Power Ranking Every Key Cleveland Cavaliers Player Before Season's End
Welcome to the (almost?) final power rankings for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Let's get down to business: There are 10 players with nearly an entire season's worth of work to be evaluated. With numerous injuries and crucial midseason trades, who has risen? Who has fallen?
As always, the team has room for movement. With the Cavs potentially mobilizing for next season, here's a sneak peak at who's earned a foot out the door or a renewed future with the team.
Apologies in advance to Anthony Bennett: I'd love to include you in the top 10, but you just missed the cutoff with Tyler Zeller's improved play.
10. Matthew Dellavedova
To be fair, with Bennett's improvement throughout the past few months, he could have usurped Dellavedova for the first spot in these rankings. But by any metric, for the totality of the season, he has done more to impact the game than Bennett.
Considering his minutes played, his true shooting percentage and win shares are relatively respectable compared to his teammates. He's a hound on defense and regularly takes up a difficult assignment despite being at a size and athleticism disadvantage.
He's a long shot for registering a double-double, but the respect he earns from his peers and opponents is something to remember when looking back at the fringe players of the 2013-14 season.
9. Tyler Zeller
It may have taken some time for the opportunity to appear, but Zeller has made it no secret that he was ready to impress in his sophomore year.
His shot chart is a thing of beauty. In summary, he has increased his efficiency by reading defenses and either attacking the basket or taking mid-range shots only when necessary. It's almost like a bizarro version of what the standard gunner does.
Throw in his legitimate size and rebounding, and it's no surprise that Zeller is accruing at least a little interest from prospective trade partners. He still needs to bulk up for the NBA game, but so far, he's proved to be a valuable, non-lottery pickup for the Cavs.
8. C.J. Miles
He hasn't played in a game since February 19, but with 50 games under his belt and a record of helping the Cavs win, Miles comes in at No. 8 despite being inactive.
I've gushed about him at virtually every opportunity, but just in case you're a fresh reader: The Cavs are better with him on the floor, in terms of both offensive and defensive efficiency. He has the size to defend his position, is an elite scorer off handoffs (seventh in the league, according to Synergy Sports) but doesn't require the ball and is one of the few players on the team who can stroke it from beyond the arc.
His value to the team is definitely higher than No. 8, but for now, he'll have to take the penalty and tumble down behind players with more recent contributions.
7. Jarrett Jack
As disappointing as Jack has been at times this season and as unforgiving as his contract is for the team's cap number, he's still a central piece of the rotation. He barely nudges out the players below him to secure spot No. 7.
At this point, it's clear that he hasn't earned his contract. But the Cavs had cap space (and they still do, depending on how they handle their re-signings this offseason), and Jack was a commodity. He can still act as a secondary playmaker and score in spurts, which is gold for a team offense that has sputtered to the finish line.
Moving forward, his low shooting percentage is a concern. How much leeway can the Cavs give to his 39.8 percent mark from the field, when the team as a whole is shooting relatively poorly?
To be sure, Jack has a chance to play better with recent developments as a true point guard. Look for him to change his ranking with just 15 games left in the season.
6. Spencer Hawes
Even if it's only been 12 games, Hawes has had a quality run in his short tenure with the Cavaliers.
He's shooting the lights out of the building, rebounding at a high rate and capitalizing on his size and basketball IQ to generate the correct passes with a new cast of teammates. You have to wonder how the team would have fared if he had been around for the full season.
The only knock so far is that the Cavs haven't generated consistent wins with Hawes holding down the middle. He's clearly a target for re-signing during the offseason, and with the production he's put into his mini-rejuvenation, it'll be interesting to see what the market is for a legitimate 7-footer who can shoot but doesn't have much of an above-the-rim game. If everything goes well, however, the Cavs could be looking at their next true center of the future.
But for now, given the limited play, he'll have to settle in as the team's sixth-best player for the overall season.
5. Dion Waiters
The case for Waiters being ranked this high, if not higher? He has great upside and is explosive offensively. He has also shown steady improvement in selecting and making shots. He could carry a unit on his own and has stayed relatively out of trouble as of late.
The case against? Well, as we're considering his season as a whole, everything else.
So, why place him at No. 5? He's played more and with more quality bursts than everyone under him, but that "everything else" holds him back from trumping the next four players.
But who knows? With Waiters, that's always the question. Could the right opportunity help him to establish his presence as an invaluable asset when the chips are down? Absolutely. The rest of the season will be fun to watch.
4. Anderson Varejao
Varejao's return to the court is always a sign of good things to come for Cleveland. This season marked the first time that age and injury seemed to sap his effectiveness, but at his most active, he has been one of the team's MVPs and a legitimately desirable asset.
At this point, there's nothing new to his game: He provides constant rebounding (a team-leading 10 per game), a quality mid-range game (an above-average shooting percentage of 44.85) and that immeasurable quality called hustle.
Had he played enough games, he would easily lead the team in win shares, and he does on a per-48 minute basis anyway. But we have to ask the same question about him as we do about Kyrie Irving; can Varejao stay healthy for a full season anymore? For that, he earns a bump from a top-three spot.
3. Luol Deng
When Deng first arrived in Cleveland, he looked like the next savior for this team.
He was at least the second-most important player as someone who could play quality two-way basketball. His three-point shooting spiked, and as far as media pundits were concerned, it seemed like a lock that the team would put forth whatever money it took to secure its presumptive small forward of the future.
So, what happened? On some level, he still looked like the All-Star-level player who flourished in Chicago. But since his hot start, he's come back down to earth and hard. His numbers are down in every major statistical category compared to his stretch earlier this season with the Chicago Bulls, and from a body language point of view, the new situation hasn't fostered favor.
Still, given the overall roster and team record, Deng still holds a tremendous amount of value, and for that, he snags a top-three spot.
2. Tristan Thompson
If we're going to respect consistency and effort, then the No. 2 spot can only go to Thompson.
As it stands, he has elevated his game to include 29 double-doubles on the season and leads the team in games played and offensive rebounds. Only nine other bigs in the league attack the offensive glass with his ferocity (although all but Boston's Jared Sullinger and Memphis' Zach Randolph convert a higher percentage of their shots).
He's a work-in-progress in the scoring department and still has yet to convert his defensive potential into hard results. But as far as a fourth or even fifth option goes, and given his overall production (nearly identical throughout his first three seasons on a per-minute basis), you can at least bet on Thompson to be a familiar face every night.
In the scheme of an entire NBA season, that counts for something.
1. Kyrie Irving
Is it even surprising anymore that Irving has been hit with the injury bug?
The Cavaliers have struggled all season to get closer than a few games away from the Eastern Conference's eighth seed, so it's likely that Irving's latest left biceps strain will dampen any lingering hopes at a postseason appearance this season.
However, with that said, I still have him retaining the top spot in this week's power rankings.
In a point guard-driven league, it's easy to look at someone like Irving and expect consistent improvement. This season, if anything, suggests that maybe he isn't quite at the level of superstardom he was projected to be in just his third year.
Even so, he's still just one of four players in the league this season to average at least 21 points and six assists on the season, and until Cleveland can acquire another consistent offensive option, he'll remain the fulcrum upon which the team's hopes will teeter.
Until next year, stay healthy, young fella.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats provided by NBA.com and are current through Monday, Mar. 17.