is currently covered in flab.

Despite his amorphous consistency, he still plays a rather physical game on both offense and defense.  He uses his size effectively to clear space for his jumper on offense and shows little hesitance to body up his assignment on defense despite coming up with mixed results when he does.  Mike Brown showed in his past stint in Cleveland that he can be quick to yank a player for a lack of effort and mental lapses on the defensive end.  Bennett could fall victim to this.  Some of it comes down to learning how to play defense at this level and some of it comes down to Bennett literally just not having the stamina yet to put in the effort required to play defense in the NBA.  In the very first preseason game against the Bucks, Brown used the majority of his timeouts to call Bennett over and correct a defensive mistake.

Hopefully Bennett will play himself into better shape along with following the general NBA rookie learning curve so that he can mold himself into a valuable contributor come the playoffs.  Bennett already projects as a match up nightmare at the PF position on offense, but until he can hold his own on the defensive end his appearances will be brief.

 

“Who are the top challengers to the Cavaliers playoff hopes?”

I’m going to assume the Heat, the Nets, the Bulls, and the Pacers are playoff locks.  Part of me wants to add the Knicks to that last and they will probably be in the playoffs when they come around, but I can’t quite consider them a lock.  That leaves about three spots open for the lower tier of the Eastern Conference to compete for.  The Celtics will probably drop out of the playoffs assuming Rondo doesn’t come back earlier than expected and even then I wouldn’t consider them a shoe in.  The Hawks, a perennial playoff team, are no longer a lock after losing Josh Smith to free agency, though they will definitely be in the mix as they still have all-star center Al Horford and have added Paul Milsap to the mix while surrounding them with a ton of solid NBA talent like Kyle Korver, Lou Williams, Jeff Teague, and Gustavo Ayon.

The Bucks, who were the 8th seed last season, lost their two best offensive players in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis and constructed an extremely deep roster with a lot of guys whose names you’d probably vaguely recognize if you were a casual NBA fan, but not know off the top of your head.  They go a legit ten deep, but there isn’t even a borderline all-star on this roster.  They might compete for the 8th seed again this year just because they have so many proven NBA players, but there are so many new pieces there and absolutely no star power that it will be a struggle to get anything higher than the 8th seed again.

The Wizards are already facing injury problems with Emeka Okafor and lack any real depth with their bigs.  Their other big, Nene, has a notable injury history and is only getting older.  John Wall just received a max extension despite missing about half the season last year.  Wall and the Wizards 1st round draft pick from a year ago, Bradley Beal, should begin to blossom as one of the best backcourts in the NBA and could form a fun rivalry with the Cavs’ own Dion/Kyrie backcourt.   The Wizards had a 24-25 record with Wall in the lineup last season and with the further development of Beal and Wall and adding depth at the SF position by drafting Otto Porter Jr. 3rd overall you’d expect them to be able to match that throughout the season, if not improve upon it, and grab one of the lower seeded playoff spots in the East.

The Detroit Pistons have put together one of the most intriguing line ups I’ve seen in some time.  That doesn’t necessarily mean great, but definitely intriguing.  By signing Josh Smith in free agency, who is more power forward than small forward, the Pistons will be adding an all-star big to a front court rotation that already has two possible future all-stars in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.  Drummond’s minutes were limited last year as a rookie due to Detroit opting to bring him along slowly, but his production in those minutes was amazing.  The Pistons are expected to expand his playing time this season, which is good for anyone who likes basketball because Drummond is probably one of the top 5 physical specimens in the NBA who’s already showing signs that he might develop into a real force.  Monroe might be the odd man out for this team as he is up for a contract extensions, coming off his rookie contract, and Detroit isn’t expected to offer him one which leaves the possibly open to him being traded.  The Pistons also traded for the enigmatic point guard, Brandon Jennings, drafted sweet shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out of Georgia, and brought back Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups.  This team should be defensively really good, but their lack of an efficient scorer could prevent them from being a playoff team this season.  It might take a while for all these new pieces to figure out how to play together.

The Toronto Raptors are in a weird spot, and I don’t mean Canada.  They overhauled their front office, stealing general manager Masai Urjiri away from the Nuggets.  Generally a new GM indicates a rebuild and Toronto could be staring one in the face.  The asterisk though is that this team has enough talent to make the playoffs in the weaker Eastern Conference if they don’t wind up making trades with the future in mind.  Both Jonas Valančiūnas and Terrence Ross, their last two first round draft picks, look extremely promising as NBA talents and despite Rudy Gay constantly being criticized due to the fact that he is overpaid, he is still a borderline all-star.  DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Amir Johnson round out the list of players on their roster who I think give them a shot at the playoffs.  Still, I find it hard to believe this roster won’t be blown up, Andrea Bargnani and his bloated contract already being miraculously pawned off in a trade to New York.  A rebuild would leave the playoffs out of sight.

 

Read Part 3 by clicking here

 

-Joe Mastrantoni

Follow Joe on Twitter here.

 

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Posted by on Oct 22 2013. Filed under Featured, Hands Down, Man's Down. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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