The Cleveland Cavaliers come to the Air Canada Centre with several new faces, the result of a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. The downtrodden Cavs have won three of their last four starts, the last being a comeback defeat of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Toronto Raptors beat the Cavs in Cleveland by 14 in December, but may not find this match as easy.
The Grizzlies were stuck in salary-cap jail (well, at least a holding cell) and decided to duck under the cap by donating Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby, and Marreese Speights for Jon Leuer. There are draft futures passing as well, but it’s moot to this story. None of the three new Cavs are world-beaters, but they are NBA-grade journeymen, and deepen Cleveland’s rotation. The wine-and-gold Cavs have a bright future, which could arrive sooner than we expect. Their point guard, Kyrie Irving, may be very young and slightly undersized, but that’s not slowing him down. He’s just been named as an Eastern Conference All-Star, a richly deserved honour, as he’s averaging 23+ points and 5+ assists per game. Raps’ guards will be overmatched trying to hold him in check; we may have to be satisfied with allowing him his points while denying his passing. One of his pass recipients is the young Canadian forward, Tristan Thompson, who is scoring and rebounding at a near-elite level, and will be particularly difficult to hold off the offensive boards. The Cavs had high hopes that Anderson Varejao, their perpetual motion forward and NBA-leading rebounder, might also make the All-Star game. However, he’s had some serious medical misfortune (an injury, and complications while in hospital), and is done for the season.
The Cavs starters might represent the least experienced group I’ve ever seen. Playing with 2 Rookies (Tyler Zeller, Dion Waiters) and 2 in their second seasons (Thompson, Irving), Alonzo Gee must feel like a pensioner, but he’s only playing in his fourth campaign. It’s a tribute to Cavs management and coaching that they are willing to absorb some pain while waiting for the beardless youths to mature.
The Raps have had a day to rest following their exhausting Florida trip. Cleveland is on the second night of a back-to-back. I think the Raps still have too much depth for Cleveland, and will win this one 104-98.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.