Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How much better will the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James and coach David Blatt, be in the 2015-16 season? The first regular season game is against the Chicago Bulls....The big three will be back this season of James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving, and the new team roster increases the chances of an NBA championship title this season.... By Cleveland Urban News.Com Sportswriter Karl Kimbrough

Cleveland Cavaliers basketball players from left: Kevin Love, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving. Photo compliments of Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach David Blatt

Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin
Cleveland Urban News.Com
Sportswriter Karl Kimbrough

By Karl Kimbrough, Cleveland Urban News.Com sportswriter (kimbrough@clevelandurbannews.com). Cleveland Urban News. Com and The Cleveland Urban News.Com Blog, Ohio's Leaders In Black Digital News . Tel: 216-659-0473. Email: editor@clevelandurbannews.com 
 (www.clevelandurbannews.com) / (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)

CLEVELAND, Ohio-When you look back one year ago at the Cleveland Cavaliers season opening roster you may wonder, what a difference a year makes. You might also wonder how that team made it into the NBA Championship series, including the NBA Finals, a showdown that saw the Cavaliers lose to the Golden State Warriors four games to two. (Editor's note:The Cleveland Cavaliers, which reigns from the largely Black major metropolitan city of Cleveland, will play the 2015 season opener against the Chicago Bulls on Oct 27 at the United Center area in Chicago, Illinois, the team they beat last year in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Pre-season  games are currently going on).

When the 2014-15 NBA season opened on October 30, 2014, the Cavaliers were the hottest ticket in town and the most intriguing team in the league, not only because the King of the court, LeBron James, was returning home, but also because they possessed the NBA's new big three, James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love.

With Irving and Love joining James to form the next NBA triumvirate Cavaliers fans saw a championship last season. But as the early season commenced,  it didn't take long to see that their supporting cast was less than formidable . The big three had to rely on elder statesmen, such as Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, James Jones, and Brendon Haywood, along with journey men Louis Amundson, to back them up. While third year starter Dion Waiters made a failed attempt to transition into a spot up shooting two guard, the Cavaliers had the tough hardworking Matthew Dellavedova ahead of rookies Will Cherry, and Joe Harris backing up Irving and Waiters at the point and two guard.

So while James, Love and Irving, the three head lining stars,  were still studded, the Cavaliers' management knew they would need to make some moves to provide them with the help they needed to win. Unfortunately for James, Love and Irving, they would have to be very patient and lead the league in minutes played while waiting for help. 

It was not until almost three months into the season that General Manager David Griffin pulled the trigger and made the trades that brought the help they needed in center Timofey Mozgov and back court-wing players JR Smith and Iman Shumport . Those three players were just what Griffin, head coach David David Blatt and the the Cavaliers team were looking for to make a run at the NBA championship last season. But they came up a little bit short as the Cavaliers would lose in the NBA finals four games to the Golden State Warriors. 

Following the heartbreaking championship loss to the Warriors the off season came quickly. Griffin acknowledged that there were areas of the supporting cast which still needed upgrading, along with bringing all of the key players back. The Cavaliers appear to be winning this stare down competition with  Tristan Thompson and his agent because he did not get an offer from another NBA team and would have to play for them this season if he is to play at all in the NBA. 

Griffin identified the areas were his team needs to get help and get better, and  he pointed out that increasing facilitators and  wing players who could shoot and have a high basketball IQ was his major objective in the off season. But first decisions needed to be made on players who would not be part of the teams nucleus moving forward. Small forward Shawn Marion decided to retire from professional basketball after the season ended ans small forward Mike Miller and Center Brendan Haywood were traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. 

The Blazers will also receive two future second round picks form the Cavaliers in that deal. In return, the Cavaliers received two trade exceptions, one for 2.94 million and the other for 10.5 million dollars. So now, not counting Thompson, because he is still a free agent, the Cavaliers only have seven players remaining from their roster who began the season this time last year. Point guard Mo Williams, who is a former Cavalier, small forward Richard Jefferson, and Center Sasha Kaun were also added to this season's roster.

So in actuality, Williams, Jefferson, and Kaun are currently taking the roster spots of Marion, Miller and Haywood. Williams was signed to back up Irving at point guard given Irving's knee injury, which occurred in the NBA Finals  last year, keeping him out possibly until late December of this year, 

Williams will be pressed into starting status until Irving returns and  Richardson, who is 35 years old, was acquired to play small forward and potentially back up James to give him the rest he desperately needs in the regular season . And Kaun,  whom the Cavaliers acquired the rights to out of Kansas in the 2008 NBA Draft but chose  instead to play in Moscow,  will challenge Anderson Varejao for back up minutes at center,  if Thompson signs sooner than later. If Thompson does not sign soon, then Kaun will back up Mozgov at Center.

The 6' 11'' Kaun was born in Russia but played high school basketball at Florida Air Academy before playing for four years at the University of Kansas. He was part of the 2007-2008 Jay hawk National Championship team. Kaun played six seasons with the Russian team CSKA Moscow and averaged a career high 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds on 69.1 percent shooting last season. He is considered to be a good defender in the low post and against the pick and roll, but an average shooter. His 69.1 percent shooting is due in most part to catching and finishing at the rim in pick and rolls. 

Kaun will need some time to adjust to the NBA game, but is an upgrade for the Cavaliers over Haywood because of his mobility and age. Haywood will be 36 years old in November while Kaun is 30, and will be 32 at the end of his current two year contract. Haywood played in only 22 games for the Cavaliers in the 2014-15 season and averaged one point three rebounds, one point six points, in five and a half minutes per game.

Mo Williams was reacquired or re-acquired this season by the Cavaliers to provide more facilitating and shooting at the point guard position. He  averaged 14.2 points per game last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Charlotte Hornets. He also shot 34 percent from the three point arc and averaged six point two assists per game while averaging 29.1 minutes per game. And though Mo is now 32- years -old, he continues to show that he has the stamina to play big minutes and shoot well from deep, which is something Miller and Marion failed to deliver for the Cavaliers last season.

Jefferson, like Williams,  is a veteran who has a lot of mileage on his body from playing many NBA seasons. Jefferson is 35- years- old and has played 14 seasons in the NBA. Last season while with the Dallas Mavericks he averaged just five point, eight points, and two assists, and five rebounds in 16.8 minutes per game. But with the facilitators that the Cavaliers have, Jefferson is expected to be even more productive at scoring the basketball this season. 

Jefferson played in 74 regular season games in the 2014-15 season, and the Cavaliers are expecting him to be able to continue to shoot a high percentage from the three point arc. He shot 44.4 percent last season, so he is still shooting close to his career average of 46.5 percent from the three point arc. Williams and Jefferson appear to be the additions that Griffin was looking for because they both shoot, and  are good shooters,. And they have a high basketball IQ's , coupled with skill sets that fit in well with the core players on this team.

In comparison, William's and Jefferson's 142 combined games played by the pair last season are more than  the combined games, also last year  of Marion, Miller, and Haywood.  Combined, these three former Cavaliers only totaled eight points, five rebounds, and 31.5 minutes per game.

Continuity and chemistry on the floor are a major part of success that leads to winning in the NBA. If Williams, Jefferson and Kaun can add to the continuity and chemistry,  the other attributes they bring will be just what the doctor ordered., especially with Irving and Shumpert being out with injuries until mid to late December.

Coach Blatt has had the off season to put in new offensive plays, to review what worked and what didn't,  and to put together schemes that will create more opportunities for all star James, Love and Irving, to be more effective. Last season was the first that the teams nucleus of James, Irving, Love, Smith, Thompson, Shumpert, Mozgov and Dellavedova played together. And simply by their experiences of  playing under the pressure and their run to the NBA Finals last year,  they will play off of each other more effectively, which will contribute to team continuity.

With the addition of Williams Jefferson and Kaun, Coach Blatt believes he can have a regular rotation of 10 or 11 players. Whether that will materialize re,mains to be seen. This season's team is a team that has more talent than at the end of last season and with that talent they were in the top 10 in the league in scoring, finishing eighth. They were able to beat each of the top five defensive teams during the regular season, mainly because of very good offense. But the most significant improvement needs to come from their defense. 

The Cavaliers were 20th in the NBA in field goal percentage allowed, and 13th in points allowed in the regular season. If they really want to make winning easier they will need to do a better job of playing at their pace, turning good defense into offense on a regular basis, and controlling the tempo of each game. Simply put,  defense wins championships. But one thing is for sure, Cavaliers fans are banking on an NBA championship next year, again with James at the helm. (www.clevelandurbannews.com) / (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)