Both the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers were quite busy revamping their rosters this off-season. The Cavaliers have put together a team that is filled with talent in an effort to attract a big free-agent next summer, but in the process they have also put themselves in a spot to make the playoffs this season.
In part two of our pre-season previews we will breakdown the matchups that will take place when the Nets and Cavs take the court this season.
This is a matchup between two of the top point guards in the league. Irving had his coming out party last season, averaging 22.5 points, 5.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds. He has the ability to shoot from deep (39% last season) and get to the rim at ease. Defensively, he is a pest around the ball and causes a lot of turnovers. Williams should put up great numbers this season but at this point the slight edge goes to Irving, who could be a top three point guard this season if his growth continues.
Shooting Guard- Joe Johnson v.s. Dion Waiters
Waiters is coming off a solid rookie season where he averaged 14.7 points per game and had his ups and downs. Just last week Waiters played in the Vegas Summer League and he seemed lackadaisical and uninterested on the court and therefore raising some red flags. Johnson will have to adjust playing in a non-isolation offense and not having the ball in his hands at all times, but if he accepts his role in this offense he could excel. He also has a considerable size advantage over Waiters and should have no problem shooting over the top of him.
Small Forward- Paul Pierce v.s. Alonzo Gee
Gee had a good season on a bad team last season, averaging 10 points and four rebounds a game and started every game for the Cavs. However, despite his age Pierce is still a very good player who can do it all averaging 18.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists last season with the Boston Celtics. He is now a, self-proclaimed, "glorified role player" which is the perfect spot for a player of his age who still has some gas left in the tank.
Power Forward- Kevin Garnett v.s. Tristan Thompson
Thompson is developing into a very good, young player who had a terrific sophomore season averaging 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds. He will continue to grow as a player and should benefit from playing under Mike Brown, who is a defensive genius. But Garnett is still Garnett, and even at 37 years old he can still completely change a game on both sides of the ball.
Two years ago this would not have even been a question; Bynum was quickly becoming a superstar and Lopez still had a lot of work to do. Over the last two years this matchup has done a complete 180, Lopez is now one of the top centers in the NBA and Bynum hasn’t been able to get on the court due to injury issues. The Cavaliers gave Bynum a contract, taking a chance on the injury prone big man hoping to catch lightning in a bottle, but until he can prove that he can become the player he was in Los Angeles this one goes to Lopez.
Bench- The Cavaliers have a lot of talent on the bench bringing back 3 point specialist C.J. Miles, high energy big man Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller, who had a surprisingly good rookie season. Then they added veteran guard Jarrett Jack and forward Earl Clark in free agency to go along with 3 talented rookies in the draft, including #1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, Russian sharpshooter Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix.
The Nets also added a ton of depth to their bench, bringing back Andray Blatche and adding Andrei Kirilenko, Jason Terry, Shaun Livingston, Mason Plumlee, and Alan Anderson.
Bench Backcourt- Jarrett Jack and C.J. Miles are really good players coming off the bench and could start on a number of teams in the league. Although Livingston and Terry are more than capable players coming off the bench, the advantage is in the Cavs' favor. Jack has proven he can play alongside a top, young point guard in Golden State and is a good veteran leader to go along with a very young team.
Bench Frontcourt- Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller, Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev and Earl Clark are all extremely talented players but they are a young and unproven group for the most part. Blatche, Kirilenko, Reggie Evans and Anderson are all veterans who know how to play within their roles.
X-Factor- Andrew Bynum.
If Bynum is able to be the player he was for the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cavaliers could surprise a lot of people in the Eastern Conference this season. This is a big "if" considering Bynum has not played in an NBA game in quite some time. If Bynum, doesn't produce at a high level, the Cavaliers are likely a borderline playoff team that will be bounced from the playoffs in the first round.
Nets – Five Cavaliers- Two
These are two teams that have really improved themselves over this summer and could potentially be a first round playoff matchup. For now the edge goes to the Nets who have the experience, but the Cavaliers are a talented team on the rise.
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