The Cleveland Cavaliers have been doing a fun series on the team website for the last few weeks, putting together teams from each of the last few decades of some of our favorite Cleveland Cavaliers. Cavs.com beat writer Joe Gabriele, who generally does a great job, has put together the teams. The most recent one is of the 00's, probably the most successful period the team has had in its existence. The decade saw the team's only Finals appearance, as well as two 60 win teams.
Maybe that's why I find myself so annoyed with the team Gabriele put together. To be sure, getting upset about an issue like this is pretty silly. I never let myself get upset or annoyed with All-Star berths, snubs, or really any awards given out at the end of the season. It's just not worth the fake outrage. But these were the best Cavaliers teams, at the very least, that I have ever seen. I want to see the right guys get honored. Damon Jones got an honorable mention for this team. So did Larry Hughes. So did Eric Snow. Delonte West was not mentioned.
I could be biased here. I'm the proud owner of a Delonte West Cleveland Cavaliers jersey. I thought the defense he provided, the willingness to wave off LeBron and run the offense, the spot up three point shooting he provided, as well as energy and creating ability he brought to the table made him the second best Cav in 2008-09. I still remember hearing Mike Brown call him the smartest player he had ever coached on Jim Rome's radio show.
So I love the guy. But the numbers are pretty clear on this. Damon Jones played three seasons for the Cavaliers, participating in 209 games. He started 10 of them. In his time with the Wine & Gold, he shot under 40% from the field, and 39.2% from three point range. He was a valuable floor spacer on a team that needed every bit of it. He averaged 6.6 points and 1.9 assists per game in Cleveland. His 54.7% true shooting percentage is fine, and he used 13.8% of the Cavs' possessions when he was on the floor. That's good insofar as he knew his role. But in terms of his impact on the floor? I just don't know.
West, on the other hand, spent a bit less time as a Cavalier. Gabriele could have factored this. In 150 games in Cleveland, Delonte started 90 times, including every game before his arrest. In 2008-09 he shot 46/40/83 for a true shooting percentage of 55.9 and started every game he was healthy for. He was the team's best perimeter defender, could create a bit of his own offense. He had higher usage and better shooting efficiency than the sharp shooting Jones. Even his last year in Cleveland, coming off his motorcycle run-in with police, where he lost his starting role and played inconsistently, looks considerably better than what Jones provided the team.
There is another factor to this of course. West has a history of battling mental illness. His time with the Cavaliers came to and end when LeBron James' did, the first time around. There were all kinds of crazy rumors that came out around that time. And I am not going to sit here and tell you that this article proves that they are true. It doesn't. It really doesn't. But one of the really nice things about LeBron James coming back is that all the bittersweet feelings that came to my mind when I thought of those awesome 60 win teams went back to just being sweet again.
Now, maybe Gabriele just really thought Damon Jones was better. Or maybe that his off-court issues trumped his on-court production. I'd disagree, which is no big deal. But not recognizing West's contributions to some of the best Cavaliers teams of all time makes me feel like there are still parts of the decade that we aren't allowed to remember. That we are supposed to try and block out. But I have no interest in blocking this out:
And I am going to continue to get chills when I see this:
Delonte West was a huge part of it. There's no need to forget that.
Stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com.