The Cleveland Cavaliers start the NBA season next Tuesday night and there is no question what the team’s goal is for this season: Win an NBA title.
GM David Griffin brought back all of the key pieces from the team that won the Eastern Conference championship a year ago, and lost The Finals in six games to Golden State.
He also added some depth by signing Mo Williams, Richard Jefferson, and Sasha Kaun as free agents, and of course, Anderson Varejao is back in action as well.
Besides championship, the other key words for the Cavs are “rest” and “depth”.
As they learned last season, it is very important to entire the playoffs well rested and healthy. It is David Blatt’s job to make sure the first part is taken care of.
That means playing LeBron James around 32-34 minutes per night and limiting him to around 70 games. It has been well-noted how many minutes James has played over the past five seasons, because his team has advanced to The Finals in each of those years.
And Griffin has given the coach enough depth, and enough talented players so LBJ can get the time off without the Cavs’ record suffering greatly.
Let’s face it. The wine and gold will be making the playoffs next spring, and for them having the top seed in the East isn’t as important as it would be for other teams.
Although Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert will be out to start the season, Blatt can still start Williams and J.R. Smith at guard, with Matthew Dellavedova and Richard Jefferson backing them up.
Based on how Jefferson played in the exhibition season, he still has plenty in the tank providing he plays around 20 minutes per contest.
As for big men, Timofey Mozgov has stated in the past few days that his knee is still not 100%. That’s concerning, but now that Tristan Thompson has signed, Blatt has five players he can rotate at power forward and the center spots.
So, if Mozgov needs some time off, it would likely mean Varejao or Thompson can start at center opposite Kevin Love, and you can still have Kaun in reserve.
That leaves James’ spot at small forward. Who takes his minutes if he is cut back to 32-34 minutes per night?
Once Irving and Shumpert return, that’s easy. Jefferson gets those minutes.
Until then, Blatt can use a combination of Jefferson, Smith, and James Jones to spell LeBron, while playing Williams and Dellavedova together in the backcourt.
If Jared Cunningham makes the team, which it looks like he may, he could also pick up some spot minutes at the off guard spot. The Cavs will need somebody to pick up some minutes there until the two players who started in the playoffs at guard return.
This is the area where we expect Blatt will improve the most this season. He soured on the veterans brought in last summer (Shawn Marion and Mike Miller) mostly because they didn’t do much once they took the court.
Jefferson and Williams are a step up from those players. As everyone has noted (including his uniform number), Williams had a 52 point game last season.
Blatt’s primary job this season is to keep the 2015-16 edition of the Cavs as fresh as possible and still win over 50 games. We don’t think that will be a problem.