Cleveland Cavaliers Position Breakdown: The Bench
As the Cleveland Cavaliers season approaches, it’s time to look at how the Wine & Gold currently stack up at every position. This breakdown, the sixth of six, looks at the bench.
Main Contributors: Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, Anthony Bennett, C.J. Miles, Anderson Varejeo
Other Players under contract: Carrick Felix, Sergey Karasev, Tyler Zeller
Four out of the five starting roles are pretty much a lock. The only one up for grabs is the small forward spot. There is still question as to whether Alonzo Gee or Earl Clark will get the nod from head coach Mike Brown. So far this preseason neither player has separated himself from the other player. For the sake of this piece, I predict Gee to start, at least for the first few games. Coach Brown has said he does not want keep rotating who is starting at the three but that he will go with what he feels. As for the center position, Andrew Bynum will start when he gets healthy. Varejeo will start until then, but once Bynum returns, the Wild Thing should be back to where he is best suited, and that is coming off the bench.
The Wine and Gold have a lot of depth on their bench. They have a guy in Jarrett Jack, who finished third in last year’s sixth man of the year voting, that will provide a huge spark consistently off the bench. Then once Bynum returns from injury, Varejeo will return to the role where he originally made a name for himself. These two will likely be the first ones to sub into the games, likely followed by Clark and Bennett. This leaves C.J. Miles, who averaged 11.9 points in a reserve role last year for the team as the fifth guy off the bench. This truly shows the depth on the bench. This second unit certainly will be able to play up-tempo and defend, specifically Clark and Varejeo, while relieving the starters. I have confidence that Coach Brown will figure out what to do with all this depth and compile the most efficient second unit possible.
When just looking at the names of bench players, one thing jumps off the page to me, and that is that other than Jack and Miles, nobody really can create his own shot. Offensively, Clark is nothing more than a decent spot-up shooter. Varejeo is constantly moving on offense and needs a guy to hit him with a pass as he cuts to the hoop. And as for Bennett, it remains to be seen what his offensive game will look like at the next level. That is why I suggested above that this second unit should play up-tempo. It will allow a guy like Jack to facilitate and find athletes, such as Miles, Clark and Varejeo, in transition for easy buckets.
Jack will prove his worth this year coming off the bench. He will be the leader of the important second unit. If the Wine and Gold expect to be in the postseason, the bench HAS to produce. They must continue to score at a high level, and importantly, defend at standards approved by Coach Brown. Knock on wood, but if Bynum cannot stay healthy and Varejeo has to be inserted into the starting lineup, the Cavaliers’ second unit will look a little different. No. 1 pick Bennett will be counted on to flourish and Tyler Zeller will have to step up and play center for the second unit. But I am being optimistic. I think Bynum will be healthy and allow Varejeo to play in his natural role, and Jack will be in the heat of the sixth man of the year race. Look for the second unit to play a huge role in propelling the Wine and Gold back into the playoffs.