INDEPENDENCE: Of all the impressive feats the Cavaliers executed this offseason (landing the No. 1 pick, signing Jarrett Jack, picking Andrew Bynum off the scrap heap), perhaps the most impressive was their ability to improve the roster without increasing the team’s age.
As the Cavs prepare to open the season tonight against the Brooklyn Nets, they boast the NBA’s second-youngest opening night roster. The average age of the Cavs as of Tuesday is 24 years, 156 days, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The only team younger is the Philadelphia 76ers (24 years, 136 days). The significant difference is the Sixers are expected to lose at least 60 games this season, and the Cavs are expected to contend for a playoff spot.
Despite the free-agent signings of Jack (30 years old), Bynum (26) and Earl Clark (25), the average age of the roster actually decreased from opening night last year (24 years, 351 days). The oldest team in the league, incidentally, is the Miami Heat (31 years, 50 days).
The Cavs will technically carry four rookies this season in Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev, Carrick Felix and Matthew Dellavedova.
Henry Sims, however, spent all but 10 days of his rookie season in the Development League, essentially making him a fifth rookie.
The Cavs haven’t carried that many rookies since the end of the 2010-11 season, when they first began this rebuild.
“It gave me pains during the preseason,” coach Mike Brown said. “You’ve got Delly, Sergey, then Bennett and Henry and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh. I wish I had some hair to pull out.’ Especially if they’re mixed with some vets on the floor, they all can contribute in certain ways.”
The only rookie likely to play right away is Bennett. Felix is still recovering from a sports hernia, and Karasev was only recently cleared to return after a sprained ankle, but both are caught in a numbers crunch behind veterans.
Dellavedova is a developmental third point guard who will spend a fair amount of time with the D-League’s Canton Charge, as will Sims.
Ideally, the Cavs would like to keep the bottom three or four spots on the roster open for developmental players. That’s certainly the case this season.
“We want to win now, but don’t get me wrong: There’s a learning curve we have to go through and we’re going to hit some bumps along the way,” Brown said.
“How well we fight through the adversity we face throughout the course of the season — if we lose four or five in a row are we going to splinter or are we going to stay together and keep fighting and figure it out? We’re good enough, it’s just a matter of how we attack it mentally more than physically.”
Clark expected to start
Brown hasn’t made up his mind completely but said Tuesday that he expects to start Clark at the small forward spot.
Neither Clark nor Alonzo Gee really distinguished himself during the preseason, but Brown likes the length the 6-foot-10 Clark provides on the perimeter despite not having much experience at the position.
“It’s new to him and it’s a work in progress he’s going through right now,” Brown said. “But he has the talent and ability to play multiple positions and that’s the neat thing we like about him.”
Brown will eventually settle on a nine-man rotation but said he intends to play Gee, Clark and C.J. Miles in the opener Wednesday. Eventually, one of those three will likely get cut out.
Still no Bynum
Bynum has not been cleared to return, but that could happen any day now. Tyler Zeller is cleared to return, and so is Miles, who battled a minor calf injury the last week of preseason. That leaves Felix and Bynum as the only two not ready to play.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at https://ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.