End-of-Season Grades for Each Cleveland Cavaliers Player
Set to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers are ready to begin yet another run to the NBA Finals.
With the regular season nearly completed, it's time to hand out some grades.
Evaluations will be based on a number of factors. Overall performance is always a concern, but we'll go beyond that. How has each Cavaliers player lived up to expectations? Has he actually benefited the team with his production, or are some players' stats worth more than others'?
From MVP candidates to disappointments and pleasant surprises, here's how the 2015-16 Cavs grade out.
Nos. 14-11: McRae, Kaun, Jones, Williams
No. 14: Jordan McRae, G
Signed off the NBA D-League's Delaware 87ers roster, Jordan McRae is a fill-it-up wing whom Cleveland has under contract for next year as well. At 25 years of age, the former Tennessee Volunteer averaged 2.0 points in the 12 games in which he saw action.
Final Grade: D
No. 13: Sasha Kaun, C
The Cavaliers' victory cigar, Sasha Kaun never cracked the team's rotation, instead serving as insurance on the front line. Playing just 66 minutes all year, Kaun averaged 0.9 points and 0.9 rebounds in limited action.
Final Grade: D
No. 12: James Jones, F
Like in so many other seasons in his 13-year career, James Jones executed the role of outside shooter brilliantly. His ability to play both forward positions and space the floor for LeBron James and Co. was crucial, even if playing time came in spurts. Jones is knocking down 39.4 percent of his three-pointers, an increase from his 36.0 percent mark from a year ago.
Final Grade: B
No. 11: Mo Williams, PG
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, so too has Mo Williams returned to relevance on the Cavaliers. With his stats still somewhat inflated from his days as a starter with Kyrie Irving out, Williams will finish fifth in team scoring (8.4 points per game). Like Irving, unfortunately, his defense this season has left much to be desired.
Final Grade: C
Nos. 10-6: Jefferson, Shumpert, Mozgov, Frye, Smith
No. 10: Richard Jefferson, SF
Richard Jefferson has been a steady and reliable presence on a team seemingly filled with drama all season.
Coach Tyronn Lue has praised his ability to play both forward positions and provide extra rest for James. Currently fourth on the Cavs with a 39.0 percent success rate from deep, Jefferson has been a solid free-agent addition who should be welcome back next year if he chooses to return.
Final Grade: B-
No. 9: Iman Shumpert, G/F
Let's start with the good, courtesy of Iman Shumpert's backcourt mate, Irving: "He’s just awesome. He makes our job so much easier, saving our legs when he’s guarding the best player on the opposite team. When you have that versatility at the 2 position or even the 3 position sometimes, it adds a great dynamic to our team."
While Shump's defense was once again stellar, there's no denying he regressed offensively.
Averages of 5.8 points on 37.9 percent shooting from the field and 30.1 percent from deep simply aren't good enough and fall short of justifying the four-year, $40 million deal he inked last summer.
Final Grade: C+
No. 8: Timofey Mozgov, C
Just when Timofey Mozgov would show flashes of his dominant 2014-15 self, another pass would clank off his giant hands out of bounds. A good night would be followed up by two poor ones. While his play slowly improved throughout the year, there's no denying the 7'1" center was never truly himself.
He'll finish second on the Cavs in field-goal percentage (56.5 percent) and first in blocks (0.7), but his future on the team is extremely questionable with unrestricted free agency looming.
Final Grade: C-
No. 7: Channing Frye, PF/C
Channing Frye has cooled off following a hot start with the team, but he is still a must-play part of the Cavs' big-man rotation. Cleveland is 6.1 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor, the third-best mark on the team.
"It’s not that complicated. I go in there, play some D, shoot when I’m open and give guys space on the floor," Frye told Bleacher Report of his role.
"They have more than enough superstars, and I think for me right now, I need to continue to get in a groove with the guys, be ready to play at any moment. They’re pretty solid at every position, so for me it’s about being an option. I know that the big dogs have to eat, and I’m just going to help them when I can."
So far, so good.
Final Grade: B+
No. 6: J.R. Smith, SG
J.R. Smith entered Cleveland's record books this season, breaking Wesley Person's single-season franchise record of 192 three-pointers. Never afraid to launch the long ball, Smith is an efficient 40.0 percent marksman this season as well.
While he hasn't exactly been the poster boy for consistency, Smith actually put up quite similar numbers to his 2014-15 campaign. Smith's defensive effort has been noticeably improved, finally catching up to his athleticism and 6'6" frame.
Fresh off signing with James' agency, Klutch Sports, we can look for him to get paid this summer as well.
Final Grade: B+
No. 5: Tristan Thompson, PF/C
The pressure was on for Tristan Thompson to deliver after inking a five-year, $82 million deal last September, a contract that made him the NBA's sixth-highest-paid power forward.
While his numbers won't justify this kind of payday, Thompson did once again prove his value to this team. Cleveland never calls offensive plays for the 25-year-old, instead relying on him to set hard screens and crash the offensive glass.
He became the Cavs' all-time leader in consecutive games played, passing Jim Chones' mark of 361 straight contests. Thompson is the NBA's active games leader with 366 and counting, having played every contest since February of his rookie season.
"That’s what he does. He’s a big part of our package," James said of Thompson earlier this season.
"He always gives us extra shots and opportunities to score. 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."
While Kevin Love steals much of the headlines, Cleveland has actually been better with Thompson on the floor (plus-5.1 to plus-4.5). The latter has pulled down the greater percentage of rebounds (18.5 to 17.6) as well.
In all, Thompson put up a very good year (8.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, team-high 59.1 percent shooting), although one that doesn't justify his salary quite yet.
Final Grade: B+
No. 4: Matthew Dellavedova, PG
"If you don't love Delly, then you don't love basketball."
Coach Lue handed his reserve point guard perhaps the compliment of the year, referring to Matthew Dellavedova's combination of hustle, defense, intensity and work ethic.
"Delly’s always great. Delly, every time he steps on the floor, I think he’s like top three or four guys in plus/minus in the league, and he’s a backup."
No one on the team made as big a jump as the Australian sensation, increasing both his three-point shooting and ball-handling ability. He's leading the team with a 41.9 percent success rate from deep (ninth among NBA players with at least 100 attempts) to go along with a 2.85 assist-to-turnover ratio (17th, according to NBA.com).
Perhaps the most important part of his game is the elevated team success any time Delly steps on the court. He's second only to James with a plus-8.3 mark per 100 possessions, making a significant difference on both ends of the ball.
Is Dellavedova more talented than Thompson, Smith, Shumpert or others? Probably not, but he's exactly what this team needs in the middle of so many stars and has exceeded all expectations thus far.
Final Grade: A-
No. 3: Kyrie Irving, PG
It's been a trying year for Kyrie Irving, as the 24-year-old star point guard has battled back from a serious knee injury only to deal with major distractions off the court.
Of course, there's the never-ending job of trying to mesh his game with those of Love and James, a task that's resulted in a drop of his personal stats.
"I think what he has to do is just focus on being himself," Kobe Bryant said of Irving during the former's last game in Cleveland. "I think it's very hard because you're always trying to balance group dynamics with LeBron and Kevin, and it's important for them to figure out how all three of them can play at their highest level of potential.
"I think he struggles with that a little bit, trying to figure out what is what. But that's just part of his process. Absolutely he can be one of the greats [at point guard]."
If Bryant can label him one of the future greats, who are we to argue? For now, however, there's no hiding the fact that Irving regressed this season.
His three-point shooting, once thought to be one of Irving's strongest assets, has deserted him. After knocking down a team-best 41.5 percent last season, he's now dipped to a career-worst 31.7 percent.
A long and productive postseason run can certainly change things, but to this point, Irving's play has fallen short of our incredibly high expectations.
Final Grade: B
No. 2: Kevin Love, PF
Like with Irving, Love's production has varied based on whom he shares the court with.
In 14 November games with no Irving yet, Love put up 19.9 points and 11.8 rebounds while shooting 47.1 percent from the field. In 13 March contests sharing a ball with Kyrie, his numbers dropped to 15.7 points and 9.5 rebounds with a 42.0 percent clip from the field.
Love's stats also depend on his own aggressiveness and where he's receiving the ball. It's become a broken record, but he's maintained the same offensive approach for decades now.
"Ever since I was young, I was one of the big guys," Love said. "I’m not the tallest guy in the world, but I’ve always played inside out. 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."
Perhaps no one needs a strong playoff session more than Love, whose first postseason experience ended just after three full games.
While he missed out on the All-Star team this season, Love had a solid year and will once again finish as the team's leading rebounder (9.9).
Final Grade: B+
No. 1: LeBron James, SF
Ho-hum, it's just been another typical year for James.
Although averaging a career-low 35.6 minutes a night, a recent surge in play has helped bump his numbers to usual LeBron-esque levels.
Pouring in 25.2 points a night to go along with 7.5 rebounds (his highest mark since 2012-13) and 6.8 assists, he's improved his player efficiency rating (27.2), field-goal percentage (51.2) and win shares (13.1) over last season.
For James, there was no midseason break like last year. He once again carried the load for Cleveland, and despite leading it to the top of the Eastern Conference, he was the team's lone representative at the All-Star Game.
His leadership has shown through all of the cryptic tweets, and his mental approach to the game (as evidenced by his coaching) continues to reach new levels.
"It starts with Bron. As far as basketball IQ goes, I don’t think there’s anybody better," Love told Bleacher Report earlier this year.
Of course, regular-season accomplishments don't mean much to James. In pursuit of his third NBA title, we'll likely see a locked-in LeBron unleashed very soon.
Final Grade: A
Greg Swartz is the Cleveland Cavaliers Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @CavsGregBR.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless cited. Stats via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise sourced.