The NBA Rank, or #NBARank, brought to you by ESPN, is a system in which some of the top NBA analysts on the Especially Stupid Person’s Network rank each and every NBA player. The list starts with Eddy Curry at #500 and makes it way all the way down to #1 LeBron James. (LeBron isn’t officially #1 yet, but we can only assume.) Thus far in the NBA Rank most teams have been thoroughly ranked, as players #20 through #1 mostly reside in the same few areas: Miami, Boston, New York, and Los Angeles. As you can expect, with a young and hopefully developing roster, the members of the Cleveland Cavaliers have been ranked.
The ranking of the Cleveland Cavaliers starts with #480 Donald Sloan. An improvement from last year’s ranking of NR (not ranked), Sloan actually made a somewhat significant impact for the lowly Cavs last season. He scored 5.5 points per game and shot around 40% from the field. In the last game of the season in 2012, Sloan gave the Cavs a 12 point 4 rebound effort in a loss to the Bulls. There is no way Sloan should be ranked #480, nor should he be ranked as the worst Cleveland Cavalier. That privilege belongs to the next two fellows.
Luke Walton and Jeremy Pargo come in next for the Cavs at #431 and #413 respectively. Walton deserves nowhere near that ranking, while the jury is still out on Pargo. Pargo was acquired by the Cavs from Memphis and probably will see limited playing time in Cleveland. As for Walton, for what reason he is still on the roster, I am not sure.
Next comes the beloved Samardo Samuels ranked at #392, up from last years rank of #393. Coming into this season as an extremely lighter human being, Samardo could have an extended role with the Cavaliers. ESPN really ranked Samardo pretty low for his output. He averaged 5.4 points per game and shot .455 from the field, while grabbing 3 rebounds a game in 15 minutes on the court. While Samuels is still developing, I really believe they undersold the lean and mean SamSam.
The cult superstar and Fighting Irish legend Luke Harangody comes in next at #385. ESPN has to be kidding with this one. Have they seen Luke Harangody play? Honestly? I am actually willing to bet that if I grew 3 inches to equal the height of Mr. ‘Gody, I would be a better basketball player than Luke. He is a fan favorite and the sort of “Rudy” figure on the Cavaliers, no ND pun intended, but the guy can not be a legitimate factor for the Cavaliers. His 3 points per game and .354 shooting percentage will not suffice in the NBA for all that much longer. I’m not saying he can’t improve, but if he doesn’t soon, it’s going to be a short, but sweet, NBA career.
#363 and #345 are both new comers to the Cleveland Cavaliers. To me, one comes with promise and the other comes with a bench-warming agenda. You might call me crazy, but Kelenna Azubuike is the former and Jon Leuer is the latter. Jon Leuer, at #363, is in just his second year in the NBA. Last season with Milwaukee, Leuer put on a below-average clinic. He averaged 4.7 points in 12 minutes on the floor last season for the Bucks. Leuer, to me, doesn’t have too much upside. I can see him as a Harangody like role player who may be just a tad more athletic than Luke. Azubuike, on the other hand, intrigues me greatly. While struggling for the last couple of years, I remember when Kelenna Azubuike was a 14.4 ppg player. He is a little on the shorter end, and is coming off some lowly NBA seasons, but especially on a team with a lack of SF depth, Azubuike could help the Cavaliers and rejuvenate his career. I’m not saying he’ll be the 14.4 guy we hope for, but he could return to his career 10.5 ppg and 4.5 rpg numbers.
Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters cover the next two spots for the Cavs. You, as well as I, might be saying really? They really disrespected Waiters that much? Oh, they did. Zeller comes in at #299 while Waiters makes his way into the Rank at #293, just 6 away from Zeller’s mark. While we have no indication as to what these players will actually formulate into, it would normally be the case that the player drafted at the #4 spot would rank much higher than the player drafted at the 17th spot. Not in this case. Hopefully Dion will far exceed ESPN’s lowly expectations and earn that high ranking that he would normally incur.
We finally make our way to the “veterans” on this ball club, starting with Mr. High Flyer himself, Alonzo Gee. ESPN, in a way, noted the improvements that Alonzo Gee made from the 2011 to the 2012 season. He moved up from a Gody-like #368 to #271 in this year’s rankings. Alonzo Gee could be the long term option at small forward for the Cavs. Averaging 30 minutes a game, Alonzo scored 10.6 points, grabbed 5.1 boards, and shot 41.2 percent from the field. While his numbers don’t look all that great, Alonzo showed sparks of greatness last season and his ceiling is way higher than most know, or expect.
Booby’s World is actually at 255 ESPN Rank Street. Booby is one of Cleveland’s heroes after his performance in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. Although he is beloved by all the Cavalier fans and benefits greatly from all of the Northeast Ohio bias, thankfully, ESPN recognizes that his output isn’t all that valuable. Booby dropped from #237 in last year’s rank, and rightfully so. He is a three point specialist who is average on defense. Only in Cleveland would he be such a valuable commodity, and yet, I still hope Booby goes on to give Cleveland the Booby Gibson we’ve been waiting for since that 2007 campaign.
Another new addition to the Cavaliers is C.J. Miles, coming in at #250 on the list. Literally, C.J. Miles is the most average player in the NBA. Right in the middle of the Rank, Miles averages a career 8.4 ppg and shoots 41.2 percent from the field. I believe that Miles could see some extended playing time in Cleveland and those numbers could drastically improve. Miles seems to be very optimistic in his attitude towards the Cavaliers and hopefully can complement the young guys on the squad very nicely.
A travesty, a mockery, and a sham, Omri Casspi comes in at #208 in the NBA Rank. Cleveland fans know WAY better than to put Omri Casspi in the 200s. With such high hopes coming in, Cavs fans were dissapointed with each shot Casspi took last season. It’s been a slow and steady decline in production from Casspi. In his rookie season, Omri took the NBA by storm as the first Israeli born NBA player in the game who also averaged 10.3 ppg and shot .446 from the floor. Last season, his first in Cleveland, Omri averaged 7.6 points and shot only .403 from the floor. His starting spot at small forward was grabbed away by the flourishing Alonzo Gee and Omri became one of the most disappointing Cavaliers in recent memory. Hopefully Omri’s confidence and smooth stroke can be restored in the 2012 campaign.
If you’ve been keeping score at home, that’s been 13 Cleveland Cavaliers players, without a single one touching the 100 mark. Omri Casspi is the 4th best player on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller were ranked right next to each other even though they were picked 13 slots apart in the 2012 NBA draft, and there has yet to be a single player who has been ranked 200 or below. Finally, the home stretch brings along some hope for the Cleveland Cavalier faithful.
Tristan Thompson comes in at #200 on the NBA Rank list. Up from #319 last season, all seems to be looking up for Thompson. An injury-filled 2012 journey didn’t keep Thompson from impressing fans with his athleticism and week to week improvement. Thompson is definitely a piece for the future in Cleveland. His offense is still a work in progress, but you can see where he made strides each and every game last season. Not to mention, he has a player that is going to make him a lot better in the seasons to come. Thompson moved up 119 spots in this years NBA Rank and if he comes close to that this season, you’re looking a top 100 NBA player.
Finally, a Cleveland Cavalier cracks the top 100. Andy Varejao comes in at #74 in the NBA Rank. I feel for Anderson Varejo. He has done nothing but give his heart and soul to the city and to the fans of Cleveland, Ohio and yet, this offseason, I couldn’t help but feeling that he was a bit disrespected. Included in all kinds of trade talk, Varejao, at times, probably felt like his value in Cleveland was slipping. The fans, while still loving him, were moving on to bigger and better things. Those things never came into fruition and therefore Andy is back in a Cavalier uniform, hopefully with something to prove. I don’t think there is a Cavaliers fan in Cleveland that doesn’t love Anderson Varejao, but I believe we’re starting to value his heart less and less. #74 in the rankings is way better than a lot of NBA players, and we should be grateful that one of the most beloved Cavaliers of all time is back in Cleveland. Cavaliers fans should show him this season how much he means to us, regardless of his numbers or his so-called “value”.
The future of the Cleveland Cavaliers comes in the form of #22 Kyrie Irving. Kyrie bedazzled NBA crowds all across the nation last season. He brought Cleveland fans hope in a much quicker fashion than anyone thought possible. He won the NBA Rookie of the Year and won over the hearts of fans and analysts alike. Kyrie Irving is a special player. Although he is ranked #22 this year, going into next season I think we could be looking at a top 10 player in this league. Even with injury taking away portions of his 2012 season, Kyrie Irving dominated the younger players in the league and made the older ones recognize his abilities very quickly. I think we’ve all seen the Team USA practices in which Kyrie just tantalizes our eyeballs and moves with ease past some of the best players to ever play the game. Kyrie is a superstar and a leader in every sense of the word. It was an honor and a privilege watching him play, and I hope to continue to watch him star in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform for many years to come.
All in all, the NBA Rank made the Cavaliers look pretty terrible. The final average ranking of the 2013 Cavaliers is a lowly 292.56, or less than average in a league dominated by superstars. One player cracked the top 50, and one player cracked the top 100. The three players drafted above Dion Waiters were ranked 68, 128, and 170 respectively, Waiters coming in 123 points lower than 3rd pick Bradley Beal. The Charlotte Bobcats average rank was 250.167, 42.393 points better than the Cavaliers. According to ESPN, and many Cavaliers fans, the Cavaliers hopes are riding on the shoulders of Kyrie Irving, next season could be a struggle, and the Cavs could have yet another lottery pick. However, I don’t believe it. I think the Cavaliers are going to drastically improve. Their roster is full of developing players who will hopefully take the next step in their development. While ESPN says the Cavs are the worst team in the NBA, I beg to differ. Let’s see if the Cavs don’t contend for a playoff spot for the majority of this season.
Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove