Tuesday , Oct , 19 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Cleveland Cavaliers 2004-05 Season Preview

=== Cleveland Cavaliers 2004-05 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

2003-04 FINISH: 35-47

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Drew Gooden (F) – Trade with Orlando: Lucious Harris (G)
– Free Agent; Aleksandar Pavlovic (F) – Trade with Charlotte; Eric Snow (G) –
Trade with Philadelphia; Robert Traylor (F) – Free Agent; Anderson Varejao (F)
– Trade with Orlando; Scott Williams (C) – Free Agent.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Tony Battie (C/F) – Traded to Orlando: Carlos Boozer
(F) – Signed with Utah; Kedrick Brown (F) – Traded to Philadelphia; Jason
Kapono (F) – Selected by Charlotte in Expansion Draft; Lee Nailon (F) – Signed
with New Orleans; Kevin Ollie (G) – Traded to Philadelphia; Eric Williams (F)
– Signed with New Jersey.

2004 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (10) Luke Jackson (F, Oregon).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Eric Snow, SG Jeff McInnis, SF LeBron James,
PF Drew Gooden, C Zydrunas Ilgauskas

COACH: Paul Silas

(Sports Network) – Year two of LeBron James is set to get underway in
Cleveland, as the Cavaliers hope the 2003-04 Rookie of the Year can lead them
to the playoffs for the first time since 1998.

Even though Cleveland did not make the playoffs last season, it did win 35
games, which is the most amount of victories for the franchise since the
Cavaliers won 47 games in the 1997-98 regular season. James lived up to the
hype and the future of NBA basketball in Cleveland looked bright heading into
the summer.

However, the offseason did turn out the way the Cleveland franchise was hoping
it would. The most significant event was the loss of up-and-coming power
forward Carlos Boozer, who signed with the Utah Jazz as a free agent. On July
14, which was the first day that teams were able to begin signing
players, Utah signed Boozer to a lucrative multi-year contract. The Cavaliers
had 15 days to match the offer, but declined to do so and allowed the Duke
product to become a member of the Jazz.

It would be safe to say that the 22-year-old Boozer, who averaged 15.5
points and 11.4 rebounds in 75 games for the Cavaliers in 2003-04, and
Cleveland management are no longer friends after the controversial events that
surrounded the events that led up to the forward becoming a restricted free
agent. It was rumored that Boozer made a commitment to Cleveland to sign a
long-term contract with the Cavaliers if they allowed him to become a
free agent. Such an agreement is not allowed in the NBA and if
a franchise committed this act it would be subject to substantial penalties.
After a lot of bickering and nasty exchanges through the media, Cleveland
declined to match the offer and reluctantly let the future star leave.

The loss of Boozer is extremely tough for the Cavaliers, who also saw small
forward Eric Williams leave to sign with the New Jersey Nets, to swallow.
Cleveland wanted its team to be built around the trio of James, Boozer and
center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The feeling was that the three players would evolve
into a potent threesome and with a few more tweaks to the roster, the
Cavaliers would have a contender for many years to come. Unfortunately for the
Cleveland franchise it was not meant to happen that way. But, life in the NBA
does go on.

Cleveland has tried to offset the departure of Boozer, as it acquired power
forward Drew Gooden in a trade with the Orlando Magic, obtained point guard
Eric Snow in a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers and signed free agent Robert
Traylor. The Cavaliers also drafted Oregon forward Luke Jackson on June 24
with the 10th overall selection in the NBA Draft.

Head coach Paul Silas, who will be entering his second season as the general
of the Cavaliers, will have to find ways for his team to mesh once again.
The 19-year-old James will continue to excite the fans of Cleveland and will
only get better as he matures both as a player and an individual. The bottom
line is that things can’t be that bad if James is in the lineup every night.

BACKCOURT

The Cavs are strong at the point, as Snow and veteran Jeff McInnis are both
capable floor generals. However, the two guards could find themselves in the
starting lineup with McInnis logging minutes at shooting guard.

The 31-year-old Snow, who had spent the previous six-plus seasons with
Philadelphia, has not missed a regular season contests the past two seasons.
He averaged 10.3 points and 6.9 assists in 36 minutes per game for the Sixers
in 2003-04. Snow, who spent the first two-plus seasons of his career as Gary
Payton’s backup in Seattle, has also participated in 71 playoff games during
his nine-year career.

McInnis, 29, will be entering his eighth season in the league. The North
Carolina product, who has also played for Denver, Washington, the Los Angeles
Clippers and Portland, averaged 11.7 points and 7.5 assists in 31 games for
the Cavaliers, who acquired him in a trade with the Trail Blazers in January.
The 6-4 McInnis can light it from three-point range as he shot 36.2 percent
from beyond the arc for Portland and Cleveland last season.

Behind Snow and McInnis will be Dajuan Wagner, who has played just 91 games in
his first two seasons in the NBA. The 21-year-old guard averaged 6.5 points
and 1.2 assists last season, which was down from his rookie campaign when he
netted 13.4 points and dished out 2.8 helpers.

Lucious Harris, who was released by New Jersey in September, signed as a free
agent in early October. Harris is an 11-year NBA veteran, having spent the
last seven seasons with the Nets. He played in 69 contests during the 2003-04
campaign and averaged 6.9 points and two assists per game. The 33-year-old
Harris adds depth and experience to the Cleveland backcourt.

The all-world James will also see plenty of action at both the point and
shooting guard. In fact, James could start at either guard slot which would
allow Silas to use McInnis or Snow off the bench.

FRONTCOURT

James should be the starting small forward for the Cavs, as Snow and McInnis
should be the perfect complements to the second-year pro in the starting
lineup. The 6-8 James had a fantastic rookie campaign, which saw him average a
team-high 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists. He started all 79
contests that he appeared in, and shot 41.7 percent from the floor, 29 percent
from beyond the arc and managed to register 1.65 steals per game. Whether
James is in the frontcourt or the backcourt, he is the go-to-guy on this squad
no matter how you look at it.

The twenty-nine-year-old Ilgauskas will have to pick up some of the points and
rebounds that were left behind when Boozer departed. At 7-3, Ilgauskas, who
registered 15.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.48 blocks in 81 games in 2003-04,
gives Cleveland one of the few dominant centers in the Eastern Conference.
After battling various injuries from 1998-2002, the one-time All-Star has
missed just two games over the past two seasons and is in the prime of his
career. In order for the Cavaliers to contend for a playoff berth, it will be
imperative that their starting center remain healthy and productive.

Gooden will takeover at power forward for Boozer. Originally selected out of
Kansas by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round (fourth pick overall) of
the 2002 NBA Draft, the 6-10 Gooden posted 11.6 points and 6.5 boards in 79
games for the Magic in 2003-04. He will be entering his third season in the
NBA and should add athleticism to the Cleveland lineup. The 23-year-old Gooden
may have simply needed a change of address and he could turn out to be one of
the pleasant surprises in the league this season.

Off the bench will be the rookie Jackson, who could also see some minutes at
shooting guard, Traylor, Ira Newble and Aleksandar Pavlovic. Rookie Anderson
Varejao, who was acquired in the Gooden deal, could also figure into the
rotation if the 6-10 forward from Brazil proves that he can play. Traylor, who
will log time at power forward and center, will be a counted on heavily by his
new team.

The 27-year-old Traylor, who also played for the Cavaliers in the 2000-01
season, averaged 5.1 points and 3.7 rebounds for the New Orleans Hornets last
season. He is a wide body who can take up space, which will help open the
court for the high-flying James. Traylor will be expected to rebound and score
from the low post.

OUTLOOK

The Cavaliers hope that Gooden can fill the void left by the departure of
Boozer. If Gooden has a breakout season, Ilgauskas stays healthy, Snow and
McInnis show that they can manage the backcourt, and James continues to
flourish, Cleveland could make the playoffs for the first time since 1998
when it was eliminated by Indiana Pacers, 3-1, in the first round.

CLE