NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 23: Kyrie Irving (R) from Duke smiles as he walks off stage after he was selected number one overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round during the 2011 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center on June 23, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
This post marks the first of a 5-part series in which we run through the state of each position on the Cleveland Cavaliers' roster. It is apparent that the roster is anything but a finished product, but it is important to know where the Cavs stand at the current moment. The work stoppage prevents GM Chris Grant from making any further transactions, but this series will outline what the Cavs look like now and what they should try to do once the lockout is lifted.
The Cavaliers are rebuilding in essentially every single facet of the franchise. Coming off of last year's absolutely miserable 2010-11 season, the Cavs cannot afford to be satisfied at any one position. If you were looking for bright spots in last year's debacle, however, point guard might be a good place to start. The arrival of Ramon Sessions and Baron Davis offered surprisingly competent play through most of the season. Mo Williams suffered various injuries that hampered his play before he was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers. Following the trade deadline, coach Byron Scott figured out how to play both Davis and Sessions at the same time and both were relatively efficient. While point guard may have been the best position for the Cavaliers last season, this did not scare them away from addressing it with the first pick in the draft. Kyrie Irving was targeted immediately and the Cavs wasted little time locking up who they hope to be their franchise point guard of the future.
Baron Davis started the 2010-11 season in Hollywood with the Blake Griffin and the Clippers. As the trade deadline neared, Chris Grant made the move to bring Baron and his massive contract to Cleveland in exchange for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. Initially, the only benefit for the Cavaliers out of this trade was the unprotected 1st round pick that they acquired from the Clippers. As you all know, this pick later turned out to be the number one overall pick in the draft. Most assumed that the Cavs were taking one on the chin in order to get the draft pick. Davis came with the reputation of being talented, but lazy and unmotivated. The idea that he would be moving from sunny California to the shores of Lake Erie did not inspire confidence that he would change his ways. Nearly everybody expected a train wreck as Baron Davis met up with the coach that he had clashed with in the past. For some reason, however, this was not the case. Davis and Scott made up and the trade worked out pretty well.
Davis improved in nearly every statistical category as he made the transition to the Cavs. I'm sure he missed tossing alley-oops to Blake Griffin, but he and J.J. Hickson were able to develop a rapport of sorts and create some exciting moments of their own. In the 15 games that he played in Cleveland, Davis recorded a PER of 19.3, a significant improvement from the 16.3 PER he posted in LA. Furthermore, his assist rate, true shooting percentage, and three point shooting all made impressive strides. Davis also seemed to embrace the culture of the Cleveland sports scene. He was passionate, motivated, and acted as a veteran leader for a very young team. Although his abilities are on the decline, this is a Baron Davis that hasn't been seen since his time with the Warriors.
Baron Davis was one of the most prolific and exciting point guards during his prime and while that era is clearly behind him, he still brings something valuable to the Cavaliers. Provided that he manages to stay healthy and in shape during the lockout, Davis provides a rare veteran presence for this clubhouse. Davis doesn't project to be the starter come opening night (whenever that may be), but he will certainly be on the roster. His contract is too big and immovable at this point. The Cavaliers will have to keep him around and that might not be such a bad thing.
**Note: If you had told me that I was going to write the last sentence of that paragraph on the night that he was traded to the Cavaliers, I would have had you declared officially insane**
Ramon Sessions made his Cavaliers debut last year after being acquired from the Timberwolves during the offseason. Sessions was a guy that always had potential but seemed to be constrained by the awful, miserable system that Minnesota attempted to use. Initially used in a backup role behind Mo Williams, Sessions was given the opportunity to start as Mo got injured. Keep in mind that most of the offensive numbers for the Cavaliers are skewed due to the utter lack of defense. That being said, Sessions line is still relatively impressive at 13 points and 5.2 assists per game. His PER of 19.0 led the team by a large margin and his 55.9 TS% and 35.0 AST% are both respectable. Like Davis, Ramon Sessions plays little to no defense, but that isn't exactly an aberration on this team.
Sessions' ability to get to the basket and finish in traffic makes him a pretty valuable player. On a horrible Cavs team, Ramon Sessions showed that he can play and this got the attention of some teams throughout the league. Rumors were flying as we approached the trade deadline and it appeared as if he might get traded to a contender. Reportedly, the Hawks, Magic, and Knicks were among the teams interested. There was clearly not a trade and Sessions remained with the Cavaliers. At this point, it seems nearly inevitable that he will be traded once the lockout is resolved. He may be more valuable than Baron Davis but his contract is much more manageable and easier to move. The bottom-line is that he has much more value to a team in contention than he does to the rebuilding Cavaliers. Chris Grant would be wise to get a late 1st round draft pick or something along those lines in exchange for Ramon Sessions to clear the way for the next point guard I'm about to talk about.
The Starting Point Guard/Franchise Savior:
The first overall pick in the NBA Draft belonged to our Cleveland Cavaliers and they chose correctly. It came down to choosing between the Derrick Williams, a forward out of Arizona, and the Duke point guard, Kyrie Irving. Despite the mini logjam that this creates at the point guard spot on the depth chart, Irving was definitely the right choice for the Cavaliers. Based on what you read above, it is safe to assume that neither Ramon Sessions nor Baron Davis is the long term fix at point guard for this team. They may have been serviceable for this terrible season, but Cleveland had the chance to grab a potential franchise PG, so they took it.
Irving may lack the jaw-dropping athleticism of someone like John Wall or Derrick Rose, but he is a true point guard. He has an above average jump shot, sees the floor very well, and is sneaky quick. Unlike the previous two guards, Kyrie Irving has shown that he is interested in and capable of being an effective defender. There will without a doubt be some growing pains as he gets accustomed to the speed of the NBA game. Regardless, it appears that Irving has all of the tools to become the consistent, floor general that a young team needs. If the Cavaliers are going to successfully rebuild themselves into a contender there cannot be a question mark at the point guard position. Irving has a knack for making the players around him better. It is always scary to hand the reins over to a rookie, but the Cavaliers' future is highly dependent on Irving's progression. Once the lockout ends (whenever that may be), I'm sure Byron Scott will be thrilled to get to work with his point guard of the future and allow Chris Grant to figure out what needs to be done with Sessions and Davis.