February 24, 2012; Orlando FL, USA; Team Chuck guard Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers (2) drives against Team Shaq during second half of the BBVA rising stars challenge at the Amway Center in Orlando. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Offseason Insanity: Imagining the Cavaliers Spirit Animals

Well, it’s officially that time on the NBA calendar. The time where news slows to a crawl, Josh Harrellson signing a contract is news and I routinely run out of ideas for pieces and slowly start to go insane. I believe this week, where the Cavs signed all their draft picks and really have nothing more that could happen for the foreseeable future, I have reached that point. And that’s why I decided to determine the spirit animal representing each Cleveland Cavalier on a guaranteed contract.

I love animals; I love the Cavs. It seemed like a perfect match. Each animal was given careful consideration and matches several qualities of the given player’s game and personality. Some were easier than others; Dion Waiters took me barely any time to come up with, while Andrew Bynum took nearly two days. However, I am confident that each spirit animal is a reasonable selection. I hope you enjoy, and feel free to critique my selections in the comments below.

Kyrie Irving – African Lion


The lion is the king of the savannah; Kyrie is the king of the Cavs. Male lions are incredibly respected, much like Kyrie is. It’s also debated whether lions or tigers are the more impressive big cat. This is a nice parallel for the Kyrie/John Wall arguments, isn’t it? Kyrie’s also incredibly young with a ton of potential. Perhaps the most famous lion was young with a ton of potential. He’s also sometimes lazy in one aspect of the game (defense) and commonly relies on his teammates to help him. This is not unlike the commonly lazy male lion, who will let the females do the hunting for him. The lion’s a great spirit animal for Kyrie.

Dion Waiters – Goliath Bird-Eating Tarantula


Like the Goliath birdeater, or any other tarantula, Dion Waiters does not exactly have the best public opinion of him. Granted people aren’t scared of Dion like the 12-inch spiders, but still. Dion’s big knock is that he has the skill to get to the rim with high productivity but often settles for easier jumpers. Likewise, the Goliath birdeater gets its name because of its ability to kill and eat birds and rodents with ease. However, it often settles for smaller insects for its diet. This comparison also hits a personal note for me. I used to be quite arachnophobic but slowly learned about tarantulas and now they are one of my favorite animals. Likewise, I usually hate inefficient volume shooters who refuse to attack the basket and disrupt the offense. My least favorite players ever are Kobe and T-Mac, in some order. However, for some reason, I defend Dion to the death and enjoy watching him.

Earl Clark – Three-Toed Sloth


Like the sloth, Earl Clark was recently pretty useless and fun to make fun of. He didn’t have any real game to speak of when he was a member of the Suns then the Magic. However, last winter, Clark got really popular among Lakers fans for going on a tear in late January that actually wasn’t all that impressive: 10 points and eight rebounds per game and 50 percent shooting for the month. Likewise, sloths exploded in internet popularity around the same time last year, for no real reason. They aren’t that cute, they don’t do anything besides be slow and they kind of smell bad. However, for the past year, my Facebook gets flooded once or twice a week with dumb pictures of sloths. Likewise, now I have to deal with more Earl Clark than I’d like this season because he’s a Cav now. Perfect fit.

Tristan Thompson – Monarch Butterfly


Tristan was a tough comparison to find. I settled on the famous butterfly because Tristan also has experience migrating from Canada to Texas as a former Longhorn. He also was kinda ugly as a young guy, averaging just eight points per game in 24 minutes and shooting 55 percent from the line. Then, last year, he had his cocoon stage, flashing signs of major improvement, and showing potential to be something really special on both ends. This year, he has the potential to blossom into a beautiful butterfly, as he’ll probably be vastly improved as a shooter and defender and might even play center.

Andrew Bynum – Emperor Penguin


This one was really tough to figure out. The emperor’s knees are so inefficient that they spawned the title of a David Feldman book. Naturally, Andrew Bynum fits right in here. However, in the right situation, both are deadly; Emperor penguins are deadly hunters underwater, while Bynum thrives in the post when healthy. Also, bonus points here because both Andrew Bynum and penguins aren’t well received in the city of Philadelphia.

Anderson Varejao – Blue-Ringed Octopus


Blue-Ringed Octopi are some of the most deadly defenders in the sea much like Varejao is one of the most effective defensive players in the league. This octopus is very poisonous to humans and will attack if provoked. Otherwise they are incredibly docile, much like Andy is a very people-friendly person. The octopus is also somewhat squishy and breakable, and like most octopi, is known to lose limbs and re-grow them. This might remind you of Varejao’s injury luck. This one was so natural a selection. He even looks like he has an octopus sitting on his head with that hair.

Jarrett Jack – Jackson’s Chameleon


Jack gets a chameleon mainly because he’s been with six teams now in his NBA career and has blended in pretty well with every team he’s been on. He also attacks pretty well from mid-range, shooting 45 percent from 16-23 feet last year. Chameleons, likewise, are nature’s mid-range killer, using their long, sticky tongues to snag insects from feet away. Why Jackson’s chameleon? Besides his name being in it, Jack is pretty funny on the Twitter (@JarrettJack03), and the Jackson’s chameleon wins a comedy award for looking pretty hilarious with those horns.

Anthony Bennett – Common Warthog


It took me a while to figure out that both the Cavs  No. 1 picks were Lion King characters. Bennett draws the comparison of the warthog because like the warthog, Bennett is omnivorous with his offense. Warthogs eat anything from grass and roots to carrion and can be quite ferocious when needed. This makes for a nice metaphor for Bennett’s inside/outside potential. However, the warthog is a pig and can be lazy and overweight. Bennett can be pretty lazy and might be overweight. Bennett might be a young warthog. (WHEN HE WAS A YOUNG WARTHOOOOOGGGGGGGG!!!)

Alonzo Gee – Donkey


Let’s see……undersized for its position? Check. Can’t do a whole lot of stuff? Donkeys can’t do much but give rides or carry stuff. Check. Tries really hard at what it is good at? This animal will get you where you need to go. Check. Motion to nickname Gee “Donkey”? Please.

Tyler Zeller – Alaskan Salmon


Good at obscure things! (Zeller: Setting picks. Salmon: Swimming Upstream) Overly Expensive! (Zeller: Three picks in 2012 draft. Salmon: $24.95 per pound) No Hands! (Cheap shot, sorry Tyler.) Brethren that may have been eaten by bears! (We haven’t seen Luke since his stint with the Suns two years ago, and Cody would get eaten alive by the Grizzlies frontcourt, I feel.)

Sergey Karasev – Arctic Fox


These two match because both hail from cold temperatures. Also, both are fairly intelligent. The fox is a great predator, much like Karasev is a solid offensive player, and while the fox isn’t very threatening, it uses camouflage as its defense. While Karasev isn’t fast enough to be an effective defender yet, he does give great effort, which can help him. His spirit animal, like the rest, is a great fit.

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Tags: Andrew Bynum Cleveland Cavaliers Dion Waiters Earl Clark Kyrie Irving Tristan Thompson

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