Rapid Reaction: Cavs Add More Depth to Bench

The Cavaliers made a move before yesterday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline that will improve their bench by acquiring Channing Frye from the Orlando Magic. In a three team trade, the Cavs traded power forward, Anderson Varejao and a future first round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers as well as trading guard, Jared Cunningham and a future second round pick to Orlando.

New Cavaliers forward/center, Channing Frye

New Cavaliers forward/center, Channing Frye

I think that this was a good move for the Cavs to make because of Frye’s varied skill set. He is a versatile big man that can play both the forward and center positions. Frye will allow the Cavs to space the floor creating more open paths to the basket for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. For a team that has struggled on defense this season, he is a solid low post defender and a good shot blocker. I think the best skill that Frye brings to the wine and gold is his three point stroke. Frye is shooting 39.7 percent from beyond the arc this season and he will prove to be another weapon off of the bench. Will this trade alone put the Cavs over the hump and knock off the Golden State Warriors in a potential NBA Finals rematch? No, that will all be determined if the Big 3 can play together as a unit as well as receiving contributions from role players like J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. This trade adds another solid rotation piece that will improve the bench with his wide range of skills.

Former Cavaliers power forward, Anderson Varejao. Photo credit-Keith Allison

Former Cavaliers power forward, Anderson Varejao. Photo credit-Keith Allison

This trade was bittersweet because it saw the Cavaliers part ways with longtime fan favorite Anderson Varejao. The Wild Thing played all twelve of his seasons with the Cavaliers always bringing a huge boost of energy whenever he stepped out on the floor. He remained loyal to the franchise even when LeBron left for Miami, vowing to stay here and help turn the team around. The one thing Varejao wanted most was to win a championship for the city he loved so much. Sadly, Andy’s days in Cleveland are done, but he will always be loved by Cavs fans. Thank you for all of the memories Wild Thing and good luck in the next chapter of your career.

Cavs All-Time All-Star Starting Five

The NBA All-Star game is tonight and in honor of the annual showcase of the league’s top talent, I present to you my Cleveland Cavaliers All-Time All-Star Starting Five. The selections for this roster were made based off of every Cavaliers player in franchise history to be selected to the All-Star team.

Point Guard-Kyrie Irving

3 All-Star Selections

Kyrie Irving soars for a layup in the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Kyrie Irving soars for a layup in the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Kyrie Irving’s first five NBA seasons have already seen many memories made at All-Star weekend. In his rookie season, Irving took home MVP honors in the Rising Stars Challenge. He put on a show scoring 34 points, including going 8-8 from three point range. The following season Kyrie was selected to play his first All-Star game where he scored 15 points. However, it was the night before that All-Star game that stood out for Irving. He competed in the Three-Point Shootout, scoring 23 points in the final round to win the contest. Irving’s third season featured arguably his best All-Star performance to date. He was voted by the fans to be the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference. Irving  took over scoring 31 points with 14 assists, capturing the All-Star game MVP. Last season, Kyrie joined LeBron James at Madison Square Garden for his third All-Star game. He scored 11 points in a losing effort for the Eastern Conference. Irving did not make the All-Star team this season due to missing the first two months of the season with a knee injury, but I think it is safe to say that Uncle Drew will be making more All-Star memories for years to come.

 

Shooting Guard-Mark Price

4 All-Star Selections

Mark Price celebrates winning the 1993 Three-Point Shootout in Salt Lake City.

Mark Price celebrates winning the 1993 Three-Point Shootout in Salt Lake City.

Cleveland’s original three-point specialist, Mark Price is the other guard on this list. Price made his first All-Star appearance in 1989, scoring 9 points off the bench. The 1992 game marked the first of three consecutive All-Star appearances for Price. In 1993, he took over scoring a record of 6 three pointers in the first half. His final All-Star appearance featured another strong performance with 20 points and 5 assists. Despite his success in the All-Star game itself, Price’s performances in the Three-Point Shootout are arguably his most memorable. In 1993, he became the first player in Cavs franchise history to win the contest dethroning reigning 3-time champion, Craig Hodges. Price followed this up with a repeat win in 1994, setting the record for most points in the final round with 24. One of basketball’s purest shooters is an easy decision for this list.

 

Small Forward-LeBron James

12 All-Star Selections

February 15, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Eastern Conference forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers (23) shoots during the second half of the 2015 NBA All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

February 15, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Eastern Conference forward LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers (23) shoots during the second half of the 2015 NBA All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden. Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest no brainer on this list is Northeast Ohio’s own, LeBron James. Eight of LeBron’s twelve All-Star appearances came as a member of the Cavaliers, a franchise record. He has also been voted to the starting lineup in each of his twelve apperances. The King’s first two years in the league saw appearances in the Rookie-Sophomore Game. He shined in both games scoring 33 points and 20 points respectively. LeBron followed up his second Rookie-Sophomore Game with his first All-Star Game appearance in 2005. The following year was perhaps his best All-Star game performance to date. The 21-year-old helped the Eastern Conference overcome a 21 point deficit, scoring 29 points with 6 rebounds. The stellar performance made him the youngest MVP in All-Star game history. LeBron won his second All-Star game MVP in three years in 2008. King James led the East to a 134-128 win with 27 points, 9 assists, and 8 boards. LeBron has partaken in many All-Star Weekend events including two Skills Challenge competitions failing to win either. He has many great All-Star moments, but the one thing that fans have been deprived of is seeing one of the game’s best dunkers participate in the Slam Dunk Contest. At last year’s All-Star Game he told the media that he is “over the hill now” to compete in the contest. Basketball fans around the world can only hope that the future Hall of Famer will change his mind before he ends his legendary career.

Power Forward-Larry Nance

 3 All-Star Selections

Former Cavaliers forward, Larry Nance.

Former Cavaliers forward, Larry Nance.

Larry Nance is a Cavaliers legend, but his most well known All-Star moment is when he won the first Slam Dunk Contest in 1984 as a member of the Phoenix Suns. He also made his first All-Star appearance with the Suns the following season. Nance was traded to the Cavs in 1988 and he made his first All-Star appearance with Cleveland the next year. He joined teammates Mark Price and Brad Daugherty in the 1989 game, scoring 10 points. This trio of Cavs players made a second appearance together in the 1993 All-Star Game. Nance scored 7 points off the bench in his final All-Star Appearance. This high flier is a fitting choice to be the power forward on this list.

 

Center-Zydrunas Ilgauskas

2 All-Star Selections

DENVER - FEBRUARY 20: Zydrunas Ilgauskas #11 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars drives against Kevin Garnett #21 the Western Conference All-Stars during the 2005 All-Star Game on February 20, 2005 at The Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. Copyright 2005 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

DENVER – FEBRUARY 20: Zydrunas Ilgauskas #11 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars drives against Kevin Garnett #21 the Western Conference All-Stars during the 2005 All-Star Game on February 20, 2005 at The Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. Copyright 2005 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Choosing a center was the toughest decision I had to make for this list. The decision came down to Brad Daugherty and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Daugherty made 5 All-Star appearances to Ilgauskas’ 2 appearances. In the end, I went with Big Z because even though he made less appearances than Daugherty I thought he was more impressive. Ilgauskas’ first taste of All-Star Weekend came at the 1998 Rookie Challenge at Madison Square Garden. He was one of three Cavs players selected for the game, but it was his night. Big Z won MVP honors scoring 18 points, adding 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. It is rare that big men take over in All-Star games and Ilgauskas is the only true center to win the MVP at the Rookie-Sophomore Game. His first All-Star appearance would come in 2003, where he failed to score in 4 minutes of action. Ilgauskas’ second appearance was much better as he joined his teammate LeBron James for the game in Denver. He scored 12 points off the bench with 2 blocks. The Cavs all-time leader in total rebounds and blocked shots is a great addition to this roster.

 

Coach-Mike Brown

Former Cavaliers coach, Mike Brown.

Former Cavaliers coach, Mike Brown.

The Cavaliers have had three head coaches in franchise history named the head coach of the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Lenny Wilkens coached the team in 1989 in a losing effort. Mike Brown coached the 2009 squad that featured Cleveland’s own LeBron James and Mo Williams. Brown also returned to Cleveland with an All-Star loss. Current Cavaliers head coach, Tyronn Lue is coaching this year’s team after former coach, David Blatt was fired last month. I chose Mike Brown because 2009 was a career year for him. In addition to earning All-Star head coaching honors, he guided the Cavs to a franchise-best 66-16 record. He also coached the Cavaliers to the Eastern Conference Finals and was named Coach of the Year for the 2008-2009 season. Only time will tell if Lue can replicate the success that Brown had during his time in Cleveland, but if I had to guess I would say a NBA Championship this season would be a pretty great start.

 

Cavs Playoffs Preview

The NBA regular season wraps up this week, as the Cavs prepare for their first playoff appearance since 2010. The Cavaliers will finish the season with a homestand against the Detroit Pistons on Monday and the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. The Cavs officially clinched the Central Division and the two seed in the East this past Wednesday. Like many experts, I believe that Cavs will win the East and advance to the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history. Let’s take a look at the road the Cavs will have to travel to achieve the ultimate goal of winning a NBA Title.

The Eastern Conference Standings as of April 12. Credit to nba.com

The Eastern Conference Standings as of April 12. Credit to nba.com

Three days remain in the regular season and the Cavs are still unaware of who their first round opponent will be. Four teams are still alive for the final two spots in the East. It appears that the Celtics will be the seventh seed after they  won back-to-back games this weekend over a resting Cavs squad. It is possible that the Brooklyn Nets or Indiana Pacers could jump into the seven spot, but I think Boston will hold on. The Celtics are the more desirable opponent for the Cavs in the first round. The Cavs easily could have swept the Celtics in the regular season, but wisely chose to rest LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and J.R. Smith. The Cavs have a clear advantage and will make short work of the Celtics in 4 to 5 games.

The second round will provide a more intriguing matchup for the Cavaliers. The Cavs would play the winner of the Toronto-Milwaukee series. The Cavs won the season series over the Raptors 3-1. A Cavs-Raptors series would display some great one on one matchups. Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov would face Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas in a battle of bigs. Another fun matchup would be Kyrie Irving versus Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. I could see this series going 5 to games 6 with the Cavs winning due to the play of the big three. Even though, Toronto has an advantage over Milwaukee, don’t count out this Bucks squad. Milwaukee has a talented young team that could give the Raptors a tough time. If the Bucks shock the Raptors, I think the Cavs would easily win the series. Milwaukee lacks playoff experience, while the Cavaliers have plenty of it.

The Eastern Conference Finals will obviously be the toughest challenge for the Cavs. I expect a Hawks-Bulls matchup in the Conference Semifinals. I would rather see the Cavs play the Bulls because of their longtime rivalry. However, I think the Hawks are more likely to advance to the Conference Finals. Regardless of which team advances, I can see the Cavaliers going six to seven games with either of these teams. Chicago can be a very dangerous team, but their biggest problem is staying healthy. Derrick Rose just returned this past week after a successful surgery that repaired a medial meniscus tear in his right knee. Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler both missed some games due to injury. The Cavs won the season series against the Bulls 3-1. In all four games, the Bulls were missing one of their three stars. A Chicago team at full strength would give the Cavs a good series, but I think the Cavs would still come out on top. The Cavaliers dropped the season series to the Hawks 3-1. Some people would find this concerning, but the first three games came before the trades for Mozgov, Smith, and Iman Shumpert. LeBron James also sat out the third game, which is another reason why Cleveland struggled. The Cavs improved in the final meeting with Atlanta, but still lost the game 106-97. At the time of that March 6 meeting, David Blatt was still tweaking his bench and defensive sets. The Cavs have been on a roll since then and have a won a NBA best 32 of 41 since mid-January. The Hawks play as one team which is key, but they lack star power and a good bench rotation. The Cavs have plenty of star power and a bench that is deep with playoff experience.

My bold prediction is that the Cavaliers will win the Eastern Conference and will play for a chance to bring Cleveland it’s first professional sports championship since 1964.

March Madness: Cavs Rolling Towards Playoffs

Since returning from the All-Star break, the Cavaliers have lived up to the expectations that were put on them at the beginning of the season. The Cavs have been dominate since January 15, posting a league best 24-5 record. Cleveland’s success has largely been due to the trades for J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov. The brilliant play of Kyrie Irving and LeBron James has also been key during the Cavaliers run.

The Cavs have been hard to beat at home, winning 13 straight at The Q. However, Cleveland’s toughest challenge of the second half of the season has been it’s grueling road schedule. The Cavs have had to play of 10 out of the 13 games since the All-Star break on the road. They have proven to be road warriors by notching huge wins in Washington, Toronto, Dallas, and San Antonio. The Cavaliers wrap up a four game road trip tonight in Miami. After the game, they will return home for a quick two game homestand, before heading back on the road for three more games.

Cavaliers forward, LeBron James, in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 25, 2015. Creative Commons

Cavaliers forward, LeBron James, in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 25, 2015. Creative Commons

The Cavaliers big three are finally starting to come together. The three stars connected for a big play during the Cavs 89-79 victory over the Suns on March 7. Irving chased down a loose ball and kicked it out to Love, who then passed it behind his back to James for the layup. The hustle play was a thing of beauty and it showed what this group is capable of. LeBron is having a great season and is still in the discussion for MVP. Since ditching his trademark headband against the Suns, James has been all business. He has scored over 20 points in each of the Cavs last 3 games, including a 31 point performance in San Antonio. Kyrie has been spectacular during the Cavs current four game win streak. Irving put on a show in Thursday’s 128-125 overtime win against the Spurs. He set a franchise record with 57 points and was 7 for 7 from 3 point range. Irving drained a three pointer as time expired to force overtime. He went to hit another tough 3 pointer in overtime to lift the Cavs over the Spurs.

In order for the Cavs to make a long postseason run, they must stay healthy. The Cavs have managed to avoid major injuries since the All-Star break. Shawn Marion suited up on Sunday night in Orlando after missing 12 games with a hip injury. Kevin Love was given the night off in Orlando to rest. He has suffered from back spasms since November and experienced a flare up during the game in San Antonio. James suffered a minor injury in Sunday’s win as he tweaked his knee. He finished the game and will receive treatment before tonight’s game against the Heat. Cavalier fans should not be too worried about the injuries as there are only 14 games remaining in the regular season. The Cavs starters will soon get some much needed rest as the team prepares to make a deep run into the playoffs.

Kyrie Irving: Cleveland’s Young Superstar

The past year has been huge for Cavaliers point guard, Kyrie Irving. Irving entered last season with high hopes as he looked to lead the Cavs to the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James departure in 2010. He averaged 20.8 points per game and was voted by fans into the starting lineup for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. In the All-Star game, Irving put his talents on display scoring 31 points with 14 assists and earning MVP honors. Despite Irving’s breakout success, the young Cavs continued to struggle, missing the playoffs and finishing in 10th place.

Credit to Creative Commons

Credit to Creative Commons

The Cavs began the 2014 offseason by firing head coach Mike Brown. After hiring David Blatt as the next head coach, one of the Cavaliers top priorities was to resign Irving. Owner, Dan Gilbert, and General Manager, flew to New York to negotiate a contract extension with Irving. The duo pitched him a plan to assemble a big three in Cleveland with the additions of James and Kevin Love. “Kyrie bought in,” said Griffin. “That started everything. It created the momentum.” Irving agreed to a five-year, $90 million maximum contract. Irving celebrated his max deal by tweeting a link to a Youtube video of himself dancing at his home. Ten days after Kyrie agreed to an extension, James announced his return to Cleveland. The Cavs completed the “Big 3” by trading former number one draft picks, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love in August.

Irving is not only a star on the court, but is also a savy businessman. This past December, Nike announced Irving as their newest signature athlete along with his own signature shoe, the KYRIE 1. The deal made him the 20th basketball player to receive a signature shoe from Nike, joining the company of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and fellow Cavalier LeBron James.

Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew in a Pepsi Max commercial. Credit to ufunk.net

Kyrie Irving as Uncle Drew in a Pepsi Max commercial.
Credit to ufunk.net

Some of Irving’s other endorsement deals have shown his comedic side. He teamed up with Pepsi Max for a series of webisodes where he plays as a character named “Uncle Drew.” In the commercials, Irving disguises himself as an old man and goes to local basketball courts to play pickup games. The ads have also co-starred his teammate Kevin Love and WNBA star, Maya Moore. This past November, Irving signed a deal to create more Uncle Drew webisodes with the intention of taking the character to the greater Pepsi brand. His funny antics continue in a new ad with Footlocker where he tries his hand at acting. In the commercial he is sitting with his friends talking about his signature shoe and the upcoming All-Star game, where he mentions that he recently guest-starred on Law and Order. Irving’s guest-spot shows him lying dead in a hospital bed, to which he responds to his friends, “It only took nine takes.” He followed up the commercial last weekend by posting a YouTube video of himself giving an Oscar acceptance speech for the ad. Irving even added in the “get off the stage music” and crowd applause.

As the Cavaliers are surging towards the playoffs, Irving doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He appeared in his third straight All-Star game a couple weeks ago and made it to the final round of the Foot Locker Three Point Contest. He is currently averaging 21 points per game with an average of 5.3 assists. On January 28, Irving scored a career-high 55 points and set a franchise record with eleven three-pointers. At only 22 years-old, it’s safe to say that Irving is Cleveland’s newest superstar.