I am very much excited for Cavaliers basketball.
Admittedly, up until, well, about today, the prospect of Cavs basketball wasn’t thrilling to me. Another losing season for the city of Cleveland, another disappointing rookie in Dion Waiters, and another team to get mad at. It’s all the same.
However, when I forget about all the gloom that could hover over the Cavaliers playoff hopes this season, I remember why I am a fan.
I always say, “there’s just something about football”. Well, there’s just something about basketball too. Regardless of the Cavaliers record or performance, there’s is something about the Q that just brightens up my day. The intimate but passionate atmosphere inside the basketball arena in Cleveland is breathtaking. Even when watching on TV, you just feel the electricity that runs from the seats onto the court. It’s like the basketball court is a stage. The lights shining brightly upon the shimmering floor. The audience waiting to see what Kyrie Irving, the lead guitarist, will do next. The loud ovation as he pulls the coolest riff out of his hat. That stage, that sense of a “performance” is magical.
The fans of the Cavaliers are magical as well. The overwhelming brotherhood of the Cavalier faithful make the games all that much more exciting. From CavsZine 3, to Fear the Sword, to their love for Skyenga, Cavs fans are a ruthless type who always need their basketball fix. Each year they greet the season with a hope not found in many other NBA cities. It is the fans that make magic as well.
This year, we get a full season of the magic. We get each and every game. No more waiting till Christmas, no prolonged Browns season that gets us all in a tizzy, no, no, it’s basketball time now.
When the Cavaliers lace it up against the Washington Wizards tomorrow night, I will be incredibly intrigued as to what will happen to the team this year. People are already writing the Cavaliers off as a lottery team. They are dismissing Waiters as a bust, before he’s even played a game, and are labeling the Cavaliers as perennial bottom-dwellers. Well here are my “bold” predictions for the Cavaliers this season.
1. Tyler Zeller, not Dion Waiters, contends for the NBA Rookie of the Year.
I’m not saying that Mr. Zeller is going to win it, I’m simply saying that he will be closer than any of us thought. With Andy Varejao continually on the trading block, Zeller is going to be seeing a lot of minutes as the big man on this Cavaliers team. He definitely lacks strength and width, but Mr. Zeller may have been one of the most polished players coming out of this years draft. Experienced against some of the best competition in the country, Tyler Zeller is going to be ready to play at the NBA level. We’ve already seen some signs of production from Zeller this preseason, and I believe that’s going to carry on into the regular season and beyond.
2. Kyrie Irving becomes a Top 3 point guard and a Top 10 NBA player.
We saw what he did to Team USA this summer. We’ve seen what he can do to any NBA team. This season, it’s just going to be that much better for Kyrie. He is going to turn the Cavaliers into that playoff-contender that everyone is hoping for. Last season, hampered by a short training camp, injuries, and a lack of talent around him, Irving still made quite the name for himself amongst the NBA elite. With a full offseason, a full training camp, and a full NBA season on the horizon, Irving is going to take this league by storm.
3. Samardo Samuels Becomes a Difference Maker
Last season, he was Samardo Samuels. The guy with so much potential, who never got much of a chance. His weight was up, his confidence was down, and his skills were never quite what they needed to be. Well gear up Cleveland, because Samardo is no more. This new guy who walked into Cavaliers camp will be known as “Slimardo”. Coming into camp this season, Samardo is at around 260 pounds, which is about 40 fewer than he was last season. His diet and lifting regiment allowed Samardo to come into this season in amazing shape, and to contend for some solid playing time for this Cavaliers group. In the preseason, we saw the benefits of “Slimardo” and those benefits will only become more defined once the Cavaliers get into regular game action.
4. Dion Waiters Doesn’t Have It
I know, I know, all of the abounding optimism for this Cavaliers team is coming to a crashing halt. There is so much to look forward to about these Cavaliers, but I don’t think Dion Waiters will be a part of it.
I hate to prove the nay-sayers right, but I just don’t think Waiters is going to produce. From what I’ve seen so far of Waiters, his shot looks wacky, he isn’t all that explosive getting to the hoop, and he was definitely not worth the number four pick in the draft. I said it on draft day, I never liked this pick. I thought Waiters was simply a product of a good team and a good system, a system that he didn’t start in. While I disagree that Waiters status as a sixth man on Syracuse should’ve hurt his draft stock, I contend that his jump shot and his other abilities probably should have hurt it more so than they did. While the Cavaliers were in a very tough spot, missing out on Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal, they should’ve traded down further and drafted Harrison Barnes and maybe another first rounder in addition to Zeller. I don’t know, and I know this is “wrong” to say, but there is something about Waiters game that I don’t like. The Cavaliers were right in getting all of this criticism about the Waiters pick. He’s just not going to pan out. It’s ok though, because Zeller most definitely will.
5. The Cavaliers fall short by a game in the East.
Coming down to the wire, the Cavaliers are going to fall just short, which is ok for this team. They are going to battle and be right in the thick of the playoff hunt until the very end, when their lack of experience and depth is going to lose them a few key games. The season will be a big step going into next season where I expect them to make the playoffs. Kyrie could certainly ruin my prediction with a stellar run late in the season, but I just think the pieces around him won’t be enough to get it done come April. A trade or a certain surprise could change that as well, but for now, I will stick with the nine seed.
I am certainly willing to be wrong on my final two predictions for the Cavs, and if I’m wrong on one, I will be wrong on the other. If Waiters does pan out, this Cavaliers team will make the playoffs and if the Cavaliers make the playoffs, that means that Waiters will have panned out. It’s a win/win, lose/lose situation, and I’m hoping it doesn’t turn out for the latter.
So there you have it folks, some things to keep tabs on and some things to look forward to. Coach Scott announced his starting lineup of Kyrie, Dion, Alonzo, Tristan, and Andy, making us one of the youngest teams in the NBA. Hopefully, the youth and athleticism of this team can overcome the inexperience. No matter how it goes, it’s certainly going to be an amazing journey.
After all, there is nothing like basketball in Cleveland.
Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove