As Conrad mentioned in our post the other day about the Cleveland Cavaliers being placed 9th in ESPN's Future rankings, ESPN loves rankings. This week (and last week, and into next week as well) the Worldwide Leader is ranking the top 500 players in or almost in the NBA. The rankings are all out of 10 possible points, with a large panel of people who watch a lot of basketball and hopefully know a bit about the sport assign a point total to each player. Conrad is actually on the panel, which is a bit of validation for the work and time he puts in.
But what is interesting is where the Cavaliers fit in on the rankings. How good are the players Chris Grant has acquired? What do people around the league think of the players Chris Grant has acquired. If 10 is the best a player can be rated, how do people who like and follow and write about basketball rate Tyler Zeller? Well now we know.
Tyler Zeller comes in on NBA rank as the 250th best player in the NBA, with a composite rating of 3.88. We all know Zeller looked overmatched last year and for large parts of the season was a disappointing rebounder. His solid post game at North Carolina seemed to vanish and he took shots that were a little out of his comfort zone as far as range is concerned. Still, a full NBA offseason, the knowledge that came from being thrown into the fire last year, and a reduced role that keeps him from being exposed make me think Zeller can make a good jump forward next season. The rating seems fair based on his performance to date, but there are reasons to think he will improve.
Alonzo Gee, who played more minutes than any Cavalier other than Tristan Thompson last season (and it was close), comes in at 241st. Gee makes a living by trying to play solid defense, though his understanding of rotations and help defense are suspect (not a unique trait among Cavaliers last season). He isn't a good shooter, or ballhandler, or distributor. Like Zeller, Gee will hopefully see his minutes reduced this upcoming season. There is evidence that he can be a solid role player, and less minutes will keep him from wearing down over the season. How much better, if at all, Earl Clark proves to be will determine whether that is possible. With help from Mike Brown, Gee also might be able to live up to his defensive stopper label.
C.J. Miles was ranked 270th, after players like Kenyon Martin, Kevin Seraphin, and Jeremy Lamb, who has proven exactly nothing in the NBA. So, if you want to get upset about a ranking, that is probably the one. It is fair to wonder if Miles can keep up his solid production from last season. Mike Brown will have a new role for him. But Miles was a good player last season and this feels low.
Sergey Karasev was ranked a pretty solid 314th. I don't believe the Cavaliers will ask too much from him this season barring injury, and he turns 20 years old just before next season starts, so it isn't worth reading too much into. Karasev was pretty popular before the draft, so it seems that has carried through a bit. He was ranked two spots above New Orleans Pelicans guard Brian Roberts, and I can't pretend to be thrilled about that. Roberts should be a hundred spots or so higher, and I am only sort of being sarcastic.
Rounding out the Cleveland Cavaliers representation is Carrick Felix, the 2nd round pick given a guaranteed contract by Chris Grant. Felix was ranked 472nd, which is about what you might expect considering many 2nd rounders don't make it in the NBA and Felix was considered by some to be a bit of a reach (*waves*). Still, there is reason to believe Felix can do some of the things we want Alonzo Gee to do, with more upside as a shooter. Time will tell.