Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers essentially shuffled half of their roster on the day of the trade deadline.
Bringing in a new slew of players ended up working (for the most part), as the team advanced to their fourth-straight NBA Finals.
How much of that was solely due to LeBron James’ presence is up for debate, but what’s a virtual certainty is that the Cavaliers will be much less of a contender since the former face of their franchise now a Los Angeles Laker.
The only question mark right now in terms of Cleveland’s roster involves Rodney Hood. He’s a restricted free agent and Cleveland has the right to match any offer he receives from another club. Although his stock most likely took a hit from his time in Cleveland during half of last season, he might be playing elsewhere in the fall.
But, other than that, the core seems to be in tact.
Joining veterans Kevin Love, George Hill, JR Smith, Kyle Korver and Tristan Thompson will be Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic and first-round draft pick Collin Sexton. Kendrick Perkins and Okaro White are also signed.
On paper, that doesn’t look like a playoff team.
But, in an interview with Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon on Tuesday, Clarkson conveyed his optimism.
No LeBron, no problem
"I feel like we're going to shock a lot of people this year just because LeBron left," Clarkson said. "I feel great about the team, coaching staff. They got a lot of belief in guys, so I'm just ready to strap it up and get ready for the season now."
On an individual level, Clarkson is determined to have a much-improved campaign in 2018-2019. He didn’t fit in whatsoever after he arrived in Cleveland this past season and was even benched in the playoffs for his inability to make any positive contributions.
"And in terms of my body and stuff, I have to take care of my body all year, because like I said this was my first time playing after April, but it's those guys that keep up with themselves, keep playing at that high level, taking care of their bodies," Clarkson said. "That's a big thing for me this summer. I got a new strength guy out in L.A. that I've been working with. He's got me on a diet and stuff like that, so I've been focusing in the weight room so I can be ready for those times and keep prolonging myself so I can stay at a high level.”
It seems virtually certain that Cleveland will have to make some major front office decisions in order to improve their short-term chances at competing at a high level, but Clarkson thinks the current Cavs can make some noise.
Only time will tell.