2013-14 NBA Season Preview and Predictions: Are the Cleveland Cavaliers Legit Playoff Contenders Now?

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By James Patrick Quizon | October 15, 2013 10:30 AM EST

After years in the doldrums, it looks like the Cleveland Cavaliers are finally going back to playoff contention. Along with offseason acquisitions via free agency and the draft, the return of Brazilian forward-center Anderson Varejao to full health will most likely boost the Cavs’ chances in the 2013-14 season.

Can a team with a mix of veterans and promising young stars get it together for an entire 82-game grind? And will it be enough for them to challenge one of eight spots in the postseason?

2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers Projected Depth Chart

PG - Kryie Irving/Jarret Jack
SG - Dion Waiters/C.J. Miles/ Alonzo Gee
SF - Anthony Bennett/ Earl Clark/ Sergey Karasev
PF - Tristan Thompson/Anderson Varejao
C - Andrew Bynum/Tyler Zeller

3 Reasons Why the Cavs Will Make the Playoffs in 2013

1. Better Health – The abovementioned return of Varejao will help the Cavaliers in a lot of ways. First and foremost, his presence alone will bring positive and actual energy to these young Cavs. His hard work will rub-off to his younger teammates, especially the big men, and his hustle will teach the younger guys how it is done in the NBA.

In 50 games started and played by Varejao in the last couple of seasons, the Brazilian bigman averaged 12.5 points and 13.0 rebounds. If indeed he is healthy now and remains healthy the rest of the season, his play will complement rising stars Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson in a lot of ways.

2. Trade Chips – Varejao’s value can be found on and off the court. If indeed he returns to 100 per cent health, they can use him as a trade piece because the Cavs were able to acquire big man assets over the offseason.

They signed center Andrew Bynum to a two-year deal, snagging him from free agency. The picked up Anthony Bennett as the #1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Even sophomore Tyler Zeller has some value after respectable averages of 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in 55 games for the Cavs in the 2012-2013 season.

Another player that can pull off the surprise—and be given major burn time either as a starter or key player off the bench is Earl Clark, who had limited but efficient numbers (7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds) with the Los Angeles Lakers last season.

If Varejao plays well of the gates, the championship contenders will start calling the Cavs before the February trade deadline.

3. Rising Star, Rising Leader – Probably the most important development for the Cavaliers is the continued development of point guard Kyrie Irving. Considered as one of the fastest rising players in the NBA, the third-year pro upped his points averages to 22.5 PPG (from 18.5) in 2012 while maintaining averages of 3.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.3 steals in his first two years in the league.

More than the stats, Irving’s true value is being a franchise player—and a leader for the young squad on both ends of the court. A player who can mentor him into that role is veteran Jarret Jack, acquired as a free agent in the offseason. Jack is a combo guard who figures to fit well with the Cavs either as Irving’s primary back-up or even as Irving’s backcourt partner. The 8-year pro averaged 12.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 83 games for the Golden State Warriors in the 2012-2013 season.

The Verdict

The NBA Eastern Conference is top-heavy with favourites Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks considered shoo-ins to make the postseason. After those teams, it’s a free-for-all for the final three spots—except obviously for the teams tanking.

Fearless Forecasts: 38-42 wins, good for 8th seed in the East. Irving plays is named an NBA All-Star for the second time in his career. Varejao is traded to the San Antonio Spurs for Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner and a future 1st round pick.

Other 2013-2014 NBA Teams Previews:

Phoenix Suns | Cleveland Cavaliers | Washington Wizards | Charlotte Bobcats | Philadelphia 76ers | Orlando Magic | Dallas Mavericks | Los Angeles Lakers | Chicago Bulls | Brooklyn Nets | Houston Rockets

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