Cleveland Cavaliers: Top 10 Rookies in Franchise History
Does Tristan Thompson deserve a spot in the discussion?
How could this list be created without Mark Price, Kevin Johnson or Terrell Brandon?
Cleveland has had their fair share of ups and downs throughout franchise history, resulting in a wealth of high draft picks promised to reverse the team’s fortunes. Who was successful in making an immediate impact and generating the same type of promise that Kyrie holds today?
Let the discussion begin...
10. Carlos Boozer
2002-03 Rookie Season: 10.0 PPG 7.5 RPG 1.3 APG
Before turning on the Cavaliers franchise, Carlos Boozer was arguably the biggest surprise of the 2002 NBA Draft. Despite inconsistency at head coach, Boozer was placed on the All-Rookie Team after being selected with the 34th pick in the second round.
Interesting Note: Boozer certainly wasn’t accustomed to losing before joining the Cavaliers, having lost only 25 games in a seven-year span covering high school and college. The Cavaliers went on to lose 65 games in 2002-03.
9. Andre Miller
1999-2000 Rookie Season: 11.1 PPG 5.8 APG 3.4 RPG
Following Mark Price and Terrell Brandon, Andre Miller was slated as the Cavs next great point guard. Miller racked up 11 double-digit assist performances, highlighted by his best individual performance of the season, a triple-double (28 PTS, 12 AST, 10 REB) in a loss against Atlanta.
Interesting Note: Miller escaped the dangers of growing up in Compton to not only receive his degree from Utah but also participate in post-grad courses during his fourth year of eligibility with the Utes.
8. John Johnson
1970-71 Rookie Season: 16.6 PPG 6.8 RPG 4.8 APG
The Cavaliers’ first ever draft pick, selected No. 7 in the first round of the 1970 NBA Draft, chose a career in the NBA over an option to play for the Texas Chaparrals in the ABA. Johnson was one of the Cavs top players during his three-year stay in Cleveland, albeit in mostly losing performances for the young franchise.
Interesting Note: Although playing for the opposing team, John Johnson Night was held by the Milwaukee Bucks, stemming from his roots as an all-state player for Messmer High School in Milwaukee. Johnson went on to score 2 points in a 118-73 trouncing from the Bucks.
7. Zydrunas Ilgaukas
1997-98 Rookie Season: 13.9 PPG 8.8 RPG 1.6 BPG
As much as one might remember the start of Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ career as one marked by injuries, Big Z played an injury-free first season, receiving All-Rookie First Team honors along with taking home the Rookie Challenge MVP award during the NBA All-Star Weekend.
Interesting Note: Not only was Ilgauskas selected for the Rookie Game but so were Derek Anderson, Cedric Henderson and Brevin Knight.
6. John "Hot Rod" Williams
1986-87 Rookie Season: 14.6 PPG 7.9 RPG 2.1 BPG
Although Hot Rod was selected in the 1985 NBA Draft, he did not play until the 1986-87 season due to an arrest related to point shaving while playing at Tulane. Williams was found not guilty but was forced to play in the United States Basketball League in 1985-86.
Interesting Note: The prosecution’s case against Hot Rod was mired by lies from three former teammates and three fraternity brothers who appeared to team up against Williams through plea bargains and immunity traded for testimony.
5. Kyrie Irving
2011-12 Rookie Season: 18.0 PPG 3.5 RPG 5.1 APG
Whether Irving is deserving of those comparisons or will climb up the ladder of Cavaliers’ rookie performances is yet to be determined as the season rolls on.
Interesting Note: We’re inundated with Kyrie news as his rookie season rolls by, but you might not know that Kyrie played with Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at St. Patrick High School in New Jersey.
Will the former high school teammates be reunited in the upcoming NBA Draft?
4. Brad Daugherty
1986-87 Rookie Season: 15.7 PPG 8.1 RPG 3.8 APG
The anchor of the Cavs best rookie class—Daugherty was the first pick in the 1986 NBA Draft out of North Carolina. Daugherty finished in the Top 20 for field goal percentage and defensive rebounds, along with being named to the All-Rookie Team.
Interesting Note: Around the time of Len Bias’ cocaine-related death, Daugherty spoke out against rampant drug use in college, stating the degree of drug use in college basketball was between 7 to 8 on a scale of 10.
3. Austin Carr
1971-72 Rookie Season: 21.2 PPG 3.5 RPG 3.4 APG
Mr. Cavalier’s rookie season was cut short by a myriad of foot injuries during the first half of the season. Carr went on to lead the team in points per game and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team despite missing 39 games.
Interesting Note: Carr is revered as one of the top college basketball players of all-time, receiving Player of the Year honors in 1971 after becoming the second player (first being Pete Maravich) to score more than 1,000 points in a season. After Notre Dame played powerhouse UCLA in January of 1971, John Wooden described Carr as “tremendous.”
2. LeBron James
2003-2004 Rookie Season: 20.9 PPG 5.9 APG 5.5 RPG
Hinging off the stellar play of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Eric Williams and Jeff McInnis, LeBron managed to pad his stats enough to win the Rookie of the Year award.
Interesting Note: LeBron’s nail biting habit was a constant target for cameramen throughout his rookie season.
1. Ron Harper
1986-87 Rookie Season: 22.9 PPG 4.8 RPG 4.8 APG
Proclaimed as the next Dr. J after playing at Miami University, Harper finished in second place for Rookie of the Year, leading the Cavaliers phenomenal rookie class of 1986-87. The Cavs improved their win total by 28 during Harper’s three-year stay. Sadly, it ended in a trade for the "next Larry Bird," Danny Ferry.
Interesting Note: Harper not only perfected his jumper prior to the NBA but overcame problems with a speech impediment by enrolling in a speech therapy program while at Miami.