With the Cavaliers set to begin the 2013-2014 NBA season on Wednesday, now seemed like as good a time as any to focus on goals for each member of the team. From Kyrie Irving to Henry Sims, each player has some area in which they can hope to improve upon. If the members of the Cavaliers can achieve most of these goals, then a playoff appearance will become much for likely.
Alonzo Gee: The ability to hit the corner three. As discussed in Jason Lloyd’s recent article, the corner three is one of the most important shots in today’s NBA. With offenses keying on Irving, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao, and even Tristan Thompson, Gee and/or Earl Clark will be left wide open often (assuming his retains his starting role). If he can convert over 35 percent of his corner threes and use backdoor cuts to get to the rim when appropriate, then Gee could create much-needed space for the Cavaliers’ offense. Given his solid shooting of 78 percent from the line for his career, he may actually be a better fit for this role than Earl Clark (roughly 67.6 percent for his career).
Anderson Varejao: A healthy year. Varejao remains one of the best (and most underrated) big men in the game. He is an efficient two-way player on the level of Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler, but injuries the last three years have prevented him from getting the attention he deserves. Hopefully he can stay healthy enough to help lead the Cavaliers back to the playoffs.
Andrew Bynum: Two good knees. Like Varejao, Bynum is an elite player who simply needs good health to reestablish himself. If he is able to play the majority of the season, Bynum can team with Irving to form a terrific one-two punch as good as any in the league.
Anthony Bennett: A treadmill. While that may seem like a low blow, Bennett needs to lose some weight. If he can do so, his stamina will improve on both ends of the floor. The rookie obviously has a lot of talent, but he needs to get into better shape to maximize it.
Carrick Felix: Playing time in the D-League. It’s important for Felix to develop a consistent outside shot and work on the nuances of NBA defense, and he is unlikely to get the court time he needs with the Cavaliers. Playing with the Charge will allow him to work on his game.
C.J. Miles: Consistency. By the nature of his game as an aggressive shooter (some would say chucker), Miles is going to be a streaky player. That being said, if he gets off to a poor start like he did last season, he could find his playing time divided among Gee, Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack, and Sergey Karasev. That would be a disappointment considering his ability to provide instant offense off the bench.
Dion Waiters: Self Restraint. Despite being a surprise pick by the Cavaliers in the 2012 NBA Draft, Waiters had a solid first season, finishing second among first year players in scoring and being voted to the All-Rookie first team. He has shown an explosiveness and ability to get to the rim that few players in the league have. Now he has to embrace his strengths and eliminate shots that aren’t really within his skill set. Fewer step-back threes and off balance jumpers would be a great start. The more Waiters attacks the rim, the more free throws he will receive. If he can improve his efficiency by playing to his strengths, Dion could be in for a breakout sophomore season.
Earl Clark: Self-awareness. Clark has already discussed how he should create more off the dribble like other small forwards. Later he discussed the adjustments he was going through in moving from power forward to small forward. He has also been willing to force his shot throughout the preseason rather than playing within himself and the offense. If these behaviors continue, Clark’s playing time will dwindle. He needs to focus on making the corner three, hitting the boards, and using his length to be a defensive force. Hopefully he can fit into the needed role of 3-and-D wing for the Cavaliers.
Henry Sims: A place at the table. I have been intrigued by Sims since before the 2012 draft, when he was ranked as a potential sleeper by John Hollinger’s draft rater. His blend of size, passing, and shooting touch give him an intriguing set of skills that should allow him to contribute at the NBA level. Now, after a solid preseason, the hope is that Sims can find his place in the NBA with the Cavaliers.
Jarrett Jack: Déjà vu. Last year Jack joined a Golden State Warriors and helped guide the team from 23 wins in 2012 to 47 wins last season and the second round of the playoffs. Now Jack is once again on a team whose two most important players are a dynamic but fragile point guard and an injury prone center (the Cavaliers have two of the latter). If Jack can help the Cavaliers make the same kind of improvement, he could prove to be the best signing of the offseason.
Kyrie Irving: Some durability. No one questions Irving’s potential. The young point guard has elite offensive skills rarely found in any player, let alone someone so young. He also seems to be buying into Mike Brown’s defensive philosophy this season. Now he needs to play at least 75 games this season to help the Cavaliers reach the playoffs and put questions about his ability to stay healthy to rest.
Matthew Dellavedova: Time. Dellavedova has been solid wherever he has played, be it at St. Mary or with the Australian National Team. Now the Cavaliers’ third-string point guard, some time in Canton may be in his best interest. This would allow Dellavedova to learn the NBA game and how he can be successful in it while not affecting the Cavaliers on the court.
Sergey Karasev: A year in an NBA weight room. The young Russian star has shown the potential to be something pretty special. His combination of shooting, passing, and general court awareness could make Karasev a force on offense and a solid defender. However, if he ever wants to guard some of the larger wings in the league, he needs to put on some serious muscle. Right now the idea of Karasev attempting to guard LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony seems like cruel and unusual punishment. Some added strength could at least give him a fighting chance.
Tristan Thompson: Silence, as in the silencing of his critics. Now entering his third season, Thompson has shown tremendous improvement in a short period of time at both ends of the floor. Now, after making an unprecedented switch of shooting hands during the offseason, Thompson seems poised to become a truly elite rebounder and true double-double man. If he can do this while continuing to improve his already solid defense, Cavalier fans will soon be asking “Jonas who?”.
Tyler Zeller: Some good fortune. After a rookie season in which he was thrown to the wolves but gained valuable experience, Zeller worked hard in preparation for his sophomore year. The North Carolina product put on significant muscle to help guard the post and was the Cavaliers’ best player during the Las Vegas Summer League. After a start to camp that impressed head coach Mike Brown, Zeller suffered a strained hip flexor and a bout of appendicitis that cost him the entire preseason. Hopefully he can get back to where he left off quickly. The injury histories of Bynum and Varejao make Zeller an important part of the team’s front court.