Bleacher Report ranking Cavs’ starting five from 2015-17 #5 of last 20 years is just right

Former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving handles the ball. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving handles the ball. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Recently, Bleacher Report ranked the starting five for the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2015-17 as the fifth-best NBA starting five of the last 20 years, which is just right.

In an interview on Wednesday, former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert touched on Kyrie Irving‘s previous trade request and hit on how looking back, he just wished the Cavs’ championship squad, and key cogs in Irving, LeBron James and others, had more time together.

Either way, though, I was still pretty darn content with the return years of LeBron with the Cavaliers, in which James and the Wine and Gold reached four straight NBA Finals.

More from King James Gospel

In that time, Cleveland often got a big lift from pieces such as Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Richard Jefferson for two of the seasons, and later on, Kyle Korver, along with Channing Frye as a catch-and-shoot player in some spot minutes.

Shumpert, when healthy, often provided very good perimeter defense, too.

Granted, the Cavs’ starters from 2015-17 were an especially effective group, and obviously, we all remember the big-time contributions of LeBron, Irving and Tristan Thompson in Cleveland’s historic 2016 NBA Finals 3-1 comeback over the Golden State Warriors.

Anyhow, in bringing up the 2015-17 Cleveland starting five, it was clear that that group of Irving, Smith, James, Kevin Love and Thompson just meshed very well together, and while defensively, the Cavs as a team had their struggles, the group did regularly get stops when they needed them.

Cleveland’s 2015-17 starters were recently ranked as the fifth-best NBA starting five of the last 20 years, according to Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey (and as was h/t All U Can Heat’s Kenneth Wilson), which is just right to me.

The listed starting groups behind the Cavaliers’ aforementioned five of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe BryantPau Gasol-led days, the Detroit Pistons’ uber-balanced starters from the early-to-mid-2000’s, the 2012-2015 San Antonio Spurs and the listed Lakers’ starters in the early 2000’s with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe and others seem about right, really.

While that was feasibly Shaq at his peak, who was an unstoppable force and a constant lob threat for Kobe and Derek Fisher, and Rick Fox was a nice veteran on both ends and had good passing instincts, Irving in 2015-16 and 2016-17 was as good as it gets as a three-level scorer in the postseason, and LeBron was, well, LeBron.

Love also shot 36.0 and 37.3 percent from three-point range in those years, and was a great inside-out scoring third option at 16.0 points and 19.0 points per game, as noted by Basketball Reference.

While of course Love’s defensive deficiencies, when it came to switchouts or against really physical bigs, capped his effectiveness and made him less of a factor at times, such as against Golden State, who made this list ahead of Cleveland twice, and rightfully so, that Cavs’ group could still rebound and score with the best of them among starting fives of the last 20 years.

Among starting groups in 2015-16, the Cavs ranked third in three-pointers made per game, and in the postseason, shot 41.0 percent from three-point land, as indicated by

Now, I get some of the other squads on Bailey’s list were playing before triples were much more a part of the game, but the spacing provided by Love, Smith and Irving as shooters opened up so many driving and playmaking opportunities even more so for James, and his vision and power as a finisher from there made this Cavs’ starting group so lethal overall.

Let’s not dismiss Thompson’s constant offensive rebounding presence, either, which allowed Smith and others to capitalize for other perimeter looks when defenses were often scrambling.

Plus, TT has been one of the better screeners in the league, both on and off-ball, for a long time, and his presence in that regard also made Irving and James even harder to account for, and following that, Thompson got his fair share of putbacks with his relentless style.

Moreover, the Warriors’ overall starting units, given their defensive capability and incredible ball movement both in the pre-Kevin Durant and when they had Kevin Durant years being ahead of Cleveland’s makes sense. In addition, the Boston Celtics’ starting group of Rajon Rondo (back then), Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins defensively and from a balance standpoint was so tough from 2007-10.

Next. Cavaliers: Assembling their all-time starting five. dark

So again, Bailey ranking the Cleveland Cavaliers starting five at #5 of NBA starting groups of the last 20 years, though, is just right from my perspective.