[This is a regular feature called "The State of the Cavaliers." In it, we'll rank each player on the roster, based on recent on- and off-the-court production, news, and intangibles related to the Cavs' quest for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.]
The past two weeks have been decisively up-and-down for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
They smashed a short-handed Dallas team in the second-to-last preseason game, and then got killed by a short-handed Boston team in their last preseason game.
The season began on a somewhat disturbing note, with a disappointing three-and-a-half-quarter-long collapse against Boston . . . and a complete four-quarter-long meltdown in Toronto, where the Cavs' problems went international.
Then, they put together solid, and more collective efforts against Minnesota and Charlotte, two teams that would probably have trouble playing LeBron James in a playground, 5-on-1 game.
That makes it difficult to sort out what to really think of the Cavs at this stage . . . but (to use an expression that I've never used before) we're going to give it the old college try in our second State of the Cavaliers rundown.
[Up to date, through Monday, November 2nd.]
Here's the complete list. Their previous rank is in parenthesis . . . if, by chance, that helps make all this even more awesome. [You can also revisit our last "State of the Cavaliers", here.]
#1.) LeBron James. (1)
Through all the "ups and downs," there have been two constants: One, the Cleveland Cavaliers have remained a professional basketball team within the NBA . . . and Two, LeBron is brilliant.
In real games, which is all we'll concern ourselves with from here on out, LeBron is averaging 24.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.25 steals, and 1.25 blocks per game. He even had a monster triple-double in the disaster in Toronto last week. This guy is immune to all sorts of badness. (Except the flu.)
The over/under for how many triple-doubles he has this season: 25. Am I insane?
#2.) Zydrunas Ilgauskas. (8)
Say what you want about the controversial "Twin Towers" lineup, but Z has been surprisingly effective coming off the bench. The role-shift, at least to me, seemed like it would take some adjustment . . . but Z is shooting 54%, which leads the team. In the past two games, he's shot 12-of-19, with five blocks. He's also been active on defense, but his rebounding, 4.5 a game, is low.
#3.) Anderson Varejao. (9)
Ooh, is this the first shocker? Not if you've been watching the games. Stat-wise, Andy is still adjusting to playing alongside Shaq. I think that his shooting percentage (now 41%) and rebounding (now 7.5 per) will rise over the course of the season.
But he's playing with playoff intensity. That isn't exactly out of the ordinary for our "energy guy," but it's really refreshing to see even after he got his big contract. He leads the team in steals (8), and has already been a possession stealing / saving machine.
#4.) Mo Williams. (10)
Throughout the preseason, I was concerned about Mo's "tight groin." That's a problem that can linger. Apparently, I should have been more concerned about Mo, as he puts it, "thinking too much" . . . because that lingered through the first two games. But he's come back, huge, over the last two.
In those two games, he's averaging 22 points on 15-of-29 shooting . . . and he's nailing 8-of-12 behind the arc. The flow of the offense improved greatly in those games, but his overall assists per game (now 3.5) needs to rise. And it will.
#5.) Anthony Parker. (4)
There's a reason why none of the new players cracked the Top Four . . . and even this is probably a bit of a stretch. When the team finally began to coalesce in Minnesota, they reverted to what they knew. That being: last year. That's a good thing; it's just going to take some time for the new guys to become completely integrated.
We haven't seen the full-on Anthony Parker yet. He been OK (at least offensively), which is good because before Delonte West came back, he was playing almost 40 minutes a game. On Saturday, had 12 points and made 3-of-4 from long range. Maybe it's coming together for him.
#6.) Daniel Gibson. (6)
Boobie is a conundrum . . . and he may continue to be until we just let him stand behind the 3-point line and do what he does best. I really believe he can offer more . . . and we'll see how that goes . . . but to those who say he should never shoot another 2-pointer: You have a point.
Daniel is shooting 44% on 3-pointers (8-of-18), but is just 1-of-6 on 2-pointers. Last week, he had back-to-back games shooting 4-of-8 from behind the arc . . . and that makes me more than willing to let him take eight long-range shots a game. And generally, he's played well. So to all stubborn haters out there: Back down.
#7.) Shaquille O'Neal. (5)
As with AP, we haven't yet seen what Shaq will do for this team. It's so, so early. Stat-wise, he's averaging 9.0 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. That might not ever sky-rocket, but it will improve . . . and so will the overall effect he has on our offense. Especially, if he continues to unselfishly pass the ball back out to open teammates. I'm impressed with that so far.
Also, his field goal shooting has been good (47%) . . . his foul shooting has not (2-of-12).
#8.) J.J. Hickson. (2)
Fact: J.J. was one of the promising stories to come out of the preseason. Fact: J.J. is an athletic big that can score. Fact: Coach Brown is not ready to submit him to the rotation, untethered. Fact: Brown uses his hook on J.J. to underline mistakes that he makes, in an effort to make him learn faster.
Opinion: J.J. would be a dynamic big option to play alongside Shaq . . . and should get some solid minutes with him at the end of the second quarter, after Andy plays with the LeBron-less crew. Once the offense gets settled into a general rhythm, Brown needs to find a way to get J.J. 15 minutes a game.
#9.) Delonte West. (15)
Where do you rank Delonte West? I say, without any real conviction, here . . . ???
We heard nothing about him until just before Saturday's game. He was activated, he was put into the game, the crowd went bananas, he played, and he was phenomenal. [You can read about how it (admittedly) even brought tears to my eyes, here.]
He played 24 minutes, made 5-of-7 shots, and played inspired defense. So where does he go from here? Hell if I know. But on the court against Washington . . . helping DeShawn Stevenson feel his face . . . would be a fantastic start.
#10.) Jamario Moon. (3)
Jamario could have spent Halloween trick-or-treating in Lakewood, because he wasn't needed in the game Saturday night until garbage time, with 1:37 remaining in the fourth quarter. The rotation is far from being set, but with this being the first night with Delonte back . . . Jamario has to be a little concerned.
Jamario had nine points and six rebounds in 19 minutes against Toronto. And that's about it, so far.
#11.) Leon Powe. (12)
Leon, of course, is recovering from an ACL replacement and a microfracture procedure on his knee. That's some serious stuff . . . but last we heard, he was ahead of schedule and could be back on the floor as early as January. (Although, February is a more realistic expectation.)
No bad news is good news. The 11th spot is for good thoughts.
#12.) Darnell Jackson. (11)
Darnell has a message for the other Cavaliers: "Dear everyone, get your act together . . . soon . . . so we can start blowing people out, and I can pick up some minutes. Yours truly, D-Block."
Darnell has played in three minutes total so far. He's 0-for-2 and has a turnover.
#13.) Jawad Williams. (7)
Jawad showed some skill in the Summer League and in the preseason. But he won't get any significant minutes unless there's an injury . . . or we're playing the Sacramento Kings.
J-Will has been on the court for just over a minute so far this season. No stats; he took some steps, some of them while running.
#14.) Coby Karl. (n/a)
Coby Karl has two rebounds in three minutes . . . and is always hoping to still be on the team tomorrow.
#15.) Danny Green. (14)
Danny has played as much NBA regular season basketball as you have. He also missed most of the preseason with a "glute contusion." He'll get a look at some point. Until next time, Go Cavs!