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NBA Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving from Duke University smiles before the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark

Kyrie Irving from Duke University smiles as he takes his seat before the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark, New Jersey, June 23, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


Last Season: 19-63

Head Coach: Byron Scott

Key Additions: Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Omri Casspi

Key Departures: Baron Davis, J.J. Hickson

Best case scenario: A spirited campaign for a near-.500 record and a slim chance at grabbing the 8th playoff spot in the East.

For that to happen: Kyrie Irving comes on strong, the team’s offense runs through him, and the team gets a sense of identity as a slashing, run-and-gun offensive team. Anderson Varejao comes back healthy with energy and, just maybe, a passable yet ugly mid-range jumper, which would allow him to share the floor with Tristan Thompson. Thompson’s energy and shot-blocking completely transforms the Cavaliers’ mentality on defense, and combines with Varejao to give the Cavaliers a high-quality defensive frontcourt. Antawn Jamison starts pretending to care about defense, gets traded, or gets hit by a sudden burst of inspiration in the middle of the night and quits basketball in order to direct a doomed film adaptation of The Crying of Lot 49.

More likely scenario: Irving goes through some growing pains offensively and struggles to balance looking for his own shot with setting up his teammates. Thompson’s offensive game and poor defensive rebounding make Cavalier fans wish they were waiting for Jonas Valanciunas. Antawn Jamison continues to make the Cavaliers play 4-on-5 defensively.

Prediction: 18-22 wins and a high lottery pick.