As the season opener commences Tuesday there is much anticipation over how the new roster will perform. The preseason revealed many bright spots on the roster beyond LeBron, such as Derrick Rose’s reemergence, Jae Crowder’s two-way play, and Jeff Green’s incredible athleticism. Yet the NBA regular season is not as straightforward and predictable as people claim during the offseason. Trades, injuries, coaching, and team chemistry can all decide a team’s fate and may either open or close doors to the playoffs for other teams immediately. Because we can expect things to not go as planned, here are 5 possible transactions or occurrences that we may see this season.
1. Kyle Korver drops out of rotation
Kyle Korver is one my favorite players to watch because of his off-ball movement and quick trigger, but his value will diminish this season. Korver has been a SG/SF combination his whole career but his skillset fits much more at shooting guard. The Cavs already have Dwyane Wade and J.R. Smith as shooting guards, and forward Jeff Green’s strong preseason performance could lead to more playing time for him in certain lineups. Additionally, Isaiah Thomas will return around Christmas and push Rose to the bench, creating a pileup of guards off the bench. Ultimately, it is a matter of whether the Cavs want to play Korver or Smith as their three-point threat in the second half of the season, and Smith should win that battle.
2. Ante Zizic will see some extended minutes this season
The Cavs are still noticeably thin at the power forward and center positions even in the era of small-ball lineups. If either Tristan Thompson or Kevin Love experience an injury that could result in weeks on the sideline, Zizic may need to step up as a backup big. Channing Frye is always there but it seemed clear during the preseason that the coaches didn’t have a spot for him in the rotation. Zizic is younger and a more well-rounded big compared to Frye which leaves the potential for growth throughout the year. If Zizic can play quality minutes when he first hits the court this season, expect Tyronn Lue to keep putting him out there.
3. DeMarcus Cousins will be a trade deadline acquisition
After realizing that the current roster, while very dominant, likely won’t be able to beat the Warriors, Koby Altman decides to add another superstar to the team. The Pelicans may miss the playoffs once again in a loaded Western Conference, and with DeMarcus Cousins on his final year of his contract so he is a candidate to be dealt at the trade deadline. The Cavs have the necessary components to offer New Orleans in a trade as well as a championship-level roster that will convince Cousins to resign. A package of Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and the highly valuable Brooklyn first-round pick should be enough in exchange for Cousins. This may be the best opportunity for the Cavs to beat Golden State and I can only see the Cavs making a deal of this nature in order to do so.
4. Cavs won’t have 40 wins at all-star break but will still get #1 seed
The Eastern Conference is weak and there are no teams other than Cleveland that I guarantee won’t lose 30 games with a healthy roster. Boston, Washington, Toronto, and Milwaukee are all teams who have the potential to get 50 wins in the East but it is doubtful any of them will explode early and seal the #1 seed within months. The Cavs are going to have a slow start with so many new pieces to the team, but I think they will have a great stretch of games following the all-star break to propel them to the top spot. Last year’s regular season was underwhelming, but this year may perhaps be the opportunity to rest key players for certain games and still finish on top. Even without winning 40 games by the all-star break, a season with 55+ wins is still very achievable with this squad.
5. Tristan Thompson wins Sixth Man Award
If the Cavs acquire another center before the trade deadline, Tristan Thompson is an incredible favorite to win the Sixth Man Award. He will start the season off the bench but will likely be the first to crack a starting spot if someone is injured or struggling. However, the addition of Cousins or a player close to his caliber would make Thompson’s spot as a sixth man much more solidified. Thompson possesses many of the qualities a sixth man usually has, such as bringing energy off the bench, protecting the rim, and establishing a veteran presence on the court. His ability to get putbacks and offensive rebounds will also help pad his stats to make the naked eye test more favorable for Thompson.
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