Top 50 Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland has long been a suffering sports city and the Cavaliers seemed destined to never win a championship.

Beginning in 1970, the Cavs struggled like most expansion teams do, and it wasn’t until 1976 that they had their first winning season and made the playoffs for the first time.  They would surprisingly advance to the Eastern Conference Finals due to the “Miracle at Richfield” win over the Washington Bullets.  They would make the playoffs the next two years but went into a six-year drought before there rebuild took place in the late 80’s.  With a team led by Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper and Larry Nance they were a top team in the East and again made the Eastern Conference Finals in 1989 but they never could make the Finals and went back to the bottom of the pack for years.

Then everything changed with two words: LeBron James.

The native of Akron, Ohio was projected to be the next big thing and the Cavaliers landed the number one pick of the 2003 Draft, who chose him.  The franchise’s fortune changed.  Cleveland was a playoff team again and they would make the Finals for the first time in history in 2007.  They did not win and James would famously take his talents to South Beach, and with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would win two titles for the Heat.  All was not lost, as Cleveland again won the draft lottery and selected another game changer in Kyrie Irving.

James would return and with the signing of Kevin Love, the Cavs would make four straight Finals (2015-2018), winning the 2016 Championship earning Cleveland their first championship and redeeming LeBron James in the eyes of Ohio.


Note: Basketball lists are based on an amalgamation of tenure, traditional statistics, advanced statistics, playoff statistics and post-season accolades.

Were you expecting someone else? LeBron James was so highly touted as the eventual number one pick that his high school games were broadcast on ESPN.  The Cleveland Cavaliers were thrilled to land the number one pick, and the native of Akron fittingly began his career with the team he grew up an hour away from. 
Mark Price came to Cleveland as part of a draft-day trade when he was chosen in the 2nd Round in 1986 by the Dallas Mavericks for a future 2nd Rounder of 1989.  Cleveland got Price, but Dallas would pick Jeff Hodge who never played in the NBA.  
Brad Daugherty was the number one Draft Pick of 1986, a pick they obtained many years before in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers.  Along with Ron Harper and Mark Price who they also picked up that season, Daugherty was the literal centerpiece of a Cavs team that would regularly win 50 Games, and he was named an All-Star five times, and while he may not have been on the upper tier of NBA Centers,…
From the basketball mad country of Lithuania, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was drafted 20th overall in 1996, and he would be named to the All-Rookie Team.  Injuries piled up on the big man over the next few seasons, but he would be healthy, and from the 2002-03 season to the 2005-06 season he would elevate to become one of the top Centers of the time.  In that stretch (which also coincided with the arrival of LeBron James)…
Larry Nance spent the first half of his career with the Phoenix Suns where he was an All-Star in 1985.  The Power Forward would be traded in the 1987/88 Season in a mega-deal, and both teams would come out ahead.  The Power Forward brought defensive stability to the Cavaliers, and they would become more significant threats in the East.  The Power Forward would be named to two All-Star Games as a Cavalier, and he was…
The Cleveland Cavaliers struck gold when they landed the #1 Draft Pick in 2003 so that they could draft their home state hoops prodigy, LeBron James.  After James left, the Cavs were blessed by the lottery Gods again in 2011 when they won the draft to pick first and choose Kyrie Irving, who was the consensus best player in the draft.
John “Hot Rod” Williams could not enter the NBA after he was drafted out of Tulane in 1985 as he was arrested for point-shaving but he was later found not guilty and was able to join the league for the 1986/87 campaign where he started all 80 of Games and averaged 14.6 Points, 7.9 Rebounds and 2.1 Blocks per Game.  Williams would later see his starts diminish but not his time on the court as…
Terrell Brandon was the 11th Overall Pick in the 1991 Draft, and he would spend his first three years and change serving as the backup Point Guard to Mark Price.  Brandon would become the team's starter officially in the 1995/96 season where he would go on a two-year streak of All-Star Game appearances and would average 19.4 Points per Game and would be regarded as one of the most accurate shooters in the sport.  He…
From Brazil, Anderson Varejao arrived in Cleveland as part of a trade a month after he was drafted (by Orlando) and it is safe to say that the big man exceeded every expectation that anyone could have had for him.
Kevin Love would spend the first six years of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves where he was the team's star, but the T-Wolves lacked much else, and he never made the playoffs while he played there.  LeBron James would return to Cleveland, and the Cavs would orchestrate a trade to bring Love to the Cavaliers to join him and Kyrie Irving.  Love was now the number three option on a superteam, but like many…
Tristan Thompson was drafted fourth overall in 2011, which made history as that made him (since broken) the highest drafted Canadian.  While it can be argued that Thompson has not lived up to the lofty expectations that were placed upon him, it has been a good career thus far.  Three times, Thompson would average more than 10 Points per Game, but his real strength has been rebounding, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. …
A sweet shooter from the University of Michigan, Michael “Campy” Russell was the 8th Overall Pick in 1974, and the Small Forward would become a starter in his second season, and from there he would average at least 15 Points per Game, peaking at 21.9 in the 1978/79 campaign.  That year, Russell would be named to the All-Star Game.  He would be traded to the New York Knicks, but a brutal knee injury took him…
Andre Miller is considered one of the best players never to play in an All-Star Game; a snub should have likely been rectified when he was a Cleveland Cavalier.  Playing his first three seasons of his career with the Cavs, Miller’s most efficient years occurred there.  He would have a PER of 20.2 and would average 14.5 Points in hi 245 Games there.  As a Point Guard, Miller was expected to be a good distributor,…
Austin Carr was one of the most exciting players that the Cleveland Cavaliers had in the 1970s and a lot of the success that they did have.  Carr was the first overall Draft Pick in 1971, and the four-year player from Notre Dame wasted no time showing off his shooting skills.  Named to the First Team All-Rookie squad, Carr averaged 21.2 Points per Game, and he would keep up the 20 PPG average over the…
Traded midway through his eighth season (1982/83) in the NBA, World B. Free remained a top scorer in the NBA when he was a Cleveland Cavalier.  That year, he finished 8th in Points per Game finishing with a 23.9 PPG.  Free continued to produce over the next three years with scoring seasons of 22.3, 22.5 and 23.4 respectively and over his 275 Games as a Cav he averaged 23.0 Points per Game.
Craig Ehlo had some big shoes to fill as he was brought in to replace the injured Mark Price and the former Washington State Cougar had his share of moments, most notably a 31 Point Game against Michael Jordan, although Jordan would later torch him on “The Shot” that took the then underdog Bulls over Cleveland in the 1989 Playoffs.
Ron Harper is best known for winning five NBA Championships, three with the Chicago Bulls and two with the Los Angeles Lakers.  He brought those teams a veteran presence and a high basketball IQ, but this was very different than what he was asked to do when he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Arguably the best run of the career of Tyrone Hill was the four years he played in Cleveland.  The big man alternated at Power Forward and Center and in the 1994/95 season, he would be chosen for what would be his only All-Star Game.  That year, he would average 13.8 Points and 10.9 Rebounds per Game, the latter seeing him finish fifth overall in the National Basketball Association.  Two seasons later, in what would be…
In terms of overall popularity, especially in the 1970s, Bingo Smith is a top-five selection, and how can anyone named "Bingo" not be?
When people think of Drew Gooden, they mostly remember him as a journeyman.  That is not an inaccurate statement as the Power Forward played for ten teams over his career, but it was with the Cleveland Cavaliers where he had the longest (and arguably most productive) run of his career.