[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.]
Since our last State of the Cavaliers on November 3rd, the Cleveland Cavaliers have proved that their first two wins (in Minnesota and against Charlotte at home) were not merely the product of a lost team playing lost franchises.
Instead, those wins proved to be a springboard for a team that was re-grouping from a weak 0-2 start. Over the past two weeks, the Cavs have posted a 5-1 record . . . and are suddenly 7-3, placing them back in the mix atop the Eastern Conference.
It hasn't all been pretty; the offense was extremely flat in the irritating loss to Chicago at home . . . and the defense, especially late in games, leaves a lot to be desired (specifically, good defense). But the Cavs current work-in-progress-ness is much more reasonable and palatable than it was two weeks ago.
The crowning moment has been how the team was able to capitalize on a four-day break to execute a two-game all-Florida sweep, which produced solid, back-to-back road wins over Orlando and Miami.
This return to form makes it a little easier to get a feel for where the Cavaliers are at this stage . . . and we're going to break that down right now in our third State of the Cavaliers rundown.
[Up to date, through Sunday, November 15th.]
Here's the complete list. Each player's previous rank and average rank are in parentheses . . . because, as they say, too much information is good information. (?)
#1.) LeBron James. (Prev: #1 / Avg: 1.0)
LeBron was the only Cavalier who didn't need an extended preseason. And now that the rest of the team has noticed that the NBA season has started, LeBron is showing that he's there to be their superstar.
In the past six games . . . after the Cavs' reset at 2-2 . . . LeBron has averaged 29.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game. But the story, as usual, is how he's doing it.
In New York, he catapulted the team out of the gate; in Miami, he went toe-to-toe with Dwyane Wade . . . and trumped him; he was an unstoppable force while closing out the Utah game; and he came just a whistle tweet away from bailing the Cavs out against Chicago. Can you say MVP?
#2.) Mo Williams. (Prev: #4 / Avg: 5.3)
After a sluggish start, Mo has returned to his all-star form . . . and in related news, the offense has, too. In the first four games, he shot 43%. In the past six, he's shot 52%. In those games, Mo has averaged 18.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists.
Mo's official coming out party (or so I'd like to hope) came against Orlando, where he looked like Mitch Richmond in "NBA Jam". He connected on his first three shots . . . the ball seemed to glow in his hands . . . and then he was making everything. [You can read more about his night, here.]
In his last three games, he's averaging 25 points, 5 assists, and is shooting 58.5%.
#3.) Anderson Varejao. (Prev: #3 / Avg: 5.0)
Andy has averaged 7.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists over the past six contests.
Four games ago, Andy was bumped to the bench . . . not because of his play, but because Mike Brown wanted to give J.J. Hickson some regular, scheduled minutes every game. Coach also wanted to re-team Andy with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and give the bench a shot in the arm.
And it worked. Since then, the Cavs are 4-0, and J.J. has been given an opportunity to blossom . . . which, so far, he has. And Andy is providing the second unit with some much-needed toughness, continuity, and yes, "energy."
His shot attempts are down over those four games . . . but as a reserve, he's shooting 62% (8-of-13).
And something for the "team player" files: Did anyone hear a single complaint from Andy when he was moved to the bench?
#4.) Shaquille O'Neal. (Prev: #7 / Avg: 5.3)
It doesn't sound like Shaq's "shoulder injury" . . . the reason he was held out of the Utah game . . . is anything serious, so we'll go ahead and place him where he deserved to be up until then.
We brought Shaq in for more than just stats. We want him to be a tough, intimidating paint presence on the defensive end. And on offense, he's a big target under the basket for LeBron . . . he'll draw fouls . . . and he'll split the opposing team's attention away from the Cavs shooters.
Shaq's infusion into the team is still in development, but the early returns are good. On Wednesday, Dwight Howard put up half the numbers we saw in the playoffs last year . . . and on offense, Shaq has made at least 50% of his shots in his past six games.
Over that time, he's averaging 13.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
#5.) J.J. Hickson. (Prev: #8 / Avg: 5.0)
Check this: In the first six games . . . before J.J. was inserted into the starting lineup . . . he was averaging 6.5 minutes per game, and 1.5 shot attempts per game. Yeah, that's attempts.
In the four games since, he's averaging over 26 minutes, 13.3 points (including his back-to-back career-highs of 18 and then 20 points), 3.5 rebounds, and he's shooting 59% from the floor.
LeBron and Mo have been finding him for wide open dunks and lay-ups, and J.J. has some promising finishing abilities. He's also shown some good post moves.
The next step in J.J.'s crash course is going to be improving his rebounding and boxing out . . . and getting him to the point where he's comfortable within the team defense.
#6.) Anthony Parker. (Prev: #5 / Avg: 5.0)
If it weren't for 3-pointers (and in the case of the Utah game, clutch 3-pointers), Anthony would be closer to Delonte West than the Top Five on this list. But 3-pointers do count . . . for more than 2-pointers, as a matter of fact . . . and that's a good thing for AP, because he can't make those.
Interesting Fact: Anthony is 14-of-24 (58%) from beyond the arc in his last six games. In that same period, he's just 3-of-17 (17.6%) from inside the arc. Expanded out: AP has hit 60% of his 3-pointers over the whole season, and 22.5% of his 2-pointers.
This is either just an anomaly . . . or Boobie is contagious.
#7.) Daniel Gibson. (Prev: #6 / Avg: 6.3)
First off, while we're here: Daniel has hit 46% of his 3-pointers over the whole season, and 25% of his 2-pointers. Fortunately, 73% of his shots are from beyond the arc. Boobie had a rough game offensively in Miami last week (where he shot just 1-of-7) but overall, he's having a strong season.
That being said, there has to be a way to get Boobie six to eight three point attempts every game. That's where he can thrive . . . and honestly, right now that's the only place he can thrive.
With Delonte West out indefinitely, Boobie is going to get 20+ minutes a game. The Cavs really should take advantage of his time on the floor and try to get him some deep looks. Otherwise, isn't he playing a lot of fairly empty minutes?
#8.) Jamario Moon. (Prev: #10 / Avg: 7.0)
Over the past four games, Jamario has averaged just under 20 minutes a game . . . that's a big improvement over the three games before that, when he was getting under 4 minutes a game.
And Jamario has looked good . . . especially rebounding the ball. With Jamario and J.J. playing increased minutes, it gives us more athleticism on the boards. Shaq and Z may be huge . . . but they aren't going to be leaping for many rebounds this year.
Over the last four games, Jamario has averaged 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds.
#9.) Zydrunas Ilgauskas. (Prev: #2 / Avg: 6.3)
For whatever reason, Z was the only Cavs player that played better in October than in November.
In his first four games, Z shot (a team-leading) 54%. In his next five, he shot just 4-of-31, which is 12.9%. Z showed some signs of breaking out of it in Saturday's game against the Jazz . . . making four of his 10 shots. But then again, that's the game he started in place of Shaq.
Z will regain his touch . . . although the team could probably help him out by calling some plays for him when he comes into the game.
#10.) Delonte West. (Prev: #9 / Avg: 11.3)
Due to the uncertainty surrounding Delonte, he probably should be at the bottom of this list. And I wouldn't have any problem putting him there . . . except with the "uncertainty," there's always the chance that he could play, which beats everyone from here on out, who hasn't played.
Before mysteriously disappearing from the active list last week, Delonte had cooled down after his spectacular first game back. He always supplied good defense and posted solid +/- numbers, but in his last three games he averaged just 3 points on 22% shooting. He's now missed three games since then.
As far as we know, he's still day-to-day at this point.
#11.) Leon Powe. (Prev: #11 / Avg: 11.3)
Can't wait to see Leon on the court . . . but he's still a long way away. He's recovering from an ACL replacement and a microfracture procedure on his knee. 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.)
#12.) Danny Green. (Prev: #15 / Avg: 13.7)
Danny made his NBA debut in Miami last Thursday night.
It was everything he always dreamed it would be . . . assuming that he always dreamed it would be less than a minute long, and not require him to do anything whatsoever.
#13.) Darnell Jackson. (Prev: #12 / Avg: 12)
#14.) Jawad Williams. (Prev: #13 / Avg: 11.3)
Jawad last entered a game two weeks ago against Washington. He was in for two minutes . . . and fouled somebody. It's unclear if he needed to shower after the game.
#15.) Coby Karl. (Prev: #14 / Avg: 14.5)
Coby hasn't played in the past six games. On the bright side though, he's still on the team.
Until next time, Go Cavs!