The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the less compelling Las Vegas Summer League teams of the 24 present this year. They don't have any top draft picks, nor do they have a cornucopia of interesting young players to develop. The most intriguing pieces of the team are their backcourt of Kay Felder and Jordan McRae, both of whom might have a shot to make the team, but outside of those two, this is essentially an audition for the Canton Charge or European deals. The Cavs' record basically reflects that, with one win over the Minnesota Timberwolves last night to go with two losses to the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets.
Despite this, the Cavs still have had a couple of players perform well in addition to Felder and McRae. Let's go down the list and take a look at how each player for the Cavs has performed so far, relative to expectations (listed in order of minutes played).
Kay Felder - A
Felder's passed the Summer League test so far. He's by far looked like the best player on the court for the Cavs, and has flashed both the athleticism that got him drafted and potential to be good in areas that were presumed weaknesses. Felder has alternated between the scoring and playmaking roles, taking on a lion's share of the scoring in the Bucks (14 points) and T'Wolves (15 points on 7-13 shooting) games, while operating as more of a facilitator in the Nets game (six points, four assists).
Felder has particularly impressed me on the defensive end, where he's looked like the most competent defender on the floor in each of the three games. This was a big concern for Felder, due to his lack of elite quicks and height, but he's impressed, navigating the pick-and-roll well, staying locked in off the ball to generate nine steals in three games, and even blocking two shots, including a chase-down block in the Nets game. Outside of three-point shooting (1-10) Felder has checked all the boxes he's needed to so far, and he looks like he can be an NBA rotation player, eventually.
Jordan McRae - B+
McRae looks like he's been here before, which makes sense as this is his third tour of LVSL. McRae has been the bell cow for the Cavs offense, scoring 20.3 points per game despite shooting just 31 percent from the field. He's made up for his poor shooting by getting to the line 42 times in three games, and hitting 76.2 percent once he gets there. He's taken a ton of threes and midrange shots, but he's made up for it by drawing contact all over the floor, which has been an excellent adaptation as his shot continues to struggle. Defensively he's been hit or miss on the ball, but he has six steals and five blocks, as he's preyed on inexperienced guards by picking off bad passes and rotating as weakside help. McRae's played about as I've expected him to, and he looks like a guy who should be here, but is still quite good.
DeAndre Liggins - B-
Liggins is a veteran of Summer League, and the former Kentucky Wildcat was one of the best defensive players in the D-League last year. He's had flashes of that, but hasn't been the most consistent defender so far, which is fairly disappointing. It's been the same story on offense, where he's had flashes of offensive skill (5 assists against Minnesota), but hasn't been very involved. He's been a disappointment, mainly because I had him as probably the third-best player on the roster heading into this, and he's just looked like a guy so far.
Kenny Gabriel - B-
Gabriel rebounded yesterday after a fairly poor first two games, scoring 11 points on 4-7 shooting and hitting three triples. He hasn't shot the best (37 percent from the field, 27.3 percent from three), but he puts himself in good spots on offense, and has been a capable defender. The Cavs have been using him as a nominal four, which he's been good at despite being 6'8", 210 lbs, and he's looked solid running pick-and-rolls with Felder and spotting up around the perimeter. If his shots go in, he'll be higher, but his form isn't great, so I don't know if he can make that happen.
Sir'Dominic Pointer - C-
He's been here. Pointer's playing a lot on the perimeter, which has been a surprise, and he hasn't really done much. He can't dribble, and his defense has been subpar. You can see flashes of the versatility he showed in college, but he's still more theory than substance at this point.
Raphiael Putney - B
Putney's looked good on offense, hitting 52.9 percent of his threes and generally being an excellent high screener and passer on the perimeter. He's shown a skill set that's attractive to any team - three-point shooting, good screens, and shot-blocking are not three skills that commonly go together. He's getting pushed around on the glass, though, and doesn't look as comfortable defending on the perimeter as you'd like. Putney has probably the most potential outside of Felder and McRae, but needs to add strength to get NBA consideration.
Diamon Simpson - D-
I have no idea why this guy is here, much less started two games. He's like Summer League Kendrick Perkins - no discernable skills, turnover machine, still somehow getting playing time.
Cory Jefferson - C
He's been good in his minutes, averaging 6.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game. But for a guy who's been in and out of the NBA and has NBA skills, shouldn't he be playing more?
Eric Jacobsen - A-
Jacobsen has surprised me. He doesn't look like an NBA player, and was only a rotation player on a bad Arizona State team last year. But he's rebounded well, has good shooting form, and tries hard. He should probably get a shot in Canton this year.
Michael Stockton, Trey Lewis, Aaron Brown, Eli Carter - INC
Hard to be a guard for this team when Felder and McRae are the only guys worth playing time.
The Cavs will likely play again on Wednesday during the play-in games of the Summer League tournament. Their opponents will be announced tonight at the conclusion of the last pool play games.