In an 82-game season after the summer of “The Decision,” the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers won a total of 19 games in a season full of many perils. A 55-point loss to the Los Angles Lakers, a nationally televised embarrassment at the hands of LeBron James and his return to Cleveland and the matching of the all-time losing streak in professional sports history at 26 games summed up a miserable season for Cleveland to endure.
In a shortened 66-game season, the Cavaliers are putting on one of the most impressive turnarounds in NBA history. After 31 games the Cavs have already won 13 games, six away from matching last year’s mark. So with the All-Star break over and with Cleveland hosting the Boston Celtics Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, I have for you the Cavaliers first-half report card.
I will be looking at four categories while evaluating the Cavaliers performance through the first 31 games of this short NBA season. I will grade Cleveland’s offense, defense, bench and coaching.
A quick look at the grading scale before we get started:
A – Championship Caliber
A- – Top of the NBA
B+ – Cusp of Greatness
B – Playoff Contender
B- – Sitting on an 8 or 9
C+ – Well Below Average
C – Like the Bulls Without Dennis Rodman
C- – Time to Start Thinking Lottery
D+ – Thinking Lottery
D – Can’t Compete
D- – < 10 Wins
F – Not Even an NBA Team
93.7 PPG, 20.4 APG, 15.8 TPG
Shooting .424 from the field, .357 from beyond the three-point arc, .697 from the free throw line
18.1 PPG, 5.1 APG, 3.1 TPG
Shooting .476 from the field, .415 from beyond the three-point arc, .86 from the free throw line
Grade B: With standout rookie sensation Kyrie Irving making a splash in the NBA by the second game of his young career, the Cavaliers offense has been able to keep pace with teams such as the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference. Even though Cleveland’s offense doesn’t put up 100+ points every night, the Cavaliers offense thrived whenever Irving controlled the ball. It seemed that every time Irving had the ball and it was the fourth quarter it was imminent that the Cavs offense would explode and score 30 points in the final 12 minutes. The offense saw great success under the rookie-led system.
The offense wasn’t perfect though. With injuries to Irving, Anderson Varejao, Anthony Parker, Tristan Thompson and Daniel Gibson, all injuries unfortunately took place around the same time, some NBA experience-deprived players had to fill in at rough times for the Cavaliers. For the most part, the team didn’t collapse. Oh yeah, Omri Casspi also managed to muster up 7.6 PPG, 1.4 APG and 3.4 RPG. Yikes.
97.3 PPG allowed, 43.7 RPG, 7.55 SPG, 4.68 BPG
11.5 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 0.9 SPG
Grade C+: After losing Varejao to a wrist injury for 4-6 weeks, which was announced on Feb. 16, the Cavaliers defense was surely to show weakness. That wasn’t entirely the case as Cleveland saw the wins stay consistent, but the aggressive rebounding abilities that Varejao brought to the team did decline. Through 31 games the Cavs have given up close to 100 PPG, which would usually garner a defensive grade of a D. Despite completely rolling over in at least one quarter per game, the Cavs defense played relatively well for 75 percent of an entire game. The Cavs will have to unleash their inner brute the second-half of the season if they want to contend for a playoff spot.
10.4 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.3 RPG
10.1 PPG, 1.5 APG, 4.2 RPG
7.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG
Grade B: One of the stronger cores in the NBA this season, the Cavaliers bench did not disappoint. It seemed like every night Gee was coming off the bench with an electrifying dunk that swung momentum Cleveland’s way. Sessions and Thompson each led the Cavaliers in a statistical category with Sessions leading the team in assists and Thompson leading the team in blocks. The bench especially stepped up when injuries plagued the team for a week and beyond. The bench harmony could quickly change, though, as other playoff-contending teams could be looking to do trade with the Cavaliers.
Byron Scott (Head Coach), Paul Pressey (Assistant Coach), Jamahl Mosley (Assistant Coach), Joe Prunty (Assistant Coach), Nate Tibbetts (Assistant Coach), Stan Kellers (Strength-and-Conditioning Coach) and Max Benton (Athletic Trainer)
Grade B-: The coaching staff did a pretty good job dealing with all the injuries that took place almost one after another by rotating the bench and giving players like Sessions, Gee and Gibson more minutes. It seemed at times, however, that coach Scott was hesitant to change his lineup even when he saw his team struggling. The staff shouldn’t be afraid to mesh players who don’t usually play together and sometimes a lineup change can spark chemistry between certain players. Creating a situation that’s comparable to New York Knick players Jeremy Lin and Landry Fields relationship could be crucial for the Cavs when they reach the final stretch of the 2012 season.
Overall Grade B-: The Cavs are on the verge of making the playoffs, wavering between spots eight through 10 for some time now. If the Cavs can keep consistent with the wins like they have been without Varejao, Cleveland will be a scary team once “Wild Thing” returns. With a 13-18 record and holding on to the No. 9 spot in the Eastern Conference, the Cavs had hopes this year that they thought they wouldn’t have for a long time. Hopes on making the playoffs.