Stay Positive, Cleveland

After beginning the season 7-10, the Cavaliers have dropped their season record to a miserable 8-32 mark. They’ve got injuries galore. Their defense is dismal. And their offense isn’t a whole heck of a lot better. Byron Scott is getting frustrated. Antawn Jamison is getting frustrated. And I am convinced that there isn’t a happy Cleveland sports fan on Earth anymore.

Rightfully so, I suppose. But I’m trying to keep things positive around here, Right Down Euclid. Something that is very difficult, if not impossible, this year. What do you say we give it a try though?

I think we can all agree that the Cavaliers’ chances of making the playoffs this season have shrunk from unlikely to impossible. But with several veteran players on this roster, the Cavaliers front office could still be in for a busy trade deadline.

First and foremost, Antawn Jamison is contributing a rather productive season despite all the negativity surrounding the team. His 16.6 points per game average is the best on the team and, perhaps more importantly, he seems to be one of the few healthy bodies we have. As a career 19 point-eight rebound player, it’d be very unlikely that a contending team wouldn’t seek the services of Stretch-4 at the deadline. And it may be possible for the Cavaliers to swing a trade that would land them a good young talent like Greg Monroe from the Detroit Pistons. Or, if Cleveland cannot land a guy like Monroe, they always have the option to stockpile draft picks and use the draft to build a steady team – kind of like Oklahoma City has done.

Daniel Gibson, Ramon Sessions, Christian Eyenga and Manny Harris have shown great promise this season. While none of them, outside of Gibson, are ready to start at the NBA level, they are getting a great amount of in-game experience that can only help their maturation process. Sessions is a true point guard and has a keen ability to get to the rim and find open teammates, as evidenced by his 4.4 assists per game. Eyenga is very athletic and, with some polishing (cue Byron Scott), could be a legitimate open court threat in this game – a trait that will mesh very well with Coach Scott’s Princeton style offense. Harris, too, has shown bright spots at times this season. He is very raw on the defensive side and seems lost in Coach Scott’s offense. But he can get to the basket. And he can be a viable scoring option in this league. (And it pains me to say anything good about him because he is a Michigan alum).

I’m not quite as high on Ryan Hollins as I was at the beginning of the season. He just doesn’t seem to have the required work ethic to excel in the NBA. And he doesn’t play hard every time he takes the floor. He and JJ Hickson are in the same boat, as far as I’m concerned. They’re both young and talented; they both have potential; but neither of them have the desire to do a whole lot with that potential. In which case, my only hope is that Chris Grant can ship both of those guys elsewhere for two big bodies that want to bring it every night.

At this rate, the Cavaliers have a very good chance to claim the top pick in this year’s draft. Jared Sullinger, six feet-nine inch forward from Ohio State, is a very viable option for this team. He averages 18 points and ten rebounds for Thad Matta’s Buckeyes and is a consistent double-double guy for the current top team in the nation. Even more impressively, Sullinger lays it all out on the line every single night. He’s the first guy to dive on the floor after a loose ball and is all over the paint on the defensive end. The downside: He reminds me a lot of JJ Hickson. His build and athletic ability is very similar to Hickson. But, he is much more fundamentally sound. He is one of the best back-to-the-basket post presences in the entire NCAA and is a proven scorer.

Another option for the Cavaliers could be six feet-ten inch center from Purdue, JaJuan Johnson. Johnson’s production has increased steadily throughout his career as a Boilermaker. He is very long, an impressive leaper and has very good touch around the basket out to about 15-18 feet. He can run the floor with the guards and finish at the rim. His style of play would also fit in very well within Byron Scott’s system.

Not everything is negative this season, Cavs fans. Keep on keepin’ on and we’ll make it through the season together. I know it’s painful. But there’s only one way to go once you’ve hit rock bottom: Up. A good draft this season could lead to a much different 2011-12 campaign.

All together, Cleveland.

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