Ever been genuinely terrified of getting your Christmas Report Card from school? You know, you’ve just lumbered through the first few months, done enough to get by but not enough to stand out, then the report card comes home and the instant thought of “Oh Crap!!” pops into your head as your mom opens up that hideous brown envelope all schools use. Well today is our very own Cavaliers turn to feel nervous and uneasy as we present the Official, NBA Certified Cleveland Cavaliers Report Card, Christmas 2010 (Yeah, good old Mr. Stern gave us his seal of authenticity today over lunch incase you were wondering on the validity of that previous sentence. Funny, at that exact same lunch he also preached how sad he was to see the Knicks doing well again? David’s a strange kinda guy).
So anyways, below are first my thoughts and grades, as well as those of Kirk and Brendan...
Mo Williams – No surprise he’s leading the team in points per game, but I kinda expected more. Last season he averaged more points (15.8 – 14.4) shot better from the free throw line and from long range. He’s shooting the three ball at a 29% clip this season by the way. His assists have gone up, but not significantly enough to make that difference we all hoped it would. Game winner against the Bucks, big night against NY, but outside of that not much else to note from our floor general. Grade – B
Kirk: Mo’s in a no-win situation; we all know that. He has and is going to take more criticism on this team than probably anybody else. He’s had some ups (aforementioned game-winner over Jennings being one of them) and some downs (see: every single night on the defensive end of the floor and hideous shooting nights, including 1-of-10 from three in the second Miami game). Overall, Mo’s been a better team player this season (four straight double digit assist games, obvious step-up in leadership and accountability), but his own skills have suffered. His unbelievable strengths of the past (three point shooting, clutch shooting) are no longer strengths, and his overwhelming defensive handicap remains. Grade: B
Brendan: Mo's averaging a career high in assists so far this season, so props for that, and I did appreciate the game against NY, the buzzer beater to win it as well, and I also agree that he is in a spot where he will get the most criticisim. I'd love to say it's unfair criticism too, but beyond some very solid nights, I can't get past how hard he tanked it during that 10-game stretch to bury the season. He's shown above average flashes at times, but given his ability - read grading scale - I can't say he's been anything more than slightly above average so far. Grade: C+
Daniel Gibson – Our best player this season by a long way in my opinion. Has epitomized everything we should stand for – heart, grit and determination. Currently he’s setting career marks in points, assists, rebounds, steals and free throw percentage. No longer a contender for 6th Man of the Year as he has won a starting berth over AP, Boobie Gibson for me has been one of the few shining lights this season. As close to untouchable as you can get on this roster. Grade – A
Kirk: Booby (or is it “Boobie”?) gets my highest mark on the team thus far. After being cast away as not a part of Mike Brown’s rotation (second thoughts, MB?), Gibson has thrived in Coach Scott’s system at times. It’s not his shooting (which is still spot-on most of the time) that is where he’s improved, but everything else. His defense, rebounding, passing ability, and outspokenness and leadership that have impressed me most. Was the team’s best bench player, but moving into the starting rotation, he along with Antawn have stabilized that unit. Only avoids the A because of whatever the heck was going on December 2nd. Agree with David in that Boobie has got to stay. Grade: A-
Brendan: Daniel Gibson is totally unafraid of taking shots against anybody. Seems cliche, but this roster is filled with guys who at least seem afraid out there at times against the NBA's elite, but Gibson has done his best to show well for this squad so far. He's been a pleasant suprise to this point, and had the best performance so far of anybody on this team I'd say. Grade: A
Ramon Sessions – I don’t know where to put him being honest. He’s impressed at times; he’s frustrated at times (Toronto springs to mind). He’s been a solid guy off the bench, and no doubt the looks he’s handed out on an below average shooting team would no doubt result in an extra 3-4 dimes a night on a good shooting team. For the season, 10 points a night with 4 helpers is ok I guess, after all he is just a back up. Grade – C
Kirk: A bit of a disappointment for me. I do like his constant motor and never-ending desire to force the issue by driving to the basket at all costs. One, make that two, small problems. First, he doesn’t look for his teammates real well when he’s attacking. Second, he CANNOT finish around the rim. I don’t have any solid figures, but he’s shooting under 41 percent, and all he does is shoot five feet and in. You do the math. Grade: C
Brendan: This guy is so one-track minded with the basketball I think it's almost funny to watch. Catch ball, wherever you are on the floor, whatever is going on, drive directly to the basket. That's all, no real desire to get involved in any "plays" and he's allergic to even trying a jumpshot. Total disappointment for me as a new guy coming in so far. Despite that though, I'm hearing New York has got Sessions on "their radar" in need of depth at the guard spot...so stay tuned to that. Meantime, Grade: D+
Anthony Parker – Shooting the three well, shooting from the charity stripe well, works his butt of and I can’t doubt his commitment. On the other hand, he just lost his starting job on a team sitting near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. If he was 25 and not 35 I’d be worried, very worried. He’s too experienced and defensively solid not to find his form, but he’d want to hurry up in doing so. Grade – C-
Kirk: I, for one, think Parker is about the last thing wrong with this team. He’s hitting 43% of his threes and averaging 9 points per game while playing too many minutes and remaining the team’s best perimeter defender (I know, not saying much). He is shooting just 39% overall, but that’s a product of getting caught with the ball in his hands often when others refuse to drive or create at the end of the shot clock. My only cut on him is his fantastic first half play, often followed by little or no scoring in the second half. Can’t ask for much more from the veteran leader, who will make the playoffs this year... on another team. Grade : B-
Brendan: Anthony Parker is playing about as good as anybody can hope Anthony Parker would this season. Averaging almost 10 per, and the thing I do like the most about AP is that he does want to and try to run the offense at all times. He might not always look so atheltic in doing so, but he's prepared, never misses a night, and has been knocking down more shots than I thought he's capable of at this point in his career. Grade: B
Jamario Moon – If he were on any other roster, I’d make so much fun out of him it’d be almost illegal. A genuine chance to nail down a starting spot in the league and play 30 plus minutes a night but turns out he’s just not that good. I’m sorry, but his $3 million dollar salary is an even bigger waste of money than this. Grade – Can I give somebody a W?
Kirk: A great guy that I really root for, regardless of what lies ahead for him. He hasn’t been good this year, but he had first crack at the impossible task of filling in at the starting small forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers after... that guy. At least he defends and rebounds, which is more than I can say for another small forward. His curse has been the inability to hit any open shots this season. Nevertheless, he should still be active when team’s at full strength in my opinion. Grade: D+
Brendan: I respect the fact that Moon has made it all the way from the Globetrotters to an opening day NBA starting SF this season, just kinda bummed he had to make that start here. He's a great guy from all accounts, enjoys and gets the most out of life it appears, but he's not really a good NBA player at all. When starting, he was definetely the worst starting SF in the Association. Grade: D-
Joey Graham – How do you grade a guy who makes less than $1 million a year and averages 7 points and 3 boards in 20 minutes of action? Towards the end of November he did ok for a little 7 game stretch, but overall he hasn’t done enough to warrant a starters spot. Grade – D
Kirk: Graham has been far from golden this year (sorry, had to do it), but he did work his way into the rotation for a while. A hardnosed defender, he actually had a string of four to five games where he was in or close to double digit scoring as the starter. Benched along with others when he wasn’t really the problem. at least he got hurt roughhousing with Wade in the second Miami game. Grade: C-
Brendan: Joey said on Media day as I stood there amazed that he really thought this possible that he viewed this season as his chance to become a franchise player in the NBA. He hasn't, but he's played harder and better than Moon and Williams, and I don't mind seeing more of him once back from injury. Grade: C-
Jawad Williams – All I’m saying is he’s lucky he plays almost five minutes less a night than Moon otherwise I might not have been so soft with this assessment of the dud small forward who can’t shoot. Grade – I can give him that W for sure
Kirk: Awful, just plain awful. So awful that he truly belongs in the D-league at this point. Biggest dilemma of this dilemma-filled season for me is what Byron Scott sees in this guy. Shooting a hair above thirty percent, no passion, no heart, no defense, not a hint of rebounding, horrific passer, hugged LeBron after the first Miami game. PLEASE GET RID OF HIM! Grade: F, or something lower, if possible.
Brendan: It's the lack of effort and passion that he consistently plays with that gets me more than the fact that he's not good. His play has earned him the title of worst player on any NBA active roster this season. Dude's really, really bad. Grade: F-
JJ Hickson – Right up until November 13th this guy was rolling. He might not have been rebounding that well but offensively he was getting it done. Than he got kidnapped, resurfaced only to vanish again and now he’s unhappy and the subject of trade rumours everywhere. I really thought he’d be our Paul Millsap with the leaping ability of a God. Instead, he gets posterised by James Harden and doesn’t hussle enough. If I get any wish granted for Christmas it’s for JJ to find his form in the New Year. He could be special, but he needs to want it more. Grade – C
Kirk: You want to know what’s happened that’s taken the Cavaliers from 7-9 to 8-21? It’s the giant void that’s left where J.J. Hickson was producing. In the last 12 games, J.J. is averaging 6.9 points and 4.3 boards per contest, well below his averages of 12.5 and 5.4 respectively before the start of the losing streak. When he’s on, he’s the post scoring threat this team needs and makes them competitive. When he’s not, he barely takes up space on the court and he’s content with clanking ill-advised long jumpers. Clearly pouting now that he’s on the bench, and he doesn’t seem to understand what it’s going to take to get more minutes: hard work, increased rebounding, and playing smart basketball. Should still be near-untouchable, but if this continues, the Cavaliers may have to start wondering if this kid has the makeup to take the next step. Grade: D
Brendan: If you read the Cavs Zine, you might infer that I had massively high hopes for this kid. Still do, but it's becoming real hard to actually believe some of the things I was hoping for are anywhere near the galaxies of real and possible. Unreal first few games...then total fail. Grade: C-
Antawn Jamison – He’s been real good lately, and I mean that. We all know he’s not the best defender you’ll ever find, but offensively his unique skill set is starting to show. Come season’s end (if he’s still a Cavalier) I expect him to average somewhere around 18 and 8, which is what I had him in for before the start of the season. I like Tawn; I hope he does well for the remainder of the year. Grade – B
Kirk: Jamison’s really turned it on since getting the extra vote of confidence from Coach Scott by being inserted into the starting lineup. High volume shooter at this stage of his career, which backfires on certain nights, but he’s the only true go-to scorer on this team. He’s done it before, and for stretches, he can still do it. Defense is only getting worse, but I maintain that ‘Tawn puts forth more effort and mental ability on that end than at least half of the team. Just wish he could hop in the Hot Tub Time Machine and drop about five years. If he keeps this up, maybe we can trade him! Grade: B+
Brendan: He's quite old, and he has hard time with the back-to-back game requests, but he's playing like a guy worth trading something for. Will he get traded eventually? I don't know, but in the meantime I am okay with watching him play for the Cavaliers because he's come to life a bit of late. Grade: B
Anderson Varejao – Career highs in minutes, points and rebounds for the Wild Thing. Ranks 11th in the league in offensive rebounds, and 12th in overall rebounds. Quite possibly the most important player on our roster, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not? I think its fair to say that Varejao may just be the most liked South American in the history of Cleveland. Grade – B+
Kirk: He’s been everything the wine and gold can ask for on defense and rebounding the basketball. I thought he would have a couple more offensive showcase games, but he’s been solid there. Simply put, Andy is the player on this team doing his thing, his job, the best right now. Playing out of position, the Wild Thing’s still finding out how to make an impact nightly with his effort and hustle. Grade: B
Brendan: Anderson Varejao has played the way you'd expect. Hard, consistent, tough, etc...all you can really ask for as a fan I suppose. Grade: B+
Ryan Hollins – I just don’t know…
Kirk: This one’s tough, because if you take the first ten or so games, he would have gotten an A or A+ from me. I was ready to hop on The Ryan Hollins Bandwagon Express! He was throwing down ferocious dunks and making his impact on a productive Cavalier bench. Now, he’s turned into “Charmin Soft” Hollins as I dubbed him at one point last week. It’s gotten so bad that J.J. Hickson is now the backup center. Yep, that bad. Grade: C-
Brendan: I expected him to be terrible coming in, then was convinced I was completely wrong, and then forgot he was on the roster again. So I don't know either, what do you give that in terms of a grade?
Manny Harris, Samardo Samuels and Leon Powe all receive incompletes from yours truly. I thought Powe would play a bigger role and see more minutes, likewise Samuels, but not to be I suppose. Harris might turn out to be a serviceable backup in years to come…maybeeeeee. Harris, Samuels, Powe, Eyenga: Incomplete
Kirk: Harris should be getting some playing time right now. His energy in the backcourt is contagious, and his frame might make him the second best perimeter defender behind Parker. Haven’t seen much of Samuels; I just get cold sweats thinking about all those black hole post feeds that resulted in turnovers this preseason. Powe is no better or worse than he was last year. We haven’t seen him much, but Powe is Powe. Draws lots of fouls and is undersized but tough. Eyenga? Well, he’s been a model citizen for the Bayhawks I hear...
Brendan: Maybe Manny Harris is a rotation player one day, and maybe Samardo will be too I guess. I doubt it though. And I don't see Powe ever being one again either, unfortunately.
Happy Holidays from everyone here at Stepien Rules...egg nogs all around