Cleveland Cavaliers All Times Roster

STARTING LINEUP :

C. Brad Daugherty


P.F. Larry Nance


S.F. LeBron James


S.G. Austin Carr


P.G. Mark Price

BENCH :

C. Zydrunas Ilgauskas


P.F. Shawn Kemp


S.F. Ron Harper


S.G. World B. Free


P.G. Terrell Brandon


S.G. Craig Ehlo

P.F. Tyrone Hill

 

CENTERS :

At C I picked Brad Daugherty. Most people might not remember him but he was truly a fantastic player, he was up there with Ewing and Olajuwon as one of the very best centers in the early 90’s. Surrounded by talented players like Mark Price, Larry Nance, Ron Harper, Craig Ehlo or Hot Rod Williams, he led the Cavs to the playoffs many times, and even led them to the ECF in 1992. An epic series against the Bulls. Unfortunately for him Brad suffered recurring back problems and had to retire early, at the age of 28. Despite that fact he held the Cavs’ all time-leading scorer and rebounder records for many years, until they were eventually broken by LeBron James (scorer) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (rebounder).

I picked Zydrunas Ilgauskas as his back up. Z arrived in Cleveland in 1997, a year later than his « pal » from Eastern Europe (Lithuania for Ilgauskas, Ukraine for Vitaly) Vitaly Potapenko, and they were referred as Z and V at the time. The Cavs’ staff had a lot of hopes for both Z and V but it turned out that only Z played at the level expected, V remained quite a few years as a journey man in the NBA but never had a truly solid impact on any team. Z had an immediate impact on the league and the Cavaliers, he was even All Rookie 1st team and the MVP of the All Rookie Game. Unfortunately for him he suffered a bad foot injury in his second season, and he kept injuring both his feet during three seasons in a row. Needless to say that, not only he did not have a chance to reach his full potential because of that, but many thought that his career was already over. Yet it happened, in the 2002/2003 season (four years after his first injury) Z had his first full season since his rookie year. And was never bothered by injuries again after that. Z was never a superstar but he was one of the best big men of the 2000’s nonetheless, twice All Star, and a very important part of the LeBron James’ Cavs during that decade.

POWER FORWARDS :

I picked Larry Nance at PF. Larry started his NBA career in Phoenix, where he was mostly none for his offense and his huge spectacular dunks, (1st winner ever of the NBA Dunk Contest), and was traded to Cleveland when he had just reached his prime, trade that included several players, one of them was Kevin Johnson who eventually became a key player in Phoenix, him and Barkley would lead the Suns to the Finals several years later in what was one of the greatest seasons in the franchise history. This trade benefited Cleveland too, as it allowed them to not only take care of their PG problem (both KJ and Price could not be starters at the same time of course..) and to get Larry Nance. In Cleveland Larry changed his style of play, he was a more efficient player overall, surrounded by many offensive talents he did not have to score as much as he used to be and focused more on defense (he was still a top scorer nonetheless). He was now one of the very best defenders in the league, he was three times in the All NBA Defensive Team (once in the 1st). A two times All Star as a Cav, there is no doubt that Cleveland would not have been as succesful as they were at the time without him.

I picked Shawn Kemp as his back up. In the 90’s Shawn was a true superstar with the Sonics, he established himself as the leader of that team and led them to the 96 Finals against the Bulls. It seemed that he would be a Sonic forever. But the arrival of Jim McIlvaine in Seattle changed that. Jim was a basic center, but he was a TRUE center, something that started to become rare in the mid 90’s, and so the Sonics were fouled by that, desesperatly wanting to add a true center to their team, and seduced by Jim in which they saw a serious potential, they wanted to make him a Sonics at any price and.. overpaid him. It turned out that Jim’s contract was actually BIGGER than Kemp’s one. Jealous of Jim, extremely angry by all of this (and you certainly can understand why, Kemp was a true superstar and Jim was nothing but a scrub) Shawn DEMANDED to be traded. Even if it did not show on his stats it was obvious that Kemp was not himself during the 96/97 season. And so the Sonics decided to eventually trade him to Cleveland before the 97/98 season (a trade that involved a lot of players, and which allowed the Sonics to get Vin Baker (who later became an alcoholic) from Milwaukee). This trade was the first step of the downhill of Kemp. Kemp had a very good first season in Cleveland, surrouned by four very talented rookies (Z, Derek Anderson, Brevin Knight (very talented PG) and Cedric Henderson (I loved that player, he had a terrific rookie season but never stopped to decrease since and only played five years in the NBA, he then played in Europe)) and Chuck Person’s brother Wesley, he even led the Cavs to the playoffs and this squad looked very promising. Unfortunately the second and main, step that led to Shawn’s downhill occurred after that season : the 98/99 lock out. The season was eventually saved and started in February 99 but this event was terrible for Kemp. As a matter of fact instead of practicing and making his best to stay in shape Kemp did the entire opposite and spent the lock out eating fast food. After that lock out Kemp was just unrecognizable. He was fat. He still played at a very good level for a couple of years but he slowly decreased every year and never got back in shape.. When he joined the Blazers he just did not have anything to do with the player he once was.. and eventually retired at the age of 33. He still deserves to be on that roster, mainly because he was the leader of that 97/98 team, a very exciting team, a very exciting season, and a very exciting playoffs series against the Pacers in the 1st round of the playoffs that year, even if the team never reached his potential afterwise, mainly because of Kemp’s getting out of shape and Ilgauskas’ injuries and that the team was quite terrible after that until the arrival of LeBron.. Besides, in term of pure talent, Kemp clearly is the best PF that this franchise ever had.

(I could not find a video of Kemp’s highlights in Cleveland, so I picked this video, best video of him as a Cavalier that I could find)

SMALL FORWARDS :

I picked LeBron James at SF. Who else ? Yes I know that a lot of Cavs fans are still angry with LeBron and might not want to see him in this roster but the fact remains that LeBron CLEARLY is the best player that this franchise ever had. So he has to be on that roster, and he has to start. Especially that, other than him, no great SF ever played with that team actually. People might be angry at the way he left, but still, the Cavs would not have done anything without LeBron during the 2000’s. Thanks to him they had the best record in the regular season two years in a row, they made the playoffs five years in a row, once in the Finals (the only Finals the Cavs ever made), twice in the ECF.. Not to mention the fact that they had in their team the most talented player in the league (not necessarily the best though, but clearly the most talented ; most talented and best is not always the same thing..), NBA fans from around the world had their eyes turned on Cleveland. He did not bring them a ring though, that is true, but he brought them everything else. The fact is that the Cavs were NEVER that succesful before, and they owe that to LeBron James.

I picked Ron Harper as his back up. Ron played most of his years in Cleveland, and actually most of his career, at SG but he definitely could play SF, he did it several times throughout his career. So as no great SF played in that team (the only one that comes to mind is Bingo Smith, he would have eventually deserved to be in that roster but I honestly think that all the 12 players I picked deserve more than him to be here) I just chose to use Ron at SF. Especially that there are already enough SGs in that roster. In Cleveland (just like in his Clippers years) Ron was quite the opposite of what he became later in Chicago and LA, he was not particularly known for his defense at the time.. He was a pure scorer. And a very efficient one too. He even was the leading scorer of the team in his first season as a Cavalier, which happened to be his first season in the league.

SHOOTING GUARDS :

I picked Austin Carr as the starting SG. Austin is the first star that this team ever had. He was a very promising SG when the Cavs drafted him but he never could reach the maximum of his potential due to injuries. He was nonetheless All Star and the Cavs were quite succesful with him as a key player of the team during the 70’s (they made the playoffs three years in a row and the ECF once).

I picked World B. Free as his back up. World B. Free played in many teams, the Cavs is one of these teams, he played for four years, and he had quite an impact on that team. Even if he was a journeyman, World is one of the most amazing talents that we’ve seen in the history of basketball. Leading scorer every one of his Cavs years, he led the team to the playoffs once in his Cavs days.

POINT GUARDS :

The starting PG is obviously Mark Price. A pure shooter Mark was the second player (Bird was the first) to enter the 50-40-90 club. The 50–40–90 Club refers to the group of players who have had a shooting percentage at or above 50% for FG 40% for 3 pts FG and 90% for FT during an entire season while also achieving of course the league minimum number of makes in each category. The other four players of that club are Bird (as already mentioned), Nash, Nowitzki and Miller. Besides no ther Cavs have made as much 3 pointers as Mark. But Price was not only a shooter, he was a true PG and definitely with Daugherty the best player of the team at the time. He was an amazing passer and is still to this day the Cavs All Time leader in assists. And he was the Cavs All Time leader in steals until LeBron James broke that record. Mark is also regarded as the pioneer of the splitting of the double team. Steve Kerr, a former Cavs teammate, even said about him : “Mark really revolutionized the way that people attack the screen and roll. To me, he was the first guy in the NBA who really split the screen and roll. A lot of teams started blitzing the pick and roll and jumping two guys at it to take the ball out of the hands of the point guard. He’d duck right between them and shoot that little runner in the lane. Nobody was doing that at that time. You watch an NBA game now and almost everybody does that. Mark was a pioneer in that regard.” Like his teammate Daugherty Mark had many injuries through his career, too many, which eventually led the Cavs to trade him in 95, he could never reached his true level back and eventually retired at the age of 33.

I picked Terrell Brandon as his back up. Terrell had to start his career as Mark Price’s back up, he did not really have a chance to show what he could do because of his limited minutes until Mark’s recurring injuries and eventually Mark’s trade, Terrell became the starting PG of the team then and the least we can say is that it was immediately a success. Brandon was All Star twice in his Cavs days and led the team to one playoffs appearance. He was one of the very best PGs in the mid 90’s and Sports Illustrated even labelled him “The Best PG in the League”. It was obviously exaggerated as Terrell was not at the level of a Payton, Stockton, Tim or Penny Hardaway, but Terrell was definitely not that far behind them. Terrell was also awarded the NBA Sportsmenship Award in 1997.

11th & 12th SPOTS :

For the last two spots I picked Craig Ehlo and Tyrone Hill. Craig Ehlo was a fan favorite, he spent most of his career in Cleveland. Most people remember him for “The Shot” but that is totally unfair. Craig was a very good player, he was definitely a key player of the team. He had 5,130 points, 1,803 assists, and 2,267 rebounds in seven seasons as a Cavalier. He has to be mentioned in this roster.

Tyrone Hill was Brandon’s best teammate in the mid 90’s, during the era between Brad and Price’s departures and the arrival of Shawn Kemp. Tyrone was not a superstar, he was rather a “dirty duty” player, the kind of players that most people do not notice but are necessary to make your team win. He was a really valuable player and was even All Star in 1995. He also set the Cavs’ single-season franchise record by shooting a career-best 60.0% from the field that same year.

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