A strong rookie season by point guard Kyrie Irving was spoiled by a supporting cast that provided minimal support. The Cavaliers were anemic offensively, largely because of their inability to get out and run: They ranked 25th in the league in fast-break points. Enter free-agent shooting guard C.J. Miles, a top reserve in Utah, and 6'4" rookie Dion Waiters, an energetic scorer at Syracuse. They'll fortify the backcourt alongside Irving and try to deliver a more potent, up-tempo attack. "I see greatness in Dion," says coach Byron Scott. "It's going to take him some time, but I expect him to be a hell of a player."
That transition game will also be boosted by the return of 6'10" Anderson Varej√£o, who missed 41 games last season with a broken wrist. Cleveland was 11--30 without Varej√£o. Neither Varej√£o nor second-year power forward Tristan Thompson is much of a half-court threat, but they give Cleveland an athletic front line that can get the ball off the glass and outrun opposing big men in the open floor.
COACH: Byron Scott (3rd season with Cavaliers)
2011--12 RECORD: 21--45 (5th in Central)
OFFENSE: 93.0 ppg (25th)
DEFENSE: 100.2 ppg (26th)
PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 26.7 ppg (8th)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Dion Waiters (R)
New acquisition (R) Rookie (college stats)
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE CAVALIERS
Kyrie Irving improved by leaps and bounds. He looked more comfortable running the team, knowing when to step on the gas and when to take over. He can shoot off the dribble; he can catch and shoot. He uses that great burst of speed to get to the basket, but he also has that steady pace where he is always in control.... Tristan Thompson is long and big; he challenges shots and plays hard. He could be a P.J. Brown kind of a guy. Consistent, an anchor. I don't see a real star there.... Alonzo Gee can score. He puts his body on you and creates space a lot like Paul Pierce. And he has a nice touch. But he doesn't have length or the ability to go by people.... If Omri Casspi has a good game, they probably lose. He creates too many empty possessions with too many one-on-one moves. His scoring doesn't come in the flow of the offense.... Dion Waiters didn't impress me in summer league. The book on him is he has size and can score, but I don't know if he can do it at this level.... Anderson Varej√£o is going to be the Tayshaun Prince of the Cavs. I think he can still contribute, but will he be content to do it on a team that has a long way to go?
Waiters and Irving develop into a high-octane backcourt, and the Cavs escape the Central cellar.
Waiters, who was benched for not knowing the plays in his preseason debut, flounders, and the Cavs push 60 losses.
The difference last season between Daniel Gibson's three-point shooting percentage (39.6) and his two-point percentage (29.4), the largest for any player with at least 100 three-point attempts.
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (IRVING)
QUICK STUDY Rookie of the Year Irving did his best to make Cleveland fans forget about LeBron—who until last year had been the only Cavalier to win the award.
DAVID LIAM KYLE/NBAE/GETTYIMAGES (WAITERS)
JOHN BIEVER (VAREJ√ÉO)