Ranking the Top 25 Players in Cleveland Cavaliers History

Greg SwartzCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterAugust 16, 2013

Ranking the Top 25 Players in Cleveland Cavaliers History

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    For 44 years the Cavaliers have called Cleveland home.

    Many a great player have donned the wine and gold (and sometimes blue and orange) during their tenure with the Cavs. 

    So, which players stand out from the rest?  Which have earned a spot in Cleveland fans' hearts and made it all the way into the top 25 in Cavs history?

    From Austin Carr in the 1970's to Kyrie Irving of today, here are how the best Cavaliers in history stack up.

     

    Note: All statistics via Basketball-Reference.com.

25. Cliff Robinson, PF

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    Career Stats Per Game: 17.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1982-1984

     

    Robinson spent just a few short years in Cleveland, but definitely left his mark.

    In 180 games with the Cavaliers, Robinson averaged a strong 17.7 points and 10.5 rebounds a game.  In both the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons, Robinson led the entire league in defensive rebound percentage, gobbling up over 29 percent of all available defensive rebounds while on the court.

    Despite his success with the team, Cleveland traded him to the Washington Bullets in the summer of 1984.

24. Lenny Wilkens, PG

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    Career Stats Per Game: 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1972-1974

     

    Wilkins came to the Cavaliers late into his excellent career.

    The nine-time NBA All-Star was a strong leader and floor general who averaged 20.5 points and 8.4 assists during his first year in Cleveland.

    Wilkins would return to the Cavs in 1986, this time as their head coach.  In seven seasons, Wilkins led Cleveland to the playoffs an impressive five times.

    In 1989, Wilkins was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player.  Nine years later in 1998, he was inducted again as a coach.

23. Tyrone Hill, PF

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    Career Stats Per Game: 9.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 0.5 blocks

    Years with Cavaliers: 1993-1997, 2001-2003

     

    Hill was never the flashiest player on the court, but he more than made up for it with his tough rebounding and defense.

    Enjoying two stints with the Cavaliers, Hill was an All-Star in 1995 while playing center for Cleveland.  During that 1994-95 season, Hill averaged 13.8 points and 10.9 rebounds while shooting 50.4 percent from the field.

    Despite still being a strong rebounder and post defender in 2002-03, the Cavs ended up waiving Hill in their ongoing preparation for the 2003 NBA draft.

     

22. Jim Brewer, PF

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    Career Stats Per Game: 5.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1973-1979

     

    Playing a key role for the Cavs for much of the 70's, Brewer was a strong defender and rebounder.

    In 1975-76, Brewer had his best season as a Cavalier, averaging a double-double.  His 11.5 points and 10.9 rebounds that season were also career highs.

    That season, and during 1976-77, Brewer was awarded second team All-Defense by the NBA.

21. Jim Cleamons, PG

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    Career Stats Per Game: 8.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1973-1977

     

    Another mainstay in the Cavs 70's lineup, Cleamons was a talented point guard with a good all-around game.

    Coming to the Cavs in 1972 for a second-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleamons played five seasons in Cleveland.

    Following a standout career at Ohio State, Cleamons is thought of as one of the best point guards in team history, and was a second team NBA All-Defense winner in 1987-76.

20. Phil Hubbard, F

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    Career Stats Per Game: 10.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1981-1989

     

    An Ohio native and graduate of Canton McKinley High School, Hubbard helped develop the Cavs into one of the best teams in the NBA in the late 80's.

    A solid scorer and rebounder, Hubbard was a part of three Cavaliers playoff teams, averaging as much as 15.8 points per game.

    A knee injury while playing at the University of Michigan robbed him of what could have been an even better career, but Hubbard was a still a great player and leader during his time in Cleveland.

19. Anderson Varejao, F/C

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    Career Stats Per Game: 7.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 0.7 blocks

    Years with Cavaliers: 2004-present

     

    Varejao is currently the longest-tenured Cavalier.

    The floppy-haired Brazilian has become a fan favorite for his hustle, hard work, rebounding and defense.  Over the years, Cleveland fans have also seen Varejao's offense come a long, long way.

    Injuries have taken their toll on Varejao recently, and have robbed him of what have been career-best starts.

    In 2012-13, Varejao was first in the NBA in rebounding at 14.4 a game before splitting a muscle in his leg that caused him to miss the remainder of the season.

18. Craig Ehlo, SG

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    Career Stats Per Game: 8.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1986-1993

     

    Ehlo rarely missed a game in his seven seasons in Cleveland.

    A jack-of-all-trades type of player, Ehlo is among the top 10 in career assists and steals in Cavs history.  His best season was a 13.6 point, 5.4 rebound, 4.6 assist per game effort in 1989-90.

    Despite what a certain NBA highlight video will show you, Ehlo was actually quite a good defender, and at 6'6" could cover multiple positions.

17. Shawn Kemp, PF

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    Career Stats Per Game: 14.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.2 blocks

    Years with Cavaliers: 1997-2000

     

    Kemp was far from his career-best in Cleveland, but still had three very productive seasons in the late 90's.

    Averaging 18.5 points and 9.1 rebounds in 204 games, Kemp was the first true star Cleveland had obtained in years.  He was a starter for the Eastern Conference on the 1998 All-Star team, and helped take the Cavs to the playoffs that season as well.

    Kemp was certainly paid for this production, as his $8.6 million salary in 1997-98 was more than twice what the next highest Cavalier was making at the time.

16. Mike Mitchell, F

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    Career Stats Per Game: 19.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1978-1981

     

    Mitchell got off to one of the best starts in Cavalier history before being traded to the San Antonio Spurs in 1981.

    A prolific scorer, Mitchell did most of his work in the paint and excelled at getting to the basket at will.

    A first-round pick out of the University of Auburn, Mitchell averaged 19.3 points during his time with the Cavaliers.

     

15. Andre Miller, PG

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    Career Stats Per Game: 14.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 7.3 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1999-2002

     

    Miller was a very good player on some very bad Cavalier teams.

    One of the best pure passers in Cleveland history, Miller led the NBA in assists per game (10.9) during the 2001-2002 season.  He was also a talented scorer and rebounder who could get to the basket and create easy scoring opportunities for others.

    Despite his success with the team, the Cavs attendance was dragging and Cleveland was looking for someone who would sell tickets.  They dealt Miller to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2002 for Darius Miles, a trade that has to rank among the worst in NBA history.

14. Bingo Smith, G/F

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    Career Stats Per Game: 12.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1970-1980

     

    One of the Cavaliers first true stars, Smith helped transform Cleveland from an expansion team into a playoff one.

    Still one of just six Cavaliers to have his jersey number retired by the team, Smith was a sharp-shooter who could light it up from anywhere.

    His 15.9 points per game in 1974-75 were a career best.

13. Jim Chones, C

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    Career Stats Per Game: 13.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1974-1979

     

    A powerful force at center, Chones ruled the paint for the Cavs for much of the 70's.

    Chones averaged a double-double in two seasons for the Cavs, and never registered less than 8.4 rebounds in any of his five years in Cleveland.

    A foot injury in the 1976 playoffs cost the Cavs their star center, and with him, a realistic chance at a title that season.

12. Terrell Brandon, G

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    Career Stats Per Game: 13.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1991-1997

     

    The 11th overall pick by the Cavaliers in the 1991 draft, Terrell Brandon was one of the best point guards during the '90s.

    An excellent free-throw shooter whose career mark sits at 87.3 percent, Brandon was the heir apparent to Mark Price for the Cavaliers at point guard and was part of four Cleveland playoff teams.

    An All-Star during 1996-1997, Brandon played an integral part in the Cavs' success of the '90s but was later traded in a deal that brought Shawn Kemp to Cleveland.

     

11. Campy Russell, SF

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    Career Stats Per Game: 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1974-1980

     

    Most Cavs fans today know Campy Russell as an on-air talent and studio analyst, but he was also a very good Cleveland player in the mid-to-late 1970s.

    The eighth overall pick in the 1974 draft, Russell could do it all. A talented scorer, Russell was also an adept passer and rebounder. He had his best season in 1978-79, averaging 21.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

    A part of three playoff teams for the Cavs, Russell averaged 27.5 points per game for Cleveland in the 1978 playoffs.

10. Ron Harper, SG

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    Career Stats Per Game: 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals

    Years with Cavaliers: 1986-1989

     

    Ron Harper was one of the most athletic guards in Cavaliers history.

    A dynamic scorer, Harper averaged 22.9 points per game during his rookie season in Cleveland after being taken eighth overall by the Cavs in the 1986 draft.

    The Ohio native and Miami University graduate only played three seasons for the Cavs before being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, but his impact was felt for years to come. A great defender and team leader, Harper would later go on to win five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls.

     

9. Kyrie Irving, PG

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    Career Stats Per Game: 20.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 2011-present

     

    Irving has spent just two years with the Cavaliers thus far, but already deserves a spot in the top-10.

    Already named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2011-12 and an All-Star in 2012-13, the future is extraordinarily bright for Irving with the Cavs.

    At 21, he has some of the best handles in the league and can get by any defender at almost any time.  Irving is also a talented shooter who won the NBA's Three-Point Contest at the 2013 All-Star break.

    With an improved supporting cast heading into the 2013-14 season, expect Irving's assist numbers to rise as he becomes one of the top point guards in the league.

8. World B. Free, SG

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    Career Stats Per Game: 20.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists

    Years with Cavaliers:

     

    World B. Free was one of the NBA's original flashy stars.

    His style, name, hair and game all helped make him such a fun player to watch on what were some less-than-stellar Cavalier teams in the early 1980s.

    Never scoring less than 22.5 points per game in any of his four seasons with Cleveland, Free helped draw crowds and began to build a buzz that would eventually lead to numerous playoff trips for the Cavs in the near future.

    Free never met a shot he didn't like and is viewed as one of the best pure scorers in Cavaliers history.

7. John "Hot Rod" Williams, F

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    Career Stats Per Game: 11.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks

    Years with Cavaliers: 1986-1995

     

    Williams was born by the name of John, but to fans of the Cavs, he was simply known as "Hot Rod."

    A strong defensive presence for some very good Cavalier teams, Williams was an excellent shot-blocker who ranks third in team history for total shots swatted.

    The Louisiana native only spent about half his games in Cleveland as a starter, but played big minutes and produced big numbers for the Cavs. Williams' best season came in 1989-90 when he averaged 16.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots per game.

6. Austin Carr, SG

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    Career Stats Per Game: 15.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1971-1980

     

    Austin Carr was a great NBA player who could have been even better if not for constant knee injuries throughout his career.

    The franchise's first overall pick in 1971, Carr averaged over 20 points per game during each of his first three pro seasons. He stands as the No. 3 overall scorer in Cavaliers history and is fifth overall in games played.

    Carr is, of course, the TV color man for all Cavs broadcasts now, and together with Fred McLeod, they form one of the best commentary duos in all of basketball.

5. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, C

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    Career Stats Per Game: 13.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks

    Years with Cavaliers: 1997-2010

     

    "Z" was the starting center on a lot of good Cavalier teams during the mid-to-late 2000's.

    A fan favorite who always let his game do the talking, Z ranks first in franchise history in games played, rebounds and blocked shots.

    His career path with the Cavaliers is truly an amazing story, and his No. 11 will likely be retired by the team in the near future.

4. Larry Nance, PF

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    Career Stats Per Game: 17.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks

    Years with Cavaliers: 1988-1994

     

    Larry Nance began his career with the Phoenix Suns, but is perhaps better known for his play with the Cavaliers.

    A great leaper, Nance proved to be a defensive anchor on some very good Cavalier teams. His 1,087 total blocked shots ranks third in team history.

    A two-time All-Star while in Cleveland, Nance made the NBA All-Defensive team for three seasons and still holds the Cavaliers' record for most blocked shots in a season with 243.

3. Brad Daugherty, C

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    Career Stats Per Game: 19.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 1986-1994

     

    The first overall pick in the 1986 draft, Daugherty was an intimidating presence with his seven-foot frame and long arms. Starting all but two of his 548 games with the Cavaliers, Daugherty is the team's all-time leader in defensive rebounds and is second in total points.

    A talented passer for a big man, Daugherty never averaged less than 3.2 assists in any of his eight pro seasons.

    Never playing for any other team besides the Cavaliers, a bad back derailed what could have been a potential Hall of Fame career.

2. Mark Price, PG

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    Career Stats Per Game: 15.2 points, 6.7 assists, 1.2 steals

    Years with Cavaliers: 1986-1995

     

    The best free-throw shooter in NBA history, Mark Price led powerhouse Cavaliers teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    Price was an excellent floor general and shooter who made the All-Star game four times. He also made the All-NBA first team in 1992-93 and led the Cavs to the playoffs seven times.

    Before the next person on this list came around, Price was widely regarded as the best player in Cavalier history.

1. LeBron James, SF

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    Career Stats Per Game: 27.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists

    Years with Cavaliers: 2003-2010

     

    James spent seven years with the Cavaliers after being selected No. 1 overall by the team in 2003 out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.

    During this period, the Cavs made the playoffs five times, reaching the NBA Finals in 2007.  James was named NBA MVP in both 2008-09 and 2009-10, becoming the first Cavalier to ever achieve the award.

    James holds numerous franchise records, including total points, scoring average, field goals made and steals.  No other player in team history can compete with his talent, athleticism and overall game.

    The real question is, have we seen the last of James in Cleveland?