Updated Cleveland Cavaliers Player Power Rankings
In what is a very long NBA season, it's inevitable that changes are going to occur. Whether it is because of injury, performance or simply to try something new, coaches tweak their rotations almost on a nightly basis.
Cleveland Cavaliers coach Byron Scott is no different.
Both his starting lineup and rotations have seen many changes. Some who provided key minutes early on in the season, like Omri Casspi, have lost their spots, while others like Luke Walton have gained some playing time as late.
One thing that's certain is a player’s spot in a NBA rotation is almost never safe. As players’ roles change, so will their importance to the team, and in turn their ranking.
All statistics accurate through Jan. 5, 2012
13. Samardo Samuels
Samuels' season has been about what you would expect from a young player trying to hang on to a spot on the bottom end of an NBA roster.
He has been with the Cavaliers now for three years, and has even started 11 games for them. However, his playing time has decreased each year with the club, and he was even sent down to the Cavaliers D-League affiliate the Canton Charge on Dec. 28.
He was brought back four days later and forward Jon Leuer was sent back down to Canton. So Samuels must still be in the Cavaliers plans, at least for the moment.
12. Omri Casspi
I think it is officially safe to say Casspi has been a disappointment since coming to the Cavaliers.
When he was first acquired, many felt like he could be the team’s starting small forward. He did start for a while, but struggled and was benched. He spent the rest of the year battling for minutes in Scott's rotation. It was a losing battle for him most of last year.
Due to injury, he got his chance earlier this year and for the most part, he played pretty well. During the month of November, he averaged 5.6 points per game and shot .520 percent from three-point range, which was his best month shooting since coming to the Cavaliers.
Just when he was starting to find his groove, an illness forced him out of the lineup and apparently out of the rotation. He has only played in one game since Dec. 11 and has since been replaced by C.J Miles and Luke Walton in the rotation.
11. Jeremy Pargo
When Irving went down due to injury on Nov. 18, Pargo filled in and actually did a pretty good job. He averaged 14.5 points per game and 4.4 assists per game during that stretch. It appeared that he was going to be a key reserve when Irving eventually returned to the lineup.
For some reason he cannot find his groove coming off the bench. In the 12 games after Irving returned, Pargo did not even see action in six of them. In the games in which he did see action, he hasn't done much. In fact, he has only scored a total of 16 points since Dec. 8.
That’s a dramatic fall for the young guard out of Gonzaga; However, at just 22 years of age, he still has some room to grow as an NBA player.
10. Shaun Livingston
It has been reported that Scott has been impressed with the former fourth overall pick of the 2004 NBA draft and it shows. Livingston has only been with the Cavaliers for less than a week, yet it appears he has already seemed to earn a spot in Scott's rotation
In his second active game as a Cavalier, Friday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, Livingston played 26 minutes. He scored 6 points had 5 assists and 2 steals.
He has already leapfrogged Pargo on the depth chart, and if he can keep putting up performances like this, he could be the primary back up to Kyrie Irving.
9. Luke Walton
Many fans felt Walton should not have been on this team at all and apparently so did the coaches. Through the first 22 games of the season, he was barely used. In fact, he didn't score a single point the whole month of December.
It appeared the Cavaliers' only goal was to rid themselves of Walton’s $6 million salary.
Then for some reason he started playing more—a lot more. Over the last six games, he is averaging 21.6 minutes a game. Even more shocking then that is Walton now actually resembles a NBA player. During this six-game stretch he is averaging 4.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
It appears Walton has played his way into Scott's rotation. Whether he stays there is anyone’s guess.
8. Daniel Gibson
It seems like Gibson has been a Cavalier forever, yet he is only 26 years old.
He is a serviceable backup shooting guard who can handle the ball well enough to play point guard. He has averaged 23.3 minutes this year and is perhaps the Cavaliers' most consistent three point-shooter coming off the bench, shooting .393 percent from long range.
The problem with Gibson is he does not do much else.
His field-goal percentage is actually worse than his three-point percentage. Plus he only averages 2.0 assists and 1.2 rebounds per game, and is just mediocre at the free-throw line.
On the defensive side, he is pedestrian at best, averaging less than a steal a game.
7. Dion Waiters
Waiters thus far his rookie season has been inconsistent with his shot selection, having trouble converting at the rim and has been a source of frustration for the coaching staff.
Yet he is still second on the Cavaliers in points per game, probably their best perimeter defender and has shown flashes of explosiveness that we saw when he was at Syracuse.
December was not a good month for Waiters, who saw his numbers dip in almost every category. As a result, he was demoted to the bench for the time being.
Perhaps with Waiters returning to a role more familiar to him, he can put his struggles behind him and look more like the player many still think he can be.
6. Tyler Zeller
Zeller missed a few games earlier in the year, but now he seems healthy and comfortable with his role with the Cavaliers: their top big man coming off the bench, who can start when needed.
He has a good motor, and an above-average offensive game. However, he often tries to do too much at times and can get sloppy. He is only shooting .439 from the field and has 13 turnovers in his last five games.
He also seems to get pushed around by other centers in the league and provides very little impact on interior defense.
That being said, he has shown plenty of promise, and should continue to improve.
5. C.J. Miles
Miles seemed to struggle early this season finding his role with the team. When he got the opportunity to play, he often forced up shots and made bad decisions. He only averaged 5.9 points the month of November and shot under 30 percent from the field.
Lately, Miles has heated up and has proven he can score in bunches. Against Brooklyn on Dec. 29. he had 33 points and nailed 8 three-pointers.
All of his numbers have improved across the board. So much so that he has even earned the starting nod over rookie Dion Waiters.
Whether this is permanent or just an experiment, it still shows the increase in worth of Miles to the Cavaliers.
4. Tristan Thompson
I have been really down on Tristan for most of this year. However, in the past eight games in Varejao's absence, he has really stepped up.
During this stretch Thompson had six double-doubles, missing a seventh by just a single point. He is shooting better, being more aggressive and has become a rebounding machine averaging 13.5 rebounds per game.
Is this just an anomaly, due mainly because of the absence of Varejao? Or is he finally living up to the billing as the fourth overall player drafted in the 2011 draft?.
3. Alonzo Gee
Gee is the hardest worker on the Cavaliers. He has squeezed every ounce of ability out of his game—Dion Waiters should take notes.
Gee is also one of the most consistent and reliable Cavaliers. He hasn't missed a single game due to injury and has logged more minutes this year than anyone on the roster.
He has more blocks than Varejao, more steals than anyone in the backcourt and is also fourth on the Cavaliers in points per game with 11.6.
Without a doubt, Gee is a valuable member of Scott's rotation.
2. Anderson Varejao
Varejao has become one of the best centers in the NBA. He is leading the league in rebounds with 14.4 rebounds a game, which is two full rebounds better than anyone else.
What separates him this year is he is averaging career highs in points per game, free throw percentage, assists and steals. Basically, he has improved every part of his game.
Even at the age of 30 years old, Varejao beings a relentless type of energy and hustle that is often unmatched by his opponents. Due to this style of play, he does get injured quite a bit and can be overly aggressive causing mistakes in defense.
Still with Varejao, the strengths greatly outweigh the threat of injury.
1. Kyrie Irving
What can I say about Kyrie Irving that hasn't already been said?
He is the best young point guard in the game, has ice in his veins, and possesses the killer instinct that only the greatest players have.
Yeah, that’s all been said before, but still deserves to be repeated.
One thing he needs to work on is his defense. He can get beat pretty easily at times. Another is turnovers. He averages 3.6 turnovers a game, which is worse than any other point guard in the league except for Philidelphia's Jrue Holliday.
Still, any weakness Irving has is coachable, and will improve with time.
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