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The Biggest Question the Cleveland Cavaliers Face in 2013-14

August 24th, 2013 at 8:57 AM
By Pat Murphy

'Cleveland Cavaliers vs Atlanta Hawks' photo (c) 2010, Dan Fornal - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The Cleveland Cavaliers are set to enter their most anticipated season since the departure of LeBron James.

With the free agent additions of Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, and Earl Clark and the draft picks – Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev, and Carrick Felix – there is reason to be exited.

Bynum is literally and figuratively the biggest free agent signing in a long time for the Cavaliers. The two-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers brings with him a winning mentality and tons of potential in the post.

Jack and Clark are both players that don't garner the attention of a signing like Bynum, but could easily have as large of an impact. Jack provides Cleveland with a bona fide backup guard, who could start if needed. He can score, assist, and run a team as well as most in the league, plus he has a lot of experience in the NBA.

Clark had a breakout season last year with the Lakers and will look to continue the upward trend this season. Cavaliers' head coach Mike Brown was a the man who brought Clark to Los Angeles, so he will be expecting big things from him in Cleveland.

It is always difficult to peg how a rookie will do and they can only be counted on to an extent, but the Cavaliers believe they have some good ones this season. Bennett may not have been everyone's pick at number one, but those in charge think that he has a bright future for the Cavaliers. Karasev brings international experience from playing with Russia and should be a dangerous outside threat for years to come.

Add all of this in with the group the Cavs return from last season – namely Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao – and it becomes easy to see where this excitement is coming from.

The problem for the Cavaliers is how many of their key players tend to suffer injuries on a regular basis (they do not want to be called injury prone).

'Kyrie Irving' photo (c) 2012, Erik Drost - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ Since the ball starts with Irving, that is where we will start.

Over his two NBA seasons, Irving has missed 38 games. This number may not seem high, but broken down Irving has missed over a quarter of the games since he turned professional.

On top of this, the guard only played in 11 games during his one season at Duke due to a ligament injury in the ninth game of the season.

Irving has played through injuries as well, so it is not as if these are the only times he has been hurt.

Despite the added talent around him, Cleveland needs a healthy Kyrie in order to be successful this year and going forward. If he is absent, the team cannot run the way they desire. The arrival of Jack, who could move into Irving's spot if necessary, is good, but that leaves a void in the reserve role.

The next issue is Bynum. The big man's injury history has been well documented, specifically that he did not play at all last season with the Philadelphia 76ers because of multiple injuries. This did help the Cavaliers get him at a cheaper price, but it will not help if his problems persist going forward.

Only once in Bynum's eight-year career has he played in all 82 games. What causes people the most fear is that Bynum has had many knee issues and as a 7-footer this becomes even more problematic than it is with other players.

Because of the way the contract is structured, Bynum will have to stay healthy this season. History is not on his side, but this version seems driven to prove doubters wrong.

Varejao has also become a victim to the injury bug in recent seasons. Multiple times in his career, Varejao has played over 75 games, yet he has not played more than 31 in any of the last three seasons.

The absence of Varejao has been a concern for the Cavaliers during that span. Though it has forced young players like Thompson and Tyler Zeller to mature quickly, Cleveland expects the Brazilian to be in the lineup.

There have often been rumors that Varjeao would be dealt at the trade deadline, 'Anderson Varejao' photo (c) 2012, Erik Drost - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ but he has not been healthy that far into the season in order to be traded. Fans want to see a healthy Varejao be on the court for the Cavaliers with his new teammates this season and you can expect that he will work to do so.

Though those are the main players who worry the Cleveland coaching staff, they are not the only players who have had problems staying healthy in the past.

Jack spent much of the last three years in the training room recovering from injury, only playing in 13 games in the 2010-11 season. Clark dealt with nagging injuries last season and there is no telling how the rookies will respond to an 82-game NBA schedule.

Though there are many reasons to be optimistic about this season's Cavaliers team, there are concerns as well. This team needs to stay healthy so they can adjust to each other on the court.

If this happens, this could be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference this year and beyond.

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Tags: Anderson Varejao, Andrew Bynum, Anthony Bennett, Basketball, Cleveland, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dion Waiters, Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers, Sergey Karasev, Tristan Thompson

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