by Marcel Mutoni

The pre-season is underway and the regular season jumps off in less than a month (Oct. 31), so it’s probably time to start previewing the 2006-2007 NBA season. With the help of some of the most prominent hoop writers on the web (bloggers and newspaper columnists), we’ll be taking an in-depth look at each one of the 30 teams.

The Cavalier from YAY Sports was kind enough to help us preview his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

SLAM: How close is this team to being a true title contender?

TC: A lot closer than people think.

Their biggest problem last year was giving a consistent effort and ball movement, not lack of talent. Yeah, they need a better PG and another shooter, but having LeBron (and Hughes, if healthy) helps hide at least the PG hole in the lineup a little. The playoff experience is going to do wonders for this team, and especially LeBron. Expect to see the defensive intensity coming every night in a way we’ve not seen from him yet. If that happens, and Mike Brown abandons the “LeBron stands with the ball 25 feet out while everyone stares at him” offense and inserts some simple movement, this team can be one of the best in the league. Just get guys rolling to the hole and cutting all over the place to get open – LeBron will find them.

They won’t win it this year, but summer ’07 is going to be when they use that MLE to get some vet who needs a ring. A strong year this year will put them in a position to sell someone on that.

Lebron James has made it clear that he wants to become the world’s richest man. Can he do it?

Nah – he can probably make it to billionaire status by the time he’s done, but Bill Gates and those guys have billions in a plural format. He can maybe become the world’s richest athlete because basketball is becoming so huge worldwide, and he seems to have that vision of where it’s going. Plus, he’s young and marketable, obviously. That said, Tiger Woods is way ahead of him and has a longer shelf-life as a pro athlete, as well. Additionally, although Bison Dele is dead, his estate brings in literally hundreds of millions of dollars each year through the sale of “Bison Lives” t-shirts and mugs.

The Cavs won 50 games last season and almost beat the Pistons in the playoffs. How pumped is the city of Cleveland right now about this squad?

I have no idea, because I live in Los Angeles, my family moved out of Cleveland four years ago, and I don’t have any friends. At all. I have none. If I did have friends, and they happened to reside in Cleveland, I imagine they’d be “very” pumped, especially considering the sorry state of the Indians and Browns. Cleveland has never had an athlete like Lebron, ie. a truly great player who’s also arguably about to become the face of the entire sport for the next 12+ years. Closest we’ve ever had was Jim Brown (too long ago) and Albert Belle, who was rumored to have several temperment issues. I think most people in Cleveland have a hard time coming to grips with the reality that all this is really upon us. We expect the worst – I was literally (no joke) curled up in a ball shivering after that Game 5 buzzer beating drive against Washington last season, mainly because I couldn’t come to terms with the fact we didn’t lose that game. It just didn’t register in my brain.

Listen Cav, stop playing around. Tell us Who shot Mamba?

Thanks for bringing this up, because I know people are wondering where Who Shot Mamba? actually is, considering it’s been “coming soon” for months. The reason it’s taking so long is because I’m a perfectionist, and the project has become substantially bigger than when it was first conceived as a 15-minute short back in May. Like I said, it’s a full length feature – in fact, it’s the first full-length internet-exclusive motion picture to be under SAG and WGA contracts. (That’s the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America)

What that means is this is like a real movie and crap. It’s not to be missed, and we have the chance to leave a very real mark in several industries. We’ve got an awesome crew, and we’re kicking ass at this thing as hard as we can. We’re taking the time to make sure it’s as good as it can be, though. I promise to have a release date soon, and that date will be sooner than you think. I apologize for this taking so long. It’ll be worth it.

Alright, enough foreplay, how will the Cavs fare this season?

57 wins. Number one seed in the East. (I’m not looking at the playoff picture yet.) LeBron is a year wiser, and you could literally see his understanding of what it takes intensity-wise grow from game-to-game during the playoffs. Larry Hughes was out or dealing with personal stuff most of last year. For the first time since LeBron arrived, they’re bringing back the same coaching staff and system, and most of the same cast – continuity counts for something.

Let me explain myself and quickly run down the other East contenders, before everyone gets all bent out of shape:

a) Miami – This one’s easy. I don’t think anyone is thinking the Heat are going to do anything but coast through the regular season. Shaq out-and-out says it, and if anyone thinks the ‘Toines and Poseys of the world didn’t spend the entire summer eating birthday cake and relaxing after winning a title…well, maybe you should go eat some birthday cake, too.

b) Detroit – The whole concept of the Detroit Pistons that we’ve known the past few years is that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. The core of the whole left – it’s as simple as that. Nazr isn’t going to replicate what Ben Wallace brought in either numbers or intangibles. ‘Sheed is two weeks of having to play center away from a meltdown. Billups has a free agency summer coming up. I don’t think any of these guys are truly behind Flip Saunders after what happened last year. I’m not saying they can’t be great by the end of the season, or that they won’t be really good out of the gate, but there are a lot of wild cards and many adjustments to make here.

c) Chicago – They were 41-41 last season, and added Ben Wallace, who…does exactly what they were already great at. What are they gonna do now, hold the other team to 50 ppg? Ben Wallace may be worth ten wins to a team like the Lakers, but in Chicago, I don’t see how he makes them title contenders. They needed scoring. Yes, Hinrich and Gordon, et al are a year older and more experienced, but that’s not quite the same as a ‘Melo, ‘Bron or Wade being a year older. Again, this was a .500 team that didn’t address their biggest need – everyone picking them is suffering from what I call “whoever got the best free agent improved the most” syndrome.

Now, I’m not necessarily saying the Cavaliers are the best team in the conference or trying to say what they’ll do in the playoffs. I simply think in terms of the regular season, they’re the team that’ll feel they have the most to prove, who also aren’t dealing with a bunch of changes that’ll take time to adjust to. I do think LeBron is going to be on an MVP-gettin’ type of mission, so that’s something to take into account, as well.

In conclusion, I love butter. Thanks for having me.