Report Card Grades for Each Cleveland Cavaliers Player
Roughly one third of the NBA season has already passed, and accurate player and team assessments can begin to take place.
The Cavs have nearly completed phase one of their 2017-18 chapter: life without Isaiah Thomas. As the All-Star point guard nears his return, the Cavaliers have already trotted out seven new players this season.
The following grades are based upon expectations versus reality. For example, 20 points and five assists a night may move Jose Calderon's grade into stratospheric levels, but it would be well below average for a guy like James.
Here's how all 14 Cavs (minus the injured Thomas) have graded out through the first 29 games of the season.
Zizic, Osman, Shumpert, Calderon, Frye
Ante Zizic, C
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 1.2 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.4 blocks, 36.4 FG%, minus-2.0
Grading Zizic on his brief appearances seems unfair, as he's been mostly reduced to garbage-time minutes.
The 20-year-old rookie has been fairly productive during his time on the court, with a line of 12.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes of play.
Most of his time has come with the Cavs' G-League affiliate, the Canton Charge. In four games with the Charge this season, he's averaging 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds on .579 shooting in 23.5 minutes per game.
Cedi Osman, SF
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 1.9 points, 1.6 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 47.1 FG%, minus-0.3
The legend of The First Cedi grows every day, as he's found his way into Coach Lue's rotation.
For the most mark, Osman looks the part of a typical rookie. He has long periods of time where he appears confused on offense, trying to pick his spots to cut or post up.
Defensively, the 22-year-old has shown an impressive motor and desire to defend. Once Lue gets all his healthy bodies back, Osman will likely see most of his playing time in the G-League.
Iman Shumpert, G
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 4.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 38.6 FG%, plus-2.3
Shumpert has bounced around from rotation wing to starting point guard and now sidelined following arthroscopic knee surgery that will likely keep him out until February.
At this point, his best value to the team may be his $10.3 million contract that can be used to match salaries in a potential trade. His three-point shooting has once again taken a dive (career-low 28.0 percent), while his playmaking and overall offense is nearly non-existent.
In a perfect world, Shumpert comes back strong and proves he can be a rotation three-and-D wing. With his rough start to the 2017-18 season, that appears unlikely.
Jose Calderon, PG
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 4.3 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 51.4 3P%, minus-0.1
Calderon leads the Cavaliers in three-point shooting and has proved to be more than a capable spot starter at point guard with Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose and Shumpert all out.
Nothing about Calderon's game is fancy, and that's OK. He's averaging just 1.9 assists per game while making over half of his threes. He can still get guys into their sets and put the ball where James and Kevin Love need it to go to work.
When Thomas returns, we won't likely see Calderon much anymore, although he's always ready should Lue need some minutes here or there.
Channing Frye, C
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 4.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 49.5 FG%, plus-3.4
The only good thing to come out of Tristan Thompson's calf injury was the return of Frye to the rotation.
The Cavs bench has been a strong suit all year, thanks in part to Frye and his newly developed game.
"I look at the game like, 'How can I impact it not just standing there?' Frye said, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. "Just try to be active offensively setting screens, doing stuff like that, but I'm also trying to be active driving the ball to the hole, finishing, one-dribble pull-ups and stuff like that. Just playing ball and not being robotic. Just evolving."
Rose, Thompson, Smith, Green
Derrick Rose, PG
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 14.3 points, 1.7 assists, 2.7 turnovers, 23.1 3P%, minus-7.4
Rose hasn't played in a game since Nov. 7 due to an ankle injury and bone spur, and the Cavs haven't missed him one bit. Rose is an effective downhill scorer in a vacuum, but his tunnel vision, poor defense and lack of a three-point shot go against everything a modern point guard should have.
His recent decision to leave the team and contemplate retirement hasn't gone over well in the locker room, either.
"I've heard from others in the organization who believe Rose's two-week departure could hurt him with his standing and his future here," Jason Lloyd of The Athletic wrote. "But Lue was a key reason Rose signed here, so maybe he's willing to give him another chance."
When Rose is medically cleared to play, it doesn't appear he'll have much of a role with Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade running the first and second units, respectively. It may be best to rule the Rose experiment a failure and look to package him in a future trade.
Tristan Thompson, C
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 3.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 0.4 blocks, 60.0 FG%, minus-4.8
Thompson is easily having his worst season in Cleveland, a combination of poor play and a nagging calf injury that's caused him to miss most of the past six weeks.
For now, Thompson will come off the bench in limited minutes while he works his way back to 100 percent health. The Cavaliers have missed his rebounding, and Love has no doubt missed his willingness to take on tough defensive assignments.
Long term, I believe Thompson works best in the starting lineup next to Love with about 20-25 minutes of energy, hard screens and rolls to the rim. For now, getting him healthy is the goal.
J.R. Smith, SG
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 8.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 36.5 3P%, plus-0.8
With a deep and talented rotation, Smith has spent more time on the court this season for Cleveland than anyone not named LeBron James.
In all, Smith has been remarkably average on both ends of the ball. His three-point shooting is slightly improved over last year, and his playmaking has been noticeably better as well.
There's still hope that Smith can return to his 40.0 percent outside clip of two years ago when he appeared to be the perfect fit between James and Kyrie Irving. Here's hoping he can mesh between James and Isaiah Thomas just the same.
Jeff Green, PF
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 10.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 50.4 FG%, plus-2.3
Green is next in the line of players who have thrived later on in their careers alongside James.
As one of three Cavs scoring in double digits off the bench, Green is putting up career highs in field-goal percentage and player efficiency rating (17.2) this season.
Although still not a great outside shooter (29.4 percent), Green gives the Cavs an athletic big who can handle the ball, cut to the basket and throw down in traffic. His defensive versatility will come in handy come playoff time.
Kyle Korver, SG/SF
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 10.6 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 44.4 3P%, plus-7.0
There's nothing to dislike about Korver's play this season.
He's become one of the NBA's best reserves, totaling a plus/minus of plus-202 on the year. Not only does this figure lead all bench players, but it ranks ninth overall in the NBA.
Korver has become the master of picking his spots, using teammate screens and off-ball movement to set himself up in position to knock down shots.
"A smart, well-prepared defense can track Korver as he moves around the floor and largely neutralize him. Put second- and third-string defenders to the task, however, and he'll spring all sorts of leaks in the coverage," Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney wrote. "Even more important: this group, already fully in tune with one another, will actually wait for those options to develop."
In a second unit with non-shooters Wade, Green and now Thompson, Korver's spacing and outside attack are needed even more.
While he won't tickle the stat sheet in many categories, Korver opens the floor for everyone else and is a disciplined defender who puts forth good effort and still moves extremely well for his age (36).
Jae Crowder, F
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 8.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 39.0 FG%, plus-0.2
Crowder has been a major disappointment for the Cavaliers on both ends of the court following his trade from the Boston Celtics.
While Cleveland probably didn't expect the same 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds a game Crowder put up last year, they were hoping for more production out of the 27-year-old forward.
It's been a struggle for Crowder to adjust to his many roles, including being moved in and out of the starting lineup earlier in the year. It seems like for every big game he posts that signals a potential turnaround, there's a bad performance that immediately follows.
The Celtics were 11.5 points per 100 possessions better with Crowder on the floor last season, per Basketball Reference. This year, the Cavs are 8.5 points per 100 possessions worse.
Crowder often takes on the less-than-glamorous defense role, drawing whomever Lue doesn't want James or Love to cover. This has included New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis, who at 7'3" towered nine inches over the 6'6" Crowder.
Long term, his best role may be as a small forward off the bench, bringing energy and knocking down open shots. With Thompson missing time and Love thriving as a center, Crowder hasn't had that choice.
Dwyane Wade, SG
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 11.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 36.4 3P%, plus-4.4
Wade has been a crucial piece to the Cavs since moving to the bench, serving as point guard of the second unit.
He has the second-highest plus/minus rating on the team, a stat that proves the Cavs can sustain and even build leads with Wade leading the charge when James needs a breather.
All of this inspired play, plus his name recognition, have some bringing Wade up in Sixth Man of the Year conversations.
"He's probably the No. 1 candidate," James said, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.
"Not even being biased, that's one of my best friends. Just looking at the teams. Eric Gordon has had to start a lot this season because CP [Chris Paul] was out. [Andre] Iguodala's been out a little bit, you look at Manu [Ginobili], you look at Jamal Crawford...those are sixth-man guys, right? D-Wade would probably be leading that right now, but there's a long way to go."
To be clear, James is absolutely biased, but he does have a point.
For the way Wade has adjusted to a brand-new role while running a unit that previously floundered without James is a major accomplishment, and that should have him in the running for the award until the end.
Kevin Love, C
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 19.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 39.6 3P%, plus-1.4
Love should be a borderline All-Star in the Eastern Conference this season.
He leads the Cavs in rebounding and is scoring at a higher clip and on better efficiency than last season when he was named an All-Star for the first time since coming to Cleveland. This is particularly impressive given all of the extra defensive work he's forced to do now as a full-time center.
Love and New Orleans Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins are the NBA's only two players averaging at least 19 points, 10 rebounds and two three-pointers per game. Cousins does this in 35.6 minutes a night. Love, in just 29.4.
The Cavs need to be weary of the extra wear and tear Love's body is enduring this season, as he is often assigned to players both taller and heavier than he is. While the Cavaliers offense is rolling with Love as the team's starting center, don't be surprised if Lue makes the switch back to Thompson and moves Love to the 4 at some point to preserve him for the playoffs.
Overall, this is easily Love's best season as a Cavalier.
LeBron James, PG/SF/PF/C
2017-18 Stats Per Game: 28.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.1 blocks, 57.8 FG%, plus-3.6
What else is there to say at this point?
Nearing age 33, James is arguably having the best statistical season of his career, all while spending time at five different positions.
His overall and three-point shooting (41.1 percent) are career bests, as are James' assists, blocks and player efficiency rating (31.7).
James' improved mechanics and consistent form have led to his outside shooting resurgence, just two years after he was the NBA's worst from the outside.
"You have to pick your poison," Memphis Grizzlies interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff told Bleacher Report. "Are you taking away all the other guys and letting LeBron go one-on-one as a scorer? Or are you trying to take him away and make the other guys beat you? Those are the decisions you have to make now going into the game."
James' workload is about to be lessened some with the impending return of Isaiah Thomas, but don't expect his monster stat line or MVP-level production to go anywhere.