Cleveland Cavaliers: A team that finally strikes rock bottom.
John Popp (email@example.com), one happy guy who enjoyed tipping a few celebratory cold ones on lottery night as opposed to drinking quite a few in angst and despair on draft night.
Certainly the Cavaliers were due for some luck. The Cavaliers haven't had the #1 selection since they bought it, sending Roy Hinson and $800,000 in cash to the Sixers in 1986, landing Brad Daugherty. Some may say the fix was on when Cleveland landed the first and was able to land the hometown kid and pump some excitement in to a team who was last in attendance. I can't say I disagree, as the Cavaliers were the only team in the NBA I was aware of that actually had a lottery party. I was in attendance, as this was going to be the first step in the road to being competitive or the kick in the head of a team lying face down in the dirt.
Bill Fitch brought us the beloved lottery with garnering late season losses and tanking games to land the #1. Cleveland went a step further with what I have termed as "Institutional Tanking". General Manager,
Jim Paxson, tore apart a team that wasn't good enough to be mediocre and placed them firmly on the bottom of the pile. Using all the tools at his disposal Paxson drafted developing talent the last two years, traded away capable veterans for magic beans and hired a has been coach. Definitely setting the table to make each loss an investment.
The off-season once again brought a shuffling of personnel. Traded away were the teams three leading scorers in
Andre Miller, Wes Person and
Lamond Murray. In exchange the Cavaliers received the enigmatic
Darius Miles, end of the bench Michael "Yogi" Stewart and the never suited up
Nick Anderson. Wasted 1999 11th selection Trajan
Langdon, Michael Doleac (who was brought in after trading the 20th selection in the 2001 draft),
Bryant Stith, Brian Skinner and
Jeff Trepagnier were all allowed to walk. The roster was then filled up with some less than savory free agents, a clearly developing first rounder and some decent talent that slipped to the second round.
Dajuan Wagner, Carlos
Boozer, Smush Parker and Milt Palacio
were the type of talent that was better suited to winning the lottery than getting to the playoffs.
Paxson's mission was pretty clear, remove any possibility of a thirty win season, dump some salary or shorten some contracts, draft potential as opposed to production and move a step closer to landing the player who could change the teams fortunes. There should be little contention that this was the Cavaliers mindset and the high school kid around the corner was the apple of the team's eye. A plan that worked, but a career wrecking move for Paxson if things went a different direction.
The team left in the wake of these moves looked more like an inner city playground team than one suited for the rigors of an NBA season. Parker, Davis, Miles and Wagner were certainly capable of making Sportscenter on a regular basis, but hardly adding to the win total. Palacio looked like a three deep point guard but definitely capable of running a 17 win team. Michael Stewart was seldom used although the Cavaliers had more mileage from him than the Raptors did from the traded Lamond Murray. Carlos Boozer was the brightest spot and a steal in the second round. A definite throwback power forward playing with a game based on fundamentals and bulk.
The season was a train wreck from the start. There was never any pretense from the fans or management that this team was going to be competitive. They certainly proved that out and with each game the number of vacant seats grew. Ricky "Wrong Way" Davis was seemingly running the team on the court and Lucas had lost any and all control. A true death sentence for a coach and it played out before the season's conclusion.
The season proved to be just a long drawn out quest for the number one selection in the 2003 lottery. The Cavaliers were successful, but one has to question if the balls bounced another direction and the Cavaliers landed the fourth or fifth selection if it was worth the journey to get there.
II. Season Statistics
Player Pos G M/Gm FGm FGa PCT 3m 3a PCT FTm FTA PCT AVG
davis,ricky SF 79 39.6 602 1470 .410 74 204 .363 348 465 .748 20.6
ilgauskas,zydrun C 81 30.0 495 1122 .441 0 5 .000 400 512 .781 17.2
wagner,dajuan SG 47 29.5 223 605 .369 55 174 .316 128 160 .800 13.4
boozer,carlos PF 81 25.3 331 618 .536 0 1 .000 148 192 .771 10.0
jones,jumaine PF 80 27.6 308 710 .434 111 314 .354 57 83 .687 9.8
miles,darius SF 67 30.0 263 642 .410 0 14 .000 92 155 .594 9.2
hill,tyrone PF 32 26.7 85 197 .431 0 0 .000 33 45 .733 6.3
parker,smush PG 66 16.7 136 338 .402 38 118 .322 98 118 .831 6.2
mihm,chris C 52 15.6 116 287 .404 0 3 .000 76 105 .724 5.9
palacio,milt PG 80 24.7 162 388 .418 8 37 .216 65 87 .747 5.0
coles,bimbo PG 21 24.6 34 119 .286 7 25 .280 27 34 .794 4.9
brown,tierre PG 14 11.9 27 59 .458 0 1 .000 11 14 .786 4.6
diop,desagana C 80 11.8 54 154 .351 0 0 .000 11 30 .367 1.5
stewart,michael C 47 5.3 14 37 .378 0 0 .000 8 12 .667 0.8
Player AS AS/g ST ST/G TO TO/g BK BK/g TND OR OR/g TR TR/g
davis,ricky 436 5.5 125 1.6 277 3.5 36 0.5 17.8 97 1.2 390 4.9
ilgauskas,zydrun 127 1.6 56 0.7 210 2.6 152 1.9 15.9 240 3.0 611 7.5
wagner,dajuan 130 2.8 38 0.8 85 1.8 7 0.1 8.5 20 0.4 82 1.7
boozer,carlos 106 1.3 59 0.7 103 1.3 50 0.6 13.9 202 2.5 609 7.5
jones,jumaine 112 1.4 67 0.8 107 1.3 22 0.3 10.6 106 1.3 405 5.1
miles,darius 176 2.6 67 1.0 178 2.7 69 1.0 9.5 113 1.7 363 5.4
hill,tyrone 32 1.0 31 1.0 52 1.6 19 0.6 10.3 70 2.2 267 8.3
parker,smush 162 2.5 48 0.7 133 2.0 12 0.2 5.9 29 0.4 119 1.8
mihm,chris 28 0.5 18 0.3 48 0.9 38 0.7 6.3 93 1.8 231 4.4
palacio,milt 259 3.2 68 0.8 131 1.6 16 0.2 7.2 48 0.6 235 2.9
coles,bimbo 56 2.7 11 0.5 18 0.9 4 0.2 5.1 10 0.5 48 2.3
brown,tierre 39 2.8 13 0.9 22 1.6 0 0.0 6.8 8 0.6 30 2.1
diop,desagana 43 0.5 33 0.4 56 0.7 81 1.0 3.2 63 0.8 215 2.7
stewart,michael 6 0.1 2 0.0 10 0.2 15 0.3 1.2 19 0.4 55 1.2
Team Scoring Totals
Min FGm FGa PCT 3m 3a PCT FTm FTa PCT PTS TND AVG
Totals 19830 2850 6746 .422 293 896 .327 1502 2012 .747 7495 95.54 91.4
Opponents 19830 3072 6786 .453 428 1197 .358 1712 2219 .772 8284 117.47 101.0
Team Rebounding Totals
AS PF ST TO BK TC EJ FF OR TR AVG
Totals 1712 1864 636 1430 521 43 3 5 1118 3660 44.6
Opponents 1972 1709 802 1112 486 26 2 2 932 3423 41.7
Record 17 - 65 Home 14 - 27 Away 3 - 38
Salaries and Contracts
Player signed years salary misc FA
Tierre Brown .......... 3/3/03 1 minimum '03
Jumaine Jones ......... 7/16/99 4 $3,624,986 rc '03
Milt Palacio .......... 7/18/01 2 $1,440,000 '03
Smush Parker .......... 9/24/02 1 minimum '03
Carlos Boozer ......... 8/7/02 2 minimum '04
Chris Mihm ............ 7/12/00 4 $9,013,254 rc '04
Darius Miles .......... 8/8/00 4 $13,295,221 rc '04
Michael Stewart ....... 8/10/99 6 $24 million p-opt '04
DeSagana Diop ......... 7/5/01 4 $8,637,085 rc t-opt '05
Zydrunas Ilgauskas .... 8/1/96,1/29/99 3+6 $2.48 mill + $70.9 mill '05
Dajuan Wagner ......... 7/17/02 4 $10,765,805 rc t-opt '06
Ricky Davis ........... 8/17/02 6 $34.7 million '08
Cleveland Cavaliers Total: $49,610,440
Zydrunas Ilgauskas ......... $12,375,000
Tyrone Hill ................ $6,600,000
Nick Anderson .............. $6,101,906 [released]
Ricky Davis ................ $4,546,000
Michael Stewart ............ $4,160,000
Darius Miles ............... $3,267,960
Bimbo Coles ................ $2,400,000
Dajuan Wagner .............. $2,298,840
Chris Mihm ................. $2,212,200
DeSagana Diop .............. $1,980,600
Jumaine Jones .............. $1,419,026
J.R. Reid .................. $800,000 [released]
Milt Palacio ............... $750,000
Carlos Boozer .............. $349,458 [minimum]
Smush Parker ............... $349,458 [minimum]
III. Cavalier Draft History
Former General Manager Wayne Embry
- 1986 - Brad Daugherty 1st, Ron Harper 8th,
Mark Price 25th
- 1987 - Kevin Johnson 7th
- 1988 - Randolph Keys 22nd
- 1989 - John Morton 25th
- 1991 - Terrell Brandon 11th
- 1993 - Chris Mills 22nd
- 1995 - Bob Sura 17th
- 1996 - Vitaly Potapenko 12th, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
- 1997 - Derek Anderson 13th, Brevin Knight 16th
General Manager Jim Paxson
- 1999 - Andre Miller 8th, Trajan Langdon 11th
- 2000 - Jamal Crawford 8th, Traded to the Chicago Bulls for
Chris Mihm 7th
- 2001 - Desagana Diop 8th, Brendan Haywood
20th, Traded to Orlando for Michael Doleac
- 2002 - Dajuan Wagner 6th
Last year the Cavaliers didn't have their annual draft party. The claim was the fans didn't understand the complexity of the draft and a goodwill gesture was perceived to be only bad publicity. They are certainly right and the place would have been torn to shreds if the Cavaliers had been successful at pulling off a draft day deal to send Andre Miller packing. The deal eventually did go down and for the savvy fan the knowledge of Miller's demise came as soon as Wagner was the #6 selection.
I'm not sure if the Cavaliers will have a draft party this year and after the lottery it's pretty much an already told story. The player they will be selecting would have been a top ten selection as a high school sophomore, top three after his junior year and certainly the hands down number one this season. That said, if the Cavaliers do have any kind of Draft Party, it will be mainly for the sale of tickets and an attempt to breath some excitement in to a team that had fallen off the Cleveland sports roadmap.
IV. Player Analysis
Centers - With Ilgauskas returning to health and some decent play from Mihm a team strength.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas - An oft injured but stronger Rik Smits. Good post moves on the blocks, decent jump shot out to 18', strong and the ability to block some shots. This season Ilgauskas will have all of his restrictions lifted, making him available for more than 30 minutes a night. The Cavaliers had made an attempt to move him further from the basket, launching nifty 15 footers and opening up the passing lanes. As long as he stays healthy a surefire All Star and should see more action closer to the basket.
Chris Mihm - Nice speed for a center, solid post moves although does not use his body well to create space. Uncanny knack for picking up a handful of offensive rebounds but does not box out well defensively. Mihm actually played pretty well after he returned from his injury. He looked to be much stronger and had more confidence in his shot. With his contract wrapping up I would think he should have a decent season and I might need to eat my words about him wearing a skirt.
Desagana Diop - Diop played nearly twice as well as he had the previous season. The unfortunate part is if he continues to improve at this rate he will be a fifth year pro before he is a capable backup. A decent shotblocker with a propensity to pick up fouls. He could have a decent season as a third center and who knows he might even hit 40% from the field.
Power Forwards - Boozer played very well the past season and was certainly one of the few bright spots on the roster. Mihm and Jones also gets some minutes at power forward which helps fill the void of having true depth at the position. The Cavaliers will definitely need to address getting some additional help at the position, if only in a backup capacity.
Carlos Boozer - One of the most fundamentally sound defensive rebounders in the game at a very young age. Limited post moves and a very average 15 foot jumper. Despite a lack of speed gets up and down the court well and can bang with the best of them. Boozer is poised to have a pretty decent season and will get more opportunities on the offensive end.
Michael Stewart - Salary eating power forward who rarely sees minutes and was the flotter od expelling Lamond Murray
Small Forwards - With the trade of Murray and acquisition of Miles the Cavaliers took a step backwards. Jones provided the only range from the position and point production from small forward fell by the wayside.
Darius Miles - Miles had an awful season and shot extremely poor. Take away the dunks and it's estimated that he shot below 20% for the season. Darius did little to no work on his game in the off-season and had some injury problems which compounded his problems. To Darius' credit he has retained the services of legendary trainer Tim Grover and has been working out since May 1st.
Jumaine Jones (Free Agent) - Jones has some talent albeit very fragmented. Tough rebounder who spent a lot of his minutes at power forward despite giving up a fair amount of size. He plays decent defense at both small and power forward although certainly not challenging many shots inside. Jumaine has become a pretty decent spot up shooter behind the arc and keeps opposing defenders from collapsing on the post. Unfortunately, Jones will likely be renounced to free up cap space for a veteran free agent. Not that the Cavaliers wouldn't like to keep him, but the cap space he eats up is beyond his value.
Shooting Guards - The Cavaliers gave up some depth by moving Wes Person but found an All Star lurking in Ricky Davis. Davis' play late in the season showed he can do more than score and has enough game to be a 40 minute a night player.
Ricky Davis - Wrong way Ricky had a tremendous season. It started out with the flashy dunks and a propensity for scoring that he showed at the end of the previous season. Added to his game was the ability to hit the 3-ball and by seasons end the ability to pick up nearly a half dozen assists per game. He still pounds the ball a little much but with the advent of some better coaching he should have a great year.
Dajuan Wagner - An undersized shooting guard that showed some promise early in the season but once the rest of the league figured out that he couldn't go left the wheels came off. Wagner was also somewhat victimized ill-fated attempts to play him at point and finding credence in the "I never saw a shot I didn't like" school of Ricky Davis. Dajuan's skill set clearly plays into the role of shooting guard that needs to be on the floor with a big point to cover his defensive liabilities.
Point Guards - With Coles put out to pasture, Smush Parker and Milt Palacio likely not coming back, the Cavs are likely without a point guard.
Smush Parker (Free Agent) - I have been this kids biggest backer from well before he was even mentioned as a possible second round selection. I was happy as hell when he was invited to the Cavs camp and even happier when he made the team. Unfortunately that's when reality set in. Parker, although possessing all the qualities of a great back up point or perhaps even a starter, had so little basis in fundamentals that he quickly became a much longer term project than I had anticipated. Nice shot behind the arc, frustrated the hell out of opposing points bringing the ball up and the hops to drop in some flashy dunks. Unfortunately he just couldn't run a team and his defense was so poor in half court sets that if he wasn't able to get the ball out of the opposing points hands it was a recipe for disaster.
Milt Palacio (Free Agent) - Likely a career journeymen and probable backup for his career in the NBA. No glaring strengths or weaknesses in his game outside of some lazy passes. Quite simply a player who will be easy to forget when he's tied to the bench of another team.
Paul Silas - Silas is the perfect coach for this team. There is certainly some misguided talent on the roster and Silas' past work indicates he can make more complete players out of them. With Silas' notable achievements being what he did for Baron Davis, Terry Cummings, Jamaal Mashburn it sometimes goes unnoticed what he did for player such as Brad Miller, Jamaal Magloire, Elden Campbell and installing David Wesley at shooting guard. Add to this how well he held the team together after the tragic death of former Cavalier Bobby Phills and you have a coach whose career speaks volumes more than the wins and losses he posted.
With the hiring of Silas, Paxson made the right decision by default. Luck is certainly with the Cavaliers this season. Van Gundy was the Cavaliers #1 choice and only after reaching a stalemate did they opt for Silas. The right guy for the job and a coach that will not only help develop the young players but will have them defend and play as a more cohesive unit.
Jim Paxson - Paxson made the big gamble and it paid off. Clearly he downsized the payroll and diminished the talent for a shot at #1. After winning the lottery the slate has been wiped clean and his promise or failure will only be decided on moves in the future. Paxson has amassed more than a few dollars to play with in the coming free agency market and has locker room of young and developing talent. The book is still open on his exploits but you can now rip out and throw away the first 3 chapters.
Gordon Gund - Gordon Gund was clearly the happiest man on the planet when the Cavaliers landed the #1 selection. Much maligned for the fortunes of the franchise he has taken a ton of abuse from the fans and the media. Gordon Gund is a class guy who had a lifetime of philanthropic ventures for the city, and in turn crushed by the demise of a basketball team. The Gunds have been a large part of Cleveland dating back to the days of the Gund Brewing Company prior to prohibition and share a great sense of civic pride. Hopefully the team develops into a healthy competitor and he can someday leave the business with the families legacy intact.
V. Draft Needs
The Cavaliers need a big time top notch talent that not only helps them win games but puts fans in the seats. Here are a few areas where the Cavaliers can certainly stand improvement.
1.LEADERSHIP - There is no floor leader or player that can step up on court or in the locker that can ignite a fire in this team. This is the reason that the very passive Andre Miller was traded away. There is no player who makes the surrounding players perform better. There isn't a player that conjures up any visions of an emerging Magic Johnson or Larry Bird. For that matter there isn't even a player that provides the illusion of making it to a half dozen All Star games in their career.
2.SIZE - With last year's selection of Dajuan Wagner it's clear that the Cavaliers need to install a taller point guard. Wagner's deficits on the defensive end can only be covered by switching defensive assignments with a tall point. At any position the Cavaliers need a player that has the ability to play multiple positions. Two would be great but three would be better.
3.COMMITMENT- The player selected should not only have a strong desire to make their own game better but that of the players surrounding them. Under the sheep's clothing of a 17 win season the Cavaliers have a great deal of talent awaiting a player who brings a greater sense of purpose. Working harder at practices, taking the losses personally and knowing the goal is a healthy playoff run and not the Sportscenter reels.
4.ATHLETICISM - The Cavaliers still have no true shot blocker and are void of an offensive player with a power game. Certainly there are the run/jump athletes such as Miles and Davis but not an all-around talent that adds some power to their game as well.
5.DEVELOP MORE CONSISTENCY - The team was in near chaos despite some pretty decent individual efforts. Obviously some pretty decent performers are in place now the need comes for someone to make them play together.
I have to say that this has been the toughest report I've written in the four years I've been a participant. No need to wait and see how the players in front of me get shuffled or how the individual talents fit the team.
There is only one possibility and the facts can't be twisted in any direction to make a difference.
Clearly the direction the Cavaliers will be heading. They have scouted him since he was a high school sophomore, conducted illegal workouts, torn apart any chance of fielding a competitive team in hopes of landing him and he fills the seats in an arena starved for attendance. Will play any of three positions at the pro level and has great size for any of them. Despite possessing star quality and the ability score in bunches has always had a pass first mentality. Will likely start his pro career as a small forward but is certain to see plenty of minutes at shooting guard and the point.
No doubt that Lebron is the guy that cures the woes of the Cavaliers. Having seen him play as a high school Sophomore and Junior he is capable of first year exploits beyond what any previous high schooler has delivered. James also defies comparison to other NBA stars. More athletic than Magic or Bird, bigger than Jordan or Bryant and a competitive fire that burns as bright as any of them. That's a lot to heap on such a young player, but he clearly has the capability to elevate his game to well beyond All Star levels.
The Cavaliers have quite a bit of room under the cap and will be seeking help at the point. They also have the need for a power forward, preferably a weakside shotblocker that compliments Boozer.
Although Paxson contends they aren't shopping anyone there are persistent rumors that the Cavaliers would deal Miles for a mid first round selection if a point they covet is available. For the right deal I'm sure anyone on the roster would be deemed expendable.
The Next Couple of Drafts
The Cavaliers still owe their first round selection to the Phoenix Suns in a season where they make the playoffs. I make no pretense that comes any time soon. Depending on how things go with a second round selection and free agency acquisitions it stands to reason the Cavaliers will be seeking frontcourt help or a point in subsequent drafts.
Lebron James, Shooting Guard, St. Vincent St. Mary (HS) 6'8", 245lbs
Without any reservations and not finding it necessary to look at Milicic or
Anthony the Cavaliers walk away with just what they wanted. I personally wish they would at least workout Milicic, but it's a business decision as much as one of talent. Anthony just never had a shot.
VIII. What will actually happen
The Cavaliers will walk away from the draft with James in tow and the franchises future on his back. They will make an effort to bring in some additional veteran help and likely enough to line them up for a 30+ win season. In last years report I suggested the Cavaliers would attempt to pile up the losses in hopes of increasing the odds of the #1 selection. It all panned out and it was great night for Cleveland and Cavaliers fans alike. It's been a long struggle to get here and the tears shed by Austin Carr (the Cavaliers first #1 pick as an expansion team) on draft night exemplified just how tough life has been as Cavalier fan. For myself, my heart was in my stomach all night but it felt great to tip a few in celebration as opposed to causing further liver damage while crying in my beer.