TrueHoop Network 09-10 Season Preview: Cleveland

October 26th, 2009 by John Krolik

Editor’s Note: Here’s my Cavs chapter from the soon-to-come TrueHoop Network 09-10 Season Preview. In the book, everything looks much better and shinier, and I definitely recommend checking it out when you get the chance-any formatting ugliness here is a reflection on the arduous cut-and-paste from a PDF, not of the book itself. So anyways, hope you enjoy-there’s some overlap from my SLAM preview, but both are different takes on the fundamental truths about this team (as I see them) from last year to this year. So Enjoy, and get excited for a freaking awesome season here at Cavs: The Blog. Mo Williams preview tonight.

Last Season’s Record: 66-16

Crystal Ball Says:

The Consensus Prediction of the TrueHoop Network Bloggers…and My Own.

Crowd Says: 61-21

Cavs: The Blog Says: 63-19

Yes We Can!

A Preview of What’s To Come From A Cavs-Centric Viewpoint. (Mine.)

The 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers were essentially a 66-win team with the overall structure of a 50-win team. When’s the last time you can remember a 60-win team with one top-tier player? In terms of Player Efficiency Rating, no Cavalier other than LeBron James was in the top 10 at their position, and only Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Mo Williams were even among the top 15. Despite the increased win total and fanfare around the improved supporting cast, make no mistake — this was still a one-man team.

John Hollinger’s Estimated Wins Added, a mixture of minutes played and PER, is a rough metric, but it still tells us a few things about LeBron James’ role on the Cavaliers. Only Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul, with EWA totals of 30 and 28, respectively, even approached LeBron’s 32 Estimated Wins Added, and both of them played on extremely thin teams thatneeded their huge contributions just to make the playoffs. The gap between Le-Bron’s EWA total and the No. 4 player, Dwight Howard, was a full 12 wins. If you replaced LeBron’s EWA total with Hedo Turkoglu, the 14th-best small forward in the league last year in terms of EWA, the Cavaliers would have lost an estimated 26 wins, which would have made them a 40-win team.

The thing is, the Cavaliers have managed to build an excellent one-man team. Defense doesn’t require superstars, and Mike Brown is one of the best defen-sive coaches in the league. The Cavs were the third-best team in defensiveefficiency last season. (Although LeBron’s improved defense, good for a No. 2 finish in DPOY voting, also helped in that regard.) Offensively, almost every role player the Cavaliers employed last season was both brilliant in his role and as a complement to LeBron James, either through dead-eye shooting to stretch the floor for James or good enough playmaking to free up James to work off the ball and keep defenses from loading up the strong side against James.

After last season’s playoff heartbreak, Danny Ferry has changed up the equation by bringing in more talent with Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Leon Powe, rookie Danny Green, and Shaq to the roster while losing only Joe Smith, Sasha Pavlovic, and Ben Wallace. However, Shaq could disrupt the delicate offensive and defensive chemistry the Cavaliers rode to 66 wins and the conference finals,despite the fact he will be the best player LeBron has ever played with if he continues to play like he did last season. The big question for the Cavs this season is whether they overreacted to two clutch 3s by Rashard Lewis or made the risk they needed to take to finally get LeBron a ring.

NO YOU WON’T

A Less-Than-Flattering Take on The Cavs From a Beloved Colleague.

“Can you guess the significance of these numbers: 59, 40, 61, 75? No, they’re not the numbers from Lost, they’re the amount of regular games Shaq has played over the last few seasons. Odds are at 37 years of age the Big Twitter will miss a chunk of time, and the Cavs have to hope that it won’t cost them the No. 1 seed or occur during the playoffs. Additionally one of Cleveland’s weaknesses against the Magic was not being able to matchup with their mobile power forwards, something the team failed to address.”

– Mike Kurylo / Knicker Blogger

ALL-A-TWITTER

140 characters that cut to the heart of the team’s struggle and the American Dream, or are funny.

Shaq’s Twitter feed as a whole probably wins the award here. I’m going withpossibly the most influential tweet: “To all twitterers , if u c me n public come sayhi, we r not the same we r from twitteronia, we connect”

ON THE RECORD

Single Best Quote Concerning the Team in the Past 12 Months.

“My motto is simple: Win a Ring for the King.”

-Shaquille O’Neal

LAST SEASON’S ALMANAC

The Bare-Bones Numbers From 08-09.

Offense: 4th

Defense: 3rd

Pace: 25th

Team Factor Strength(s): Shooting Allowed (2nd), Shooting (4th)

Team Factor Weakness(es): none

THE PLAY

Down One Point, One Possession Left, Season on the Line. What’s the Play?

Get the ball to LeBron James, run ISO or pick-and-roll, watch what happens. LeBron in the clutch, despite the fact he doesn’t have a ring, was just freaky lastyear. He averaged 56 points, 14.3 rebounds and 12.6 assists per 48 minutes in what 82games.com defines as “clutch” situations last year.. And it works for the team-the Cavs were one of the best teams in close games ever in 2007-08, and they wouldn’t have won 66 games last year without winning a lot of close ones. The Cavs are predictable in the clutch. So is an Atom Bomb. It still works.

THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE

Someone whose merits are better expressed by his place in the fans’ hearts than his production on the stat sheet so far.

J.J. Hickson, a fabulous athlete who has shown flashes of extreme skill in limited minutes and might be the most offensively talented big LeBron has ever played with (until Shaq comes), but hasn’t shown the defensive acumen to be in Mike Brown’s rotation.

IF YOU’RE WATCHING THE BOTTOM LINE, YOU’RE WATCHING THIS

The Single Biggest Cap-Related Concern About the Team.

Well, Delonte West’s contract isn’t guaranteed past 2010. Seriously, though, the Cavs have the biggest free agent in history looming over their head. Theremight never have been the kind of pressure on a franchise like there is on the Cavaliers this year. Nobody’s sure what will happen, but the general feeling is that LeBron will likely stay if the Cavs win it all this season and seriously consider walking if they don’t. The consequences of this don’t really need to be described. There’s not much more to say here that hasn’t been said already and will be said a whole lot more over the course of the next season. Gulp.

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