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Why It’s Boom or Bust for the Cleveland Cavaliers This Season

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Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

COMMENTARY | The funny thing about having no expectations for a NBA team going into a season is that it can play as bad as possible and nobody really cares -- the team is basically given a yearlong mulligan during which losing almost becomes an art form.

Want to run out a collection of 40-year-olds with bad knees? Go for it. Not into playing defense? Take the night off. Trying to set a record for most consecutive shots missed? All the better. Want to put Ryan Hollins on the payroll and actually give him minutes -- well, there are still a few things that are beyond what a sane fanbase can put up with, even in a down year.

But, the reason for the apathy is that for the most part, all you can do as a fan of an utterly hopeless team is pray that it'll be bad enough to get a top pick to turn everything around in the offseason.

This is the kind of stance most Cleveland Cavaliers fans have adopted since the team was gutted after the 2010 season. Because they haven't had a legitimate chance to win since then -- first, because of a simple lack of talent, and then because of youth and injuries -- fans have turned a blind eye to the Cavaliers' three consecutive losing seasons.

But things are different going into this year.

This season, the Cavaliers should finally have the components to make a run at the playoffs. On paper anyway.

Whenever you have two No. 1 overall picks (Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett), two other young players taken in the top 4 (Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters), a 26-year-old former All-Star at center (Andrew Bynum), one of the best defensive big men in the league who also led the league in rebounds per game through 25 games last year (Anderson Varejao), and a starting-caliber combo guard coming off the bench (Jarrett Jack) -- all of whom are being led by a former NBA Coach of the Year (Mike Brown) -- you're supposed to win.

The problem is that over the past several seasons, the Cavs' roster has been about as stable as Amanda Bynes at karaoke night.

Kyrie Irving, who looks poised to become a household name if he can stay healthy, has been on and off the court with a multitude of random injuries since his days at Duke. In his rookie year, he missed a combined total of 31 games and followed that up by missing 24 games last year. Also last year, Dion Waiters missed 21 games, Anderson Varejao was out for 57 games with a blood clot, and Andrew Bynum missed the entire season trying to become the most hated man in Philadelphia. On top of that, top pick Anthony Bennett is coming off surgery on his left rotator cuff that kept him out for most of the summer.

That's why the Cavaliers are the biggest wild card going into the 2013-14 season. How can you predict how a team will finish when the team's best players have spent as much time on the IR as on the court the past few seasons?

But in just their first game Wednesday night against the Brooklyn Nets -- who coincidentally would be unbeatable if the year was 2008 -- Kyrie Irving was held to only 15 points. While this would have amounted to a guaranteed loss the past few years, the Cavaliers rallied around a balanced offense (six different players scored in double-figures) and respectable defense to somehow win by four.

Even though it was just one game, the Cavs looked the part of a real competitor again.

Of course, this season could go up in flames quickly with a key injury or two, but after three seasons of knowing the Cavaliers weren't going anywhere before the first game was even played, just having the opportunity to be excited by the Cavs this year is a step in the right direction.

Adam Redling is a freelance writer from Cleveland, OH. He covers the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Browns on the Yahoo Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter at AdamRedling1.

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