I'll always enjoy the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs-for-Mavs support back during the 2011 Finals was one of my favorite side stories; anyone who doesn't know Cleveland's sports history, I'm not going to go into it now. Suffice it to say, its been a rough 50 years for this particular fan base. Dallas (5-5) heads to Cleveland Saturday to take on the Cavaliers (2-6), who, like many of the recent Dallas opponents, are having a rough start to the 2012-2013 campaign.
After finishing 21-45 in the 2011-2012 campaign, Cleveland selected Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters with the 4th over all pick. A draft day deal with Dallas resulted in the Cavs getting the 17th pick, with which they selected UNC center Tyler Zeller. Cleveland also signed former Jazz swingman and Texas native C.J. Miles to a contract. Immortal Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody, legendary person Samardo Samuels, and twitter famous Alonzo Gee were also resigned.
Not much of an off-season, really. Why? Well, Rome wasn't built in a day and the Cavs have a cornerstone in place already with guard Kyrie Irving. If you don't know much about Irving, well, shame on you. He is electric, and should be a dominant point guard for the next 10-12 years. This summer he lit the internet on fire with rumors of his play on the USA Select team, which battled against the Senior Mens National team as they prepared for the Olympics. When this GIF surfaced after a practice I'm fairly certain twitter went down for a while.
I see you haven't clicked the link? Why haven't you clicked the link! Do it now! It's Kyrie splitting a trap of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, then spinning past James Harden. You just don't see things like that in real life.
But what about the rest of their team? Well since it's early in the season you might not have heard that Anderson Varejao is having his best start to a season ever, averaging 16 points and 14 rebounds (he put up 35 and 18 against the Nets earlier this week). Tristan Thompson, the other rookie selected by Cleveland last year, is developing nicely, averaging 9 points and 8 rebounds, but he is clearly very young. The aforementioned rookies Waiters and Zellers have played within expectations, though Zeller has been out recently with a concussion and broken face (he'll be playing tonight AND wearing a mask. Get excited!).
All of my gushing over the Cavs aside, this game should be a win for Dallas. Kyrie is a top 5 point guard right now so the best bet for Dallas is simply hope to contain him, which Collison has not proved he can do just yet, surrendering big games to opposing point guards recently. Irving will probably see a variety of defenders tonight. O.J. Mayo should continue his feast on rookie shooting guards on he offensive end, but keeping a player as strong as Waiters out of the lane will be a challenge for Mayo. The small forward match-up between Dahntay Jones and Gee may be a wash, though if Shawn Marion is able to give it a go that's a huge plus in the Mavs favor. Brand versus Varejao should be a treat, and keeping Varejao off the boards will be an absolute necessity for Dallas to win. Kaman on Thompson will be worth watching; after Kaman was lit on fire by Kevin Seraphin Wednesday I hope to see a better defensive effort. Thompson is no where near as polished offensively but is incredibly capable on the boards.
If the battle of the starting line ups is fairly even, why do I expect Dallas to win? As "Fear The Sword" writer Angelo Bendetti explains here, the Cavs bench is really, really bad. Luke Walton sees minutes and other players like Jon Leuer and Samuels have been grossly ineffective. Byron Scott is forced to play his starters heavy minutes and I expect the depth of Dallas to wear the Cavs down over time. I also expect Dallas to play better offense. Sometimes you can't control whether the ball goes through the hoop or not, but since the Mavs contained their rebounding problem until well after the game got out of hand and didn't turn the ball over excessively, the loss to the Pacers can be explained in part by shooting 37% from the floor. Kaman, Collison, heck everyone, needs to take much better shots in the flow of the offense for Dallas to win.
Containing Irving and Varejao on offense, limiting offensive boards, and establishing a consistent flow on offense should lead Dallas to a victory. What do you hope to see from the fellas tonight?