The Cavs have worked their way into solid playoff position, and are currently looking to end the regular season on a high note. After a 19-20 start to the season, the Cavs have won 25 of their last 31, and many times in impressive and entertaining fashion. The team has gotten productivity from almost everyone, including the recently maligned bench. We at Cavs Nation have graded each player on their season so far along with Head Coach David Blatt and did not include Anderson Varejao due to his season being cut short due to a torn Achilles. We start with coach Blatt:
Head Coach David Blatt
When Coach Blatt got hired, LeBron James, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov, James Jones, Mike Miller, and Shawn Marion all played for other teams. The best player on the team was an injury-prone 21-year-old who had never been in the playoffs. He was Cleveland’s fourth coach in four years, if you count Mike Brown twice. He assumed the role in some of the worst circumstances, and was forced to manage the transition to some of the best circumstances. Anyone who coaches LeBron James will be put under a spotlight, but Blatt has handled it well and allowed our best players to play to their strengths.
Click “Next” to see how we graded mid-season acquisition Timofey Mozgov!
Mozgov’s value with the Cavs is being taken for granted. He has solidified the frontline and allowed Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to spend the majority of their minutes playing their natural positions. It would be hard to pick a member of the team that plays harder than him, and he always seems like he has something to prove. His stats aren’t going to win him any awards, but his presence has made the Cavs a much better team.
Click “Next” to see how we graded Kevin Love!
Kevin Love, by the standards that he set for himself in Minnesota, has underachieved. He has at times been exposed on defense, and has been an inconsistent shooting threat. Even with that, he has still been incredibly valuable to the grand scheme of things in Cleveland. He makes the Cavs very difficult to guard, and he has been our best rebounder.
Click “Next” to see how we graded mid-season acquisition J.R. Smith!
On more than one occasion this year, I have asked myself “Is JR Smith too unselfish?” Those are definitely not words I expected to say when we traded for him, but Smith has been a godsend for the Cavs. He is the type of offensive weapon that doesn’t need the ball that the Cavs were desperate for. Throw in the surprisingly pesky perimeter defense, and the team has a very complete 2-way player to complement James and Irving.
Click “Next” to see how we graded Tristan Thompson!
Tristan Thompson earns a C+ by doing what he has been expected to do. He is an energetic and athletic big man that earns a living on the offensive boards. His offensive game is still limited to catching lobs and getting put-backs. He has done very well with what he was already good at, but still needs to enhance his skill set to help the second unit.
Click “Next” to see how we graded LeBron James!
LeBron has been much more of himself lately, but if we are to pass judgment based on the entire season, then this has not been his best year. Yes, the challenges have perhaps been his greatest, but his leadership, body language, and effort have all come into question. He is still among the MVP candidates, as he should be, but only because of his play in the last two months. Our bets are on him solidifying his place as “Best in the World” throughout the playoffs.
Click “Next” to see how we graded mid-season acquisition Iman Shumpert!
Along with Smith and Mozgov, Shumpert has blended in quickly. He has given the Cavs exactly what they traded him for on the defensive end, and the offensive production has been an unexpected bonus. The way that he has become an offensive threat, both off the dribble and by making spot-up threes, has allowed Coach Blatt to mix up the rotations and give LeBron more rest.
Click “Next” to see how we graded Kyrie Irving!
Kyrie Irving has developed and matured into a Top-5 point guard in the NBA. His 55-point outburst against Portland showed that he could take over a game without LeBron, and his 57-point record breaker showed that he can do it with LeBron. He is giving more on the defensive end, and it seems like forever ago that we were talking about his zero assist performance in Utah. He is having a career year, and more than anyone has adjusted to life with LeBron.
Click “Next” to see how we graded James Jones!
James Jones came over from Miami as a veteran leader, great locker room guy, and close friend of LeBron James. In these areas, he has absolutely excelled. His presence on the court has been somewhat mixed because of inconsistent playing time. He plays out of position when the Cavs go small, and spreads the court as a makeshift power forward. Not much else should be expected of him.
Click “Next” to see how we graded Shawn Marion!
Shawn Marion has only played in a few games since returning from a hip injury, but with the emergence of JR Smith and Iman Shumpert as contributors on both ends of the court, there is little room in the rotation for Marion. His opportunity may come in the playoffs, however, because he is still a versatile defender and should be 100% healthy by then.
Click “Next” to see how we graded Matthew Dellavedova!
If there is any position that the Cavs will have to address in the offseason, it is backup point guard. Dellavedova simply is what he is. He is undersized, unathletic, and an inconsistent shooter. What he gives the team is heart, a willingness to get dirty, and zero sense of entitlement, which we sometimes need. He is getting too much playing time to believe that he won’t play in the postseason, but his minutes will likely decrease.
Click “Next” to see how we graded Mike Miller!
Mike Miller has been out of the rotation for what seems like the same amount of time that the Cavs have been winning. There is likely no connection between the two, as Miller’s presence is best served making sure that the team is mentally ready to play. It should be humbling for our younger players to see how invested he is from the bench. If he can have that attitude, why can’t everyone?
Click “Next” to see how we graded rookie Joe Harris!
There was a lot more playing time for Joe Harris before the midseason trades happened, and Harris has now been relegated to clean up duty in blowout games. His skill set is a good fit for the Cavs, but he is a few years away from contributing on a championship contending team.
Click “Next” to see how we graded mid-season acquisition Kendrick Perkins!
Kendrick Perkins may lead the league in fouls per minute, and while that doesn’t seem useful now, there will likely come a time in the playoffs that the Cavs need his physical play. He is a solid low-post defender, but cannot be counted on to finish in traffic or above the rim. If he is in the game, he should be the only Cavalier in the post.
Click “Next” to see how we graded Brendan Haywood!
Brendan Haywood has not been able to crack the rotation all year long. Unfortunately for the veteran big man, it looks like father time has caught up with him. He no longer possesses the athleticism to protect the rim as well as he did in his prime years, but he is healthy and believes he can help the Cavs make a run this postseason. He emphasized staying ready, so the opportunity may be there if something were to happen to the guys ahead of him in the rotation.