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. Stats were taken from NBA.com and 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, Daniel Gibson, Luke Walton.
Off-season additions: Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Phil Pressey, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani.
Off-season subtractions: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Fab Melo, Shavlik Randolph, D.J. White, Chris Wilcox and Terrence Williams.
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving versus Rajon Rondo (Out until December)
Rajon Rondo is recovering from ACL surgery and the four-time NBA all-star is not on pace to return until at least a full month into the regular season. While Boston waits for Rondo to get healthy they really do not have a true point guard as Avery Bradley is much better at shooting guard, Jordan Crawford is a shooting guard, same said for Courtney Lee and that leaves Phil Pressey as potentially the next best ball handler and signal caller for new head coach Brad Stevens. A healthy Rondo is needed if Boston wants to even be in consideration for a playoff run. In 38 games last season Rondo averaged 13.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 11 assists, 1.8 steals and 4 turnovers in over 37 minutes a game.
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. While we wait and see how Rajon Rondo bounces back from an ACL injury, Irving is healthy and an absolute stud as he is enjoying a solid preseason. Will Rondo take the season off a la Derrick Rose and work on his offensive game and mid range jumper? Can Rondo be the focal point on a rebuilding team and the go to scorer? Too many question marks.
Shooting Guard: Dion Waiters versus Avery Bradley
Bradley started every game he played in a season ago (50) and averaged 9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in under 29 minutes of action. Bradley is an absolute stud on-ball defender and is at his best in the shooting guard position. Expect to see his turnovers up if he chosen to be Rondo’s replacement.
Dion 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: Cavaliers. Both players are younger than 23 years old and there is a lot of potential between the two shooting guards. Avery Bradley currently does not have the offensive game that Waiters has. While Waiters is improving on the defensive end he is a more natural scorer and is poised for a breakout season.
Small Forward: Earl Clark versus Jeff Green.
Back in 2011, the Boston Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. Last month, former Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted that the trade was a mistake, but in a rebuilding time for Boston, Green has the potential to prove he is a building block piece and an all-star caliber player. Although Green only started 17 games a season ago, he played in 81 and averaged 13 points, 4 boards, 1 assist and just under a block and a steal a game.
Earl 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: Celtics. Jeff Green is now poised to be the go to scorer on a team in the NBA. He has always been behind guys like Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Although his field goal percentage will likely decrease he should boost up his steals, blocks, threes and points per game.
Power Forward: Tristan Thompson versus Brandon Bass.
Bass, like other Boston Celtics can play solid defense, however last season he took twice as many mid-range shots as he did at the basket last season. While Bass may be able to stretch the defense, there is not a solid rebounder in Boston anymore. Bass is going to have to play stronger and increase his 5 rebounds a game from last season. He also averaged 8 points and 1 assist in 69 starts last season.
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. Thompson’s change to the right hand will be interesting to follow this year
Advantage: Cavaliers. It has been a long time since the Cleveland Cavaliers have had a better power forward than the Boston Celtics, but with the age of Thompson and his progression it looks like the Cavs could own this position match-up for years to come.
Center: Andrew Bynum versus Jared Sullinger/Kelly Olynyk
Jared Sullinger might start the season at center for the Celtics, but Kelly Olynyk, the rookie out of Gonzaga is a seven footer and wouldn’t surprise me if he not only starts, but takes minutes away from Sullinger. Last season Sullinger started 5 games and in 20 minutes he averaged 6 points, 6 boards and just under 1 assist. Olynyk has had an above average preseason and with the Celtics finishing at 2-6 this preseason Brad Stevens plans on using every last minute on deciding on his opening night starting lineup.
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. The Cleveland Cavaliers should dominate the paint in match-ups against the Boston Celtics this year. Whether it is Bynum or Varejao in the starting lineup, both should be able to control the paint against any Celtic center.
Bench: Varejao, Tyler Zeller, Karasev, Gee, Jack, Bennett versus Courtney Lee, Olynyk, Keith Bogans, Brooks and Gerald Wallace.
Advantage: Cavaliers. While the Celtics have some young talent coming off the bench, their veterans are not as quality of veterans that the Cleveland Cavaliers have in Jack and Varejao. The young bench in Cleveland also has much more potential.
Head Coach: Mike Brown versus Brad Stevens.
Advantage: The Cleveland Cavaliers have a head coach who has a great track record in the NBA and the Boston Celtics hired a fantastic college basketball coach with zero NBA experience.
Overall: The Cleveland Cavaliers should not only win more games than the Boston Celtics, but they should be a solid 20 games better than the Celtics. This is another great sign for the Cavaliers as they are looking poised to make the playoffs.