Dion Waiters is a starting-quality shooting guard. Both Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao could conceivably start down-low. A bevy of three-point shooters (Mike Miller, James Jones, Joe Harris) are complemented by a multi-utility guy in Shawn Marion.
No matter how you slice it this team will be one of the best offensive units in the league, barring injury or total mismanagement. They will murder teams in transition. Love lobbing outlet passes to LBJ and Irving will be a true delight. And I doubt they'll slow down too much in the half-court.
But there is one nagging doubt hanging over my head, and the head (I'm sure) of David Griffin. The team has no true rim protector. What can they do to rectify that?
As we covered on Tuesday, Thompson has already been the source of trade rumors. If Cleveland were looking to move him, with Marion already on the roster, it would likely be in pursuit of a big man to shore up the defense.
In addition, using Thompson at Center, alongside Kevin Love, might pay marginal dividends offensively but it will likely be a sum negative for the defense. Thompson is undersized and not particularly strong.
To examine this, let's look at how Thompson performs against the three aforementioned big men: Griffin, Randolph and Duncan.
Thompson against Griffin:
And there are a spate of impressive big men that will roadblock the Cavaliers march to the Finals. Al Jefferson in Charlotte. Al Horford/Paul Milsap in Atlanta. Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol in Chicago. Chris Bosh in Miami. Nene and Marcin Gortat in Washington. Hell, Roy Hibbert in Indiana.
Thompson will not be able to defend almost any of the men on that list, at least not for sustained stretches.
But what about Varejao?
He's a solid energy guy. He's going to bring an electricity night in and night out. But he's soft against true big men and he's injury prone. A few years ago Varejao was at the peak of his powers. He was averaging rebounds in the teens. He looked set to have the best year of his career. I begged the Cavaliers to trade him.
Instead, they decided to ride him out; see where the improved play took them.
Varejao got hurt about a third of the way through the season. He was out the rest of the year and he hasn't neared that output since. And he has not gotten younger. His spring chickens aged and died two years ago. Let's take a look at how he's performed against some of those aforementioned big men:
Varejao against Duncan:
Duncan: 18.0 ppg, 2.3 blocks, 3.8 assists, 8.1 rebounds.
Varejao: 7.2 ppg, 0.2 blocks, 0.8 assists, 6.4 rebounds.
Duncan took more shots than Varejao, sure. But he scored more than half of them and he functioned better as a defender and facilitator.
Varejao against Randolph:
The team lacks a true big man. They may be able to rely on a combination of stingy perimeter defense (Marion and James may be able to shut down opposing wings) and zone aid to prevent a preponderance of post-based scoring. But the team would greatly benefit from a true interior presence, particularly on defense (where Kevin Love is not the game-changer he is on offense).
I've heard rumors that they might be interested in acquiring Ronny Turiaf from the Timberwolves. Turiaf is supposedly a Kevin Love buddy and he did manage to record 1.6 blocks per game last year.
I've also heard the Cavs might be interested in packaging the Bogans and Haywood contracts for a mid-to-max level Center, possibly in the form of Larry Sanders. Or at least, I've heard that Zach Lowe thinks it makes sense for the Cavs to pursue Sanders.
If they were able to maintain the core of their rotation and add another performing big man then the Cavs should be considered the favorites for the title, even over the Leviathan known as the Spurs.