After making their first ever appearance in the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers followed up with a mildly successful season in 07-08. The one man gang, however, ran into the Boston Celtics in the second round of the Playoffs, where they were eliminated in seven games. A huge weakness for the Cavaliers over the last few seasons has been their lack of a true or solid point guard. Cleveland believes they answered that problem by acquiring former Milwaukee guard Maurice Williams. With Mo Williams in the backcourt, the pressure for the Cavsí star player, LeBron James, to create for the rest of the team will be eased. The Cavaliers have been looking for a solid sidekick from the backcourt for James, and have experimented with a few players without much success. Cleveland, however, is hoping that Williams will provide backcourt leadership and become a reliable contributor alongside James in the lineup. More than anything, though, the Cavs are hoping that the addition of Williams will get them back to the Finals.
Offense: The Cavaliersí offense consisted of having either LeBron James bring the ball up the floor, stop, and try to figure something out before the clock hit zero, or, another guard would bring the ball up the floor, give it to LeBron, and the same events would occur. Delonte West and Daniel Gibson are good ball-handlers, but both lack true point guard skills, and are better suited at the off-guard position. With Mo Williams as the new starting point guard, LeBron James should have more freedom to get open and wonít have to create for himself or his teammates every trip down the court. Williams, however, will also be able to play off of James when the ball isnít in his hands, and his nice shooting touch will spread the floor for LeBron to get to the basket much easier. Assuming Mike Brown doesnít just give the ball to LeBron every play and wait for things to happen, this team is much more well-rounded and prepared for a long Playoff run, and their offense will likely show it.
Defense: Cleveland certainly is not among the defensive elite in the NBA, but they can hold their own with just about any team. Big Ben Wallace is still a solid post-defender, but he has definitely lost a few steps to his game. Along with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, though, they provide a formidable punch on the inside that few teams can contend with. Throw in the always energetic Anderson Varejao and teams have fits trying to score in the post against the Cavaliers. LeBron James has shown improvement on the perimeter and had some success containing Paul Pierce in the Playoffs. James is far from becoming a great defender, but with his continued development, he could get there soon. With Mo Williams, the backcourt has a good man to man defender who can rebound the ball, despite being undersized. The defense has changed very little since last season, so the Cavs will still be a tough team to play, but the team has to be at least remotely worried about the aging big men in the rotation.
Strengths: LeBron James. He is the biggest strength for this team. With a solid point guard at his side, he will only be more dangerous. James is already one of the best players in the game, without question, and remember, he is still just 23 years of age.
Weaknesses: Even though the Cavaliers do have LeBron James, they just donít seem to know what to do with the offense. As mentioned earlier, almost all of the offensive plays relied on LeBron James to create the scoring opportunities. The Cavs were only able to average 96.4 points per game last season, which is heavily due to the time consuming plays they used. With Mo Williams they hope they wonít have these problems anymore, but until the season starts, itís anyoneís guess as to how the offense will be run.
Five Players to Watch:
LeBron James - Well, LeBron James is the top player on the Cleveland Cavaliers, and itís not even close. Everyone knows how amazing the King is, so we donít need to go into much detail. LeBron James is always one of the top vote-getters for the MVP award, and this year could be the year. It might not be shocking, but the Most Valuable Player in the NBA might very well be LeBron James in 2009.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas - Big Z is now 33 years old, but he still has some gas in the tank. His mid-range shooting brings some versatility to the lineup, and he provides some good defense in the post. What is most underrated about Ilgauskasí game is his passing. He makes very smart passes, especially out of double-teams, and isnít a bad playmaker from the post. His numbers definitely donít show how good a passer he is, but when he has the ball, he usually makes the smart play.
Mo Williams - Mo Williams was trusted in the clutch almost as much as Michael Redd last year for the Milwaukee Bucks. Williams has shown a no fear attitude when playing late in games, and is a reliable shooter when forced to take the big shot. This will help take even more pressure off of LeBron James, and will add yet another target for James in crunch time. Williams is a good all-around player and is a triple-double threat on any given night. His point guard play could improve if given the chance this year by playing alongside LeBron. However, if the ball is always in Jamesí hands, Williams could just become a designated shooter, and his playmaking abilities would be obsolete. Hopefully this does not happen.
Ben Wallace - Big Ben is a former four-time Defensive Player of the Year. Thatís right; he won the award FOUR times. Wallace sure didnít look like the beast he used to be and he isnít getting any younger. Wallace is still very intimidating, though, and is a solid presence in the post. His offensive skills are nearly nonexistent, and when heís on the floor, the Cavs are usually going four-on-five against the opposing defense. He is also an easy target for fouls due to his horrid free-throw shooting. His offense wonít get any better, and his defense is on the decline, but Ben Wallace is still a valuable player for the Cavaliers and he could help push them far into the Playoffs.
Mike Brown - Mike Brown has been a good coach for the Cavaliers, but he has trouble making the right decisions. The offense he usually runs would be very ineffective if not for the fact he has LeBron James on his team. With Mo Williams, Brown has more opportunities to create better plays for the offense and he wonít have to put everything on LeBronís shoulders. Whether he changes things up, though, is still a mystery.
Title Hopes: The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James, so they have a good shot at the NBA Championship. With Mo Williams, LeBron has yet another solid role player that could actually help push them past the rest of the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics are still extremely powerful and the Detroit Pistons havenít changed for the worse, so getting out of the East will be just as difficult as last season. The Finals is a possibility for the Cavs, but the Celtics are just too good, and the Cavs likely still need a year before they surpass the Celtics and the Pistons in the East. LeBron, however, could easily prove me wrong.
Prediction: 2nd Place, Central Division