Originally posted on Stepien Rules  |  Last updated 2/13/13
Fast forward to next year and nights like Monday, hopefully, will be unacceptable. As for right now, a loss to a hobbled and reeling Minnesota Timberwolves is one that can be taken, reluctantly, with a grain of salt. Chalk it up to the growing pains of a young and inexperienced basketball team. It's hard to tell if that eases the pain or enhances it--that the Cavs have seemingly turned a corner in 2013 and have mixed in some pretty exciting nights amongst some puzzling efforts--much like last nightʼs loss to Minnesota. Over the last 24 games, the Cavs have put together a respectable, while not earth shattering, 11-13 record. The best thing along the way is that itʼs been the young core doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Kyrie Irving has been incredible. Frankly, its to a point where he has to play pretty unbelievably for the Cavs to win games and that he has. For those concerned about a sophomore slump you can breathe easy. All Irving has done is exceed expectations for his 2nd year while catapulting himself into some pretty impressive debates regarding where he stands among the current rank and file of superstars in the NBA. With Kyrie having proven himself to be a more known commodity, the real story is the development of his fellow rising stars. The first being fellow sophomore Tristan Thompson. Thompson's meteoric rise in approval rating is soaring as he continues to demonstrate a legit NBA offensive game. Heʼs facing people up and beating defenders off the dribble from time-to-time. Heʼs playing tougher. Heʼs rebounding. He also has 12 more assists over this 24-game stretch than he had in ALL 60 games last season.  More importantly, Thompson is giving plenty of reason to believe that he can be much more than a career garbage man, as many tabbed him to be in November.   Thompson's shooting 54 percent in this timeframe and has improved his free throw shooting enough to be trusted on the court in late game situations. The best example of Tristanʼs offensive development could be seen down the stretch of the Cavs win against OKC.  With Kyrie Irving in NBA Live Mode, they were trapping Irving on the pick and roll. Two separate times Kyrie lofted the ball over the trapping defenders hands to Tristan who had space to himself near the free throw line. Once he took a hard dribble into the lane before kicking it out to CJ Miles for a game tying three. The other he took a dribble and knocked down one of his now consistent right-handed floaters. It seemed a sequence like that was years away in November--if it ever came at all. He still hasnʼt scratched the surface when it comes to defensive rebounding, and being an interior presence on defense, but it looks like weʼre back to the sky being Tristan's only limitation. At 21 years-old, heʼs averaged around 15 and 11 for better than a quarter of the season and is now a double-double threat in any game he suits up. As for the rookies, there are a bit more ups-and-downs to speak of which is to be expected. After watching Dion Waiters for the first half of the season, two things are that jump shot Tyler Zeller will be a part of the Cavs' bigs rotation for years to come and will probably make a fortune in the NBA. So as we head to the All-Star break, weʼll get to watch all four of the Cavs Rising Stars in action against their peers. Donʼt think the league and itʼs future free agents havenʼt noticed the rare amount of teammates in that game either. We have plenty of ways to add talent in the future but priority one remains to get the most out of these four players. I love the returns from 2011, obviously, and can see a bright future from our 2012 haul. In the meantime, the Cavaliers' primary focus on developing them--as opposed to bringing in higher priced veterans--is probably serving to improve our options in 2013. Stay tuned Cavs fans. The future is bright.
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