Hollinger: Cavs won’t have homecourt in playoffs

I know it’s mandated that ESPN writers hate on Cleveland, but 5th? In the East? Really?:

The Cavs aren’t really built to be a good regular-season team, and if James misses any time they’re going to rapidly slip in the standings — they lost all seven games that he missed last year.

But they should be better than they were last season. Having Varejao around for a full season will do wonders for the defense, and Williams is a major upgrade at the point. Plus, there’s the possibility of doing something much more grand with Szczerbiak’s expiring deal and really remaking this team into an offensive force.

Too many holes remain for this team to outlast mainstays like the Pistons and Celtics for a top seed. The frontcourt is counting on two aging warhorses in Ilgauskas and Wallace, the shooting guard situation is dicey at best and, other than Varejao, the bench offers decent role players but little real quality.

Fortunately, they have James, and in a playoff series that makes them a threat to beat anyone — even Boston, as we learned last spring. The problem is they’re going to have to do it on the road, because they aren’t built to handle the 82-game grind that precedes the playoffs.

Prediction: 47-35, 2nd in Central Division, T-5th in Eastern Conference

What kills me is that he mentions that the Cavs lost every game James sat out last year… like he was the only one hurt (Z, Varejao, Pavlovic, Hughes and Gooden all missed time).

5th? Please give this team a reason to have a chip on its’ shoulder. Please.

[UPDATE] Well, Marc Stein has ’em ranked 6th…. overall:

Although trading for Michael Redd was a nice fantasy, getting Mo Williams off the Bucks is hardly a consolation prize. He’s a younger version of the Mike — Bibby — Cleveland tried for years to add and should give Bron help.

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8 Responses to Hollinger: Cavs won’t have homecourt in playoffs

  1. Erik says:

    Let me save everyone some time on Bill Simmons’ Cavs prediction: 35-47, no playoffs, LeBron threatens to sit out if he’s not traded to the Nets midseason.

  2. The Other Ben says:

    I would be shocked if this team did not get 50+ wins. This offense is going to be the most dynamic since Lebron got here (what a surprise!!!) and Mike Brown can still coach defense. I said it before and Ill say it again, I fully expect Hickson and Jackson to make and impact this year. Highly talented and polished college guys who have 10/6 potential their first year out. I still say this season banks on the play of our 2 guard. Its going to be tough overcoming another season if Wally, Sasha, and to a lesser excent, West are not consistant night in night out.

  3. graham says:

    If LeBron stays healthy and Mo performs close to what he did in Milwaukee (my biggest concern), then I can’t see the Cavs finishing worse than 3rd in the conference and more likely a 1 or 2 seed.

    Other Ben – I’d be (pleasantly) shocked if Hickson and Darnell both contribute anything signficant this year. I think we need to temper our expectations for JJ as well – rookies contributing significantly for championship contenders isn’t unheard of, but highly unlikely.

  4. Ben says:

    I do think the Cavs have a stud (prospect) in Hickson. I do believe he’s going to be the starting PF for years down the line. However, I’ll be shocked if he gets more than 10 minutes a night.

    Mike Brown doesn’t seem to play rookies too often… but if Hickson can really focus on his defense, he could get some PT. It’s not a bad thing that he’s on a team with Z and Ben Wallace either….

  5. Erik says:

    While I do think Hollinger was reaching to find reasons to knock the Cavs (i.e. “The Cavs have some solid role players on the bench but little else” — what else ARE you supposed to have on the bench, short of Manu Ginobili?) I think he brings up a legitimate point about the frontcourt, which is a little too old and lacking in depth for my comfort.

    The Cavs could be in a world of hurt if they find themselves without the services of Z and Wallace for an extended period. And I still say that’s a probably scenario. Both have backs in terrible shape, Wallace has a messed-up shoulder, and at best, both are going to need to be nursed along later in the season to stay somewhat fresh for the playoffs.

    Even with all the magic LBJ can work, if the Cavs want to have a chance to knock out Boston and Detroit, they’re going to need both those guys on the floor to bang and rebound and D up on KG.

    So maybe the solution is to play smaller during the regular season. Get a smaller, floor-running unit together with Andy at the 5 and LBJ at the 4, and play an uptempo game. That’s an option the Cavs haven’t really had before, and it might help save Z and Ben for those meat-grinder playoff series when they’ll really be needed.

  6. graham says:

    Erik – the frontcourt depth, or lackthereof, is why I think you’ll see Ferry move Wally and whoever else for an inside presence. It would be real hard to enter the playoffs with just Z, Ben, and AV (figuring that Hickson won’t do much this year). If Hickson does blow up, then it’s a different situation.

  7. Erik says:

    That makes sense, Graham, but what if Wally bounces back to average 13-15 PPG and shoot 40 percent from beyond the arc? Do you really want to lose that production out of the SG spot and leave it to a rotation of Delonte, Sasha and Boobie?

    Delonte belongs coming off the bench behind Mo. He’s a great insurance policy if Mo misses his annual 15-20 games with assorted injuries. Sasha isn’t consistent in any phase of the game, and Boobie is, at this point, a perimeter specialist.

    Wally is a huge trading chip, but he has to be expendable first. And if no one else can step up and effectively absorb his minutes, he might not be all that expendable.

    Besides, maybe the Cavs don’t need to go out and get a starting PF making eight figures. They might just need more veteran depth. Maybe they can re-acquire Joe Smith from OKC at the deadline.

  8. Ben says:

    Wally is either getting traded for another shooting guard or a power foward/center.

    I do think you’ll see the Cavs go small for somewhat extended periods of time. Getting Williams allows the Cavs to go small (with James at the 4 or even 5) and it gives them an added wrinkle that hasn’t been available to them in previous teams.

    Going small should help speed up parts of the game AND allow Z and Big Ben to rest/miss games without a significant drop off in overall team production.

    The big issue for the Cavs is making sure Wallace and Z are healthy come playoff time. It doesn’t mean jack if they play all 82 games but are worn down for the postseason.

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