Scouting the Opposition: Cleveland Cavaliers
For every home game this season, we’ll be gathering some intel on the opposing team from someone who knows them best — a team employee, a rival blogger, beat writer or broadcaster.
For the Hawks’ home game Friday night against the Cavaliers, we reached out to Joe Gabriele, the beat writer for Cavs.com, for his take on their team.
His answers are below:
Hawks.com: It’s been a rough start to the season so far for the Cavs. Other than the injury to Kyrie Irving, what has been the biggest reason for the team’s struggles?
Joe Gabriele: The biggest concern so far has been trying to find consistent scoring off the bench. It’s a young team with some new pieces and guys are still adjusting to their roles. Boobie Gibson has been the second unit’s most consistent guy on both ends, but he’s battled some nagging injuries early in the season. Tyler Zeller also dealt with some injuries, but since his return, the reserves have been a more cohesive unit.
Hawks.com: Speaking of Irving, what is the latest on his recovery? How soon do you expect him back?
JG: Kyrie injured his finger in the Dallas game on November 17 and is expected to be out around four weeks – so the team expects him back sometime in mid-December.
Hawks.com: Rookie guard Dion Waiters flew up the draft boards, and some compared his talents to Dwyane Wade coming into the league. That’s pretty high praise. How’s he looking so far?
JG: That’s really high praise, but Dion’s been very good so far this season. He’s had a couple big games and a couple where he’s looked like a 20-year-old rookie. The injury to Kyrie has forced him to play on the ball quite a bit – a role he did well with in Summer League – and he’s been pretty impressive in that spot so far in the regular season. When he’s got it rolling, Dion is really fun to watch.
Hawks.com: Anderson Varejao has always been considered a hustle guy whose contributions don’t always appear on the box score. However he’s currently averaging a career-high 14.5 points a game. Is this a factor of the team needing offense where they can get it, or has he started to develop into a more assertive offensive player?
JG: It’s actually a little bit of both. Fans at The Q used to groan before Andy took a shot, but now, he’s an efficient scorer. Byron Scott has told him (on two occasions) that he’s got the green light. According to Coach Scott: a player who works as hard in all facets of the game like Andy does, has the right to shoot when he wants. And he’s also an excellent playmaker. Even before the injury to Kyrie, much of the offense ran through Varejao. Under the radar, he’s one of the best passing big men in the league.
Hawks.com: Certainly it’s still early enough for the Cavs to turn things around and compete for the playoffs, but that aside, what do you think are reasonable goals for this season for the young Cleveland roster?
JG: Right now, the team is competitive on an almost nightly basis, and they should be more so when Kyrie returns later in December. The Cavs are the fourth-youngest team in the NBA, so the main goal is that the young core develops and proves it’s the foundation for the future. But if they’re developing really well, the Cavaliers should win some games along the way. And if they could win enough to make a playoff push a reality in Cleveland, that would be qualify as an extremely successful season.