No. 2: Will Cavs young backcourt be as good as we want them to be?
Mike Brown is asking Kyrie Irving to play defense and by all accounts, Irving is more than willing to get his hands dirty. If this team is going to defend their way to the playoffs, a lot of that burden is going to be on Irving and his backcourt buddy, Dion Waiters.
Both of these guys excel with the ball in their hands, that goes without question. Last season, Waiters struggled early when he was trying to figure out how to play off the ball. But Irving is obviously the unequivocal leader on this team and he has to be the guy setting up the offense. Once the season wore on, Waiters became increasingly comfortable off the ball, something that will continue to help Irving immensely.
No. 2: Will Cavs young backcourt be as good as we want them to be?
It's Cavsmus Eve in Cleveland. Michael Stanley is once again on heavy rotation as dreams of Eastern Conference playoff races overwhelm the masses. But before this season flush with intrigue, story lines, depth and promise tips off for reals on Wednesday night, I needed to file two more official predictions.
Yesterday, I posted my Cavaliers' win total for the 2013-14 campaign along with statistical projections for Andrew Bynum. Today, these predictions include who Cleveland's second-leading scorer will be this year as well as who will eventually lead the team in starts at small forward.
Predicting Cavaliers Second-Leading Scorer: Dion Waiters (17 points per game)
This time last year it seemed like rookie Dion Waiters would be the Cleveland Cavaliers' second-leading scorer by default behind Kyrie Irving. After averaging 14.7 points without much firepower surrounding him besides Irving, he eventually was specifically that. In 2013-14, however, the second-leading scorer race in Cleveland features a collection of legitimate possibilities that extend well beyond the second-year guard from Philadelphia.
After watching Tristan Thompson demonstrate his on-court development during the preseason, I began to seriously consider him as a potential candidate. At the conclusion of last season, I really wouldn't have. The old right-hander now joins Waiters, though, along with Anthony Bennett, Anderson Varejao, Andrew Bynum and Jarrett Jack as the six players on the Cavs roster capable of posting the second-highest scoring average on the team.
Despite the increased competition, I expect Waiters to assume that role in 2013-14 by averaging 17 points on 45 percent shooting. Here are some of my reasons why:no comments
No. 3: The pieces are there, but how improved will the Cavs bench be in 2013-14?
Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers entered opening night with a second unit comprised of C.J. Miles, Luke Walton, Samardo Samuels and Tyler Zeller before later adding Shaun Livingston. This year, along with Miles and Zeller, the names now include Jarrett Jack, Alonzo Gee and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett. We'll leave the topic of Bynum's potential impact on this year's reserve unit for another day.
By Tuesday, Cleveland Jackson will have finalized all edits and formatting necessary for the release of Cavs Zine 4. The following night, Mike Brown's triumphant return to Quicken Loans Arena will combine with Kyrie Irving's legendary rise to create an avalanche of excitement and intrigue surrounding all that is opening night.
But before we all celebrate Cavsmus in earnest, I wanted to first file a series of official predictions here at StepienRules.com. The first two, highlighted below, include the Cavs predicted win total along with Andrew Bynum's projected stat line for the season. Tomorrow I'll be predicting the Cavs second-leading scorer along with who will make the most starts at small forward this year.
Predicted Win Total for 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers: 43
I've mentioned this prediction in a few different places by now, but for the sake of clarity, I am projecting the Cavaliers to finish with a record of 43-39. This mark will be good enough for a No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and also have a playoff berth clinched with more than one week remaining in the regular season.
For some perspective, the Boston Celtics won 41 games as the No. 7 seed in 2012-13. The Milwaukee Bucks earned a No. 8 seed with 38 wins and the Atlanta Hawks were the No. 6 seed last season with 44.
One of the five teams I expect to finish ahead of Cleveland, no matter how well things break for the Cavaliers, will be in town on opening night. Along with those Brooklyn Nets—who I do expect the Cavs to beat on Wednesday in front of the home crowd—are the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks.
If the Cavs stay consistently healthy and each player performs close to the top-end of his individual potential, it's not unreasonable to suggest that the No. 6 seed is attainable. Among the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors, there is no definitive sixth-best team in the East right now.
Over the course of an 82-game season, though, things do happen. It takes time to gel, shooting slumps plague key players at times and injures can occur. Despite those traditional pitfalls, I do believe the Cavaliers are deep enough to guarantee a playoff berth in a conference that could see a few teams tanking hard for Wiggins, Parker and whoever else by the All-Star break.
As the No. 7 seed, with 43 wins, the Cavaliers will have completed a 19-game turnaround from a year ago while potentially lining up against the Miami Heat in Round 1. But pegging the Pacers as the regular-season champs out East and driving down much further than that is prediction for another day.
Predicting Andrew Bynum's Stats: 13.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 55 games
I've been having this recurring dream lately where Andrew Bynum is announced as a starter on opening night. He stunts through the Cavs handshake line while channeling his inner-Brad Daugherty and appears like the All-Star he once was under Mike Brown for the next 48 minutes.
Tweets like this from Sam Amico aren't doing anything to help my condition.
No. 4: What to expect from the rookies?
I've come to the conclusion that Chris Grant wakes up on draft day wanting to shock the league. He did it twice in a row when the Cavs picked 4th; going with Tristan Thompson and then a year later taking Dion Waiters. Both picks surprised pundits and fans across the league. But, you know what? They both look pretty good.
Rewind to June and Grant didn't disappoint. Holding the top selection for a second time in three years, Grant and Co. broke Twitter when he selected UNLV freshman stud Anthony Bennett. There were rumblings of the Cavs brass liking Bennett but nobody really thought it would happen. Well, here we are.
Bennett and 19th overall pick, Russian wing Sergey Karasev should both be big contributors this season, Bennett much earlier than Karasev in my opinion. But lets start with Karasev.
I made an appearance on All Bets Are Off last week and had a great time talking Cavs with the legendary Bruce Drennan.
Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances surrounding my DVR, however, I was unable to secure that footage.
In the wake of losing that video, a friend of mine sent me a recording of my conversation with the great Ken Carman on CBS Radio in Cleveland last night.
That discussion about the retirement of Zydrunas Ilgauskas' jersey, Anthony Bennett's upside, how many games the Cavaliers will ulimately win and Krazyie Bone's life as a Cleveland Sports fan is below.
No. 5: Will Cavs buy into Mike Brown’s defense-first philosophy?
We all know Mike Brown had his shortcomings on the offensive end of the court last time he was in Cleveland. But there is no denying the man is a defensive genius.
It’s that simple.
So, the Cavs have to be better defensively, right? You would hope so. Last season, the Cavs left a lot (A LOT) to be desired on the defensive end of the floor. For as great as Kyrie Irving is with the ball in his hands, he can be that bad guarding it. If this team is going to play defense, it starts with Irving bending his knees and sliding those feet.
Brown has one big advantage this season that Byron Scott only had for a brief time last year; a hopefully healthy Anderson Varejao.
I was open to pain and crossed by the rain and I walked on a crooked crutch
I strolled all alone through a fallout zone and come out with my soul untouched
I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd, but when they said, "Sit down," I stood up
- The Boss "Growin' Up"
Andrew Bynum was playing basketball before Thursday's preseason game win the Detroit Pistons. He didn't play in the game, but he practiced before the game started. He juked left and right, spun and pivoted in both directions. He jumped and heaved shots over Cavaliers 6' 10" Player Development Coach Vitali Potapenko, showing strength, sleekness and power. He is cut up, carved into 285 pounds and in the final stages of a twelve week rehabilitation program.
BYNUM POSTS UP TO HIS LEFT, PUTTING FULL PRESSURE ON HIS LEFT LEG AND LEFT ACL
No one knows when, or even if, at this point, Andrew Bynum will play in an actual game for the Cleveland Cavaliers. We do know this: He has worked himself into a playing weight of 285 pounds. He is chiseled muscle. He is a true seven feet tall. He has been a monster in the past. And the low risk contract that he signed with the Cavaliers this summer will allow the team to make a decision on his future with the franchise by 5:00 PM January 7, 2014. Appromately halfway though the season the team could cut bait and end his Cavalier career by way of not exercising a team option for the second half of the season. He is guarenteed only $6 Million if they do not execute the option.
Bynum's living with a target on him and there's good reasons. Inside those complex knee braces and within the skin has been: A dislocated left kneecap. Right medial collateral ligament tear. A lateral meniscus tear. And most troubling, indications on an MRI that some doctors interpreted as a degenerative condition, with the word “arthritis” whispered through the media. For a 25 year old, it’s a fucking NBA death sentence if it’s true.
The Cavaliers let longtime Athletic Trainer Max Benton go this offseason, opting for a more progressive outlook regarding the health of players. They created the new position "High Performance Director" for former US Ski Team Strength and Conditioning Coach Alex Moore. Moore's focus is expansive including rehabilitation, nutrition, physical therapy, strength and conditioning. He oversees not only a trainer, but also a "performance scientist". If Bynum throws down his first dunk in a game, and if Bynum can stay healthy enough to play in back to back games in an NBA schedule, Alex Moore's team is going to get credit.
I caught up with the legendary Krayzie Bone recently for a Q+A that published at SLAMonline.com talking all things Cavaliers and Cleveland.
During the conversation that I recommend you guys checking out in its entirety, Krayzie talked about what it was like in Cleveland back in 1997 when the Indians went to the World Series, Cavs hosted the All-Star Game and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony won a Grammy for Crossroads.
We also talked about life as a Cleveland sports fan, the first NBA jersey he ever bought, what he hopes Kyrie Irving, Mike Brown and the Cavs can accomplish this season along with the mutiple projects that Krayzie's currently working on.
Below is an excerpt from that conversation.
SLAM: What are some of your earliest memories as a Cavs fan?
Krayzie Bone: I remember watching the Cavaliers when World B. Free was on the team—now that’s back in the day. I was really young but I remember watching it with my father, just hearing his name—World B. Free. And then the whole squad we had later with Mark Price, Ehlo, Brad Daugherty and Harper, there’s just a whole lot of history with Cleveland teams, and I stand behind it 100 percent. I’m sure everybody sees my crazy tweets, but I just love sports. I love football, love basketball and even though I’m not really into baseball, when the Indians are in it, I’m into that too.
SLAM: What do you think about Mike Brown coming back this year to coach the Cavs?
KB: Actually, I’ve always liked Mike Brown. I really don’t understand why he was let go in the first place, or why he left. I thought he was a good fit then and I still do. He was a good coach when he went to L.A. too, but to me, L.A. is just a Hollywood team. It’s glitz and glamor out there, so they’re always behind the camera and they’re always putting on a show. But I always thought he was a good coach and I’m glad he’s back man because I like the way he coaches. I think he can help these young players learn how to work together on the defensive end and get them on a track to start winning games.
SLAM: If you were to compare Mike Brown and the defensive style he coaches with to one rapper, which rapper would you say he’s most similar to?
KB: Oh man, I don’t know, that’s a tough one. But like you said, Mike Brown comes back hard with the defense and he’s aggressive with it, so my first thought is Tupac—aggressive. I’d compare him to Tupac based on that aggressiveness and how he’s always working—just going hard, never stopping and never quitting.
Full Article: Q+A Krayzie Bone at SLAM
Beyond communicating the x's and o's necessary to be successful, developing an identity of consistent toughness is also required to ultimately build a culture of winning in the NBA.
Following the Cleveland Cavaliers 92-74 preseason loss at the Canton Civic Arena on Tuesday night to the Charlotte Bobcats, Mike Brown spoke to that message of toughness specifically.
"I've been pushing these guys and I'm going to keep pushing these guys because they're mentally tougher and physically tougher than what they think they are," Brown said.
That was the line that stuck out to me the most during my ride back to Cleveland. It serves as an example of how Brown is working to redefine what his players believe they are capable of both as individuals and as a collective unit.
He then went on to add the following which was equally important.
"Right now, what we've experienced so far is nothing if we want to be a good or great basketball team this year," Brown said.
"We're going to have people hunting us, we're going to have people wanting to come at us on a night-in, night-out basis. No matter how we're feeling, whether we're feeling tired mentally or tired physically we gotta come ready to play every play and not take any shortcuts."
Despite the upgrade in talent you're still not good enough to beat the Bobcats if you come out and take plays off, basically. An important message that may not have had a chance to sink in as well if not for the little bit of adversity created by the first loss of the 2013 preseason.
Dion Waiters on Mike Brown: "I love the way he coaches me"
While discussing the subject of shortcuts and consistency, the only player Mike Brown mentioned by name was Dion Waiters. Waiters finished 2-for-7 with five points and four turnovers to go along with committing a few mental mistakes defensively on Tuesday.
Brown admitted that he is being tough on Waiters and said that it's important he understands how hard he must work on a consistent basis in order to maximize his potential. The second-year guard responded to Brown's comments by saying later that he appreciates the way his new coach is trying to get the best from him.
Waiters on Mike Brown: "He's tough on me but he's making me better. He calls me over, starts talking to me, I love the way he coaches me"— Brendan Bowers (@BowersCLE) October 16, 2013
"He's tough on me but he's making me better," Waiters said. "He calls me over, starts talking to me on the sidelines and I love the way he coaches me."
This mental approach and willingness from Waiters to learn, grow and be coached is the most encouraging example of his development during training camp thus far as far as I'm concerned. It also made me walk out of what was a great atmosphere in Canton convinced that Brown could very well be the best thing that happens to Dion's career.no comments