Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don't Lie:
This team will be better in 2008-09, though, and not just because of Williams. It will also be better in spite of the continued drop-off for the squad’s (sometimes, in the case of the last two) well-meaning older types like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ben
Wallace, and Wally Szczerbiak.
You see, James’ increased production will make up for that drop off. Should he continue to improve at the rate he’s improved at from year to year (with one noticeable fall-off in 2006-07), James should be doing some pretty legendary stuff this season, assuming his play over the last few seasons hasn’t been exemplary enough. Throw in Daniel Gibson getting a wee bit better, Anderson Varejao being in shape from the beginning of the year, Delonte West’s weird neck tattoos, and Williams’ presence, and you have a team that has as good a chance as any to make it to the Finals.
This is all dependent on a healthy team, though, and James’ continued growth. A month-long injury to Williams or Big Z could have the Cavs struggling to top .500. You have to wish that it didn’t have to be that way, just treading water. I wish a player like this had a better group to work with, but that’s not going to be the case this year or next; not until Cleveland’s payroll falls to essentially nil in 2010.
So, fingers crossed until then, and in the meantime, prepare for some missed lay-ups, not enough fast breaks, some 78-76 wins, and another underrated season for the ages from LeBron.
Expected Record: 47-35
47 wins seems a bit low, but I believe he's accounting for injuries.
Ian Thomsen, SI.com:
The Cavaliers are my No. 2 team in the East because they should start the year without the issues that hurt them early last season, when Anderson Varejao and
Sasha Pavlovic were holding out. The team that almost knocked off Boston in the
second round has progressed by adding Mo Williams, a deep shooter at point guard. Another improvement by trade may be forthcoming too.
ESPN has a whole bunch of rankngs. Some are good, like ESPN's resident Cavs fluffer Chris Broussard:
CENTRAL: 1 EAST: 2 The unquestioned leader of the Redeem Team, LeBron will be spurred by the pain of past Cavs losses. He'll focus on delivering a high playoff seed and getting after it defensively. Oh, and Mo Williams will be a big help, too.
and Marc Stein ain't bad either:
CENTRAL: 1 EAST: 2 LeBron is only getting older, smarter and better. And he just got a good bit of help via the Mo Williams trade. The Cavs played Boston pretty close in the playoffs without Williams, if memory serves.
But they also have douchebags like...
CENTRAL: 2 EAST: 6 If the regular season really, truly mattered to LeBron, there's no reason the Cavs couldn't win 55-plus. He's that good. I can't see why his Olympic commitment won't be cause to coast at times again.
CENTRAL: 2 EAST: 5 This should be the year that LeBron emerges as the MVP of the league. Everyone knows the Cavs play great defense, but the addition of Mo Williams finally gives Cleveland another potent offensive weapon. If they click, the Cavs will be dangerous.
CENTRAL: 2 EAST: 5 Curious to see what Danny Ferry turns Wally Szczerbiak's expiring contract into. Mo Williams is a big upgrade from Delonte West at the point, and Daniel Gibson could win the Sixth Man award, but they don't have enough frontcourt scoring to help LBJ in the postseason.
I really don't see how the Cavs end up fifth in the East, let alone sixth. Look, both Philly and Toronto will be improved, but I really don't know by how much. Philly could become a top-4 team in the East, but I don't see them as much more than that. I think Detroit might decline a little; they'll still be good, but they won't be as good.
And as long as we're doing previews by douchebags, here's Charley Rosen on Mike Brown:
During Mike Brown's tenure the Cavs have brought in a continuing series of secondary saviors — including Damon Jones, Larry Hughes, Ben Wallace and MoNice argument, Charley. As far as second bananas go, only Hughes was really expected to be Robin to James' Batman. Yes, we all have high expectations for Mo WIlliams, but I don't think anyone disagrees that the Cavs still need another piece and that if James is No 1, Williams is more like 2a. As for Ben Wallace and Damon Jones, they were never expected to be more than role players anyways.
Williams. Should Cleveland fail to return to the Finals, the bigwigs just may decide that the problem sits on the bench. Forget about the Cavs' shortcomings in the bigs department, Brown will take the fall.
This is the best Cavalier team that we've had in the LeBron era. Bar none. The bench is deeper (I don't think anyone realizes how much having Delonte come off the bench should help the offense. With Williams, West and James, there should never be a time where the Cavs don't have a competent ball handler on the court), the addition of Mo Williams and JJ Hickson will add new dimensions to the offense (pushing the ball and an athletic big) and James will continue to dominate.
As far as Brown goes, remember, this is the first time in his tenure where he has an honest to God point guard (and he's got two!). No Larry Hughes, no Eric Snow and no Damon Jones... This is new territory for the Cavs coach. Plus, we go from seeing Gibson, Jones, Snow, Varejao and Donyell Marshall coming off the bench to Gibson, West, Wally, Varejao and Hickson.
Obviously, we've all had issues with Brown's offense, but the lack of point guard couldn't have helped matters. I don't think Brown is really on the hot seat (meaning, I don't think he's in danger of being fired mid-season) but if we enter next offseason with the same gripes about the offense, I believe there's a better than average chance that he'll be let go.
I don't usually like to make predictions of wins and losses, because a lot can happen during a season. But if the Cavs stay healthy (a big IF, considering the age of their starting front line), then I'd say the Cavs break the 50 win mark and somewhere between 52 and 56 wins.
But if there's a rash on injuries (especially if Wallace and Z miss months at a time) then I could see them slipping into 46-50 range (barring a trade).
And there's the thing: a trade. With Wally Szczerbiak's $15 million deal coming off the (not to mention Eric Snow's cool $8 million) the Cavs should be in a prize spot to grab any players from teams looking to dump salary. The obvious candidate is Vince Carter (or anyone on the Knicks), but I wonder about...
(brace for it)....
You're tellin me that guy wouldn't be the perfect low post threat to pair with James and Willaims? Sure, he's undersized, but he has a sweet jumper, an array of moves on the block and he rebounds like a fiend. Sure, he's got some baggage coming back here (to say the least), but he's been the subject of trade rumors for awhile now, it's not out of the question that he gets dealt.
(and besides the Knicks, Carter and Boozer, I'd also keep an eye on the fortunes of the Dallas Mavericks. They don't compete in the West, if I'm Danny Ferry, I'm calling up Mark Cuban every day, asking about Dirk and Josh Howard).
So ya, I can see this team getting anywhere from 45-55 wins, depending on how things shake out. If I had to pin down a number, I'd say 53.