Irving looking to lead Cavs back

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Irving looking to lead Cavs back

Cleveland is still trying to recover from the exodus of Lebron James two years ago but slowly and surely the Cavaliers are hoping to build back up through their back court. The team drafted two guards with their first picks the last two years. In 2011, the Cavs took point guard Kyrie Irving with the number one overall selection and this past summer they surprisingly selected shooting guard Dion Waiters out of Syracuse with the fourth overall pick.

Irving clearly was the best rookie in the league last season, averaging 18 points and 5 assists, but the Cavaliers struggled mightily to a 21-45 record. Irving proved why he was the top pick, showing off his incredible quickness and ability to finish around the rim. Irving is good enough to get the Cavs back at least to being more competitive, something they were not last season.

The Cavaliers think they have found a running mate for Irving with the 6'-4" Waiters, who only averaged 12 points a game in his sophomore season at Syracuse but is capable of being a very streaky scorer.

The Cavaliers also picked up rookie center Tyler Zeller in a trade from Dallas in June. The 7-foot Zeller averaged 16 points and nearly 10 rebounds last season in his senior year at North Carolina. Couple that with the Cavaliers second first-round pick last year in forward Tristan Thompson, and the Cavs hope they have a nice corps to build on going forward.

The fourth overall selection in 2011, Thompson averaged 8 points and 6 rebounds in about 23 minutes a game. Thompson scored 10 points and had 7 rebounds as a starter and his nine double-doubles was third best among rookies.

After only playing in 25 games because of a broken wrist last season, power forward Anderson Varejoe is back. Before he got hurt, Varejoe averaged 10 points and 11 rebounds a game and brings that much needed veteran presence to the court.

The Cavaliers bench is a major concern. With names like Luke Harangody, Daniel Gibson, Samardo Samuels and Alonzo Gee, Cleveland is not scaring anybody.

Cleveland's success will depend on the continued development of Irving and how he integrates other players like Waiters, Thompson and Zeller into the team. The Cavaliers likely won't make the post-season for the third straight season but they should be much improved with Irving leading the way.

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Nats send down Wilmer Difo to call up Lucas Giolito to face Rockies

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Nats send down Wilmer Difo to call up Lucas Giolito to face Rockies

In need of a starter to fill the void left by injuries in their rotation, the Nationals called up top prospect Lucas Giolito on Sunday morning to face the Colorado Rockies.

Infielder Wilmer Difo was optioned to Double-A Harrisburg as the corresponding move, though he will likely be back soon with the minor league season ending in just over a week and MLB rosters expanding on Sept. 1.

Difo, 24, hit .257 with two doubles, five RBI and six runs in 18 games for the Nats before getting sent back down. He joined the team on July 27 when Stephen Drew landed on the disabled list with vertigo-like symptoms.

Difo stuck around as Drew made little progress in his recovery. Now over a month later, Drew still does not have a clear timeline to return. If he doesn't show improvement over the next few weeks, Difo could again become a valuable piece for the Nationals as a backup infielder who can play multiple positions. Difo also bats switch, which is always a plus.

[RELATED: Harper explains ejection vs. Rockies: 'It's not a strike']

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Projecting how Eastern Conference will shake out: Indiana Pacers

Projecting how Eastern Conference will shake out: Indiana Pacers

No. 2 Indiana Pacers

2015-16: After 45 wins and a No. 7 seed, pushed the Toronto Raptors to seven games in the first round before losing.

Best additions: F Thaddeus Young, PG Jeff Teague, PG Aaron Brooks, C Al Jefferson and F Georges Niang. The first two came via trades, the next two free agency and the last one from the draft.  

Biggest change: More dynamic with the guard play as the Pacers can throw out multiple combinations around Paul George and Myles Turner. Jefferson can start though he’s aging and gives them a more traditional back-to-the-basket big more capable than the likes of Jordan Hill.

2016-17 NBA Team Previews:

Brooklyn Nets

New York Knicks

Milwaukee Bucks

Philadelphia 76ers

Question marks: There aren’t any high-efficiency scoring guards though Teague did shoot a career-best (40%) from three

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Top prospect Lucas Giolito faces Rockies as Nats close homestand

Top prospect Lucas Giolito faces Rockies as Nats close homestand

Nats (75-54) at Rockies (61-68) at Nationals Park

Lucas Giolito, the top prospect in the Nationals' organization, is back in Washington, this time to face the Colorado Rockies in his fourth career MLB start. Giolito will pitch in the big leagues for the first time since July 24, over a month ago. He will get his toughest test yet in the Rockies, who boast the highest-scoring lineup in the National League.

Pitching for Colorado will be right-hander Chad Bettis (10-7, 5.29). He saw the Nats two starts ago and gave up two runs through three innings at Coors Field. His start was cut short due to a rain delay.

Jayson Werth gets the day off with Ben Revere in left field. Revere is batting second with the rest of the lineup just like it was on Saturday.

First pitch: 1:35 p.m.
TV: MASN2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Lucas Giolito vs. Rockies - Chad Bettis

NATS

CF Trea Turner
LF Ben Revere
2B Daniel Murphy
RF Bryce Harper
3B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos
1B Ryan Zimmerman
SS Danny Espinosa
RHP Lucas Giolito

ROCKIES

TBA
RHP Chad Bettis

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