With another Cleveland Cavaliers season now in the books, it’s as good a time as any to take a look back at the team. All in all, I really think that this team had it’s potential sapped due to the large amount of injuries that piled up across the 82-game season. Those injuries to three of the four best players on the roster – Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters – took that trio out for a combined 101 games. That’s a number that I don’t think any team in the league could really overcome.
Editor’s Note: Samardo Samuels, Josh Selby, Chris Quinn, Jeremy Pargo, Kevin Jones and Donald Sloan will not being graded due to inactivity and/or lack of time spent as a Cavalier. Also, the stats for Shaun Livingston, Marresse Speights and Wayne Ellington only reflect their time after joining the Cavaliers.
Anderson Varejao: Incomplete
Season Stats: 25 GP, 14.1 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 47.8 percent shooting, 0.6 BPG
If not for his season-ending injury, Varejao would have likely made the All-Star Game this season. He had developed into a double-double lock and was a bright spot on a horrible team. His injury raises a lot of concerns as to whether he will be worth another long-term investment here in another year or so. If he had played a full season, he would have been the highest graded player on this team. But because he was not, he gets an incomplete. Let’s see how he looks next season – and see what happens then.
Tristan Thompson: A-
Season Stats: 82 GP, 11.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 48.8 percent shooting, 0.9 BPG
Thompson may not have had the best statistical season of any Cavalier, but the second-year forward may have had the most complete. He started off slow (possibly due to how well Varejao was playing), but once the Brazilian went down, his season really took off and he became a double-double threat every time he stepped on the hardwood. Moving forward, he is going to be a key cog on this team as a starting power forward. If he can improve his offensive game, he could become the second-best player on this team. Remember, he’s only been playing basketball since he was 16. If he can make big strides in his game this summer, look out.
Kyrie Irving: B+
Season Stats: 59 GP, 22.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 45.2 percent shooting, 3.2 TPG
This season confirmed everything we knew about Irving, and that’s a two-sided coin. On one side, you have the spectacular point guard with an advanced clutch gene and a knack for making big-time plays on the big stage. That Kyrie is the reason to have hope for this basketball team. On the other side, there is the point guard that (fairly or not) is starting to be labeled as injury prone and showed no real improvement on the defensive side of the ball in his second season. Put it simply: We know how talented how Kyrie is (and how good he could be), but he has a long way to go before he can be called a franchise player in the light LeBron James was.
Shaun Livingston: B
Season Stats: 49 GPG, 7.2 PPG, 3.6 assists, 50.7 percent shooting, 0.8 SPG
Livingston may not be the long-term solution at backup point guard, but he brought real stability to the bench and added veteran moxie to a team that greatly needed it (and still needs it). His stats aren’t that entirely mind blowing either, but he really had a positive effect on this team that cannot be measured by the box score. He rarely made negative plays and I can’t think of another Cavalier that did that consistently. Here’s hoping he’s back next season in the Wine and Gold.
C.J. Miles: B
Season Stats: 65 GP, 11.2 PPG, 41.5 percent shooting, 38.5 percent 3-point shooting
Miles started off the season cold, followed by a long hot streak and ultimately played at a level somewhere in between there for the remainder of the season. At times, he was a clear No. 2 option after Irving and could set the tone for the entire offensive. At other times, he’d miss jumper after jumper. If he would have had a more consistent and complete season, then we may have been talking about an “A” level season for Miles. It’ll be interesting to see how he is implemented with a new coach next year, as someone like Mike Brown may be less inclined to start Miles due to his defensive abilities. But at the very least, he has earned a role on this team moving forward.
Coach Byron Scott: B-
To be frank, I was not a fan of letting Scott go after three seasons as coach. Sure, his career-winning percentage as the Cavaliers coach (28.1 percent) is pretty awful, but think about all he had to deal with. In his first season, he was coaching a team that had just lost LeBron James and was devoid of a top-tier player. In his second year, injuries piled up in the lockout-shortened season. And this year, Scott was without Waiters, Irving and Varejao for over 100 games due to injuries. In his three seasons, those three players missed 202 games. Is it possible that he didn’t mesh with everyone and maybe overworked this team? Yes, and it would not shock me. But in my mind, I’d rather have the coach Irving called his “basketball father” than re-hire Brown (who recently moved back to the Cleveland area) as head coach.
Alonzo Gee: B-
Season Stats: 82 GP, 10.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 41.0 percent shooting, 1.3 SPG
Gee had a quietly solid year on the shores of Lake Erie. His averages show that while he is not a long-term starting option at the small forward position (hence all of the clamoring for the Cavaliers to draft Otto Porter), but has quietly developed into a nice piece for this Cavaliers squad. Also, he was one of two Cavaliers (along with Tristan Thompson) to play in all 82 games. If he can have seasons like this consistently, he can have a good career in this league.
Marresse Speights: B-
Season Stats: 39 GP, 10.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 45.7 percent shooting, 0.7 BPG
Speights was a real asset to this team when he came over in the Memphis trade. He bridged the gap between the bench and starting rotation and helped make up for Tyler Zeller’s dreadful rookie campaign (but more on that later). He faded a little bit toward the end of the season, but he’s still someone that I feel could be an asset for this team. He controls his own destiny due to a player option, and it’s pretty likely that he decides to become a free agent. It’ll be interesting to see where he ultimately winds up.
Wayne Ellington: B-
Season Stats: 38 GP, 10.4 PPG, 40.7 percent shooting, 37.1 percent 3-point shooting
Ellington, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, is another player I would like to see on this team moving forward. This could change if the Cavaliers draft a shooting guard, but with him on the roster, there is good depth at shooting guard. He also could be a real mentor to Dion Waiters, as they are both Philadelphia natives. Ideally, he’ll be back next season at a fair price and play 15 minutes a night off the bench. But if he leaves and Speights does as well, then no player acquired in the Memphis trade will still be a Cavalier.
Dion Waiters: C+
Season Stats: 61 GP, 48 GS, 14.7 PPG, 41.2 percent shooting, 2.0 TPG
Before he flipped his game into another gear, Waiters was on his way to have a pretty bad rookie season. He still has his flaws (namely in shot selection and defense), but it’s looking up for the Syracuse product. Going into his second season there is unquestionable raw talent in his game and he could develop into a really solid shooting guard. He was a top five rookie in the entire league and that exceeded any expectations that most people had for him. Going into next year, here’s hoping he comes to camp in shape and has spent the summer working on his basketball skills. If the Cavaliers cannot nab Porter, Anthony Bennett or Nerlens Noel in June, it’ll be interesting to see how a player like Shabazz Muhammad or Victor Oladipo would mesh with Waiters.
Luke Walton: C
Season Stats: 50 GP, 3.4 PPG, 3.3 APG, 39.2 percent shooting
Walton was a running joke this season, but he probably was the best passer outside of Irving on the team. He’ll be gone next year, but I wish nothing but the best for him. As infuriating as it was to watch him shoot threes, he played hard and hopefully the young guys take note.
Daniel “Boobie” Gibson: C-
Season Stats: 46 GP, 5.4 PPG, 34.0 percent shooting, 34.4 percent 3-point shooting
Gibson is another veteran on his way out of Cleveland. He is unquestionably limited as a player (coming off of his worst shooting season), and he did provide some great highlights during his tenure here. He did not play much this season due to being undersized, and that reinforces the idea that he is nothing more than a spot-up shooter with limited defensive ability. Still, I expect him to catch on somewhere this offseason.
Tyler Zeller: D+
Season Stats: 77 GP, 55 GS, 7.9 PPG, 5.7 rebounds, 43.8 percent shooting
After his rookie season, the jury is still out on Zeller as a long-term center prospect. He can run the floor well, step out for the occasional jump shot and is a decent all-around offensive player. But, on defense, there is a lot lacking in his game. He is easily bullied, doesn’t block shots and isn’t a great rebounder. This is a player who fouled out with over six minutes to go against Brook Lopez. At this point in time, there are more questions than answers about his game and, at 23 years of age, he can’t be labeled as a “raw” talent. The upcoming draft is going to be key for Zeller because if General Manager Chris Grant spends his top pick on Noel (or his second first rounder on a center), then that will show what the Cavaliers front office currently thinks about a player who they traded up to select just a year ago.
Omri Casspi: F
Season Stats: 43 GP, 4.0 PPG, 39.4 percent shooting
For whatever reason, Casspi just never lived up to the expectations some had for him when he was acquired in exchange for J.J. Hickson (who is thriving in Portland, may I add). He’ll be gone next season, and that is for the best. It wouldn’t be shocking if he ends up in Israel due to a lack of interest from NBA teams as well. His tenure in Cleveland can be summed up in one word: disappointing.