You’re in your second semester of AP Basketball History, you love really good teams, and you love lists. With precious little drama left in the NBA’s 2015 offseason, why don’t we hit the barroom and/or barbershop, pour ourselves a frosty mug of Barbicide, and get to arguin’ over each franchise’s most formidable starting five-man lineup.
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Because we don’t like making tough decisions, the lineups will reflect the All-NBA line of thinking. There will be no differentiation between separate forward and guard positions, and the squads will be chosen after careful consideration of individual merits only – we don’t really care if your team’s top shooting guard and point guard don’t get along.
These rankings will roll out based on when each franchise began its NBA life. We continue with the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that can’t seem to stop their fans from laughing or crying.
C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Big Z was done, around the fin de siècle. He was Bill Walton, without the MVP trophy and two rings. He was a big guy with brittle bones and a terrible uniform and he wasn’t ever going to come back from the stress fractures that knocked him out for 195 out of 214 games between Feb. of 1999 and Dec. of 2001. He worked at things, though. He took his time and he made smart decisions and he came back, dammit. He never won a ring in Cleveland and his 13.8-point, 7.7-rebound averages (in just 27 minutes) as a Cav may not wow you, but he’s the best center this team has ever had.
F: LeBron James. The best player of his generation. If he continues apace and stays on for another five or six years, will retire as the greatest NBA player of all time. Left Cleveland in a tone deaf, unceremonious fashion in 2010 but his renewed presence will provide the team with the ability to act as championship contenders for years. Has put up with Darius Miles, Ricky Davis, J.R. Smith, several lacking coaching and front office staffs without turning to the drink. Has also become the Joan Cusack of his acting generation. Averages of 27.5 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and 2.6 combined steals/blocks as a Cavalier are pretty good.
F: Larry Nance. A two-time All-Star with the Cavs, Nance was a midseason acquisition that was able to put ego aside and ably blend his talents into a Cavalier group that had several mouths to feed. Though he was working on the downside of his career, Nance still helped push Cleveland over the top and into a series of playoff berths that were routinely shot to bits by the looming presence of Michael Jordan in Chicago.
G: Mark Price. A killer guard that would dominate today, Price split-screened his way into four All-Star berths and 19-point, 8.3-assist averages with a litany of Cavs squads that fought for the Eastern title during the Conference’s heartiest era. Known to heave when the shot was considered just above a gimmick, Price shot over 40 percent from the three-point line as a member of the Cavaliers.
G: Austin Carr. Best known now for his endearingly earnest work as a Cavalier television analyst, Carr was the mainstay through years both lean and promising in the first decade of the franchise. An all-out swingman scorer, Carr averaged over 20 points per game three times with the team and made one All-Star team before seeing his minutes cut as more famous players made their way toward northern Ohio.
Brad Daugherty should be angry.
He played his tail off for several championship-level Cavalier teams and averaged 19 and 8 before back issues forced him to step aside. And yet, as has been our routine throughout these lists, longevity rules – Big Z outpaced Daugherty in that realm, somehow, so he barely noses ahead. Meanwhile, while the criminally underreported Miracle of Richfield had its unlikely star in Nate Thurmond, his short stint with the Cavs (which saw him backing up the also-underreported play of Jim Chones) just didn’t make the cut.
(Seriously, though, Daugherty was awesome.)
Terrell Brandon will be discussed at length at Ball Don’t Lie later this week. Ron Harper is this author’s favorite player of all time, but he did not play long enough with the Cavaliers to push for a starting nod. Andre Miller led the NBA in assists during one campaign as a Cavalier, but only played for three seasons with the team. Bingo Smith was a fixture on the team’s 1970s clubs, but he’ll have to come off the bench here.
It speaks to Kyrie Irving’s brilliance and the Cavaliers’ unfortunate history that he is as good a candidate as any to serve as the sixth man on this all-time club after just a few years with the franchise.
Previous entries: Golden State. Boston. New York. Detroit. Sacramento. Los Angeles Lakers. Atlanta. Philadelphia. Washington. Chicago. Houston. Seattle/Oklahoma City. Phoenix. Milwaukee. Los Angeles Clippers.
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