Sorry for the short hiatus but I am back and ready to break down the Cleveland Cavaliers. The beast’s in the East made a few roster changes and breaking the team down is my guest blogger, Anthony from Paneech.
Expect the Cavs to be hungry all season long. The abrupt exit from last years playoffs has left a sour taste in the mouths of all Cav’s players. Bringing in Shaquille O’Neal is a great move as Cleveland will surely benefit from having a true center who can score. Ben Wallace was a force as a rebounder in his day, but nobody had to guard him when the Cavs had the ball. This was greatly exposed in the Orlando series. Mo Williams and Delonte West will be back with a salty chip on their shoulders as well, they have some proving to do from that series.
Most of the focus will again be on LeBron James and how he handles the sea of questions he will have to field all season about free agency and whether or not he will leave Cleveland at the end of the season. Expect James to put up numbers similar to last year with a few more assists and a few less points and rebounds. Having Shaq in the paint will surely take the stress of creating offense single-handedly out of James’ mind.
The only thing that can stop the Cavs this season is the Cavs. Shaq needs to stay healthy and play 75% of the games. James, West, and Williams will also have to play in a majority of the games. Zyldrunas Ilgauskas needs to realize he isn’t there to shoot threes and get his butt in the low post game more. If Cleveland can keep this starting five intact and hungry throughout the regular season, the playoffs should be a given.
Last Season Record: 0 – 3
Blowout central was the theme of this series. In all 3 games the Raptors were held to under 100 points as a team and lost by an average of 18. Just to put things in perspective, Wally Szczerbiak averaged 14 points! Allowing the Cavaliers to get 4 guys in double digits each time showed the lack of defense that was exploited by opponents all year long. Bosh missed the final game but it would have hardly mattered as the Cavs just had too much fire power. Their best position (SF) was the Raptors weakest and Bosh continued to struggle against in your face defenders like Varejao.
The Bigs: After a short stint out west, Shaq is back in the east and his mission is simple – “Get the king a ring”. Last season Bosh was pushed around like a rag doll, making Shaq look like he was 25 again which in turn fueled RuPaul-gate. This year, Shaq may not play as much but against the Raptors (who he tends to eat for dinner), it would be surprising to see him sit one out. Big Z has definitely lost a step or two but he can still make that jump shot. The way the Raptors play, it allows Z to stay on the outside and leave the rebounding to Varejao, Shaq or whoever is playing in the front court with him. The Raptors need to make Z play on both ends. Varejao can’t be overlooked either, his hustle makes up for the lack of any offensive game. Defensively he has the youngest legs for the Cavs and will keep making it hard for Bosh to score. Bargnani will be relied on for his man D and ability to bring out atleast one defender. No matter how you slice this one, the Raptors are facing a tall task.
The Wings: The Raptors SF spot got an upgrade this offseason but it’s not going to change the fact that Lebron will continue to dominate. The Cavaliers may not have much depth beyond him at the wings but they don’t really need it. Hedo is going to have to make Lebron work hard on D while on the other side of the floor he needs to communicate with the help defender (you think they Raps won’t be doubling Lebron almost every time down the floor?) to try and force Lebron into taking jump shots. They gotta bank on the odds that for every 1 he makes he misses 2. No matter how well the wings play him, Lebron is still going to get to the basket. Senseless fouls from the softer Raptor front court will negate all the bad jump shots James takes throughout the game. Playing the Cavaliers doesn’t allow for the team to pick its poison rather just use all the live bodies available to not kill you before the game is over.
The Guards: Mo Williams is a quality guard but I am not sold on the idea that he is an all-star. Most of the Cleveland offense will still run through Lebron and players like Williams, Gibson and West become shooters. The Cavs also added another perimeter threat this off-season in Raptor fan favorite Anthony Parker. All 4 guys are can shoot the 3 ball and defending it may still be the Achilles heel of the wings/guards on this Raptor roster. Jose’s clap defense sure isn’t going to get it done but I am hopeful that the addition of players like Jack and DeRozan will help out in that area. On offense, the guards will have to make their jump shots because once they get to the lane they are going to be looking at a wall of Shaq and Varejao not to mention Lebron who is known for a swat or 2 per game. I am going out on a limb to say that, if the perimeter is protected, the Raptors will be just fine at this spot.
Predicted Record: Raptors 1 – Cavaliers 2 (Just be glad we only play them 3 times!)
BONUS COVERAGE: I tend to hit up Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie blog a few times each day and came across this beauty. Seriously?? Teams send out tickets to the NBA Finals at the start of the season? The jinx is on and as @jeskeets asked in his post… please tell me what other teams do this?