Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls.
Cleveland Cavaliers Team Overview
The Cavaliers entered their second season post-LeBron James with a little more hope last year. The No. 1 overall pick from the 2011 NBA Draft, Kyrie Irving, emerged as one of the best young players in the league and went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award.
Irving averaged 18.5 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 40 percent from three. He played just 30.5 minutes per game in 51 games and had a 21.49 PER. The Cavaliers finished the season with a 21-45 record but their future looks bright with Irving.
The Cavaliers ended up with the No. 4 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and surprised some by selecting Dion Waiters from Syracuse. Waiters didn’t even start in college but really saw his draft stock rise after the season in team workouts.
Cleveland then went all-in to move up in the draft and take Tyler Zeller from North Carolina later in the first round. The Cavs now have a nice young core of Irving, Waiters, Zeller and Tristan Thompson.
The Cavs also added Jon Leuer, Luke Harangody, Kelenna Azubuike and Jeremy Pargo in the offseason. They will be parting ways with Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, Manny Harris and Semih Erden.
The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Cavaliers once last season at home on March 9. The Cavs surprised a lot of people and beat the Thunder on their home floor 96-90 to snap the Thunder’s 14-game home winning streak.
Jamison led the Cavs with 21 points on 9-for-25 shooting. Irving had nine points and 12 assists in 31 minutes.
Kevin Durant had 23 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. Russell Westbrook had 19 points and James Harden 15.
The Cavs really outworked the Thunder on the glass claiming 21 offensive rebounds in the game and 11 more boards in total. That made up for the Cavs shooting 41.8 percent from the field. The Thunder also struggled from deep going just 6-for-24 with Durant 1-for-7.
The Cavs only had the 28th best offense in the league in terms of points per possession last season while the Thunder defense was fifth best.
The Cavs have no real advantage vs. the Thunder defense but they were decent on isolation plays, 14th best in the league. Irving was their best isolation player scoring 1.03 PPP. Irving was below average scoring in the pick-and-roll however scoring 0.82 PPP.
Cleveland wasn’t much better on defense at 27th best in the league while the Thunder offense was second best. The Cavaliers were last against spot-up shooting and the pick-and-roll which should have made things pretty easy for the Thunder.
The Cavs were second best with their transition defense which would give them the advantage over the Thunder who was sixth best in the league on the fast break.
The Thunder and Cavaliers will play twice next season with their first meeting coming early in the season in Oklahoma City on Nov. 11. Then the Thunder will travel to Cleveland Feb. 2.
Cleveland should be improved next season but nothing drastic. They still won’t be expected to make the playoffs barring a tremendous leap by Irving. Irving had a cap on his minutes per game last season because of an injury he suffered in college and we’ll see how he handles more minutes next season.
There’s something about Cleveland that matched up well with the Thunder last season and players don’t forget that. There will be some confidence for the Cavaliers when they play the Thunder because of their win over them last season.
The key matchup will be at the point guard position and if Irving can outplay Westbrook, he could definitely give the Cavs a chance to upset the Thunder.