Central Division Power Rankings: #1 – Cavaliers

Jan 4, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives on Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo (8) during the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs won 122-100. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives on Toronto Raptors center Bismack Biyombo (8) during the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs won 122-100. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Last Season’s Record: 57-25

Players Added: Chris Andersen, Mike Dunleavy

Players Lost: Matthew Dellavedova, Dahntay Jones, Sasha Kaun, Timofey Mozgov

Rookies: Kay Felder

Coaching Changes: N/A

2016-2017 Record Prediction: 60-22

Team Ratings: 110.9 ORtg (3rd in NBA), 104.5 DRtg (10th in NBA)


At the time of writing, JR Smith has yet to re-sign with the Cavaliers, but for the sake of these power rankings we will assume he has.

LeBron James plays for the Cavs and, as always, this ensures them the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the Central Division. We have become so accustomed to James’ greatness that his stellar 2015-2016 season went underappreciated. LeBron tallied 25.3 points per game (ppg), 6.8 assists per game (apg), and 7.4 rebounds per game (rpg). Defensively, LeBron was also dominant. When defended by him, players shot 7.3% worse from the field compared to their season average, per NBA.com. James followed his great regular season with a dominant NBA finals performance, leading both teams in total points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals.

The playoffs were not just a show of LeBron’s greatness, but the Cavaliers’ greatness as a whole. Their tumultuous regular season, marked by the firing of David Blatt and questions of team chemistry, made pundits and fans alike unsure if the Cavaliers could dethrone the Warriors. Star point guard Kyrie Irving missed 29 games due to a knee injury and struggled upon his return. Any doubts that pundits had about the Cavaliers play were absolved in the playoffs. Cleveland put on a dominant performance in the first two rounds, sweeping both the Pistons and the Hawks. Despite Atlanta’s second-ranked defense, the Cavaliers absolutely ripped them apart with their three-point shooting. Cleveland was just two three-point field goals away from tying the record for most three-point field goals in a series, despite only playing four games. Kevin Love’s three-point shooting was on full display, he averaged nearly five triples a game while shooting 47.5% from beyond the arc. Tristan Thompson’s defensive versatility proved extremely useful as he showed his adeptness in defending all positions. JR Smith also served up some hot shooting, along with improved shot selection. Finally, Channing Frye starred in some particularly lethal lineups against the Raptors. His combination of size and shooting ability took Raptors’ rim protector Bismack Biyombo out of the paint.

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Cleveland’s only real loss this offseason is Matthew Dellavedova. Kaun and Jones rarely saw the floor and Mozgov was phased out of the rotation as the year went on. Dellavedova, however, played a big role for the bench unit’s offense. He averaged 4.4 apg and developed strong chemistry in the pick and roll with LeBron James and Tristan Thompson. Delly also thrived off the ball, as he shot 41% from beyond the arc. He could also assume the role of spot-up shooter when LeBron ran the bench units, in these situations he knocked down 47% of his threes. What solidified Dellavedova as one of the premier backup point guards, is his defense. Often remarked on as a scrappy, tenacious defender, Delly made a living by picking up opposing point guards from baseline to baseline.

Filling the hole left by Delly will be a task from Cleveland’s entire guard rotation. Fully healed from his knee surgery, Kyrie can be expected to tack on a few extra minutes per game. Mo Williams’ veteran presence can be counted on in limited minutes. The most intriguing bench guard, however, is rookie Kay Felder. The electric scorer from Oakland University was turning heads this year at the NBA combine, where he displayed defensive tenacity and his wide range of scoring options. Though standing at 5’9” his height will ultimately limit his defensive ability, Felder may be able to contribute as an efficient scorer off the bench.

New additions to the bench Dunleavy and Andersen bring years of NBA experience. Dunleavy is still a reliable three point shooter, shooting 40.3% from beyond the arc over his last two seasons. Andersen is a big body and can provide a solid rebounding presence off the bench.

On the defensive end, the Cavs still have a few questions, mainly regarding the development of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Love lacks the lateral quickness and explosiveness to be an elite defender and is often exposed in the pick and roll. It’s possible that improvements in his defensive awareness and the presence of stalwart defender Tristan Thompson could make Love passable next season. As for Irving, he has flashes of defensive ability, but has yet to string them together into a meaningful performance. Perhaps his time with Tom Thibodeau at the Rio Olympics will serve to improve his individual and team defense.
Following David Blatt’s firing mid-season and Channing Frye’s arrival, the Cavaliers began to gel as a team off the court. This chemistry was the reason the reason the Cavs made Tyronn Lue head coach. At the press conference held in wake of Blatt’s firing, Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin had this to say, “There’s just a disconnect right now, a lack of spirit and disconnectedness I can’t accept.” Next season may be the first that the Cavaliers enter as a team in the truest sense of the word. Though LeBron saves his best performances for the postseason, the continued improvement of Irving and integration of Love should easily carry this team back to the number one seed.