Editors Note: Slam Online's Sandy Dover was nice enough to stop by Stepien Rules today and offer us an assessment, from the national perspective, of the Cavaliers' play to date as the All Star Break approaches. For more from Sandy, check out the San Dova Speak Easy, or follow Sandy on Twitter @SandSeraph.
The All Star Break Report by San Dova:
Alrighty, it’s time again, and thanks to the gracious Brendan Bowers, I’ll be delivering another update on the Cleveland Cavaliers of the 2009-2010 season—an early Quarter Report of sorts. Since starting poorly early in the season, but then shrieking to high altitude wins and rejoining the elite of the NBA soon after, the Cavs have been the toast of the town. LeBron James has been playing an exceptional brand of basketball, which while unsurprising, has been so thoroughly consistent in greatness, it’s hard to see him not winning another Most Valuable Player award. The new additions are further implementing themselves in way that has not only not taken away from the team, but have improved the team in subtle ways. Mike Brown, while still somewhat inept (relatively speaking) for creating offense that is tailor-made to his team, has continued to be great at leading his squad…and Danny Ferry hasn’t messed up, which is what Cavaliers fans like to see in a season of so many indefinites.
Now onto assessing the team…
The whole Cleveland Cavaliers team merits this grade: A
Photo Credit: Tracy Boulian
I really wanted to give them an “A+”, but they haven’t peaked quite yet, which is a great thing if you ask me. What’s special is that the team now has a better understanding of the players on the roster. Coach Brown was patient enough with the squad to try a few lineups and adjustments and figured out the starting five that was best for success. The players were patient and understanding about the lineup shuffles, and the guys that have been relegated to the bench seem to really understand their roles and what the purpose is for the season, which is to win a NBA championship. The defense is very good, the offense (while limited) is rolling, and overall chemistry is well—it’s not like last year when the Cavs looked as if they were going to steamroll everyone they saw, but it’s really, really good, and everyone just “gets it”.
Onto the players…Daniel Gibson: C+
He has a way of really falling in and out of favor of the minds of people who watch him, but since he’s been in the rotation due to his teammates’ various injuries, he’s been not bad. It sucks that I romanticize about the rookie year Boobie still, since that was the Daniel Gibson that seems to have had the most impact on the team, but all considered, he’s been okay.
Danny Green: C
He still hasn’t been able to get more minutes, but considering the guys that are playing ahead of him, that’s okay. Whenever he’s been in, though, he’s done well and played hard, and that’s all you can ask of a rookie.
J.J. Hickson: A-
J.J. has been terrific, in my opinion. Since he was brought up to the starting five next to Shaq, he’s flourished. He’s shown great patience and attack instincts, he plays hard on both ends, he’s aware, and he’s worth keeping on the court when he’s there. His confidence is growing, his skills are becoming more refined and he is a player that the Cavs may see do damage in the playoffs.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas: B
Considering his adjustment as an already aging contributor as a starting center to be a sometimes-used reserve, Z’s done very, very well. He’s found a bit of his niche, roaming from the inside to the outside of the half-court, and being available for those wonderful three-pointers. If he can get any more comfortable with his minutes and learn to *pop* more immediately when he comes in, he may be able to last even more years in the league.
Cedric Jackson: n/a
Darnell Jackson: C
He, like Danny Green, has also been affected by the new acquisitions that play his position. He doesn’t make mistakes and he plays a good cerebral game when active.. He’s a player that doesn’t take anything away from the team when he gets minutes.
LeBron James: A+
He’s proving that he’s probably the best small forward (if we’re really going to position him, which is somewhat difficult to do) ever. Ever. Over Larry Bird. Yes. He’s uncanny, and he literally cannot be stopped. He’s distributing at a high level, he’s scoring high with really good selection and variety. He’s ascended and built himself to be even more unpredictable in dominating a game. Last year, he became a true outside threat (not the fringe outside threat that he was in prior seasons), but teams knew he was going to certifiably drive to the hole…and couldn’t stop him. Now? He’s even better from the outside because of his shot selection and still isn’t capable to be stopped on penetration, even though he’s cut the muscle from at least 10 lbs from where he was in 2009…and his team still isn’t as full-bodied as the front office would like it to be, which should tell us all about his greatness.
Jamario Moon: C
He’s been outplayed and cut out of the rotation, but he’s played within himself, so it’s more of a case of others stepping up their game. He’s really valuable considering that he’s not even playing much, but I expect him to be a real performer on the wing when the playoffs come rolling. Right now, he should probably focus on his shooting and ball-handling if he wants to get back in, because the Cavs always need more ballhandlers who are perimeter threats at multiple spots.
Shaquille O’Neal: B
Photo Credit: Hector Gabino/El Nuevo/MCT
He’s improved since finding a steady stream of minutes and figuring how he fits in. He’s been able to exploit certain teams offensively at times, but is valuable complimenting J.J. in the deep post. He’s rebounding and playing very solid defense, which enables the rest of the perimeter guys to do their jobs well and comfortably, and all while he’s maintained a relatively great physical frame for himself at nearly 38 years old.
Anthony Parker: A-
“The Other Tony” has been all that Cleveland’s wanted and needed from a shooting guard. Aside from his size helping the team throughout the season, his on-court savvy in playing is as much an asset to the Cavaliers as the rest of his strong points. The shooting, the defense, the versatility and the leadership is just what LeBron has needed, and Anthony is so smart that he brings up the collective IQ of the rest of his teammates on the court.
Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnderson Varejao: A
Photo Credit: Scott Shaw / PD
Mike Brown actually deserves a share of this grade, since he figured out how to make Anderson into basically a sixth starter. Aside from the first six minutes or so of the first and third quarters, the curly-haired Brazilian is a starting forward and center for Cleveland and works extremely well. He’s sharper than he’s ever been, just as quick, his timing is excellent, and he’s a godsend. There’s not much more you can say…more words would have to be invisible, because his intangibles are about as equal to what he does that is seen.
Delonte West: B
He’s finding a bit of his stride, and probably best on the bench still. As long as he can get good minutes, he’ll play a good, meaningful game. It doesn’t help him that he’s injured again, but it could be a blessing in disguise for the rest of the guys who have yet to make a dent in the rotation as of now.
Jawad Williams: B
He’s come on and surprisingly so. It’s amazing, really. He was the top player in Ohio as a high schooler in 2001, was a borderline elite player at North Carolina in 2005, and is back home finally getting another chance to show his stuff. I don’t know what he did, but his contributions make the Cavs even more potent offensively and his size and skill set make LeBron even more deadly as a complimentary player in the frontcourt. The shooting and defense help define his presence in getting good minutes.
Mo Williams: A-
He’s doing well and having another good year. Mo’s found his stride, and while he is not an All-Star, he should be recognized for having a really good campaign. The shooting is still good, the ballhandling and distribution has been more efficient, and his defense is good. He’s just having a really good season, and there’s not much more to say beyond that. Hopefully his shoulder woes won’t take the Cavs totally off of their game and let’s cross our fingers for a full recovery.
If all the guys can stay consistent and healthy, the rest of the NBA regular season should be a great tune-up for playoff domination.