NBA training camps start up in a few weeks. In the meantime, we’re going team-by-team, from 1 to 30, exploring what each team’s ceiling is for the upcoming season and where their basement is. In other words, what are the realistic best-case and worst-case scenarios for each squad?
Additions: PG Mo Williams, PF J.J. Hickson, SG Tarence Kinsey, C Lorenzen Wright, PF Darnell Jackson.
Losses: PF Joe Smith, SG Devin Brown, PG Damon Jones.
Ceiling: NBA Finals
LeBron has taken a talent-deficient team as far as the Finals before, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it again. Not to mention this Cavs squad is better than ones in years past. Mo Williams is an underrated passer (when he wants to be) who can score and is someone who’s not going to just stand around and watch LeBron operate; in this case, his tendency to jack shots may actually be a good thing. LeBron hasn’t had a backcourt teammate with Mo’s explosiveness before in his Cavs’ career. Cleveland actually has depth in the backcourt/wing positions with LeBron, Mo, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, Sasha Pavlovic and Tarence Kinsey. Rookie J.J. Hickson was impressive in the summer leagues and his presence along with a full season from Anderson Varejao should allow Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace to limit their minutes going into the playoffs. Mike Brown is a good defensive coach and this team has solid shooters; he just needs to keep being creative with how he utilizes LeBron (more post-ups, less bringing the ball up) and this team could get back to the brink of a championship so long as they have arguably the best player in the game.
Basement: First-round playoff exit
The East is stronger, and if the Cavs run up against the wrong team in the first round they could be sent home. Over the last three years they’ve feasted on the Wizards — and in two of those years Washington was decimated by injuries. While the Cavs came close to knocking off a Celtics team in last year’s conference semifinals that looked nothing like the Boston group who went on to win the championship, all it takes is a bad stretch of games from LeBron or a great stretch of games from an opposing superstar and the Cavs could fall to the likes of Miami, Detroit, Washington or even Philly early on. And what point will the distraction of LeBron’s 2010 free agency start to have a negative affect on the team?