Post-NBA Trade Deadline Power Rankings for Each Cleveland Cavaliers Player
A shakeup in the Cleveland Cavaliers roster brings an exciting new addition—and fresh player power rankings!
While the Cavs didn't pull off any blockbuster trade-deadline deals, they did manage to acquire PF/C Channing Frye from the Orlando Magic. The move is bittersweet, of course, as Cleveland had to part with the city's longest-tenured professional athlete in Anderson Varejao. Originally acquired via trade in 2004 along with Drew Gooden, Varejao was sent to the Portland Trail Blazers along with a 2018 protected first-round pick.
Seldom-used shooting guard Jared Cunningham was also sent packing to the Orlando Magic, leaving the Cavaliers roster at just 13 players.
Just for fun, we'll squeeze Frye into these rankings based on where he's projected to fit into the rotation. While Cleveland will eventually add a few free-agent buyouts to round out the roster, this is close to the final picture we'll see come playoff time.
Nos. 10-13: Frye, Williams, Jones, Kaun
No. 13: Sasha Kaun, C
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 0.9 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.2 blocks, 4.2 minutes, 10.6 PER
Kaun has appeared in just 10 total games this season, the fewest of any Cavalier. With Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov grabbing all the minutes at center, Kaun is Cleveland's version of the victory cigar.
No. 12: James Jones, F
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 3.3 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 9.6 minutes, 9.4 PER
Head coach Tyronn Lue doesn't appear to be a big fan of—or have a need for—Jones. Since Lue took over on Jan. 22, Jones has seen action is just two of 11 games, totaling just over eight minutes of playing time. Now with Frye on board as a backup stretch 4, don't expect to see Jones in a meaningful contest anytime soon.
No. 11: Mo Williams, PG
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 9.1 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 20.2 minutes, 12.7 PER
Williams has been out of the rotation since Irving's return from knee surgery.
"I know everyone wants to play, but I’m not able to play everyone," Lue told Bleacher Report earlier this season when discussing Williams and the recently traded Varejao. "We’ve had that talk and discussion, and they're fine with it. If I know I’m going to need those guys, I’ll try to give them a warning before the game to let them know so they can prepare themselves in a different way than they probably usually do."
No. 10: Channing Frye, PF/C
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 5.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 39.7 3P%, 17.1 minutes, 12.2 PER (with Magic)
"Channing Frye is someone we know well. His length, floor-spacing ability and locker room presence will impact us positively,” said general manager David Griffin in a statement released by the team. “He is a great fit with our group, both on the court and off."
The newest Cavalier will provide a perfect backup to Love, bringing many of the same offensive abilities to the lineup. Minutes may still be hard to come by on some nights, but Frye should be able to provide a consistent scoring option off the bench when his number is called.
Nos. 6-9: Smith, Shumpert, Mozgov, Jefferson
No. 9: Richard Jefferson, SF
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 5.6 points, 1.5 rebounds, 39.5 3P%, 18.5 minutes, 9.4 PER
Primarily a long-range specialist who can play either forward position, Jefferson has carved out a role in Lue's rotation after a brief absence.
"I put Richard Jefferson back in the lineup because I think he takes a lot of pressure off LeBron," Lue told B/R. "I don’t want to play LeBron too many minutes. Getting him back in and playing at the 3, playing at the 4, I think will help us because he is a big body. It takes a lot of pressure off LeBron, so I’m going to keep doing that."
No. 8: Timofey Mozgov, C
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 6.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 17.5 minutes, 14.2 PER
While Lue has yet to verbally commit to Thompson as his full-time starting center, Mozgov's move to the bench appears to be permanent.
It was somewhat surprising that Cleveland kept the unrestricted free-agent-to-be, given that he'll likely bolt this summer in search of a bigger role and pay day. For now, Mozgov remains the team's best rim protector who could made a huge difference down the stretch if he regains his confidence and abilities from last season.
No. 7: Iman Shumpert, G/F
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 6.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 24.1 minutes, 8.3 PER
Despite his poor offensive stats and slip in individual defense from last season, Shumpert continues to make the Cavaliers a better team when he's on the floor.
Cleveland surrenders 3.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with Shump in the game, as his constant activity playing passing lanes and anticipating his opponent's moves are an art form to behold.
If he can improve his outside shot (32.2 percent from three), Shumpert could become one of the NBA's best three-and-D wings.
No. 6: J.R. Smith, SG
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 12.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 40.2 3P%, 30.5 minutes, 12.9 PER
Smith has been Cleveland's best scoring option outside of the Big Three and is second on the team behind Matthew Dellavedova in three-point accuracy.
Not traditionally thought of as a standout defender, Smith has displayed great focus and energy on that end of the floor this season. He's second behind LeBron James in steals (1.13), and has held opponents below their shooting averages from both the three-point line and outside of 15 feet, per NBA.com.
No. 5: Matthew Dellavedova, PG
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 8.2 points, 4.6 assists, 43.2 3P%, 26.3 minutes, 13.1 PER
Even with some other worthy candidates, Dellavedova is easily the most improved member of the Cavaliers.
"I didn’t change anything. Just continuing to work on my shot," Dellavedova told B/R earlier this year regarding his improved stroke. "I think the quicker release has helped a little bit. I have improved it each year, and you always want to keep improving. I think if you put in the time and think about where you’re getting your shots in the offense on the court, and where the passes are coming from and work specifically on those kinds of things, that’s where you’re really going to find the improvement."
You'll also find assist-to-turnover ratio among his list of improvements. Dellavedova's 3.14 mark ranks sixth in the Association, besting the likes of Sacramento's Rajon Rondo, San Antonio's Tony Parker and Washington's John Wall.
His hustle and grit never waning, Delly has become a very well-rounded backup to Kyrie Irving.
No. 4: Tristan Thompson, C
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 7.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 0.4 blocks, 28.2 minutes, 15.3 PER
Now entrenched in the starting unit, Thompson provides a perfect complementary piece alongside the Cavs' Big Three.
"He’s a big part of our package. He always gives us extra shots and opportunities to score," James recently said of Thompson. "Even if it’s a foul called on a hold, he keeps it alive. Kicks it out for threes. He’s a guy that knows his role. The guy gives us 15 rebounds, doesn’t score a point and leaves here with a smile on his face. That’s what it’s all about."
Thompson is one of just three players on the team (James, Dellavedova) that improves Cleveland by at least one point per 100 possessions on both offense and defense.
He's crashed the glass at an extremely high rate this season and is 14th overall in rebounding despite playing less than 29 minutes a night.
While not a true rim protector, Thompson's length and athleticism make him a defensive force when it comes to altering shots and covering the pick-and-roll.
No. 3: Kyrie Irving, PG
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 19.0 points, 4.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 29.8 minutes, 21.4 PER
At some point this season, Irving will jump to the No. 2 spot on these rankings. Today is not yet that day.
While slowly regaining his All-Star form, Irving is once again establishing himself as one of the NBA's great offensive players. Over his last eight games, the 23-year-old is putting up 26.9 points on 55.8 percent shooting from the field.
Primed to make "the leap" as early as next season, Irving certainly has his admirers around the league.
"He has a killer mentality," said Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers played in Cleveland on Feb. 10. "He can shoot the long ball. His mid-range game is excellent. And he can finish at the rim. So, he has all the tools there. It's just a matter of continuing to work and get into rhythm where he can start doing that on a consistent basis."
As his minutes increase, look for Irving to once again climb into the 20-25 point-per-game scoring range while upping his shooting percentages as well.
No. 2: Kevin Love, PF
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 15.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 32.1 minutes, 19.2 PER
Love's rebounding average is good for eighth in the NBA this season, leading to 23 double-doubles.
His inside usage has increased since the coaching change, as Lue has tried to play Love with the second team more often to increase his offensive comfort. The Cavs must continue to feed Love inside, something he greatly prefers but doesn't always come to fruition.
"Ever since I was young I was one of the big guys. I’m not the tallest guy in the world but I’ve always played inside out," Love said. "Whether I get to the free-throw line or get those post touches, it helps me have continuity and feel a little bit of a flow and be involved in the offense. It helps me and makes the hoop bigger getting those easy touches."
Sharing a ball with James and Irving will never allow Love to put up his gaudy scoring statistics of yesteryear, and that's OK.
Instead, his focus should be rebounding, passing from the elbows and being that force down low when called upon.
No. 1: LeBron James, SF
2015-16 Per-Game Stats: 25.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 35.9 minutes, 26.9 PER
James continues to be the lifeblood of the team, racking up near triple-double numbers on a nightly basis. He's fifth in the NBA in scoring this season despite playing less than 36 minutes a night, an average that Lue has stated he wants to keep James at.
Despite all the praise, there's still plenty of room for improvement, particularly from the outside. James' lowly three-point success rate of 27.7 percent is a career worst and ranks dead last among 107 qualified players, per ESPN.com.
"You’ve got to pick and choose what you’re going to live with," Golden State Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton told B/R earlier this season. "If you get up on him and try to take away his three-point shot, he’s too big and strong and he’ll get around. Once he gets in your paint, he’s playmaking to other people, and if you don’t rotate he’s dunking on whoever’s guarding him. Obviously if he gets hot from three then we’ll change up our defensive game plan. To start the game, you’ve got to live with something and that’s probably your safest bet."
If James can improve his outside stroke, he'll become nearly unstoppable once again.
Greg Swartz is the Cleveland Cavaliers lead writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @CavsGregBR.
All quotes obtained firsthand. Stats via Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of Thursday unless otherwise noted.
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