Cleveland Cavaliers: The top 20 rookie debuts in team history

2021 NBA Draft prospect Evan Mobley poses for a photo. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)
2021 NBA Draft prospect Evan Mobley poses for a photo. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Cavaliers
Mark Price, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images /

#20: Randolph Keys (22nd overall) – Nov. 4, 1988

Game Score of 7.2

A high-scoring forward from the University of Southern Mississipi, Keys began his NBA career with an efficient 11 points (4-6 FG, 3-3 FT) in 12 minutes during a 40-point win over the Charlotte Hornets. Cracking the long-term rotation of a conference powerhouse would prove difficult however and Keys was traded the following season. This set in motion somewhat of a journeyman career which included stints in Europe and the Los Angeles Lakers where Keys wore number 8 for the final time before Kobe Bryant.

#19: Mark Price (Second round, 25th overall) – Nov. 5, 1986

Game Score of 7.5

Any Cavs All-time list that has Mark Price this low suggests a pretty strong field. One of the original 50-40-90 threats, Price scored 8 points, dished out 4 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds in 15 minutes on debut. He also flashed his shooting prowess going 2-2 from 3-point range. Price’s debut would be the beginning of a Cavalier career which spanned nine seasons and currently ranks second in franchise history in steals and assists, third in 3-pointers and fifth in points. His number 25 was retired by the Cavaliers in 1999.

Despite being drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, Price landed in Cleveland as part of the ridiculous 1986 Cavs rookie class (broken down in intricate detail here by KJG’s own John Suchan). Seriously, if anyone can name a better rookie class on a single team than the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 1986-87 season, please leave a comment below.

Price’s debut may have ended in a loss against the Utah Jazz but it featured a matchup with another up-and-coming point guard – third-year reserve John Stockton.

#18: Bob Sura (17th overall) – Nov. 3, 1995

Game Score: 8.4

Bob Sura can now add this All-time list to his career highlights which included invitations to the Slam Dunk (1997) and 3-point (2000) competitions. Sura’s debut (6 points, 6 assists and 2 steals) would mark the beginning of five seasons as a Cavalier – highlighted by averages of 13.8 points, 3.9 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 1999-00.

#17: Melvin Turpin (Sixth overall) – Oct. 26, 1984

Game Score: 9.1

When I hear the name “Melvin Turpin” I’m immediately taken back to a Michael Jordan game which is (among others) etched in Jazz lore. After MJ dunked in the vicinity of John Stockton, a Jazz fan rose from his courtside seat demanding Jordan pick on someone his own size. MJ’s response: a dunk on 6-foot-11 Mel Turpin a few possessions later with Jordan replying “was he big enough?”

Three seasons before this exchange, Turpin and Jordan would enter the league together in the iconic 1984 NBA Draft. Selected by Washington just three spots after His Airness, Turpin was traded to the Cavaliers on draft night and would start 45 games, averaging 10.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks as a rookie. In his debut he faced an imposing Philadelphia 76ers front line of Moses Malone, Julius Erving and fellow rookie Charles Barkley, posting a valiant 13 points and 10 rebounds (5 offensive) in 39 minutes.

Despite showing progress in his second season, “The Big Dipper” struggled with consistency in his career and would bounce around the league including a stint in Spain. Turpin died in 2010 of a reported suicide at the age of 49.