The Cleveland Cavaliers have a single superstar, surrounded by questionable talent. That superstar, selected with the draft's first overall pick, is expected to elevate the franchise back to the playoffs and out of perpetual lottery visits. The front office in Cleveland makes one questionable move after another, leaving outsiders wondering when the superstar will finally get the supporting cast he deserves.
If the Cavaliers hadn't lucked into Kyrie Irving (thanks to the Clippers ineptitude, never forget), they would be challenging the Bobcats as the worst team in the league. Irving is a phenomenal talent. Easily one of the top young point guards in the game. I mean, have you seen the video from the Team USA scrimmages this summer? The one where Irving dribbles through Kobe, Durant, Westbrook and Harden...all at once?
And the kid can score better than anyone expected him to out of college. He is, without question, the centerpiece of the Cavs organization for the foreseeable future. Every move Cleveland makes should be geared around acquiring players who mesh with Irving's style, and who complement his skill set. And yet the Cavs continue to compound their mistakes in the most familiar ways.
After selecting Irving first overall in last year's draft, the Cavs also held the fourth overall pick. Current Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas was on the board, widely considered one of the top talents in the draft. The concern with Jonas was he might not come over right away. It could be a year or two before he was able to get out of his overseas contract and come to the NBA. Cleveland got scared off, not willing to delay their rebuild, and selected Tristan Thompson. Toronto selected Jonas with the fifth pick, and he joins the Raptors this season.
Now, Tristan Thompson is a nice player. He's a nice piece to have. But he's not a star. Watching him, he's a good offensive rebounder, but struggles to score and turns the ball over too much to justify any sort of a high usage rate. He's not another piece to build around. And that's OK, teams make mistakes in the draft. Especially in the 2011 draft, which seemed shallow and was really difficult to predict. Look at the order today, and it seems completely wrong. Bright young stars slipped while complete non-factors jumped. Cleveland certainly wasn't the only team to struggle when evaluating the talent. The only crticism I have is that the Cavs didn't want to wait on a player like Jonas. Look at the Cavs roster, and it's easy to see that no rookie was going to make that team turn around immediately. They could have afforded to wait.
But then came the 2012 draft. Cleveland once again held the fourth pick, and saw arguably the second best player in the draft fall into their laps (sound familiar?). Instead of taking Thomas Robinson, the Cavs took Dion Waiters, who excelled at Syracuse...as their 6th man. Waiters is an undersized shooting guard who dominated the ball at Syracuse. His shooting is questionable. Does that at all sound like the type of player who complements Irving's game? And the reason the Cavs didn't take Robinson? Because they already had Tristan Thompson. That's how you compound mistakes.
The Cavs will once again be pretty brutal. They'll be well outside the playoffs. Even as Irving continues to develop, he can't carry this team on his own. There's simply too much dead weight. Alonzo Gee and Omri Casspi are "battling" for the starting small forward spot, for crying out loud. That's not to say that Cleveland lacks interesting players. I loved the draft pick of Tyler Zeller, and having Anderson Varejao back should help. They won't be a doormat, but they'll still lose quite often.
I don't dislike Cleveland, I just don't like ugly basketball. And their fans deserve something to cheer for. Just imagine how exciting the Cavs could be if they were entering this season with Irving, Jonas, and Robinson.