Playing Fact or Fiction with Each Cleveland Cavaliers Player as a Building Block

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJanuary 14, 2013

Playing Fact or Fiction with Each Cleveland Cavaliers Player as a Building Block

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    While the present isn't an ideal time for the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise, it is a crucial time when deciding the team's future.

    The rebuilding project is now in Year 3, and patience is beginning to grow thin.  Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder made their major jump in the fourth year, and the Cavs should be expecting the same thing.

    While playing time is plentiful for the Cavs' young players right now, it's beginning to become clear which ones actually deserve it.

    Which Cavaliers have a future with the team and which will soon be shown the door?  Let's take a look at where every Cavs player stands.

Kevin Jones, Power Forward

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    Team Building Block? Fiction

    Jones was thought of as one of the best players to go undrafted in 2012.

    Cleveland signed him as a free agent to a three-year, non-guaranteed deal to help bolster its front line.

    After averaging 23.6 points and 12.6 rebounds in five D-League games, the Cavs have been using Jones sparingly off their bench as of late.

    We've only seen the rookie forward for 110 minutes thus far, so it's impossible to definitively say he'll be a part of the Cavs' future.

Alonzo Gee, Small Forward

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    Team Building Block? Fact

    Gee has made great strides in his three seasons in Cleveland and continues to grow in all areas as a player.

    While he's started all 38 games for the Cavs this season, I believe his ideal role would be as a wing player off the bench.

    The thing I like best about Gee is his defensive intensity.  He doesn't back off from any opponent and challenges everything while giving every play his all.

    In a conference with forwards like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Paul Pierce and others, it's important to have a player like Gee you can rely on to make things difficult for them.

    I like Gee as part of the future, just not as the regular full-time starter.

Jon Leuer, Power Forward

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    Team Building Block? Fiction

    Leuer has appeared in just seven games for the Cavaliers with minimal impact.

    A 6'11" forward who can shoot, Leuer has spent most of his time in the D-League and has performed very well.  In eight games for the Canton Charge, Leuer averaged 19.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game while shooting 46.7 percent on three-pointers.

    In just his second pro season, Leuer must do his best to crack the Cavs' rotation and prove he belongs in the NBA while he can.

    The Cavs hold the right to make him a qualifying offer and retain his services past this season, but that doesn't mean Leuer will become a member of the rotation.

Daniel Gibson, Shooting Guard

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    Team Building Block? Fiction

    There's a lot to like about Gibson, but in the end a divorce would probably be best for both parties.

    One of the Cavs' lone veterans, Gibson has been a fan favorite in Cleveland for years now with his toughness, perimeter defense and elite outside shooting.

    Unfortunately, Gibson just can't stay on the court long enough for these skills to come out.

    Already having missed 42 games to injury the past two seasons and in the last year of his contract, it's unlikely we'll see Gibson back with the Cavs next season.

    When healthy, he brings a lot to the table, but he isn't worth a long-term contract until he proves he can stay on the court and produce at a high level again.

Tyler Zeller, Center

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    Team Building Block? Fact

    Zeller has a lot of the skills you want in a big man.

    He runs the floor well, can score in a variety of ways and can even step back and hit the 18-footer when needed.

    There's also a lot of things Zeller will need to work on to become a standout post player in the NBA.  First would be his strength.  Zeller is listed at 7'0" and 250 pounds, but could easily pass for 230.

    He's been pushed around by bigger centers in the league like Brook Lopez and could stand to add muscle in the offseason.

    One possible solution to his being slightly undersized would be a move to power forward. Zeller can already run and shoot like a power forward,  yet the Cavs' lack of centers has pushed him into the position.

    Adding a true center via trade or free agency and moving Zeller to power forward to back up Tristan Thompson might be the best thing for his career.

Jeremy Pargo, Point Guard

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    Team Building Block? Fiction

    Pargo has seen himself go from starting point guard with Kyrie Irving out, to primary backup, to struggling to find minutes since Shaun Livingston was signed.

    It's not that Pargo isn't a solid player. He actually had some pretty good games as a starting point guard with Irving out earlier in the season.  He just lacks the experience that a young Cavs team needs right now.

    Irving doesn't need another young, developing point guard behind him.  He's best off with a veteran who can pass down some knowledge and expertise when needed.

    Pargo is an OK guard who will get another job, just not in Cleveland.

C.J. Miles, Shooting Guard

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    Team Building Block?: TBD

    If we're talking about the Miles who used to come off the bench to average 8.9 points on 38.9 percent shooting, his future with the Cavs is definitely fiction.

    If it's the Miles who's put together 17.9 points on 42.3 percent shooting as a starter, then make his stay with Cleveland a fact.

    It's been an up and down season, one that's seen Miles thrive in a starting role and struggle coming off the bench.  He's been one of the Cavs' best three-point shooters, converting 39.0 percent of his shots from deep.

    Miles' future with the Cavs will depend on how they use him and how he produces in that role.

Tristan Thompson, Power Forward

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    Team Building Block? Fact

    Big men typically take more time to develop in the NBA, and Thompson has been no exception.

    After a decent rookie year and beginning to the 2012-13 season, Thompson has looked strong the past month.

    With Anderson Varejao sidelined, Thompson has been playing the best basketball of his young career, taking full advantage of the extra rebounding opportunities.

    In January, Thompson is averaging 13.8 points and 11.8 rebounds on 52.2 percent shooting from the field.  He's looked much more confident around the rim, finishing shots with either hand.

    I really like his character, personality and work ethic.  Thompson is a player every team needs and has no doubt benefited from watching Varejao's hustle and work ethic on the court.

Shaun Livingston, Point Guard

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    Team Building Block? Fiction

    Livingston has become the Cavs' primary backup to Kyrie Irving since signing with Cleveland on Christmas Day.

    At 27 years of age, Livingston is now one of the few veterans on the Cavs' roster and has been solid in his reserve role.  That being said, he'll also become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and faces an uncertain future with the team.

    Even if the Cavs decide to bring him back, he'll never be a star or real standout and is not a building block for the team moving forward.

Omri Casspi, Small Forward

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    Team Building Block? Fiction

    Casspi has been nothing but a disappointment since his trade to Cleveland from the Sacramento Kings.

    This season, Casspi has seen a decrease in playing time and production, as he is averaging just 4.9 points and 2.3 rebound per game on just 38.0 percent shooting.

    There were rumors the Cavs could actually buy out the 24-year-old forward this season, despite the fact he's under team control for this season and next.

    While nothing has materialized, Casspi has seen himself fall out of the Cavs' rotation and almost certainly will not be offered a new contract this offseason.

Dion Waiters, Shooting Guard

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    Team Building Block? Fact

    Waiters is one of the most frustrating players to watch.

    As first glance, you see that he's second on the Cavaliers in scoring at 14.2 points per game and feel pretty good about his performance thus far.  Looking deeper, however, you see it's taking him 14.2 shots per game on just 37.3 percent shooting from the field to score those points.

    Waiters has the confidence of an eight -ear veteran, which can sometimes be a bad thing.  A lot of his shots are taken off-balance or in questionable circumstances, which are helping to contribute to his low shooting percentage.

    That being said, Waiters can still do some amazing things on the court and has a bright future with the right work ethic and humility.

    He's absolutely a building block for the Cavs. Let's hope he's their starting shooting guard for the next 10-plus years.

Luke Walton, Small Forward

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    Team Building Block? Fiction

    Luke Walton is a Cleveland Cavalier simply because the Cavs wanted the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round pick last season.


    When dealing Ramon Sessions for the pick last season, L.A. was over the salary cap and had to send someone back so that they could afford Sessions.  This is where Walton came in.

    Inexplicably receiving solid playing time lately, Walton is averaging 2.7 points on 34.5 percent shooting from the field.  His PER of 8.26, according to, is good for 14th out of the 16 Cavs who have received at least one minute of playing time.

    Walton's greatest value is his expiring $6 million deal, which could be used as a trade chip or just as salary relief this offseason.

Kyrie Irving, Point Guard

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    Team Building Block? Most definitely fact

    Think how differently the Cavs' future would look had they taken Derrick Williams over Irving in the 2011 NBA draft.

    Irving is the main reason this franchise has hope, as he's quickly becoming one of the best point guards in the NBA.

    There are very few holes in Irving's offensive game, and his defense is better than it was in his rookie season.  What's most exciting about Irving is that he's just 20 years old and getting better every day.

    His presence on the team will help lure other top free agents to Cleveland, whereas they may never have given the Cavs a second thought before.

    Irving is the future of the Cavs and their most important building block.

Anderson Varejao, Center

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    Team Building Block? Fiction

    As much as I'd like to put fact, Varejao just can't be counted on anymore to remain a productive member of the Cavaliers.

    For the third straight season, it appears Varejao will miss the majority of the season, and now at 30 years of age, he has a lot of wear and tear on his body.  Destined to be an All-Star this season with his NBA-leading 14.4 rebounds per game, Varejao will now be out for the next six to eight weeks following surgery to repair a split leg muscle.

    This likely means he won't be traded as many speculated, since he'll still be in recovery when the trading deadline passes in February.

    There remains a chance he'll return before the end of the season, as there was last year, but what would be the point?

    The Cavs certainly won't be in contention for a playoff spot come March or April, and a few extra wins would only hurt their draft standing.  Why risk further injury by rushing Varejao back when there are so few positives to go with it?

    Varejao will either be traded this offseason or will return to the Cavs older, slower and with more surgery under his belt.

    I'm afraid what we saw from Varejao this season is the best we'll ever see, and that either a trade or further injury will prevent him from being a team building block moving forward.