After bottoming out in 2010-11 following the departure of LeBron James, the Cavaliers showed some improvement last season, winning two more games despite playing in 22 fewer contests as a result of the lockout.
Kyrie Irving lived up to his billing as the top overall pick, claiming Rookie of the Year honours.
Things were far from perfect however, as fellow top-five pick Tristan Thompson had an up-and-down season and the rest of the team showed its youth, finishing 14 games out of a playoff spot.
The Cavs are expecting more big things from reigning rookie of the year Kyrie Irving in year two.
Dynamic Backcourt - Knowing they already had one potential superstar in their backcourt, Cleveland surprised some experts by taking Waiters with their fourth overall pick. The Syracuse product has big time athleticism and scoring ability, but has a lot of work to do to round out his game. Pairing him with the dynamic Irving should only help his development and if anything, makes the Cavs a downright scary transition team right away. With Irving already looking like a potential star, Cleveland will be set for a long time at the guard position if Waiters can develop in a similar way.
Offence - It would not be much of an exaggeration to say the Cavaliers were a one-player half-court offense last season. Besides Irving, Cleveland had almost no one else who was able to score on a consistent basis. When healthy, Antawn Jamison was an option, but he signed with the Lakers in the off-season. C.J. Miles and rookie Zeller may help the cause somewhat, but they are role players at this point. So unless Waiters and Thompson are able to show significant improvement in their shooting abilities, the offense will again be almost totally reliant upon Irving.
Get ready for the season with the latest from TSN.ca.
Still picking up the pieces in the post-LeBron era.
Rising star Kyrie Irving is the Cavaliers' one bona fide star at 17th overall.
Inexperience - With the exception of veteran Anderson Varejao, the Cavaliers starting five will feature three first or second year players, plus fourth year man Alonzo Gee. That type of inexperience typically leads to an abundance of mistakes, specifically on the defensive end. That was certainly true last season, as Cleveland finished 26th in the NBA in points allowed. And it was Irving's play on the defensive end that was particularly poor, as he ranked near the bottom of most defensive ratings. Being the team's best player, the Cavs will only show significant improvement going forward unless he is able to raise his game at that end of the floor.
X Factor: Tyler Zeller
One of the most productive players to ever put on a Tar Heels jersey, the 7-footer is not overly athletic, but has a well-rounded offensive game – something Cleveland is in dire need for from a big man. Pairing him with Thompson -- who can finish at the rim and rebound, but has serious issues shooting from outside the paint -- may be a recipe for success.
What to Expect
The Cavaliers improved their winning percentage by nearly 100 points last season, so a similar increase should move them to at least within shouting distance of a playoff spot. Still, Cleveland is likely two or three years away from seriously challenging, but with the continued development of their young talent and another high pick in the draft, the franchise looks to be headed in the right direction.
Tim Chisholm's Offseason Grade
The Cavs continued their slow crawl back to relevancy this summer by picking up Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller in the draft and watching Kyrie Irving stun the Team USA brass as a member of the Select Team.
They may not be racing ahead as an organization, but they are slowly acquiring the pieces that will put them back on the NBA map.
They have also maintained great cap flexibility, so that if a trade or signing presents itself that could fast-forward their rebuilding cycle they are in a good position to pull the trigger.
For now, though, slow and steady is the (smart) strategy in Ohio.