OK, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached the midway point of the season (or, for the Cavs, the 62.2 percent point of the season) and it’s time to give out the First Annual Scott Miles Cavs Mid-season/62.2 Percent Report Card.
Through 51 games, the Cavs stand at 40-11, setting a franchise record for reaching the 40-win mark earliest in the season (the 1988-89 Cavs reached 40 wins in their 52nd game). In case some of you forgot (and judging by the attendance numbers back then, you never even KNEW to begin with) the Cavs went five seasons between 1999 and 2004 without winning more than 35 games.
(Six seasons in a row, if you count the strike-shortened year in 1998-99 when the team went 22-28. Personally, I’ve deleted that season from my memory bank.)
Without further ado, here are the grades…feel free to discuss and debate below:
Daniel Gibson: C
>> Has been very, very inconsistent with his jumper this year. Unfortunately, that’s his lone offensive skill. He’s shooting career lows from the field and three-point range.
I actually think he’s a bit underrated as a defender. He’s been pretty scrappy despite his size, and people seem to forget how well he battled Rip Hamilton in the 2007 playoffs. Still, he’s on this team to hit from the outside, and he hasn’t been doing that this year.
JJ Hickson: C+
>> This was a higher mark until he forgot how to box out Lamar Odom in that debacle of a second half against the Lakers.
Overall, though, you can’t help but be impressed with what he has brought to the table and how good of a player he can be in the future.
Did I mention the fact that I am older than he is, too? I can’t wait to see him develop.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas: A-
>> Z just keeps chugging along, year after year. At 33 years old, he’s averaging 13.5 points and 7.3 points in 27 minutes per night. Translation: that’s pretty good, especially for an old center who has more screws in his feet than a hardware store has on its shelves.
And now, he’s starting to hit the three-ball a little bit, too. Who said you can’t teach a bald 7-foot-3 Lithuanian new tricks?
Darnell Jackson: Inc.
>> Rookie forward from Kansas had been MIA before getting 12 minutes against Phoenix last night. Has the size to develop into a serviceable backup in time, and definitely has more court-savvy than Hickson at this point.
Still, he hasn’t been enough of a factor to warrant a grade this year.
Tarence Kinsey: Inc.
>> After running with the third team for the first 30-35 games, Kinsey was just beginning to get some legitimate minutes in the rotation as Mike Brown utilized his versatility and size.
Then, fittingly, he gets hurt and is out for a few more weeks. He’s just 24, so it’ll be interesting to see if or how he factors into the Cavs plans in the future.
Sasha Pavlovic: B-
>> You know what I’m most impressed with about Sasha this year? He’s finally starting to dribble with his head up. I swear, pop in a game from the last two seasons and watch him stare at the floor and the ball every time he tried to drive. Most 7th graders don’t even do that anymore.
He’s hitting 47 percent from the floor, 40.5 percent of his threes and scored eight or more points in seven of the nine games he started before, of course, getting hurt.
Wally Szczerbiak: B
>> “WALLY! It’s not what you think!”
Sorry, but I can’t help but think about that SportsCenter commercial every time I defend him from the onslaught of Cleveland fans who would trade him for a pregnant Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks’ first round pick in the WNBA draft.
He’s been asked to play shooting guard and defend Ray Allen in last year’s playoffs. He’s been asked to play power forward and defend the likes of Chris Bosh this year. Through it all, he’s just kept playing and playing hard.
Wally’s not an All-Star and never will be again. But I’ll take a guy who hits over 40 percent of his threes and plays hard every night.
Anderson Varejao: B
>> He’s no longer the offensive black hole that he had been in his first few seasons. Andy’s got career-highs in field goal percentage and free throw percentage this year, not to mention scoring (nearly nine a night).
But something just doesn’t feel right with Andy. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but for some reason, I just don’t feel like he’s having the same impact on the game like he has the last two seasons.
Am I crazy here, or is someone else seeing that, too? His rebounding numbers are down, but that could be explained by the fact that we don’t miss as many shots this year (hooray for guys who can hit open jumpers! More on that below).
Overall, though, I just don’t think Andy has been playing like Andy this year.
Ben Wallace: C+
>> The turning point in the Lakers game, I felt, was Ben bricking those two dunks in the third quarter. They could have helped stave off the big run the Lakers were on and energized the team and the crowd. And we know how that game turned out.
But his defense has slipped incredibly, and he has largely gotten a pass for it. He’s not quick enough for the athletic power forwards who have just been carving us up this season (see: Odom, Lamar).
And he’s not tall enough to battle with the 6-11 or taller centers in the post, especially without that leaping ability anymore (see: coming up short on two dunk attempts, Lakers game).
Though he still brings the same type of energy and hustle, he just can’t guard anyone one-on-one like he used to.
Delonte West: B+
>> For the record, I have loved Delonte West since he was at St. Joe’s. I had a serious man-crush on him in college, watched his game develop in the NBA, and was thrilled when the Cavs picked him up last year at the trade deadline.
At 25 years old, he’s really found a nice niche (say THAT 10 times fast) as the third or fourth scoring option on a very good basketball team. He’s also our best on-ball defender.
His return to the lineup, which I’m hearing will be pretty soon after the All-Star break, will be the lift that the Cavs need.
The offense has grown stagnant ("stand around and watch LeBron" time) over the few weeks he’s been out. When Delonte returns, I think the offense will start flowing like it was in the first two months of the season.
Mo Williams: A
>> Sidekick (noun): A close companion or comrade. Synonyms: assistant, associate, helper. Antonyms: Larry Hughes, Ricky Davis, Darius Miles.
Over 17 points per game. Nearly 47 percent shooting. Over 40 percent from beyond the arc (a career-high).
Fourth-best free throw shooter in the league (I can’t remember the last time I saw him miss). Did I mention the 44-point outburst last night or the All-Star nod that he FINALLY picked up?
My only complaint is that he’s let LeBron dominate the ball at times, when Williams should be taking control. But his impact on this team has been unbelievable.
Plus, we don’t have to watch him torch us with the Bucks like he had the last few seasons, so that beefs up our win total even more.
LeBron James: A++++++++++
>> Let’s be serious. I’ve been a Cavs fan, and a Cleveland sports fan, long enough to understand that guys like this don’t usually play for teams in our city.
I want you to think about whatever shortfalls exist in LeBron’s game: inconsistent jump shooter, awful from 3-point range, doesn’t post up as much as he could/should, dominates the ball a lot of times on offense.
Now, look at these numbers: 17, 29, 32, 30. Those are the win totals for the Cavs in the four years before LeBron. I’m thinking about going up and adding a few more plusses to his grade.
Coach Mike Brown: A
>> OK, I loved the rant the other night. It has some “Coors Light Commercial” potential to it. (If you missed it, here’s a small snippet.)
Was it warranted? Probably not. After all, in that Pacers loss, everyone not named LeBron combined to make 19-of-57 (33 percent, kids) of their shots and 8-of-15 free throws.
So no, we didn’t deserve to win that game. But on the heels of the second Mo Williams All-Star snub, and the NBA’s ridiculous decision to go back and take away LeBron’s triple-double, Brown played the “no one respects us” card and has decided the team with arguably the best athlete on the planet and a solid corps of role players should embrace the underdog status for the rest of the season. Well played, Coach Brown, well played.
Reason two for the high grade: Brown finally brought in an offensive coordinator to the staff. John Kuester is as responsible as anyone else (including Mo Williams) for the success we’ve had offensively.
Basketball-reference.com (my Bible) has last year’s Cavs rated as the 19th best offense in the league. This year’s version is third, and that’s with long stretches without Z and Delonte.
The Team: A
Despite some recent struggles, you can’t argue with a 24-1 mark at home and a 40-11 record overall. Need I repeat that the Cavs have never been this good, ever???
I know everyone in Cleveland is desperate to move Wally and God knows who else to pick up Amare or Brad Miller. Yes, another big man would be nice, but people...this is a good thing we got going here. Trust me.
(You want some other numbers? Hickson can’t legally go to a bar in downtown Cleveland. Gibson’s not yet 23 years old. Kinsey’s 24. Pavlovic is 25. So is West. Mo and Andy are 26. The only other team I can think of with that kind of youth that is playing at a high level is Portland. Oh, and LeBron is still just 24, as well. Just thought I’d throw that in there.)
I know everyone is in panic mode over losing twice to the Lakers, a team we may or may not face in the NBA Finals (a lot of season to be played out, remind you).
Here’s some recent history to remind you of: 88-81 and 82-78. Those are the scores of the Cavs’ regular season wins over the Spurs in the 2006-07 season, and we all know how that played out in the end.
So don’t be concerned, Cavs fans. Yes, things can be better, but who the heck cares? The Season of Dreams is back on track in C-Town, and we’re all there to Witness it.