Updated: Oct. 27, 2006, 11:58 AM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Time for NBA to crown King?

Cavs

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Cleveland Cavaliers finish in the Central Division and the Eastern Conference? Get 10 takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST COMMENT
Greg
Anthony

ESPN.com
They've gotten better every year since LeBron came in. Based on their experience last year, plus the growth of young players, I think this is going to be a breakout season for the Cavs. They're the team with the best chance to challenge Miami.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 1
Chris
Broussard

ESPN Mag
They won 50 games without their second-best player, Larry Hughes. With Hughes healthy, the supporting cast more confident and the best player in the game (LeBron), the Cavs should approach 60 wins, then fall to the Heat in the East finals.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 1
Ric
Bucher

ESPN Mag
Larry Hughes is healthy. Larry Hughes is a bad fit for the Cavs, as reflected by how they won when he was out and lost when he was available against the Pistons. Larry Hughes is why it's not prudent to expect more than another 50-win season.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 3
Chad
Ford

ESPN.com
With LeBron, the Cavs are contenders. A healthy Hughes will be gravy. Still, with major issues at point guard and no depth in the middle, the Cavs look like they're a piece or two away from the title.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 3
John
Hollinger

ESPN.com
The Cavs stood pat, so some are befuddled that I think they'll improve so much. But between injuries and off years, they were way below their potential last season. They need to cut LeBron's minutes, though, so he has more vigor in the playoffs.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 1
Scoop
Jackson

ESPN.com
Am I the only Witness? It's not about LeBron this year, it's about getting Larry Hughes back. They did everything last year without him -- and they still came close. Now watch it really go down.
DIVISION RANK: 1 | CONFERENCE RANK: 1
Tim
Legler

ESPN.com
LeBron's heroics last season were a mere prelude to what he'll do with an improved cast. Larry Hughes is healthy and will return to the All-Star form he showed in Washington. This group could get to the Finals.
DIVISION RANK: 2 | CONFERENCE RANK: 2
Jim
O'Brien

ESPN.com
LeBron James must convince himself and his teammates to get into the top 10 in defense. They were 18th in the league in field-goal defense and that will never, ever get you to the Finals.
DIVISION RANK: 3 | CONFERENCE RANK: 5
Chris
Sheridan

ESPN.com
Where else to pick LeBronze James except third? OK, cheap shot, and James and Team USA will finish higher than third next summer in the Olympics qualifier. But in this division, James' team is just third-best.
DIVISION RANK: 3 | CONFERENCE RANK: 5
Marc
Stein
ESPN.com
The Central is so brutal that the Cavs could win another 50 games and still finish third. They'll need an MVP season from LeBron -- or big improvement from Hughes, Donyell Marshall and D-Jones -- to avoid that fate.
DIVISION RANK: 3 | CONFERENCE RANK: 5
 
Average ranks

DIVISION: 1.9 | Standings
CONFERENCE: 2.7 | Standings


Pick And Savior
James
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
One of the reasons LeBron can carry the Cavs is as clear as the tattoo on his back. But part of being the Chosen 1 means having a lineup chosen to complement the 1. The Cavs seem to know that.


Lineup Breakdown

STARTERS ANALYSIS
Eric Snow
Point Guard
6-3 | 205
Suddenly, Hughes' jumper doesn't look so ugly.
Larry Hughes
Shooting Guard
6-5 | 184
Injury was red herring. A pure shooter is what 'Bron really needs.
LeBron James
Small Forward
6-8 | 240
Fourth player ever to average 31 ppg, 7 rpg and 6 apg.
Drew Gooden
Power Forward
6-10 | 242
Lives on the O boards, lives off LeBron's drive-and-dishing.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Center
7-3 | 260
LeBron wants to push; Z wants to post. Guess who wins.
Bench: Cavs went 13-2 when Anderson Varejao played at least 20 minutes. You listening, Z? Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall are around to sink J's.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 25.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Drew Gooden
Player efficiency rating
projection: 17.76
vs. NBA avg.: +2.76
Cavaliers profiles

Scouting report: Gooden makes for a good role player because he can score without having plays run for him. He's a quick leaper who can finish around the basket, and he has a decent mid-range jump shot despite his somewhat awkward form. He's not as adept in the post because he lacks strength and can get bodied out of the lane, but he does have a nice jump-hook move.

Defensively, Gooden's quickness makes him very good at picking up guards on switches, and he has long arms that earn him lots of deflections. He doesn't have the power to deal with some of the league's bigger power forwards, but he partly makes up for it by helping on the defensive glass. Despite his leaping ability and quickness, he's not a shot-blocker.

The biggest criticism of Gooden has been his lack of focus. Whether it's losing track of his man at the defensive end or not knowing a play on offense, Gooden has baffled coaches with his mental miscues, and that's one reason he hasn't played as many minutes as you might expect for a player with such a high PER.

2006-07 outlook: Gooden signed a three-year deal for $23 million to stay with Cleveland, a fair valuation considering his production the past two seasons. He projects as the Cavs' starting power forward this season, and Cleveland will hope that as the 25-year-old matures his mental focus will improve and allow the team to take full advantage of his otherwise impressive skills.

It's easier to say this from a distance, but if his mistakes don't go away, there's a danger in the Cavs getting too bent out of shape about it. Power forwards who can score and rebound like this don't grow on trees, and while Gooden's lapses can be incredibly frustrating, in the grand scheme of things I'm not sure they cost the Cavs as much as they might think. The worst thing to do would be for Cleveland to throw up its hands and trade him for pennies on the dollar.


A Blurry Of Excitement
James
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
LeBron James' maturation is speeding up every day. He turns 22 on Dec. 30.


SportsNation Speaks
LeBron's excellence is a given. SportsNation examines how Cleveland can keep on rising.

What's the key to going to the next level?
33.5% Larry Hughes returning to form
25.3% Better team defense
19.9% LeBron James' continued maturation
14.2% Improved point guard play
7.0% Better offensive schemes by Mike Brown

Vote: Cavs in 2006-07



Ask A Blogger
Cavs

What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Cavaliers' logo on your chest?

Not much, since my combination of impulsive actions and general ignorance has led me to already have not only a Cavalier tattoo on my chest, but also a stunning portrait of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's entire family. (That one is actually on my calf.)

If you're asking what it would take for me to get additional Cavalier ink, it's either the No. 1 seed in the East (which is 85 percent attainable) or a trade for Celtics bench man Dwayne Jones. Dear lord ... I'm halfway home.

Brian, aka The Cavalier of YAYSports!
yaysports.com



Coach's Corner

MIKE BROWN COACHING FILE
Experience: 1 years
Record: 50-32
Playoffs: 7-6
NBA titles: 0
Coach's profile

Mike Brown needs to apply the same lessons in the early season that the Detroit Pistons learned in last year's playoffs: Players can try to flip a switch to suddenly ramp up their intensity, but there's no guarantee it will work.

Coming off of a breakthrough season and featuring the league's best young player, the Cavs are in danger of believing that merely showing up with LeBron James means they'll win.

Starting the season the way they finished it last year and gathering up W's would give the Cavs a chance at playing a conference semifinal Game 7 at home.

David Thorpe, ESPN.com NBA analyst



Hollinger's Team Strength
Frontcourt depth. Because of all the attention on LeBron, the Cavs' frontcourt doesn't always get its due. But Cleveland has a five-man rotation that's as good as any in basketball, and each brings different skills to the table.

Ilgauskas is the post scorer, with the ability to shoot over defenders at 7-3 and a great touch for his size; he's also the only Cav besides LeBron who commands a double team.

Gooden is the jumping bean, a rebounding force who is comfortable making plays off the ball or catching and shooting from 15 feet.

Varejao's trademark is relentless effort, making him another force on the glass as well as the most energetic defender of the group and the best at moving without the ball.

Marshall is the 3-point specialist, brought in to help stretch out collapsing defenses and open the paint for James and Hughes.

And Pollard is the muscle guy, whose job is to apportion his six fouls to have maximum impact.

More Hollinger Cavaliers analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Hughes
Hughes

Sleeper: Health is always an issue with Larry Hughes. He has missed 103 games over the past four seasons, but how can he not improve upon last season's disappointing numbers?

LeBron still needs a steady sidekick, and Hughes is most qualified to fill that role.

Bust: Maybe putting Zydrunas Ilgauskas in this category is a tad harsh, especially if you look at his regular-season numbers from '05-06. But he looked even slower than usual in last season's playoffs, so call it an educated guess or a hunch.

Big Z has been remarkably healthy for four consecutive seasons, but it appears a decline in productivity could be on the way.

Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index

 

Search Arrow