Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A preliminary look at the Cleveland LeBrons

Here at Pfef's Sports Blog, that basketball team from Cleveland will be known as the "LeBrons" until I become convinced that there are four other people on the court in Wine and Gold jerseys. I'm going to copy off of the 614 a bit here with the imaginary interview style of preview.

The three big additions to the Cavaliers last season -- Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Damon Jones -- have already been labled as busts. How do you expect these guys to perform this season?
Ah, if only it could be that easy. The jury is still out on Hughes as to just how much of a contributer he can be. In his limited action in the regular season, Hughes was definitely a boost from past Cleveland shooting guards in the LeBron era, averaging 15.5 ppg and being a solid contributer when defenses would focus solely on LeBron. However, one of the major things I noticed about Hughes, and questioned about the signing of him coming into the season was his role within the offense. Hughes is the kind of player that slashes to the hoop, has a jumpshot that needs some work, and has a knack for stealing the ball. At 6-5, 184 lbs., he was nothing more than a smaller, less freakish King. With two starters that are expected to be the top two offensive contributers, and both have similar styles of play, it left much to be desired along the perimeter. Danny Ferry led many Cavaliers fans last season, including myself, to believe that we were getting a huge discount with two players known primarily for their perimeter games in Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall. Well, we all know how that one played out. As a result, all three players will find thesmselves on the trading block at the first sign of trouble. A year after trying to prove their contracts, I expect all three players to have improved play, but at least one of them will be gone before the season ends.

What are your views on LeBron's effect on the team? Not his play on the court, but rather in the way that he handles the situations surrounding the team.
One of the great effects of the abbreviated history of the media on the sporting world is the debate between Star vs. Coach. Usually, I like to side with the coach, but as far as I'm concerned, not only is LeBron James our all-pro forward, he's also head coach LeBron James, and general manager LeBron James. As is the case so often in the NBA, the star player comes first in all decisions regarding the team. Every move the franchise makes revolves around the young King. As much as people try to say that the teams that avoid letting the stars take control are better off, it is inevitable to happen on any team. The Bulls conceded to MJ's every command throughout his career, and although it took a while for it to pay off, it eventually ended up paying off six times. Obviously, there are situations where the star player is only looking out for himself and the results are near-disasterous (see: Bryant, Kobe; Clarett, Maurice). At this point in his career, James seems to be matured well beyond his years. Every indication is that he is one of the most intelligent young men to come through the league in recent history, and he seems to be using every bit of it to his advantage. He knows what this team needs to win a championship, it just so happens that it revolves around him. Is it selfish? Yes, somewhat If LeBron gets fed up with Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall chucking up threes, you can bet they'll be gone. LeBron will get what LeBron wants, but the difference between LeBron and Kobe is that LeBron seems much more willing to make the very limited sacrifies that Bryant is not.

The Cavaliers offseason was a relative snoozer, with very few moves being made. What were the best and worst moves of the offseason, in your opinion?
I feel that the best move the Cavs could have possibly made this past summer was exactly what they did do, and that was not much at all. Perhaps more important than getting a great three point shooter in there or a dominating presence in the low post was developing a strong sense of team chemistry between LeBron and the players that will be the most important in future championship runs. All that bringing in another veteran guy past his prime accomplishes is stunting the growth of the guys that will be keys to LeBron's seemingly destined glory. Anderson Varejao is a perfect example of this. He's entering his third season in the league, and although he's still a season away from being a productive, full-time starter, he's not going to improve anymore by moving him down on the depth chart. He's past the point in his career where watching veterans will increase his knowledge of the game, and it's time we utilize his skills to the best of their abilities. He won't begin the season as a starter, and that's rightfully so. But when Big Z finds a way to get hurt midseason, he will be called on the shoulder much of the load down low. A lot of what goes down two seasons from now (when I expect this team to become a serious contender) will be a direct result of how the young guys are handled this season.

Now on a similar note, the worst move of the offseason unquestionably was the signing of David Wesley. It's as if the front office learned absolutely nothing from Damon Jones and DaJuan Wagner. He's not big enough to be a shooting guard, and he's too old and ineffective to bring anything to the game as a point guard. I think Shannon Brown has what it takes to be a real good player in this league, but I think having him behind just Snow and Jones was a perfect spot for him. Now as an 11th or 12th man essentially, he'll struggle to play in garbage time. Luckily, he's only a rookie, and will have plenty of years ahead of him.

Alrighty. Give me a prediction here. Division rank, playoff seeding, playoff finish, and a bold prediction of something to keep an eye out for.
Second in the division (Behind the Pistions, above the Bulls), 4th in the East, and another second round playoff exit. Rumors start flying in week 3 of a possible trade for Rashard Lewis, but nothing happens until the offseason.

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