The best team in Cleveland Cavaliers history is of course the 2015-2016 squad that won Cleveland’s first NBA Finals title, but what if we were given the ability to construct a 15-man roster out of every single Cavs player ever?
For this experiment, we’ll be selecting players based only on their performance when they were with the team, ignoring what happened before and/or after. It’s a lineup that would rival most other all-time teams, although it could only every be seen in NBA 2K.
PG – Mark Price 1992-1993
18.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 48% FG, 42% 3PT, 95% FT, 31.7 MPG
It’s unfair to Price that he isn’t considered one of the greatest point guards of all time. He could do it all on the offensive end, and was one of the first players to split double-teams instead of passing or dribbling around them. He was incredibly quick and had fantastic court vision to go along with a very good jump shot and crafty finishing. In nine seasons with the Cavaliers, Price made the All-Star and All-NBA teams four times each.
SG – Austin Carr 1973-1974
21.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 45% FG, 38.3 MPG
Mr. Cavalier spent nine seasons wearing wine and gold, and although he was limited by injuries, it’s hard to argue against him being worth the first overall pick back in 1971.
SF – LeBron James 2017-2018
27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 54% FG, 37% 3PT, 36.9 MPG
Cleveland’s all-time best player may have had better scoring seasons, but his 2017-2018 season may have been his best all-around performance. His regular season defense wasn’t great, but on the offensive end, James could still score at will and was excellent at creating for his teammates, averaging a career-high 9.1 assists. With so many other great players on this team, this iteration of James was the obvious choice.
PF – Shawn Kemp 1998-1999
20.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks, 48% FG, 35.1 MPG
Kemp spent only three seasons with Cleveland, but they were really good years. He is most often remembered as a Seattle Supersonic, but his career-high in minutes and points came in a Cavs jersey.
C – Brad Daugherty 1991-1992
21.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 52% FG, 38.8 MPG
A Hall of Fame talent whose career was marred by injuries, Daugherty was a dominant player when healthy, and may have even been ahead of his time in terms of playing style for a big man, as he was one of the most talented passing centers of all time.
Sixth Man – PG – Kyrie Irving 2016-2017
25.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 47% FG, 40% 3PT, 35.1 MPG
Irving isn’t the most popular player in Cleveland anymore, but few players with more talent have played in the city. Irving’s final season with the Cavs was also his finest, leaving fans wondering how things would be different if he hadn’t forced his way to Boston.
PG – Lenny Wilkens 1972-1973
20.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 8.4 assists, 45% FG, 39.6 MPG
Wilkens’ numbers are very good, but even more impressive was they came during his 13th season in the league at the age of 35.
SG – World B. Free 1985-1886
23.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 45% FG, 42% 3PT, 33.8 MPG
The man with one of the most unique names in league history averaged over 22 points per game in each of his four seasons with the Cavs.
SG – Ron Harper 1986-1987
22.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.5 steals, 1.0 blocks, 45% FG, 37.4 MPG
Harper is known as a Bulls’ legend a five-time NBA champion, but he began his career by making the All-Rookie team with Cleveland.
SF – Campy Russell 1978-1979
21.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 48% FG, 38.6 MPG
Russell’s career should have lasted a lot longer than it did, but knee injuries caused him to miss two full seasons and retire at the age of 33.
SF – Bingo Smith 1971-1972
15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 44% FG, 33.3 MPG
While he switched between SG and SF during his career, Smith was labeled as a wing player for 1971-1972, his finest season.
PF – Kevin Love 2017-2018
17.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 46% FG, 42% 3PT, 28.0 MPG
Love hasn’t been quite the same player as he was in Minnesota, but he was absolutely worth trading for, and had his most efficient season in Cleveland in 2017-2018.
PF – Larry Nance 1988-1989
17.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.8 blocks, 54% FG, 34.6 MPG
The father of current Cavs standout Larry Nance Jr., Nance Sr. began his career with the Phoenix Suns but is instead a Cleveland legend.
C – Zydrunas Ilgauskas 2002-2003
17.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.9 blocks, 44% FG, 30.0 MPG
Due to his 7’3″ height, Ilgauskas struggled with injuries for his entire career, but still put together some great seasons with the Cavaliers.
C – Anderson Varejao 2012-2013
14.1 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.5 steals, 48% FG, 36.0 MPG
The Wild Thing was a fan favorite during his time with the Cavs because of his crazy hair and relentless effort, although he angered many by switching sides and playing for the rival Golden State Warriors in 2015-2016.
That’s a very good 15-man roster that has a great mix of scoring, playmaking, spacing, and defense. It may not have the legendary names of a Lakers or Bulls all-time team, but Cleveland could certainly hang with those groups.