Final 2015 Player Power Rankings for the Cleveland Cavaliers
Much has changed since we last checked in on the Cleveland Cavaliers Power Rankings in late November.
At that point, both Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert were left off the list, as both had yet to make their season debuts. Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson had climbed into the top four, and (not) shockingly, LeBron James held the top spot.
Since that time, the Cavaliers have slowly returned a complete, healthy roster. On any given night, the rotation may go 10 or 11 players deep while coach David Blatt tries to figure out his best combinations.
Sitting at 20-9 overall, the Cavs still lead the resurgent Eastern Conference thanks to a sparkling 13-1 home record. To this point, they've played the NBA's seventh-easiest schedule as well. Looking ahead, Cleveland has a brutal January that includes a six-game road trip and home meetings against the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
For clarification, these rankings are based on players' performances from this season only, and not a reflection of their overall career or talent level.
Nos. 10-15: Harris, Kaun, Jones, Varejao, Cunningham, Jefferson
No. 15: Joe Harris, SG
2015-16 Stats per Game: 0.6 points, 0.6 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 3.0 minutes, 3.6 PER
Harris has been buried on the bench all season and last appeared in a contest on Nov. 23. In 10 games with the D-League's Canton Charge, he's averaging 16.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting just 32.3 percent from deep.
No. 14: Sasha Kaun, C
2015-16 Stats per Game: 1.0 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.3 blocks, 4.6 minutes, 11.5 PER
"Sometimes the enemy of the good is the better," coach David Blatt responded when asked about Kaun's lack of playing time, a proverb that very much rings true here. Kaun is the Cavaliers' fifth big man, and he should continue to find scarce playing time, barring any injuries to players in front of him.
No. 13: James Jones, F
2015-16 Stats per Game: 3.6 points, 1.3 rebounds, 36.9 3P%, 9.9 minutes, 9.7 PER
Jones has hit a cold streak as of late, connecting on just 20.0 percent of his outside shots over the past five games. At this point, the 35-year-old brings little else than his floor spacing while on the court, although his knowledge of the game may rival that of anyone in the league.
No. 12: Anderson Varejao, C
2015-16 Stats per Game: 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 8.9 minutes, 10.3 PER
Varejao, like Kaun, is a victim of the Cavaliers' talented frontcourt. Now being used on an as-needed basis by Blatt, Varejao is still a bundle of hustle and rebounding whenever his number is called.
No. 11: Jared Cunningham, G
2015-16 Stats per Game: 3.9 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 13.3 minutes, 6.9 PER
With Irving, Williams and Dellavedova all missing time this season, the 6'4" Cunningham has served as Cleveland's emergency point guard. A solid ball-handler and great athlete, the 24-year-old is still searching for respect from his new team.
No. 10: Richard Jefferson, F
2015-16 Stats per Game:
OK, so Jefferson probably doesn't deserve to be ranked this low, but a now-healthy roster has meant his inevitable slide. A sparkling 40.0 percent success rate from deep in December has kept Jefferson in the rotation, a place he belongs even with the return of Shumpert.
Nos. 6-9: Smith, Williams, Mozgov, Shumpert
No. 9: Iman Shumpert, G/F
2015-16 Stats per Game: 5.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 22.3 minutes, 7.8 PER
Given all of the excitement happening off the court for Shump, he's probably relieved to just be delivering passes instead of babies. With plenty of rust to still shake off stemming from September wrist surgery, Shumpert has struggled in his eight games by shooting just 35.0 percent from the field.
If he continues to progress, however, there's a good chance Blatt will insert Shumpert back into the starting lineup between Irving and James. When close to 100 percent, he's the Cavs' best perimeter defender and an absolute pest to opposing ball-handlers.
No. 8: Timofey Mozgov, C
2015-16 Stats per Game: 6.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 18.7 minutes, 13.3 PER
Despite being Cleveland's leading shot blocker, Mozgov has been moved to the bench in favor of Thompson.
The 7'1" behemoth just hasn't looked himself all year following offseason knee surgery. Too often, Mozgov is fumbling passes out of bounds, losing 50-50 rebound balls or in poor defensive position. Set to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, this is both a curious and unfortunate time for Mozgov to take a major step back.
No. 7: Mo Williams, G
2015-16 Stats per Game: 11.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 25.3 minutes, 14.4 PER
Depending on how he's been utilized, Williams has either been a nice surprise or a major disappointment.
Filling in as the starting point guard for an injured Irving to begin the season, Williams was great. He put up 14.5 and 4.6 assists and shot 36.7 percent from beyond the arc as a starter. Now moved to a reserve role, he's struggled to the tune of 7.0 points and 2.1 assists while knocking down just 26.7 percent of his three pointers.
In a 101-97 win over the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 28, Williams registered a DNP-coach's decision, a trend that could continue with Irving back.
No. 6: J.R. Smith, SG
2015-16 Stats per Game: 10.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 36.6 3P%, 30.4 minutes, 9.9 PER
While his shooting numbers are down this season, Smith has actually been a steady force in the Cavaliers backcourt.
His 103 defensive rating, should it stand, would be the second-best mark of Smith's 12-year-career. An improved effort and commitment to both ends of the floor has been a pleasant surprise for someone normally so consumed with the offensive side of things.
This is a pivotal stretch for Smith. Will he return to the catch-and-shoot star between Irving and James from last year, or will Blatt move him to the bench in favor of Shumpert sometime soon?
5. Kyrie Irving, PG
2015-16 Stats per Game: 13.0 points, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 21.5 minutes, 17.1 PER
Ranking someone who's played just four games is tricky, so this seems as good a place as any for Irving.
Under an undisclosed minute restriction, Irving finally showed his regular form with a 22-point effort in a 101-97 win over the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 28. His return not only makes the backcourt deeper, but it gives Cleveland one of the best one-on-one offensive threats in the NBA.
His presence as both a driver and shooter are already paying dividends, even as Irving progresses from offseason knee surgery. The Cavs are 15.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court, already the third-best mark on the team.
Look for the Cavaliers to improve their 21st-ranked scoring offense (99.9 points per game) now with Irving back and for him to make a nice leap up in next month's rankings.
4. Tristan Thompson, PF/C
2015-16 Stats per Game: 7.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 0.5 blocks, 26.9 minutes, 14.7 PER
The newest member of the starting five, Thompson has more than earned the opportunity.
Despite coming off the bench for most of the year, the 23-year-old is 10th in the NBA in rebounding. His 20.9 rebound percentage is sixth overall.
Thompson leads the Cavs with a 53.9 percent shooting mark from the field, a product of the many alley-oops he can collect and finish. He fits well in the starting lineup as a screener, rebounder and hustle guy to complement scorers like James, Irving and Kevin Love.
Although he's never been a shot-blocker, Thompson's defensive presence has improved mightily this season. He's holding opponents to 9.0 percent below their regular shooting rate from within 10 feet of the basket, per NBA.com.
The only negative to this new switch? It potentially robs Thompson of a Sixth Man of the Year award, something he was making quite a strong case for.
3. Matthew Dellavedova, PG
2015-16 Stats per Game: 9.0 points, 5.3 assists, 44.9 3P%, 28.3 minutes, 13.8 PER
The world needs to know what those in Northeast Ohio have already discovered.
Delly has become a darn good basketball player.
This isn't an "oh, look at that little Australian guy trying so hard, isn't that great for him" kind of deal, either. The third-year pro is shooting three-pointers at a better rate than Stephen Curry (44.9 to 44.6 percent) with a higher assist-to-turnover ratio than Rajon Rondo (3.36 to 2.90). Those marks are good for sixth and fifth in the NBA, respectively.
His impact is felt on both ends of the ball. Delly is improving the Cavs by 17.1 points per 100 possessions, the highest mark of anyone not wearing No. 23.
Thanks to a quicker release of his shot and a continuous non-stop motor, Dellavedova really has been Cleveland's third-best player this year.
2. Kevin Love, PF
2015-16 Stats per Game: 17.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 32.3 minutes, 20.9 PER
Love has appeared more at ease this season, and he now faces the challenge of staying productive alongside both James and Irving.
"I'm comfortable," Love told Bleacher Report earlier this year. "I like playing the game both inside and out. Guys are finding me and also just continuing to get into a rhythm."
Cleveland's offense has been far more dynamic with Love on the court, as they see a 14.1 point per 100 possession boost. Defensively, he has once again struggled, with opponents shooting 4.1 percent higher from within 10 feet, per NBA.com.
Still, few can replicate what he brings to the table. Love joins Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond as the only players in the NBA averaging at least 17 points and 10 rebounds. Of that group, Love is the lone star making a minimum of 1.5 three-pointers a game as well.
1. LeBron James, F
2015-16 Stats per Game: 25.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 36.1 minutes, 25.7 PER
Let's start with the good. James once again ranks near the top of the league in usage (32.6, third), scoring and efficiency (fifth) while improving the Cavaliers by a team-best 24.3 points per 100 possessions.
Now the not-so-good. Despite his fantastic finishing abilities, James has been dreadful from the outside. His 28.6 percent shooting from outside the paint ranks dead last in the NBA. Not near the bottom. Last. Let that sink in.
His 24.8 percent success rate from deep is by far the worst of James' 13 years in the NBA. This kind of inefficiency hasn't slowed him down, however, as James' 109 three-point attempts are third on the Cavs.
Stats aside, James appears in much better physical shape than he did a year ago at this time. With a 31st birthday on Dec. 30, this is a fantastic sign.
If James can figure out his jumper, or at least shy away from it, he will stay in sight of Stephen Curry while chasing a fifth MVP. As it stands, James is still the heartbeat of the Cavaliers and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Greg Swartz is the Cleveland Cavaliers Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @CavsGregBR.
All quotes originally obtained unless otherwise sourced. Stats via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise sourced and current as of Dec. 29.
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