The Cleveland Cavaliers had their best stretch of the season last week, winning three straight led by Kyrie Irving, who scored at least 30 points in the wins.
Unfortunately, Irving had only 14 points at home against Golden State on Tuesday and the wine and gold’s winning ways ended.
That’s the way it is for a team dominated by first and second year players. Consistency is definitely going to be an issue.
Many supporters of the Cavs were bragging about the team’s representation in the Rising Stars game at All Star weekend next month, as all four of Chris Grant’s first round picks in the last two years (Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller) are participating in the contest.
It’s no guarantee of future success, but it does speak to the amount of playing time coach Byron Scott is giving to players with little experience. Alonzo Gee leads the Cavaliers in minutes played, but the next four who have spent the next most time on the floor are the four participants in the exhibition game.
It would be much better if Cleveland was competing for the playoffs, but the last time this many young players saw this amount of time for the Cavs was the 1986-87 season when Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper, Mark Price, and Hot Rod Williams were rookies.
Price wound up seventh on that squad in time played, but the top three were the other rookies, with Harper garnering the most.
We all know that three of those players made up the nucleus of some very successful squads in the late 80’s and early 90’s. If it weren’t for the worst trade in NBA history (Harper AND two first round picks for the rights to Danny Ferry), and a guy named Michael Jordan, to borrow an Indians’ slogan, what if???
Still, when they were rookie, that team finished 31-51 for the season, before improving the 42-40 the following season, and then to 57-25 in their third season together, when Magic Johnson called them “the team of the 90’s”.
While no one is predicting that type of rapid success for this young group of Cavaliers, it would be nice if they could come close to duplicating the progress of those young Cavs.
After that first season, Cleveland’s first round pick in the draft was Kevin Johnson, who went on to a great career with Phoenix, but is more important to Cavs’ followers as the trade chip which brought the team Larry Nance.
Here’s hoping this group of young players resembles that group more than another group of young Cavs in 1997-98, when four rookies (Cedric Henderson, Brevin Knight, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Derek Anderson) ranked in the top six for minutes played that season.
That group buoyed by veterans Wesley Person and Shawn Kemp finished the season 47-35 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to Indiana. A back up guard on that team was Scott Brooks, now the coach for Oklahoma City.
They followed up by going 22-28 in a shortened season with Ilgauskas, who turned out to the best player out of the group, missing most of the season with a broken foot.
By the third year they were supposed to be together, Anderson was dealt to the Clippers for Lamond Murray, Big Z was still out for the season, and Knight’s time was cut considerably by rookie Andre Miller.
The Cavs finished 32-50 and were stuck in mediocrity until the drafting of LeBron James.
The current young guys wearing wine and gold look more like the first group because of the presence of Irving, who appears to be heading toward elite status.
Let’s hope that is the case so the future is bright, not bleak.