The Cavaliers' quick start to the season has been tempered by a particularly treacherous portion of the schedule, calling for nine road games in 20 days, leaving the Cavaliers reeling after their most recent ugly loss to the Miami Heat.
Now is also a good time to look back at each player's performance during the first quarter of the season. Are the Cavaliers destined to repeat their mistakes of last year, or will the team continue to improve with the talent they have today?
For each player, I’ll take a look at some regularly used stats to back up their letter grade rating, along with averages per 36 minutes since the Cavaliers have a good amount of variation in minutes per player as part of their 10-man rotation.
17.48 PER (Solid Second Option)
9.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 1.5 APG
11.3 PP36, 12.8 RP36, 1.8 AP36
Anderson Varejao is enjoying his best season in the NBA, averaging career highs in points and rebounds. The NBA’s 10th-leading rebounder has produced eight double-doubles and has gained Byron Scott’s support as someone who should remain a Cavalier throughout the rebuilding process.
Varejao’s scrappy defense helps pads his rebounding stats, but Andy needs to take more responsibility for huge scoring performances from opposing big men. Varejao might not have been fully responsible for Bosh’s 35, Bargnani’s 31, Al Jefferson’s 30 and LaMarcus Aldridge’s 28, all point totals associated with Cavaliers losses.
16.23 PER (Third Banana)
15.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.5 APG
18.5 PP36, 6.6 RP36, 1.7 AP36
On the positive end of things, Antawn Jamison shares leadership duties with Anthony Parker and is responsible for a good portion of the Cavaliers offense.
The negative end of things sadly outweighs the veteran’s contributions.
Jamison is often slotted at the power forward position, where his rebounding, especially on the offensive end, is severely lacking. Antawn has shot more three pointers than Daniel Gibson and has shot as many total field goals as Dirk Nowitzki.
Antawn needs to accept a role that addresses these concerns, or Cavs management need to figure out a way to get Jamison to the Charlotte Bobcats.
21.29 PER (Between Borderline and Bona Fide All-Star)
17.4 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.3 RPG
22.5 PP36, 4.3 RP36, 6.3 AP36
What else could you expect from Kyrie Irving? Comparisons to Derrick Rose ignite ideas of following the Bulls’ blueprint back to prominence. Kyrie has made more than half of the shots he attempted, a rate boosted by his inclination to drive to the basket instead of testing his shaky jump shot.
Kyrie’s glaring negative has been his defensive play, characterized by too many fouls and too many points from opposing backcourts.
10.15 PER (Scrounging for Minutes)
7.4 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.2 APG
10.4 PP36, 3.8 RP36, 1.7 AP36
Daniel Gibson has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Cavaliers, providing a spark off the bench that has led to fourth-quarter victories. Boobie continues to be one of the better three point shooters in the NBA at 46.4 percent.
The opportunity is there for Gibson to take over the starting shooting guard role from Anthony Parker, but his mid-range game might be reason for Byron Scott to bring Gibson off the bench. Gibson is shooting a remarkably dismal 9-of-41 (21 percent) from inside the three-point line.
12.46 PER (In the Rotation)
7.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.7 APG
11.3 PP36, 4.9 RP36, 2.5 AP36
In the battle of who will back up the small forward the Cavaliers select in next year’s draft, Alonzo Gee is building momentum to supplant Omri Casspi from the starting lineup.
Gee has excited Cavs fans with explosive dunks and made them hold their breath during a tremendous fall against the Raptors. If Gee can differentiate himself from Casspi on the defensive end, we could see him “throw the hammer down” for the foreseeable future.
9.55 PER (Definitely Renting)
6.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.2 APG
9.3 PP36, 3.8 RP36, 1.7 AP36
Is Anthony Parker getting in the way of rebuilding, or is he bridging the gap between the Cavaliers’ present and future?
Parker remains in the starting lineup, but ranks seventh on the team in minutes played while shooting less than half the shots attempted by his veteran counterpart, Antawn Jamison. It’s been reported that Parker’s locker sits right next to Kyrie Irving’s, an explicit strategy to give the rookie a mentor in his first NBA season.
15.57 PER (Pretty Good Player)
9.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.7 APG
15.2 PP36, 5.1 RP36, 7.5 AP36
Trade talks are heating up regarding the Cavaliers’ back-up point guard, but Sessions isn’t necessarily impeding the Cavs ability to build for the future.
Sessions is still young at 25 and should continue to work on his shot selection when leading the Cavaliers’ second unit. Sessions will likely leave when his contract expires in 2013, but the Cavs should be in no hurry to unload the valuable back-up point guard.
12.53 PER (In the Rotation)
7.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.4 APG
13.3 PP36, 4.9 RP36, 2.3 AP36
Omri Casspi has struggled to find his shot in his first season with the Cavs, citing confidence as the issue. Casspi needs to take a note from Kyrie Irving’s shot selection to get back on track in the remaining portion of the season.
Omri’s best season in the NBA is surprisingly his first, where he averaged 10.3 PPG, while only 30 percent of his shots were from three-point range. The past two seasons have seen Omri shoot 45 percent and 37 percent of his shots from outside the arc, resulting in lower point production and a five percent lower field-goal percentage.
Take a couple steps in, and Alonzo Gee’s momentum towards the starting lineup could become a forgotten thought.
14.31 PER (Pretty Good Player)
8.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 0.1 APG
16.0 PP36, 9.9 RP36, 0.3 AP36
When given the opportunity this season, Tristan Thompson has produced in the low post, displaying raw skills that over time can be polished into an NBA All-Star level player. Once Tristan makes it past recent injury concerns, coach Byron Scott should look to extend his playing time in order to play a more natural power forward in the lineup (opposed to Antawn Jamison).
Tristan’s free throw percentage is atrocious (.426), a stat known by opponents who have made the forward the third-most fouled player on the Cavaliers.
8.70 PER (Definitely Renting)
5.3 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.3 APG
15.0 PP36, 6.1 RP36, 0.7 AP36
While Samardo Samuels can score when given the opportunity off the bench, he’ll need to regain the trust of his coach in order to stay away from the Canton Charge.
Samuels is turning the ball over a quarter of the times he makes a play on the ball and missed a game in Toronto due to losing his passport in the offseason.
Ryan is the Chief Sports Fan at Please Bench Me, a Chicago startup to help sports fans find the best place to watch sports. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/spony for rumblings on Cleveland sports, Chicago bars and random tech jargon.