Weighing in on NBA on ESPN’s all-time Cavs-Raptors 5’s debate

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving celebrate in-game. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving celebrate in-game. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

NBA on ESPN/ESPN has been raising to question how all-time five’s for NBA teams would do against one another, and I thought I’d weigh on in their recent debate of the all-time Cleveland Cavaliers versus the all-time Toronto Raptors.

Us NBA fans have been starving for basketball, and even though they aren’t a contender, I still miss watching the Cleveland Cavaliers so dearly.

It was good to hear that the league is seemingly likely to return from its’ novel coronavirus-induced suspension via a bubble-type scenario at least likely in Disney World, based on recent reported updates which you can view here and also here, though.

In terms of a few more quick updates, the New York Times‘ Marc Stein had more to add on Friday regarding how teams would likely be able to bring 35 members of players/personnel in a “campus” type of resumption, instead of roughly 50 otherwise.

Additionally, though, Yahoo! Sports Seerat Sohi detailed how medical experts essentially told her how if a return were to happen, it would begin with a “strict quarantine and an impenetrable” type of environment.

I would expect the league to abide by that, however, with player/staff safety always being priority number one. Either way, though, it’s been fun for us fans and others to engage in hypothetical scenarios/look back at prior eras and compare players, etc. with the NBA season on hiatus.

In what has been fairly entertaining to see has been NBA on ESPN rolling out debates about all-time fives for NBA teams, and for the Cavs, it was understandable for them to have Mark Price, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Larry Nance and Brad Daugherty. For comparison’s sake, here’s my all-time Cavs’ starting five.

In this case, all five of these ESPN starting five members made their mark in a tremendous way for the Cavaliers, with Price, Nance and Daugherty doing so in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s with the squad a fixture in the postseason. In Irving and James’ case, they were of course the key cogs in Cleveland’s only championship thus far via 3-1 comeback over the Golden State Warriors. LeBron spent 11 seasons with the Cavs and is undoubtedly the best player in the team’s history, too, and he has countless franchise records to boot.

In regards to that Cleveland Cavaliers’ five, lets dissect how a hypothetical matchup would go between them and NBA on ESPN’s all-time Toronto Raptors’ five.

Now that NBA on ESPN Toronto Raptors’ all-time five consisted of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Vince Carter, Kawhi Leonard and Chris Bosh, and we’ll take a look at how a matchup between them and that Cavs’ all-time five would go in a hypothetical seven-game series, which was how the question was framed.

Of these two point guards, and factoring in Irving, the Cavs would feasibly have trouble preventing penetration from Lowry, who is sturdy and always does a good job of setting up his teammates. I’d expect that to happen frequently against Price, and feasibly if switchouts happened against the likes of Daugherty. DeRozan would get his mid-range looks, too, where he’s lethal.

A pick-and-pop game between Lowry/DeRozan and Bosh (34.4 percent from three-point range with the Miami Heat, per Basketball Reference) could give the Cavaliers’ five above trouble, and with Bosh being a good big passer, LeBron and Nance would need to communicate through off-ball to prevent lobs/cuts to the rack from Carter.

More from King James Gospel

Leonard in the mid-post/along the baseline could give the Cavs and James, if even in his athletic prime trouble, too, with Leonard’s long strides, polished handle and with Carter and Lowry as floor spacers, and to a degree, Bosh as well.

Nonetheless, with Nance (2.2 blocks and 0.9 steals per game for his career) and James (1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks lifetime) as terrific rotators, and with Irving at least being opportunistic in getting his hands in passing lanes, I still believe the Cavs would be able to load up on Carter and Leonard on crucial possessions, and be able to get some stops when they really need them.

In my humble opinion, though, the on the other end of the floor, the Cavs just have more on-ball creation with Irving, Price and James, and more spacing.

Price, who was lightning quick and a masterful pick-and-roll operator in instances with Daugherty and Nance, would be a handful for Lowry on the other in his own right.

In today’s NBA, too, Price I believe would be much more of a volume three-point shooter, and he could fill it up and put constant pressure on defenses at all three levels as a scorer, and likewise for Irving.

Of course, to me, while Kawhi does about as well as anyone against James in primary coverage, the Cavs would be able to get mid-range baskets a bunch from Nance along the baseline with constant cross screens with Daugherty, and they’d get some cross matches throughout possessions, where James and Price would find those bigs for post-ups.

Carter on Nance, though on the other end would be a rough matchup, would be the same for Carter on the defensive end in stretches. Daugherty was more than capable in the mid-range/at the elbows of hitting, too, and would get those.

Lastly, even with the Raptors feasibly loading up on Bron and Irving in terms of drives, James has always been an outstanding cutter. Factoring in that, and his freight train style/speed in the open floor, I see this Cavs’ all-time five just having more go-to bucket-getters, along with legitimate spacers throughout a series.

Here, I’d go this ESPN Cavs’ all-time starting five in six over this ESPN Raps’ all-time starting five.

Next. Cavaliers: 10 greatest guards in franchise history. dark

For the full list of all-time Eastern Conference starting fives from ESPN’s featured writers, you can view those here, and for that for the West from ESPN’s featured writers, you can view those here. Everybody has their own opinions for these, though, and these make for some fun debates for us NBA fans.