In Cleveland, athletes are often times underrated and overlooked in the eyes of mainstream media.
Rarely does a team like the Cavaliers play on national television, and only Kyrie Irving would be considered a near household name.
Irving is a fantastic player, no doubt, but he does receive a good amount of credit for his success.
Diving deeper into the Cavs roster, one player has truly enjoyed a great season despite a lack of attention and fanfare.
This player is reserve point guard Shaun Livingston.
A true Christmas present for the Cavaliers, Livingston was claimed off waivers from the Washington Wizards on December 25th, 2012.
While not much was thought of the signing at the time, it was clear Livingston was a major upgrade from any of the backups Cleveland had tried to field for Kyrie Irving since trading Ramon Sessions last season.
At age 27 and carrying nearly 400 games of experience with him, Livingston has been a steady and reliable hand for the Cavaliers. He's helped transform the Cavs bench into one of the best in the league when healthy, and helped take pressure off Irving when both are in the game together.
In 45 games with the Cavs (12 starts), the former lottery pick is averaging 7.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 23 minutes per game. While these are nice but not spectacular stats, one truly has to dig deeper to appreciate Livingston's contributions to the Cavaliers.
For one, Livingston has been extremely efficient in his play. His PER with the Cavs is a solid 14.9, the highest of his entire career. He's also shooting an excellent 50.6 percent from the field and knocking down 85.2 percent of his free throws.
Another key statistic, and perhaps the most important for any point guard, is assist to turnover ratio. Livingston is averaging 2.76 assists for every one turnover, the best mark on the Cavaliers. For comparison, Irving's assist to turnover ratio is just 1.8.
This 2.76 is good, but just how good?
Looking at the NBA leaders, this ratio is good for 10th among all NBA point guards, backup or starting. This puts Livingston above notable stars like Irving, Deron Williams, John Wall, Russell Westbrook and even future Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash.
According to 82games.com, the Cavs are actually +9 overall in scoring with Livingston on the court despite their poor overall record. This production correlates to a winning percentage of 54.5 percent which is remarkable considering the Cavs' team winning percentage is just 30.8.
Head coach Byron Scott had this to say about Livingston in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
"I've always been intrigued by Shaun, I've always loved his length," Scott said. "The fact that he handles the ball and can pass it. His demeanor on the court. He just seems to fit into our system extremely well. And I think he probably would tell you it also has to do with him being healthy. He's at a point in time right now where he's probably as healthy as he's been since he's been in this league."
His size and length, along with his health, are playing a huge role in his success with the Cavs. At 6'7", Livingston is the tallest point guard in the entire NBA. This size also allows him to play shooting guard, something he's also had to do quite a bit with injuries to players like Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles and Daniel Gibson.
Yes, Livingston has done all that the Cavs have asked him to do and then some. The only negative surrounding him at this point is an uncertain future. Livingston is a free agent this offseason and can sign with any team he chooses. Cleveland would be wise to bring the veteran back, especially if they want to maintain the strong second unit they built up this season.
He may not be the first player people think of when discussing the Cavaliers, but Livingston has certainly been one of the most valuable.
A quiet, hard working, blue-collar type of player, Livingston definitely deserves more credit for what he's done on the Cavs this season and hopefully will continue to do with them in the future.
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