The Cleveland Cavaliers have hit the quarter mark of the NBA season, and to be sure, everyone in the organization thought they would be better than 4-17 at this point.
Still, it is difficult to see exactly where the wine and gold are in their second rebuilding season following the departure of LeBron James.
It is only their second year because the franchise had no back up plan for James’ departure, which if you want to criticize the organization for that, it is understandable.
But the injuries to two key players, Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving and this year’s first round pick, Dion Waiters, make it difficult to judge whether or not any progress has been made.
They were supposed to be the centerpieces, along with Anderson Varejao, to any success and growth the Cavs would experience in 2012-13.
However, Irving has missed 11 games thus far and Waiters has missed the last four. Without two of their top scorers, it has been tough for Byron Scott’s team to score enough points to win.
In the off-season, we commented that the Cavalier roster was made up of a lot of good bench players, but unfortunately, for Cleveland these players have to start.
Players like Alonzo Gee and Tristan Thompson will carve out a long career in the NBA because they can be contributors, but they are miscast as starters, although it may be too early to say that about the latter.
With Irving and Waiters out, that means Scott is forced to start four players who should be playing 15-18 minutes per night off the bench.
That usually doesn’t translate into victories.
With both Irving and Waiters perhaps playing tomorrow night, the time to really start the evaluation process will start. If the Cavs hit the halfway point at the season at 8-33, then the questions about the direction of the team can start.
The injuries aren’t an excuse or reason for some evaluation though.
The biggest bright spot for the wine and gold has been the unbelievable play of Varejao, who leads the league in rebounding and is scoring almost 15 points per night.
It is time to stop saying the Brazilian big man is simply a hustle player and give him his due as a true basketball talent.
It’s not hustle that puts him in position for rebounds and easy lay ups off of the guard’s penetration, Varejao understands the game and has an instinct for it as well.
He’s a great player and deserves an all-star berth this year.
The disappointments have to be Thompson and his lack of progress and free agent swingman C. J. Miles.
Thompson will be haunted for a long time because he was the fourth selection in the 2011 draft, and he did average 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per night. However, he hasn’t taken a quantum leap forward in his second year, improving to just 8.9 points and 7.5 boards thus far.
GM Chris Grant hasn’t said it, but he has to be disappointed that whatever work the second year big from Texas put in this off-season hasn’t translated to more production.
Miles has done a little better as of late, but still missed six games due to Scott’s decision. He’s shooting just 34% from the floor and has taken just 11 free throws, least of any player who has logged 100 or more minutes with Cleveland this season. He was thought to be able to provide some points, but so far hasn’t been able to fill that need.
So, after the first quarter of the season, you would have to grade the Cavaliers with an incomplete. The injuries to its starting backcourt has made it tough to judge progress, and given them a built-in excuse after 20 games.