In which four Fear the Sword staffers debate who is the second best Cav ever behind LeBron James...
Kyrie Irving can secure his legacy as the second best Cavalier of all time
Alex Ralston (@Aralsto)
The past year has been huge for Kyrie Irving. He became a father, an NBA Champion and an Olympian all in the last 12 months. He also became the second best Cavalier in team history.
At first glance that might seem like a reactionary take to what has undeniably been a great few months on the court for Irving, but looking beyond pure counting stats illuminates just what a strong claim Kyrie has for the second best spot.
Many long time Cavaliers fans will undoubtedly say that Mark Price is the second best Cavalier in history and they'll be able to make a strong argument. Price was a great player and a true innovator in the game of basketball, but for all of his amazing accomplishments, and there are many, his highest highs do not approach Kyrie’s. As a current player, Kyrie’s counting statistics do not compare to some of the great Cavs of the past but that doesn’t mean he is less of a basketball talent. In just five years in the league Kyrie has already made the fourth most All-Star appearances in franchise history behind LeBron James, Mark Price and Brad Daugherty. Irving also has the claim of making the most important shot in franchise history along with being just one of two Cavaliers ever to have a Nike signature shoe.
The area that really separates Kyrie from other Cavaliers is his Team USA resume. Playing for Team USA is an acknowledgement that a player is among the best players on the planet. Many NBA all stars and champions never have the chance to represent the United States in international competition because the talent pool is just that deep. Despite how tough it is to just make the team, Kyrie has flourished in his opportunities to wear the red white and blue. Not only was Kyrie the MVP of the 2014 FIBA World Cup but he was also the USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year that year - joining LeBron James as the only two Cavs ever to be awarded the honor. This summer, Kyrie also has a chance to join James as the only players in franchise history to win Olympic gold while playing for the Cavaliers.
Cleveland will never forget Price, Daugherty, Nance, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and others. But the rest of the basketball community won't ever forget Kyrie Irving.
Kyrie Irving is already the second best player in franchise history
Justin Rowan (@Cavsanada)
When people talk about “The Shot” in Cleveland, they now think of Kyrie Irving instead of Michael Jordan. Just stop and think about that for a moment and think about what an incredible mark Irving has already left on the city of Cleveland shortly after his 24th birthday.
Irving is a special talent and if one were to debate where he currently sits in franchise history, bringing up the lack of counting stats in comparison to players like Price, Daugherty etc. would be fair, but I think it’s a fair to question whether anybody other than LeBron James has surpassed the high warkmarks Irving has set.
Rookie of the Year, Three Point Champion, All Star MVP, FIBA World Cup MVP, Gold Medal at the FIBA World Cup, franchise record 57 points in one of the greatest regular season performances ever, 41 points in his first playoff game ever facing elimination, NBA Champion. Kyrie’s resume is already packed.
This summer, despite being the youngest player on Team USA, Irving is already being talked about as a leader on the team. The respect Irving has had to claw out of the basketball community is finally here and he has proven himself as a winner on virtually every stage basketball has to offer. While Price and Daugherty stood out as All-Stars and among the best of their profession, Irving has shown flashes of true super-stardom and separated himself from his peers on the biggest of stages. It was Irving that was the standout star on a World Cup team, it was Irving who outperformed Reggie Jackson, Jeff Teague, Kyle Lowry and Steph Curry on route to bringing the Cavaliers their first ever title.
Barring something unforeseen, Irving is poised to leave this conversation and start to make a case for himself to be among the top 50 players to ever play in the NBA. But the fact that he has that ability and is poised to achieve that kind of recognition, along with all he’s already done has him as the obvious choice for the second best player in franchise history.
Let’s Not Forget How Good Brad Daugherty Was
Trevor Magnotti (@IllegalScreens)
We are right to be lauding Kyrie Irving and considering him for this place - one day. But truthfully, he’s only been a Cavalier for five years, and really has only been in this discussion for two. While he is probably a lock to be second or third by the end of his max deal, for right now, Daugherty still gets my vote.
Daugherty gets overlooked because of his back issues that caused him to miss significant portions of two seasons and hindered him through portions of several others. But when he was healthy? Daugherty was one of the most underrated centers in league history. A five-time All-Star and All-NBA third teamer in 1993, Daugherty was one of the best finishers in the league in the early 90s, leading the league in True Shooting in ‘93 at 63.5 percent. He peaked on the 57-win Eastern Conference Finals Team in 1992, averaging 21/10/4, and was a steady hand in the playoffs, averaging 19 and 10 over 41 playoff games for his career.
Mark Price may have been the engine of the Cavs’ offense, and Larry Nance may have been the big playmaker, but Daugherty was the anchor for those solid early 90s teams, carrying the team on both ends to a degree Price or Nance didn’t match. Offensively, he was consistently giving you between 15-25 points a night, scoring on cuts, rolls, and in the post at a solid clip. He also was one of the better passing bigs out of the post that we saw in that era, assisting on 15.5 percent of team baskets while he was on the floor and twice averaging over four assists per game. Defensively, he was one of the better rebounders of the era, posting a very good 22.3 defensive rebound rate, and he was excellent defending in the post, which he did against a steady diet of quality post scorers like Olajuwon and Ewing every night.
Price was awesome, and Nance was electrifying, but Daugherty pulled off a combination of consistent play plus a back that would leave most of us in bed for days. Other guys were around for longer, but if we’re considering Kyrie at this point, I think we have to consider the players we’re discussing at their peak. And if we do that, Daugherty is the second best player in Cavs history.
The Answer is Mark Price, and Frankly, I’m Embarrassed That It’s Taken Four Responses for Someone to Make That Argument
William Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle)
Austin Carr was a key member of the Cavs during their formative years, but foot and knee injuries robbed him of prolonging the stellar production of his first three seasons (21-4-4 during, 13-3-3 after). Brad Daugherty’s star burned brightly, earning 5 All-Star appearances and one All-NBA nod, but it burned out quickly, as back problems ended his career at the tender age of 28. Kyrie’s stellar play in the Finals, capped by his clutch, series-winning shot, along with his three All-Star appearances, All-Star Game MVP, and past (and future) exploits with Team USA are all impressive, and put him on track to being the second-best player in Cavs history someday.
But at this moment, the clear answer for second-best Cavalier in team history is Mark Price.
The Cavs managed to put together some terrific teams during the late 1980s and early 1990s; Larry Nance and Brad Daugherty were All-Stars, and Hot Rod Williams and Ron Harper were very good players in their own right. Mark Price was the one who made it all work; a remarkably efficient scorer (including a positively absurd 53/44/90 season in 1989), Price also dished out nearly 8 assists per game between 1987 and 1995. He’s the second-best free throw shooter in league history (career rate: 90.4 percent). Former teammates Steve Kerr famously credits him for “inventing” the split of a double team on pick and rolls; between that and his stellar three-point shooting, Price was a player ahead of his time.
That’s not to say he wasn’t appreciated during his career. Price made four All-Star teams, won two three-point contests, made four All-NBA teams, and finished in the top-10 of the MVP voting four times. (Note: Price finished ahead of Brad Daugherty in each of those four races, and Kyrie’s never been named on an MVP ballot.) He also won gold at the 1994 FIBA Championships as a member of the second Dream Team, averaging 10 points and 4 assists as the team’s starting point guard.
Injuries and bad luck stopped Price and the Cavs short of reaching the Finals; the closest they came was in 1992, when the 57-win Cleveland team ran into the Chicago Bulls in the Conference Finals, ultimately losing in 6 games. While Irving has claim to a title, Price’s overall body of work is, at this point, more impressive than Kyrie’s. I look forward to Kyrie surpassing him someday, but for now, Mark Price is the second-best player in Cleveland Cavaliers history.