Cleveland Cavaliers in the hunt as NBA season opens

The team looks to earn their first playoff berth in the post-Lebron era

David Hoffman, Staff Reporter

The last few seasons have not been kind to the Cleveland Cavaliers, to put it mildly. They have barely sniffed the playoffs since Lebron James left town. However, with some talented and hungry new players taking the league by storm, the Cavs believe this could be the year they finally return to relevance in the NBA.

With the Eastern Conference currently in a state of flux aside from its top five dominant teams, the last three playoff spots are up for grabs. It’s up to Kyrie Irving and his improved young and supporting cast to step up to the challenge and give Cleveland the playoff basketball that it has so zealously desired since “The King” left Quicken Loans Arena for South Beach in the summer of 2010.

Speaking of Irving, his health will be crucial to the team’s playoff chances. Last season Irving only managed to play in 59 games, or roughly three-quarters of the schedule. When healthy, Irving has consistently proven to already be one of the best players in the NBA. Now entering his third season in the league, he looks to become a more complete player as the supporting cast around him continues to improve.

That improved supporting cast features one of the highest risk and high reward players in the league in Andrew Bynum. Like Irving, Bynum has shown the ability to dominate on the court and take over a game. However, his knee issues are well-documented and last season in Philadelphia he failed to play in a single game. Bynum is seeking redemption this season with the Cavs. The thought of hinging your hopes on the health of Irving and Bynum is a scary proposition, but these two young stars could potentially keep the Cavs in the playoffs this season and for years to come.

In addition to Bynum, the Cavs also welcomed Jarrett Jack into the fold to improve upon their admittedly meager bench depth from last season. Jack is coming off a fantastic year with Golden State, where he provided a spark off the bench time and again throughout the season. His performance garnered a third place showing in the voting for Sixth Man of the Year.

The Cavs are confident he can provide them with that same spark, enabling them to give Irving some rest and avoid the injury risk associated with playing too many minutes. A repeat performance from Jack is certainly possible, and would go long way toward fulfilling the team’s quest for a playoff berth.

Finally, the Cavs are welcoming back Mike Brown as their head coach. Brown previously served as the Cavs’ head coach from 2005 to 2010 and had a highly successful run with the team, which culminated in a trip to the NBA Finals.

However, Brown does not have Lebron James on his side this time around. He will need to muster the most out of his players and his defensive schemes to have any hope of success in the foreseeable future. The Cavs are hoping that his defensive prowess can translate into better team defense on the court. It’s yet another factor that will determine the team’s fortunes for this season.

There’s no doubt that the Cavs are facing an uphill battle to make the playoffs this season. Despite their new additions supplementing the core players already in place, they will need a few breaks to get there. In contrast to recent years, however, this edition of the Cavs certainly has a shot.