Cavs basketball is respectable this year. After going 19-63 last season, an 8-12 start this year is an improvement. More important than their record, the culture around this team shows a world of difference. Guys care more, fight more and there's more talent and experience on the team. Rookie Kyrie Erving has definitely been part of this change. What may go under the radar is the job coach Byron Scott's doing and the health (and performance) of role players like Anderson Varejo (fear Andy's hair!).
The Cavs don't have the mentality they had last year. Last season, the Cavs looked as if they were ready to leave the arena as soon as the game started. They knew they were going to take a beating, and the got a win once in a while. The effort wasn't there. The season looked to be over soon after it began. How do the Cavs look this year and how did they get away from such mediocrity?
The Cavs are hungry this season. They want to win and have confidence. Despite their youth, inexperience and talent deficits, the sheer belief that they can beat anyone is evident. Say what you want about the Cavs, but that mental approach is vital. Whatever it takes to win is on the table. Whether that's hustling for a loose ball, saving a ball to a teammate before going out of bounds, or going up for a second or third attempt at the basket, the Cavs do what's necessary.
This didn't happen overnight. The Cavs can thank their new young players, who not only brought new energy and talent, but reenergized veterans and role players. Kyrie Erving isn't the only young gun brining the heat. Omri Casspi, Alanzo Gee and heck, even Semih Erden has shown flashes. Casspi is in his first season with the Cavs. He's an energy guy. Casspi can shoot, defend and run the floor. Casspi fits perfectly into a more energized Cavs squad.
Alanzo Gee is an athletic guy who's beginning to expand his game. While Alanzo is known for his dunks, Gee is showing he can do more the jam. His defense is better, he can steal the ball decently and his outside shooting is improving (his mid-range game is polished). Gee is still young at 24; he'll continue to become more well rounded.
Semih Erden doesn't play a whole lot, but his game has potential. He has some nice moves in the post and his touch is great for a big man. While he's got to show more consistency, when he's on, it looks solid. Erden will need more playing time to develop a rhythm, but he certainly could be a serviceable backup big.
Kyrie Erving's contributions can almost go unacknowledged. He's the rock for this team. Erving runs the show, has the poise of an older player and has the talent to boot. Erving must continue to play through the struggles of his rookie season to propel his team. How far they go is really dependent on how much Erving brings it.
Anderson Varejo and Antawn Jamison look revitalized. Varejo is healthy now and he and Jamison must be fueled by winning more. They have a more positive vibe in life and on the floor. Kyrie Erving dishing them the ball can't hurt either. Having everyone positive and energized makes a huge difference in performance. Varejo and Jamison are integral to the Cavs playing well.
Can the Cavs do much this season? No. The probably won't even make the playoffs. Not every team is in a position to expect to make the playoffs. The great thing for the organization and the city is that this team is moving in right direction. If you understand the Cavs energy night in and night out, you know the culture is changing. Cavs basketball is in the right hands. Cavs fans must now give it time to pass down. Wish the Cavs luck on their journey back to contention!