The Cleveland Cavaliers is a franchise that, outside of the LeBron James years, has struggled to be competitive. However, they were a perennial playoff team in the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s. They even reached the conference finals in the 1991-92 season, where they ran into the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. The franchise has had great players before James’ two stints in Cleveland, and will likely have more in the future.
All-Time Cleveland Cavaliers
Point Guard – Mark Price
Mark Price is perhaps one of the most underrated point guards in NBA history and deserves a spot on the Cleveland Cavaliers all-time team. Price was fantastic on really good Cavaliers teams in the 1990s. Price was an all-star in four out of five seasons from the 1988-89 season through the 1993-94 season.
He was an excellent shooter as he had eight seasons where he finished in the top 20 in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage. He also led the NBA on three separate occasions in free throw percentage and is third all-time in that category at 90.4 percent. For his career, Price averaged 15.2 points, 6.7 assists, and he had 71.1 win shares.
Shooting Guard – Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving is the author of the greatest shot in the history of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Not only did Irving hit the NBA championship-clinching shot, but he was also magnificent throughout the 2016 NBA Finals. For the series, Irving averaged 27.1 points on 47 percent shooting and 40 percent shooting from three-point range. If not for LeBron James, Irving would have been the 2016 NBA Finals MVP.
It’s not just the 2016 NBA Finals that slots Irving on this team. He had a magnificent run with the Cavaliers and was apart of one of the great runs in NBA history that was only spoiled by an all-time great run by the Golden State Warriors. If not for the dominant run by the Warriors, the Cavaliers would likely have multiple championships to their credit, and Irving was a big part of that run.
In just seven seasons with Cleveland, Irving had an impressive 40.4 win shares. He also had per-game averages of 21.6 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.6 rebounds.
Small Forward – LeBron James
James is the greatest player to ever play in Cleveland, and maybe the best player the NBA has ever seen. He gave the Cavaliers their first taste of postseason success during his first tenure in Cleveland since the 1990s. James led the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals appearance in the 2006-07 season after on of the most incredible playoff game performances in NBA history in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons.
When he returned to Cleveland following his four-year tenure with the Miami Heat, James promised to bring a title to the Cavaliers. He did just that and in historic fashion. James and the Cavaliers became the first team to ever come back from a three games to one deficit in the NBA Finals, and they did so against a team that broke the regular season win record.
James was named the NBA Finals MVP after leading the team in every major statistical category with 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.6 steals, and 2.3 blocks, including one of the greatest blocks of all time.
For his career, he has averaged an astonishing 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 7.2 assists. He also has an astonishing 226.6 win shares throughout his career. James is the franchise’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals, games played, and three-pointers made.
Power Foward – Kevin Love
Kevin Love is entering his sixth season with the Cavaliers, and he has been very good throughout his tenure. He certainly deserves a spot on the Cleveland Cavaliers all-time team. As the third wheel during the Cavaliers dominant four-year stretch, Love was fantastic. While with the Cavaliers, Love was instrumental as a spot-up big, as he created a ton of room for James and Irving to probe the defense.
He wasn’t without his share of big moments, however. He had a monster 34 point quarter in 2016 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
He also had a key stop, late in Game Seven of the 2016 NBA finals, after getting switched off onto Stephen Curry.
Over the course of his five seasons in Cleveland, Love has per-game averages of 17.1 points and 10 rebounds and has an impressive 78.2 win shares over the course of his 11 seasons.
Center – Brad Daugherty
Daugherty was the number one overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft out of the University of North Carolina and was promptly named to the NBA All-Rookie team. In his rookie season, Daugherty averaged 15.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 3.8 assists.
During his eight-year career, the Cavaliers big man averaged 19 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. He was also named to one All-NBA Team and made five all-star games.
Guard – Ron Harper
Ron Harper is better known for his run as the point guard throughout the second half of the Chicago Bulls dynasty. However, he was drafted with the eighth pick in the 1986 NBA draft by the Cavaliers. Harper’s rookie season was remarkable as he finished second in the rookie of the year voting and had per-game averages of 22.9 points, 4.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.5 steals.
The Cavaliers could have kept a core of Harper, Daugherty, and Price together and been one of the best teams in the NBA for quite a few years.
Guard – Austin Carr
Perhaps better known for his interesting color commentary, however, Austin Carr was robbed of a Hall of Fame career by a knee injury.
Carr was another number one overall pick that the Cavaliers hit on as he was fantastic until the injury. Carr surpassed 20 points per game in each of his first three seasons before suffering the knee injury. For his career, Carr had per-game averages of 15.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assists.
Forward – Campy Russell
Another on-air talent for the Cavaliers broadcasting team, Campy Russell was a fantastic player in the 1970s. Russell was another in a long list of high Cavalier’s draft picks who suffered an injury that derailed his career. As a member of the New York Knicks, Russell suffered a knee injury that cost him the next two seasons. He returned to the Cavaliers the following year and played the final three games of his career that season.
For his career, he had per-game averages of 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. He was named to the 1978-79 NBA All-Star team during his best season in which he averaged 21.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists.
Forward – Larry Nance
Larry Nance splendid during his tenure with the Cavaliers. The elder Nance brought high flying athleticism and highlight-reel dunks to Cleveland. When constructing the Cleveland Cavaliers all-time team, it was a close call whether to put Nance or Love in the starting lineup.
Nance may be better known for his time with the Phoneix Suns, but he finished his career in Cleveland as the third all-time leader in blocked shots (highest per game average) and also put up 16.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in seven seasons with the Cavaliers.
Center – Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Zydrunas Ilgauskas had an incredible career with the Cavaliers and was a sho-in to make the Cleveland Cavaliers all-time team. At one time, it looked like Ilgauskas was going to go down as another high draft pick to go down with an injury. After a fantastic rookie season in which he averaged 13.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, he suffered a foot injury in the fifth game of his sophomore season and missed the remainder of that season and the entirety of the next season.
The following season saw Ilgauskas return to form. The Cavaliers were 15-8 in December when he went down again and missed the season. They finished the season 30-52.
Despite the myriad of foot and ankle injuries early in his career, Ilgauskas was able to bounce back and have a great career. He even made two all-star teams. Ilgauskas ended his career as the Cavaliers all-time leader in blocks. He averaged 13 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game.
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