As the 2013 Free Agency period has slowed to a crawl, with most major moves being made, Factory of Sadness is excited to compare the roster the Cavaliers have put together with last year’s playoff teams. There are still many moves that may be made prior to the start of the season and the possibility of injuries and information on how rookies are doing learning the NBA game. We will address many of these issues closer to the start of the season, during training camp. For now, especially for Cavalier fans, the excitement over the off-season and the hope of the future makes this a fun exercise. Each evaluation will have the same structure even as written by the different Cavalier writers here on FoS. All of these evaluations assume health of all players involved including Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejao. While health concerns will be noted as appropriate, this is the off-season and best case scenarios are what we have to work with. For this piece we will assume a Cavalier starting lineup of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Earl Clark, Tristan Thompson and Andrew Bynum. All stats were taken from ESPN.com.
Off-season additions: Coach Mike Brown, 1st Round Picks Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev, Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bynum
Off-season subtractions: Maureese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Shaun Livingston
Possible subtractions: Daniel Gibson and Luke Walton
Off-season additions: Coach Larry Drew, 1st Round Pick Giannis Antetokounmpo, OJ Mayo, Carlos Delfino, Zaza Pachulia, Luke Ridnour
Off-season subtractions: Mike Dunleavy, JJ Redick
Possible Additions and Subtractions: Jeff Teague (+), Monta Ellis (-), Brandon Jennings (-), Samuel Dalembert (-)
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving versus either Jeff Teague or Brandon Jennings
The Bucks are one team that has major transactions to figure out. Reportedly Teague has signed a restricted free agent offer with the Bucks for 4 years and $32 million to rejoin his old Hawks coach, Drew. Jennings is somewhat in a holding pattern with the Bucks due to this, and his own restricted free agency. Teague provided steady PG play for the Hawks last year with 14.6 points a game, 7.2 assists and 2.6 rebounds all while shooting 45% from the field and 36% from 3 point land in 80 games. Jennings is a more dynamic, shoot first PG who put up 17.5 PPG with 6.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds on 40% from the field and 38% from 3 point range also while playing in 80 games. Teague is considered an above average defender while Jennings is just below, mostly due to effort issues.
Kyrie was limited last season, and the season before (and his 1 year at Duke), to 59 games played. In those games Irving put up 22.5 points per game with 5.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds and a PER of 21.51. Irving did this scoring on 45% shooting from the field and 39% from 3 point range. Last year for the Cavs Irving was the primary ball handler and scorer when he was healthy. This year, with all of the additions to the roster he will have somewhat less pressure to provide all of the offense and can spend time improving on defense as well. Kyrie is already taking leadership of the team, leading workouts and practices in Las Vegas with players gathering there, even though he isn’t playing on the Summer League team.
Advantage: Cavaliers. Whether its Teague or Jennings, Irving has a distinct advantage over both players. Irving has the best overall shooting percentage, more rebounds and a higher points per game. Irving and Jennings are equal defenders, with Teague having his advantage here. Kyrie’s assist numbers should increase as his supporting cast improves. Last year the Cavs did not have a player that compared to the Hawks Al Horford or to shooters Kyle Korver or the Bucks JJ Redick.
Shooting Guard: Dion Waiters versus OJ Mayo
Mayo played last season for the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs both started and brought Mayo off the bench. Mayo played in all 82 games scoring 15.3 points per game with 4.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds. Mayo did shoot 45% from the floor and 41% from the 3 point line. Mayo played last year with inconsistent point guard play but with superstar Dirk Nowitzki. Mayo won’t have a Dirk level player but should find better PG play freeing him up from ball handling duties he took on last year.
Waiters, in his rookie season, struggled with injuries (will be a pattern) and inconsistencies. He played in 61 games, starting many and coming off the bench some as well for Byron Scott. Waiters averaged 14.7 points on 41 % shooting and 31% from the 3 point line. Waiters added 3 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game last year as well. Waiters has shown a desire to improve this off-season, especially in his shooting percentages and should see overall improvement from time in the league.
Advantage: Bucks. While Waiters ceiling is yet to be determined, Mayo has been a consistent performer in the league, even though this is his 3rd team he has played for at a young age. Mayo’s shooting is drastically better and his veteran understanding gives him distinct advantage over the younger more explosive Waiters.
Small Forward: Earl Clark versus Ersan Ilyasova
Ilyasova is listed as a small forward on ESPN’s website, though he tends to play more of the stretch 4 role for the Bucks. This makes his comparison to Clark even more appropriate. Besides Ilyasova the Bucks only have their “Greek Freak” 1st round pick on their roster as a SF. In 2012-2013 Ilyasova put up 13.2 PPG with 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists. Ilyasova, coming off signing his first big contracts, shot 46% from the 2 point land and 45% from three. Ilysova started the season slowly, with many reporting the pressure of the big contract being part of the reason. He ended the season with great shooting percentages and should expect an up tick in his PPG next year.
Clark had his first season of major minutes last year, first under Brown and then under Mike D’Antoni. Clark played in 59 games last year putting up 7.3 PPG with 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists all while shooting 44% from the floor and 34% from 3 point range. Clark should expect more minutes and touches with his new team, but will have to adjust to his role as a 3/4 in Brown’s lineup. Clark will also be relied upon to guard opposing wings as well. Clark will rotate time with Alonzo Gee, the defender of the group, and Sergey Karasev, the rookie sharp shooter.
Advantage: Bucks Clark has the advantage defensively but besides that the Buck has been better in the other facets of the game. While the Cavs hope Clark can develop his offensive game, there is little to go on here. The Cavs hope to bring along Karasev slowly, and know that Gee can provide them defensive help with little more then transition baskets on offense.
Power Forward: Tristan Thompson versus Drew Gooden
Cavs fans has seen Gooden, and know the good and bad. Gooden can be explosive one game and disappear the next. Last year with the Bucks he only played in 19 games putting up 3.3 points and 1.9 rebounds with .4 blocks. Gooden’s health and focus will determine how long he stays in the rotation much less the starting lineup. Most likely the Bucks hope to slide Ilysova here and put their rookie in at the 3.
Thompson showed dramatic improvement last year in his second year, especially when Varejao went out for the year. Thompson averaged 11.7 points on 49% shooting to go along with 9.4 rebounds and .9 blocks per game. Thompson showed great improvement in understanding on the offensive game as well as leadership on the defensive side of the ball.
Advantage: Cavaliers If this was Thompson versus Ilysova it would be close to a push given what they are asked to do and their defensive differences. The Cavs would then have the advantage at the 3. In this case Thompson dominates Gooden on both ends and gives the Cavs the clear advantage.
Center: Andrew Bynum versus Larry Sanders
Sanders came on strong last year as a defensive force for the Bucks down low. He is probably the Bucks closest thing to an untouchable player. Sanders put up 9.8 PPG with 9.5 rebounds. Sanders added 2.8 blocks per game. Sanders development was significant for the team similar to that of Thompson for the Cavs.
Bynum, coming off a year away from the league, is the great unknown this year. Based on his stats his last year in LA Bynum is a top 3 center in the league. Bynum averaged 18.7 PPG and 11.8 rebounds under Coach Brown in 2011-2012. He also added 1.9 blocks per game. Bynum was surrounded by Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol that year which limited his touches, but with Kyrie is the only player on the Cavs that could demand more time with the ball then Bynum. Dependant on his health Bynum looks to return to dominating form. If he doesn’t Anderson Varejao, also depending on health, has shown the ability to hold the fort at the 5.
Advantage: Cavaliers Bynum is a All Star with an all around game that should continue to grow with maturity and another year under Brown. A comparison of Varejao to Sanders would be close to a push given how the effect the game primarily on the defensive end, with a slight lean towards Sanders due to his shot blocking, youth and health.
Bench: Varejao, Tyler Zeller, Karasev, Gee, Jack, Bennett versu Ridnour, Antetokounmpo, Pachulia, John Henson, Nate Wolters
The Bucks have a balance of young players in Henson and the “Greek Freak” to go along with grizzled vets Ridnour and Zaza. Both of the vets will be solid if not average in their production for the team. Henson has had a year to fill out his skinny frame and learn the NBA game and should be a solid first big off the bench for the team. No one is really sure what to expect from Antetokounmpo.
The Cavs have bolster their bench immensely. 3 starts from last year (Zeller, Varejao and Gee) now are on the bench. They have also added the dynamic combo guard in Jack, who has experience backing up youngsters from his time in Golden State last year. The Cavs have depth at all positions, even at the SF position the drop off is not that great even if the talent is limited. This should account for injuries, as the Cavs always seem to have a great deal. Rookies Bennett and Karasev can be used in limited spots early in the season to help them get used to the speed and strength of the NBA.
Advantage: Cavaliers The Cavs have a deep bench with variety of experience and youth. The depth and upside is the difference and edge over the Bucks bench.
Coaching: Mike Brown versus Larry Drew
Drew was let go by the rebuilding Hawks after last year, only to sign on with the rebuilding Bucks. Drew took the Hawks to the playoffs every year during his time in Atlanta.
Brown, returning to the Cavs for his second go round, also has taken every team he has coached to the playoffs with his focus on the defensive end. Brown was successful in Cleveland with Lebron James and in LA with Kobe Bryant and that cast. Brown was fired after 5 games last year as the Lakers struggled to adjust to additions Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.
Advantage: Cavaliers Brown has significant history on his side over Drew and has hired a experienced staff to round out the coaches. Brown showed development and learning in while in LA and has improved his overall game strategies.
Overall: The Cavaliers have advantages at PG, PF, C, Bench and Coaching while the Bucks win at SG and SF. If this holds throughout the season the Cavs should expect to finish in front of the Bucks, who last year were the 8th seed in the East.
Now on to evaluate the other playoff teams from last year. Any thoughts on this evaluation? Did we miss someone? Over or under evaluate a player or coach? Discussion is healthy and looked forward to in the comments section.