October 22, 2010
SI.com's NBA Enemy Lines
Cleveland Cavaliers
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Cavaliers

The Cavs are the worst team in the East. Not having LeBron James means everything to them. I think Mo Williams is going to have to have a huge year, and they'll also need a lot from Antawn Jamison, who has been the best player on a bad team a number of times but may be slowing down now. Even if they get great performances from those two, I don't know how much it will help because nobody else on that team can score.

Williams should be more productive this year because the ball will be in his hands more. He'll be back to playing the same role he had in Milwaukee when he set himself up for his big contract. He'll put up big numbers, but it won't mean much. I hate using the terminology of calling him "not a true point guard" because the league has changed so much that you really can be a scorer and a point guard at the same time. But Williams is somebody who needs to score to be effective. Another description that fits him is "volume shooter." Over the last couple of years LeBron had the ball all of the time and was creating the offense, which put Williams off the ball. Williams can make a shot, he can get to the rim and he's good in the open court. I think he'd be great in a Jamal Crawford-type sixth-man role. Williams isn't as good as Crawford as a scorer, but he's better as a point guard and a defender.

One upgrade over LeBron as a ball-handler is that Williams is better as a pick-and-roll player who can find guys. He's already had two good regular seasons in Cleveland, though they were followed by two bad playoffs. Teams will try to collapse on his drive, but if they collapse too much, he can pull up and make a shot.

The question with Jamison is whether he had so much trouble over the second half of last season with Cleveland because he was declining physically or because he had a hard time fitting in with LeBron. I wonder if a lot of that stuff in Washington hit him and don't know if he ever recovered from the whole Gilbert Arenas gun incident. Guys who know Jamison say the Gilbert stuff really shook him. Then he got to Cleveland and it looked as if he felt the pressure -- he looked like he'd never played basketball before. All of those things maybe got in his head.

This won't be the first time he's been asked to put up a good year with a bad team. If Jamison doesn't respond, the Cavs will really be in trouble. I know he won't mail it in because he's a pro. If he has it, he's going to give it to them.

It's going to be interesting to see what style Byron Scott will wind up playing. I'm guessing he'll go with some of the Princeton offense. Jamison had success playing that style for Eddie Jordan in Washington. Jordan had Jamison diving and flashing inside, and maybe that's another reason why he struggled last year with Cleveland -- they couldn't have him do those things because they needed him to space the floor for LeBron.

I like both Williams and Jamison as leaders. Jamison has been a leader for a long time, and Williams has grown into that role. They have some guys who play hard and that may help them be an overachieving team. But effort can't compensate for lack of talent. None of their other guys are good enough.

Anderson Varejao is among their top three players, but offensively he won't do it for them. In that sense, he's a bit like Ben Wallace during the Pistons' championship days. Defensively, Varejao can be almost that dominant. He will block a shot, though he doesn't change everything like Wallace did, and he doesn't rebound as well. But Varejao's a great one-on-one defender. He takes charges, is a great help defender and plays with enormous effort. Plus, he has great length.

Varejao has improved offensively. He has phenomenal hands, he catches everything. You could pass it to him at his ankles and he's going to get it. But he can't shoot. Even though he's improved his jump shot, it's still ugly. He doesn't have a feel offensively, and he can get pushed off the block pretty easily. You always see guys moving him, and then he can't do anything past five to 10 feet from the basket. He's a bit like Jamison as a diver-cutter because he's pretty good at flashing and catching balls and finishing. The problem for Varejao is, though he can catch, he can't put it on the floor.

Remember last year when it was a big deal that Cleveland didn't want to give up J.J. Hickson in a trade? Now that LeBron is gone, don't expect Hickson to end up carrying the Cavs. The main thing about him is that he's their one developmental guy, which points out the big problem with their roster: They have no one else with upside. When Williams and Jamison are setting a good example, whom are they setting it for? Hickson, and it's not like there is a ton of potential in his game.

Put it this way: I'm sure everybody would like to have Hickson on their team, but he's not a game-changer. The Cavs are going to hope he turns into a guy who can score on the block. But everything else about him is questionable. He's a pretty good rebounder and not a great defender. He's a guy you're going to leave alone when he's away from the block and invite him to shoot it. I'd tell my team to leave him by himself at 15-17 feet.

I remember when Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon were playing the wings for Toronto, and that team didn't go far. Parker especially was a nice pickup when the Cavs had LeBron, but now you can't begin to count on him and Moon to carry your team on the perimeter. Parker is another guy who will come in and work hard. He's above-average defensively and he'll make a three. But he's not good at creating his own shot.

Moon has improved his shooting, but his primary asset is his athleticism. He'll burn you occasionally with the corner three, but for the most part you're going to leave him alone out there. Maybe they should play up-tempo because it fits the style of Moon and so many of their other guys. On the other hand, that's going to be a hard style to keep going because they have an older team.

Leon Powe could be a decent second-unit scorer on the block for them, though he hasn't played regularly for a long time because of his knee injury.

I liked their pickup of Ramon Sessions, who will be one of the better backup point guards in the league. He's more of a true point guard than Williams, and they'll be able to play them together some of the time. Sessions is solid at everything. He can score a little bit, he'll get you into your offense, he defends, he can run. He doesn't do anything tremendously and he makes a bit too much money, but he's reliable.

Every now and then, Daniel Gibson can get hot from the three-point line and surprise you. But he struggled with consistency when he was playing with LeBron, and now consistency is going to be an even bigger issue. He struggles handling the ball, so you can't have him bring it up the floor because everybody pressures him.

Ryan Hollins is an unbelievable athlete for his size, with great length and the ability to block a shot or catch a ball at the rim. But it's all about his athleticism. He doesn't have the skills to do anything else.

Scott is an old-school guy. If the Cavs lose a lot of games early, it's inevitable that things are going to get ugly in the locker room because that's what happens in the NBA. How Scott handles those situations will dictate the course of this season in Cleveland.

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