Tonight, the 2013-14 edition of the Cleveland Cavaliers will debut tonight at Quicken Loans Arena when the wine and gold take on the Milwaukee Bucks.
There is a lot of optimism regarding the team this season, with many national experts picking the Cavs to make the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James went to Miami.
Is this optimism warranted?
You can make arguments both ways.
The first concern would be the injury factor. Three key members of the squad have had problems staying on the court over the last three years: Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, and newcomer Andrew Bynum.
If all three can play 60 or more games, Mike Brown’s team will be in great shape. But that’s a huge “if”.
Bynum and Varejao, along with Tristan Thompson, who we feel will be much improved, and Tyler Zeller will provide a formidable frontcourt combination.
However, the first two players mentioned can’t be counted on to stay healthy.
We said over the off-season that the Cavaliers needed to proceed as if Bynum would not play one minute this season. They needed to continue to build as if he wasn’t going to play.
Perhaps reducing Varejao’s minutes will help him stay on the court. Even if Bynum can’t play, Thompson and Zeller can handle the post, and first round draft pick Anthony Bennett and free agent signee Earl Clark can split time at the four spot as well.
However, if both big men are out, does the wine and gold have enough at the key rebounding positions?
In the backcourt, Irving has shown he can be one of the most dynamic players in the NBA, but he has missed significant time in each of his first two seasons with injuries. Perhaps this will be overcome as the former first overall pick gets stronger with age.
If he misses a lot of time this year, he could get the “injury prone” rap that no one wants.
Last year, when Shaun Livingston came in from Washington on Christmas Day, he brought veteran leadership for the guards. He has moved on, and in his place, GM Chris Grant signed Jarrett Jack as a free agent.
Jack will bring that same leadership and he has a proven history of putting the ball in the basket, scoring 13.0 points per game last season and 15.6 per contest the year before that.
The veteran is a true combo guard, playing the point when Irving is on the bench and playing off guard when Irving is on the floor.
Along with Dion Waiters, the Cavaliers will have a solid three guard rotation most nights. That is if Irving can stay healthy.
One thing can be said with certainty for this year’s squad. They will be better defensively; Brown will make sure of that.
Because of that, no longer will the Cavs lose huge leads down the stretch. The coaching staff will make sure that everybody makes an effort when the opponents have the basketball. That alone will lead to more victories.
If Irving, Varejao, and Bynum can stay on the court for most of the season, the Cavaliers will definitely be much improved.
However, none of those three can be counted on for durability until they prove otherwise.
Until this is proven, the Cavs will have to be viewed through jaundiced eyes.