The current Cleveland Cavaliers roster has a lot of faces that are not known to the average fan. Sure they may know two rookies tasked with helping Kyrie Irving resurrect the Cavaliers (Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller), but do they know the Cavs recently added a former All-Big East player who was not drafted in June? Or how about the fact that the Wine and Gold also recently claimed a former budding star whose career was derailed by one of the most horrific knee injuries in the history of the NBA? Or what about the fact that the Cavs just recalled a former Wisconsin star was a Third Team All-American as a senior?
Kevin Jones, Shaun Livingston and Jon Leuer may not ever be household names in Cleveland, but right now, on one of the worst teams in the NBA, opportunities are aplenty for this trio of players, albeit in different ways.
So, without further adieu, get to know Jones, Livingston and Leuer
The former West Virginia Mountaineer was recalled from the Cavs D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge, on December 4th. In Canton, where he was playing 41.0 minutes a game, Jones averaged 23.6 points and 12.6 rebounds. For his NBA career, the stats are obviously much lower (1.8 points per game, 1.4 rebounds per game, 50.0 percent shooting from the field). However, in the Cavaliers last two games against the Rockets and Bulls, head coach Byron Scott has given Jones regular minutes. In 12 minutes against Houston, Jones had six points and three rebounds in replacing an ineffective Luke Walton. Against the Bulls, Jones scored four points and had two rebounds in twenty minutes of action. Jones’ minutes are likely to be cut once Anderson Varejao returns and Zeller returns to the bench, but he could still receive minutes on a limited scale.
Jones has a nice inside-outside game at the power forward position, even if his below-average height limits it at times. He can shoot from mid-range with decent accuracy, and in his minutes in Cleveland since his return, he has been active on the boards. Jones will never be a star in the league, but he could develop into a nice role player on a contending team. I just hope the he does not become Samardo Samuels 2.0, and be banished to bench warming for undisclosed reasons.
Livingston, once a Duke commit, was the fourth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. While drafted as a point guard, Livingston also spent time playing shooting guard for the Clippers. While he showed potential, Livingston missed a lot of time due to injury in his first three seasons, missing 101 of 246 regular season games. That may have been a foreshadowing of what happened on February 26th, 2007.
On that fateful day, Livingston suffered what may be the most gruesome knee injury in the history of the NBA. The injury, which saw Livingston tear his ACL, PCL, MCL, his meniscus, dislocate his patella and dislocate his tibiofemoral joint, was so graphic that ESPN had to warn its viewers ahead of time of the content in the clip.
Since the injury, Livingston has bounced around the NBA a little bit, playing for the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Tulsa 66ers of the D-League, Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets and Washington again before ending up with Cleveland on Christmas Day. Since his arrival in Cleveland, Livingston has entered the rotation ahead of one-hit wonder Jeremy Pargo. Livingston also has received meaningful minutes ahead of Waiters, currently the Cavaliers sixth man.
Out of the three newbies, Livingston’s tenure may be the most interesting. With his history of bouncing around the NBA, the rest of the season will likely indicate if the Cavaliers commit to him as Irving’s backup for at least next season. If he can average six points and a few assists in 10-15 minutes a game, we can call Livingston a piece of this team – for now.
Leuer has a skillset that no other Cavalier has, and it could work to his advantage in his pursuit of earning playing time. A “stretch” four with the ability to step out and hit jumpers, Leuer is a different player than any other “big” on the Cavaliers roster. At Wisconsin, he improved every season, going from averaging 2.9 points as a freshman to 18.3 as a senior. In college, Leuer’s lowest shooting percentage was 46.6 percent as a sophomore, and his highest was 52.2 percent as a junior. He also hit threes at a decent clip in college, as he made 40.5 percent in his four years as a Badger.
With Jones now receiving minutes and Varejao set to return against the Hawks on Wednesday, Leuer may not have a real window of opportunity in Cleveland. That window could be even smaller if the Cavaliers end up dealing Varejao to Oklahoma City in a deal that nets them Perry Jones III, a stretch four like Leuer. Also, working against Leuer is Scott’s favoring veterans over young talent. And with young guns Thompson, Zeller and Jones already in the mix up front, it might take an injury for Leuer to get some minutes.
As a whole, this trio is not a group of young building blocks that will help Irving bring the Cavs back to prominence. But there is talent here, and there is potential that could be tapped with the right coaching and playing time. They all have different assets that they can bring to this team, but some have more potential than others. Jones has the highest ceiling of all, while Leuer seems like a player who may be stuck in the limbo that is the NBA D-League. Livingston’s height makes him a favorable backup at point guard, but whether or not he’ll be able to contribute enough for the Cavs to keep him around is yet to be solved. But all it takes is one injury to open up a window of opportunity for each guy to get this big break, and that big break could change everything.