The Cleveland Cavaliers are still the NBA World Champions, but they didn’t stand pat this off-season.
Nor should they have. GM David Griffin made some subtle changes to the roster, and all of them look to be solid moves, except for the lack of a backup point guard, and our guess by the time the playoffs roll around, that will be addressed as well.
Obviously, the starting five was untouched (assuming JR Smith is signed soon), so once again the wine and gold will be led by LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, with Tristan Thompson providing defense and rebounding, and Smith stretching the floor and also providing better defense than you would think.
Griffin added two veterans to the bench in G/F Mike Dunleavy (36) and C Chris Andersen (38). While many people always think get younger, adding these two vets to the bench to go with Richard Jefferson (36), who was a major contributor last year, is a great move.
Think about it. The problem for older players is maintaining production over 25-30 minutes per game and over an 82 game season.
These players don’t need to do this for the Cavs.
All Tyronn Lue needs from any of this trio is to provide no more than 10 minutes per game of solid basketball, and based on their past, it should be no problem for them to do just that.
You can add another older player, Channing Frye (33), to that mix as well. And we all saw the impact he made in the post-season a year ago.
Older players are great coming off the bench because a coach has a reasonable idea what he is going to get from those guys. Inexperienced players can be up or down. They could give the team a big lift or be down right awful.
Which is why Lue probably doesn’t want to rely on rookie Kay Felder as Irving’s back up.
And all of the veterans, outside of Andersen, can shoot the rock, and the Cavs management loves to surround James with guys that can knock down shots from behind the three point line and Dunleavy is certainly capable of that, making 38% for his career.
The only thing we would like to see if another big man make the regular season roster.
Right now, you have Thompson and Love as the starting center and power forward, with Frye and Andersen backing up. Frye is better than you think defensively, and “Birdman” is definitely a banger.
There would seem to be an opening for another C/PF, and the candidates would be 6’10” Eric Moreland, 6’9″ Cory Jefferson, both third year pros, and 6’9″ Jonathan Holmes, a first year player out of Texas.
One of those guys could take over the Sasha Kaun role of last year.
We are also anxious to see how G Jordan McRae will perform in the exhibition games. McRae can definitely score, as he showed in the regular season finale last season, but can he do the other things, like move the ball and play defense.
He will need to do those things to get minutes once the games start for real. It is our contention that it was McRae’s presence that convinced the team to part with Matthew Dellavedova this summer.
And we are also curious to see how winning a title enhances the games of Irving and Love. Our bet is their confidence will be out of this world because they are champions and their games will take a quantum leap.
For the first time in 52 years, a Cleveland team will be defending a title. We think this group is up to the task.