|The Cavs' offseason depends on Waiters. (Getty Images)|
I. How they finished 2012: Tanking hard after a promising first half. The Cavaliers were actually hanging around the playoff picture for the eighth seed as late as March. But when injuries and a separation made it apparent they weren't going to clear the gap (and there was no need to make the playoffs anyway), the Cavs went into tank city, eventually landing a top-five pick.
They did have some major takeaways, though. They're closer than they thought, and most importantly, Kyrie Irving is the superstar they drafted him to be.
II. Needs entering the offseason: They needed some wing help in both the athleticism and shooting department. Anthony Parker retired and the Cavs knew they needed someone to get out in transition with Irving and space the floor.
With Tristan Thompson still very much a question mark, Samardo Samuels not a heavy-minutes contributor and Ryan Hollins released last year, they needed upgrades down low as well. coAnderson Varejao's injury issues compounded the problem and forced the Cavs to address it in a big way for both rebounding and defensive purposes.
III. The Draft: In a word: reach.
The Cavaliers took Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick, a relative stunner after Waiters had been in the mid-to-late lottery until really the month of June. But a series of strong workouts boosted him higher and higher.
Waiters did not start at Syracuse. His skillset shows a great deal of promise and he has the athleticism the team was looking at as a need. But with Thomas Robinson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, and others still on the board, it was still a big reach. Trading back might have gotten the Cavs a decent-to-great pick, maybe even allowing them to draft Waiters along with an additional asset, but they were convinced Waiters is the guy.
When Waiters showed up out of shape for Summer League, obviously things did not start off on a great foot.
With the 17th pick, Cleveland took Tyler Zeller, getting the big man they were looking for and a solid all-around player who may never be a star but can fit very well into a defensive system, will work hard, and has a good set of skills.
IV. Free Agency: Cleveland was very careful with its cap space in the summer, a smart move, instead letting a young core develop without going hog wild.
They let Antawn Jamison slip quietly out the door, and re-signed Alonzo Gee on the cheap, which had been an objective for them. They added Jon Leuer who was waived by the Rockets after being traded from the Bucks. In large part, the Cavaliers showed that they were willing to take a step back in order to make sure the timing was right.
The Cavaliers know where their future lies: Kyrie Irving. If Waiters works out and Tristan Thompson takes a step forward, they'll have the core in place, with money coming off the books, to start looking at building a contender. This summer was more about not making a bad move than making the right move.
The summer will be judged on the Waiters pick. If he becomes the star they think he can be next to Irving, the Cavaliers outsmarted everyone. If he struggles, then the Cavs have essentially wasted a year of Kyrie Irving's career. The big question going forward will be what they do with Anderson Varejao and if they move him for yet another set of rebuilding assets. The Cavaliers have done the right thing in gaining assets, but they have to make the right moves with them for it to pay off.