I know I don't really ever post here, and this would be my first fanpost here, but I thought I'd share what I wrote about the losing streak.
On Monday night in Dallas, the first iteration of the post-LeBron era Cavaliers recorded history with their 25th consecutive loss, lowering their record to a truly dismal 8-44. The team now owns the longest losing streak ever recorded in the NBA, and has lost a stunning 35 out of 36 contests. What is so different about this year's team as opposed to last year's? The obvious answer is the departure of LeBron James. And, of course, the loss of one of the game's greatest players will take its toll on a franchise, but can one player really cause a team to plummet as low as the Cavaliers have this season? The national media and talking heads at ESPN have done their best this week to convince the public that, yes, the loss of LeBron is the sole reason for the downfall of the Cavaliers. If a casual fan were to listen only to the mainstream media coverage of the streak, they would be led to believe that the only difference between the 2010 Cavaliers and the 2011 Cavaliers is the absence of James. While the current Cavs roster certainly is awful- maybe even historically awful - a closer look reveals that their struggles are rooted in much more than the loss of one player.
Looking at Cleveland's' current roster the following players, besides ‘Bron, are also missing from last year's team: Danny Green, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Cedric Jackson, Coby Karl, Sebastian Telfair, Darnell Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal, Delonte West and Jawad Williams. Granted, not exactly an all-star roster, but that's certainly a lot of turnover, and many of these players played significant roles on a team that won 61 games. Looking at these players individually illustrates the roles each of them played on 2010's top seeded Eastern Conference squad:
Danny Green was a rookie 2nd round draft pick out of the University of North Carolina. Many fans thought he might have an impact because he was a silky smooth shooter at UNC, and played in 145 games for Roy Williams. He never really got a chance for the Cavs, playing in only 20 games and scoring a total of 40 points. Both Cleveland and San Antonio have since waived him. Currently playing for the Reno Bighorns. Not much of a loss here.
Zyrdrunas Ilgauskas is one of the most beloved players in Cavalier history. He was also one of the most tenured Cavaliers of all-time, appearing in 771 games for the team over 12 seasons. "Big Z" was the team's starting center for the majority of those seasons, and appeared in 2 all-star games. On last season's squad, he played off the bench in relief of Shaquille O'Neal, averaging 21 minutes, 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Cedric Jackson, Coby Karl and Sebastian Telfair played in a total of 12 games for the Cavaliers, scoring 40 total points in 92 minutes and not contributing much else. Telfair also added 12 assists. These three represent the three least significant losses from last year's team.
Darnell Jackson was a second year player out of Kansas and provided little more than frontcourt depth off the end of the bench. He appeared in 27 games for the Cavaliers, averaging 4.2 minutes per game. Darnell has moved on to Sacramento, where he is averaging a career high 9.4 minutes and 3.3 points per game.
Shaquille O'Neal was the team's starting Center in 2010. Although he wasn't the dominant player he was in his youth, he was a significant contributor. "Shaq" started 53 games for the Cavs, averaging 12 points, 7 rebounds, and a block per game.
Delonte West certainly had his problems in Cleveland, but no matter what was going on off the court, he was always giving full effort on the court. West served as the team's first guard off the bench, averaging 25 minutes per game in the 60 games he appeared in. In those games, he averaged 8.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and a steal per game.
Jawad Williams finally got his opportunity last season, appearing in 54 games for the Cavaliers. In nearly 14 minutes per game, Jawad averaged 4.1 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 0.6 three-point field goals.
The Cavaliers also replaced long time head coach Mike Brown with Byron Scott who, while dealing with a roster in upheaval, has attempted to implement his own up-tempo system. A style that wildly differs from the defense first, grind it out style of basketball preached by Brown.
Once again, it's not as if the Cavaliers lost a group of potential all-stars, but they have had to replace the 5,142 minutes this combination of nine players provided. Those nine also chipped in a combined 24 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists every game.
While the nine players no longer on the Cavaliers roster represent a fairly significant loss, they don't fully represent the loss of production the team has struggled to replace this season. In addition to the departed Cavs are the injured Cavs. A number of important players have missed numerous games this season due to a rash of injuries. They include Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson and Anderson Varejao, all significant contributors on last year's team.
Mo Williams, the team's starting point guard, has missed 20 games this season due to a hip injury that has continued to linger. When healthy, Mo is one of the team's most reliable scorers, averaging 13.6 points, 7.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds in just over 30 minutes per game. Mo is also the lone remaining Cavalier who has made an all-star game in a Cleveland jersey.
Daniel Gibson, the purest shooter on the team, has been dealing with an ankle injury for much of the season. He has missed a total of 11 games, and seen his role greatly diminished in a number of others due to the injury. "Boobie" is another player the Cavs can't afford to have on the bench, as he's averaged 13 points, 3.2 assists, and 2 three pointers per game.
Anderson Varejao is an energetic glue guy who does a lot more for the team than stat lines could ever indicate. He started the first 31 games of the season before going down for the year with a torn tendon in his right ankle. In those 31 games, Andy averaged 9.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He is also, by far, the most skilled defensive player on the roster.
The Cavaliers' have already lost a total of 51 games between these three players this season, and will lose many more. Between the departure of numerous key role players and the injuries to key contributors, the Cavs simply do not have the talent, firepower, or experience to win games in the NBA. Especially when these proven players are replaced with extremely raw youths like Christian Eyenga, Manny Harris and Samardo Samuels. These three rookies have started a combined 25 games, while appearing in 67 games total. Looking closely at this season's Cavaliers, it is painfully obvious that the franchise has lost much more than one player in LeBron James.