The Big 5-0! 50 Years of Cavaliers Basketball!

So, what decade did you start following the Cavs?


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rabman_gold

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The Cavs are officially 50 years old. They’ve been through the highest accolades (the elusive NBA championship) and the lowest of the abysmal (26 straight losses in one season, oh my!).

They’ve drafted the first overall pick more than a few times and even had a roster with the last pick at least once. There were also some undrafted guys who spent years with us.

I’ll be sharing some factoids and memories with all of you RealCavsFans (tm), maybe you can share some as well!

---------------------------

The Abbreviated Cavaliers History

1970 - The Beginning

  • Founded by Nick Mileti
  • The introduction to an expanded NBA: 4 divisions and 2 conferences
  • The Cavs, the Blazers, and the Braves (the original Clippers): The trio of the pitiful
  • “The name’s Fitch, not Houdini”
  • The first basket was made at the wrong end of the court, unintentionally (link here)
  • 15 straight losses, then 12 straight losses
1971 - The Drafting of the Dynamic NCAA Scorer: Austin Carr

  • Who ended up missing half the season, but scored 20+ points a game
1975 - The First Cavaliers Playoff Team
The Final 24 Seconds of Game 7 VS the Bullets
  • Nate Thurmond told this team during the halftime of one game (paraphrased): “You’re better than this. You can win.”
  • And so they did (49 times during the regular season)
  • The Miracle of Richfield starts here: 3 game winners and an incredible rush by the fans in Game 7
  • Jim Chones breaks his foot (the first of many bad luck moments in Cavs history), they lose to eventual champs in 6 games
1980 - Nick hands it over to Ted Stepien
  • The Teddy Bears, the man who rips open cans with his teeth, and the hiring of Bill Musselman (who had contributed to a brawl against Ohio State; who had become the team's head coach twice in 1 and a half years)
  • He also traded away draft picks like candy (including James Worthy)
  • It’s so bad that the League not only making draft trade rules to prevent such a thing, but took over the venue at the all-star game in 1982
  • But hey, Mike Mitchell scores over 2000 points during one season
  • Before he can move the team to Toronto, Gordon Gund buys the team with help from David Stern (the new commissioner)
1986 - The beginning of the best Cavs era pre-LeBron

  • After the revival of the team (thanks primarily to World B. Free), Embry and Wilkins put together a decent franchise
  • Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Larry Nance, and Ron Harper (4 star-level players)
  • 57 wins in 1989…
  • Along with the Shot (Jordan over Craig Ehlo) :disdain (1):
  • And then Harper is traded for the draft rights to Danny Ferry :disdain (1)::disdain (1):
  • The era ends with a unceremonious 4 game sweep by the Bulls in 1993
1994 - A mediocre era

(Yeah, Terrell, I felt that way too)
  • Good defense, but very boring style of basketball
  • Terrell Brandon has some great years…
  • And is then traded for (drumroll please)… Shawn Kemp
  • Who eats his way off the team 3 years later
  • After some tinkering, eventually reach the bottom of the league, which leads us to…
2003 - We won the most important lottery in a long time: LeBron James
  • And he shatters Cavs records year after year:
    • First Cav with a 20-5-5 season, ever (in his rookie season to boot)
    • First Cav to win Rookie of the Year
    • First Cav to more than 25 points per game in a season
    • First Cav to win NBA MVP
    • ETC
  • And then makes his “decision” on ESPN in 2010
2011 - The return of the abysmal
  • 26 straight losses in a season (even worse than the 1982 Cavs/22 straight losses over 2 seasons)
  • A revolving lore of Cavs players (19 players suit up)
  • But they win another important draft pick (which they luckily obtained from the Clippers for Mo Williams; they also get Baron Davis who helps beat the Heatles in a late season game)
  • They restart their rebuild by drafting Kyrie Irving and parts
2014 - They get someone to save their team: DAVID BLATT…

  • Just kidding!
  • They get LeBron James back!
  • And then trade for Kevin Love
  • And some mid-season deals (like JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov)
  • Then they make their first NBA Finals since 2007
2016 - The Best Cavs Season, Ever

  • After making some deals to shift the personality of the team (making Lue the coach and getting pieces like Richard Jefferson/Channing Frye), they not only make it back to the championship round… they win it in historic fashion!
  • They overcome a 3-1 deficit!
  • They pull off the upset!
  • The Block! The Shot! The Stop!
  • The crowd goes wild at the Q (I couldn’t go, I was stuck in Florida)!
  • They return… with a shirtless JR!
  • And a bunch of other guys. Ha!
2018 - The balloon finally deflates
  • He decided to ditch us for the Lakers (ungrateful bastard…lol, jk)
  • So we start all over again (at least we’re jumpstarted with the 8th overall pick…)
  • Stuff happens
  • And we get some more assets and picks
  • And back to the present!
---------------------------

My most vivid memories of the team:

December 21st, 1995:
  • My first Cavs game ever
  • I can’t remember much, but I remember Jeff Shreve, the PA announcer at the time (always called the timeouts with “Timeout, Cleveland… Cavaliers, Timeout”)
  • And I also recall hearing about Chris Mills trying to break some random record (free throws, I think)
  • Oh, and John Stockton won the game at the buzzer
April 1998:
  • After finally becoming a serious Cavs fan at the end of the 1997, was able to watch them beat the Pacers in the last game of the regular season; making the playoffs with 47 wins
  • And then getting the snot beat out of them in 4 quick playoff games
February 11, 1999
  • Imagine becoming a serious NBA fan from the previous season, and then having a lockout occur for half a season. How does that feel? Like hell.
  • So imagine finally getting the chance to watch basketball after 8 long months and then go to a game? It’s great. And we beat the future champs of that short season: The Spurs.
  • Little did I now that Zydrunas Ilgauskas would be starting the most excruciating part of his career with us: The Dreaded Foot Injuries
  • This game represents the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, a sign of what’s to come in the short 4 year span to follow… Little did I know…
2003: The Entire Year
  • It starts out great, an early victory of the previous year’s champs (the Lakers)
  • And then it gets worse…
  • And worse…
  • I remember listening on the Cavaliers Radio Network (WTAM 1100) to the regular season game against the Utah Jazz. Ricky Davis almost had a triple double…
  • And then with 10 seconds left did something that left me speechless.
  • Shooting a basket at the wrong rim and trying to grab a rebound.
  • … Yeah, it was that type of season.
  • But luckily, we had a 22.5 percent chance of getting the first pick, and some interesting names also at the top of the draft, like Carmelo Anthony and Darko Millicic
  • Who would’ve thought we would get the first pick that changed our fortunes… forever.
  • I originally wore my new Cavaliers wine and gold shirt to high school the day of the draft lottery. Some upperclassman schmucks taunted me at the beginning of the school day. But who’s laughing now? Huh?!
May 3, 2006 (Game 5 VS the Wizards)
  • At this point, I’ve seen quite a few of the LeBron Cavs games, but this one happens to be a personal favorite of mine:
  • We were in the upper section (200s), watching a great back-and-forth battle with the Wizards (after watching a close defeat on my birthday the 25th of April). Watching LeBron tip-toe around Jamison in the overtime period, laying the ball in, and hearing the crowd go wild. It’s probably not like the final Miracle of Richfield game, but it felt pretty damn good.
2009: The Whole Damn Year

  • Probably my favorite Regular Season variation that I watched
  • The camaraderie, the win streaks, and awards, the fun…
  • And then the Conference Finals…
  • No, really, it was a great year with 66 wins total. They showed us what we could be capable of. And since we made it to the Finals in 2007 (and barely lost to the 2008 Celtics), it was possible to win the whole damn thing. Especially the excitement level of the team.
  • It was a pity. The second game against the Magic in the C. Finals will always be a great memory of mine (the incredible LeBron buzzer beater that made me run 5 laps around in my house), but after going to all the watch parties and watching us lose, I got deflated.
  • After that (and acquiring Shaq during the off-season), I thought maybe we’d finally break through.
  • But fate really is whimsical
2015: The NBA Finals
  • After living in Florida for a few years, I finally had the chance to come back to Cleveland just to see us win it all (watch parties galore, and tickets to Game 4).
  • Again, fate had another plan.
  • But it felt closer this time. Like Fred McLeod said on the Humongotron: “If they were dealt a better hand…”
2016 - Game 7
  • This is an eternal moment for me. I couldn’t go to Cleveland this time, but I was there in spirit, watching the game with some family members at a house in Florida. A back and forth affair. Watching JR keep us in the game during the third quarter stretch. Watching Kyrie and LeBron help carry us through. And the Block. Kyrie hits the three over Curry! We’re Up Three! OMFG! 15 seconds left! LeBron goes for the dunk and… SHIT, HE TAKES A FALL! IS HE HURT?! WE’RE-SO-FUCKING-CLOSE-TO-WINNING IT…
  • And then we won!
  • YEAHHH!!
Yeah, that’s some of my best memories to share for all those years (for me, it’s 24+ years; for others, it was the full shish kabob).

Please, help me make this thread memorable! Share your memories with us! Go CAVS!
 
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WorldFreeB

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I remember being at a cavs game in the 70s and after the game me and my 3 idiot friends saw Dwayne Kuiper and Pete Franklin running up the steps after the game was over,,we chased them up the steps to ask them if we could have their autographs...only problem we had no pen,,,Pete had one and begrudgingly handed it over but bitched,,,"these kids want autographs and they never have pens"!. Loved Pete.
I remember listening to the cavs games from Cleveland Arena on a transistor radio tucked under my pillow in the earliest years.
I remember trying to watch the miracle of richfield games on a little black and white tv moving the little rabbit ears around so I could actually see the outline of the players...god those were great times.
 

The Human Q-Tip

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I remember being at a cavs game in the 70s and after the game me and my 3 idiot friends saw Dwayne Kuiper and Pete Franklin running up the steps after the game was over,,we chased them up the steps to ask them if we could have their autographs...only problem we had no pen,,,Pete had one and begrudgingly handed it over but bitched,,,"these kids want autographs and they never have pens"!. Loved Pete.
I remember listening to the cavs games from Cleveland Arena on a transistor radio tucked under my pillow in the earliest years.
I remember trying to watch the miracle of richfield games on a little black and white tv moving the little rabbit ears around so I could actually see the outline of the players...god those were great times.
There was some real magic when you couldn't watch the game, and your only connection to the Cavaliers was Joe Tait's phenomenal call of the game..
 

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My first game was at the old Coliseum. I believe it was 1981. We lost to the Sixers. I have very vague memories of the game itself. It was during the Stepien era and we stunk. I do remember they had an on-court personality who would come out to do random things during the break. I think his name was Crazy George but am not sure. Wasn't a mascot in a suit. Just some balding white dude. Memories are very hazy on all this.

However, I vividly remember this guy came out during a break and was hitting plastic basketballs up into the stands. He mishit one and it ended up being a line drive into the front row and nailed a lady dead in the face. Blood everywhere. Summed up the Stepien era perfectly.
 

Amherstcavsfan

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The first game I watched on TV was a game in the 93 playoffs. I remember sneaking with my brothers to watch the game in our room, mainly because we wanted to see them beat Michael Jordan, who was already near the peak of his powers.

I don't remember much about my first game. I do think they played the Bullets, but I could be wrong.

I definitely remember being mesmerized by Danny Ferry's shot. Not that it was particularly good, but that thing brought rain when he shot it.

Some other games I remember being at:

-Blue Seats era, I remember sitting courtside and the Cavs got screwed royally by the refs in a game against the Hawks, I think it was. Cannot remember exactly, but I do remember Andre Miller having a huge night.

-My birthday, in 2006. Cavs vs Spurs. LeBron goes for 44 and the Cavs beat the Spurs fairly easily. I've been to a few Cavs-Spurs games, but this one was amazing.

-LeBron's MVP night. Whew baby, that was something else. Was extremely fired up to get to that game, then they demolished the Hawks.

I think I was also at the game before they traded Larry Hughes. He had a really good game that day, thought he might be turning the corner. Little did I know that a few days later, he was going to be a part in one of the largest trades in NBA history (size, not quality).

Also, one other thing that needs to be mentioned. LeBron is definitely the most talented player to ever step on the court for the Cavs, but I will maintain that young Z is the 2nd most talented player to play for this franchise. He was able to do things with the ball that would make even Jokic look amateur. Not to mention, Big Z was pretty nimble on those feet before they got busted up.
 

Benway

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I remember being at a cavs game in the 70s and after the game me and my 3 idiot friends saw Dwayne Kuiper and Pete Franklin running up the steps after the game was over,,we chased them up the steps to ask them if we could have their autographs...only problem we had no pen,,,Pete had one and begrudgingly handed it over but bitched,,,"these kids want autographs and they never have pens"!. Loved Pete.
I remember listening to the cavs games from Cleveland Arena on a transistor radio tucked under my pillow in the earliest years.
I remember trying to watch the miracle of richfield games on a little black and white tv moving the little rabbit ears around so I could actually see the outline of the players...god those were great times.
I never saw them play at Al Sutphin's fabulous Cleveland Arena; my memories of the era are very dim. I was turned by the Miracle of Richfield and Pete Franklin, of course. What a cheerleader he was! The Colosseum is the only venue in which I ever saw him live. He had a post-game broadcast booth which was glassed-in. (to protect him from the hostiles... or vice-versa)
 

WorldFreeB

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I never saw them play at Al Sutphin's fabulous Cleveland Arena; my memories of the era are very dim. I was turned by the Miracle of Richfield and Pete Franklin, of course. What a cheerleader he was! The Colosseum is the only venue in which I ever saw him live. He had a post-game broadcast booth which was glassed-in. (to protect him from the hostiles... or vice-versa)
Back in the day there was no all day sports or internet of course,,,all we had was Franklin. That guy was a monster,,,he set the stage for a lot of what we see and hear on tv and radio today. Pete helped me ride through the 70's with our horrid sports teams...man that was a rough decade.
 

Dr. Claw

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Technically it was late in the 80s, but the 90s mostly for me. I was living in Indiana at the time, saw them playing the Pacers on TV one night and thought they were New York. Then I saw it was actually Cleveland and was like "even better".

I always try to remind people that they were "ECF Good" back in those times; recently I was talking to a young guy in my birth town who just so happened to be from a Cleveland Sports family and was talking about the old Browns and Cavs and how they were really good teams around the same time. I would kill for a line up like we had back then. Blasted Cheese Eyes Jordan.

Of course, watching Cavs games out of market in the 90s and early 00s was really difficult. They'd have to be playing a good team nationally, or the Hornets (I was in their market in the Price-to-Brandon years), or in the playoffs for me to actually see them play mostly. Always used them in NBA Jam.
 

The Human Q-Tip

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Of course, watching Cavs games out of market in the 90s and early 00s was really difficult. They'd have to be playing a good team nationally, or the Hornets (I was in their market in the Price-to-Brandon years), or in the playoffs for me to actually see them play mostly. Always used them in NBA Jam.
I was going to school in Virginia during part of that, and realized that if I attached speaker wire to my radio antennae, and ran it down a hall to the room at the end, I could actually listen to Cavs games.
 

IWantAKouki

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My favorite memories aside from the super obvious were games 5 and 6 vs Detroit when LeBron scored the last like 29/30 points, then Boobie went off...I was a huge Boobie stan.

And the huge Wallace/Smith/Delonte/Szczerbiak (still remember how to spell that) trade...I was at the game after when we had to roster three d-leaguers...one of them hit his first two or three treys and we thought we struck gold, I think he finished 3/11. And Eric Snow was forced to play, did piss awful, got boos then finally hit a FT line jumper and waved his hands to the fans. They introduced the new guys watching in the loge and the place went nuts, you got the feeling that finally we had some pieces we needed. I think LeBron won that game on something close to a buzzer beater.
 

Mott the Hoople

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Thanks to rabman_gold for starting this thread. Love reading about everybody's memories.

My first Cavs memory was probably their first public appearance. In 1970, after the expansion draft and the college draft, the Cavs held a rookie scrimmage at the gymnasium at Baldwin Wallace College. The draftees and rookie free agents participated. For a young kid, this was very exciting stuff.
The star of the scrimmage was a 6-7 forward named Jim Meredith. (Don't ask me how I remember the name). Coming down from the stands after the scrimmage, I noticed Hal Lebovitz. He was easy to recognize. I mustered up the courage to talk to Hal. "What did you think of Meredith, Hal?", I asked. He replied, "Well, he looked good tonight!" That felt like a big time interview.
Also as I was leaving I was by Walt Wesley, our first pick in the expansion draft. He was 6-11 and was wearing the longest pair of Levi's I had ever seen in my life.
It's amazing what a kid will remember.
 
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rabman_gold

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Not much action going on this month Cavs-wise, so I'll add some more discussion to the club's history.

We had the 30 year anniversary of the Cavs back in 2000. The team put up a voting process to rank the all-time team. I remember the Cavs ranking the top starting team all time.

Brad Daugherty, Shawn Kemp, Larry Nance, Austin Carr, and Mark Price

But this is our chance to compare the first 30 years with these past 20 years:
  • 4 additional 1st overall picks in the draft (compared to the first 2)
  • 5 additional all-stars (compared to the first 12)
  • 8 additional coaches (compared to the first 13)
  • We have 9 more playoff appearances (compared to the 13 in the first 30 years)
  • 8 more 50 win seasons (versus the 3 back then)
  • 5 NBA Finals appearances (versus the zero back then)
  • The addition of a true NBA MVP player
So what does the all time team look like now?

I consider an all-time player someone who has some combination of:
  • A long tenure with the Cavs
  • An incredible performance as a Cavalier
  • Someone who helped lead the Cavs to glorious achievements
  • Someone who we can look back at fondly
I give my top 15 players (5 starters + 10 for the team)
StartersBrad DaughertyLarry NanceLeBron JamesKyrie IrvingMark Price
ReservesZydrunas Ilgauskas (C)Kevin Love (PF)Campy Russell (SF)Austin Carr (SG)Terrell Brandon (PG)
''Tristan Thompson (C-PF)Anderson Varejao (C-F)Hot Rod Williams (C-F)World B. Free (SG)Mo Williams (PG)

Honorable Mentions:
  • Jim Chones, Bingo Smith, Jim Brewer, Foots Walker (1970s)
  • Mike Mitchell (Early 1980s)
  • Roy Hinson, Ron Harper, Craig Ehlo (80s)
  • Bobby Phills, Chris Mills, Danny Ferry (1990s)
  • Shawn Kemp, Wesley Person, Brevin Knight (Late 90s)
  • Andre Miller (Early 2000s)
  • Carlos Boozer, Drew Gooden (2000s)
  • JR Smith (2010s)
My reasoning:
The top 5 should be self-explanatory. Even though Irving is a point guard, I'm sure he could share some time at shooting guard because of his ability to shoot and his size (we're very point guard heavy on the list). In terms of Nance VS Love, they were neck to neck, but I went with the better defender.

Z managed to make 2 all-star teams despite his injury history, which is remarkable. And he was arguably the second or third best player on some of those mid-2000s playoff teams. Carr was a pure scorer who managed to score 10000 points with us despite his own injury history. He and Campy were probably the best of the 70s (the others were either not true stars nor played in their prime with us). And Brandon was one of the better Cavaliers in the 90s, despite backing up Price for the majority of the first several years.

Thompson and Varejao were neck to neck as well, but they could play either center or power forward based on matchups and their teammates on the floor, so why not both? I believe Hot Rod could play 3 different positions (center, power forward, and small forward), and did by necessity (we were weak at small forward in the 80s and 90s). World B. Free was probably one of the better scorers in the 80s (Mitchell could score, but played on awful Cavs teams). He brought back basketball fandom by himself. I put Mo over Andre or Harper because he was the second or third best Cav on several playoff teams (who had 60+ regular season wins), and he managed to make an all-star team.

The majority of the guys left off had some good qualities, but were known more for the bad things (not enough games, not good enough, or not remembered in a good light).
 

King Stannis

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Not much action going on this month Cavs-wise, so I'll add some more discussion to the club's history.

We had the 30 year anniversary of the Cavs back in 2000. The team put up a voting process to rank the all-time team. I remember the Cavs ranking the top starting team all time.

Brad Daugherty, Shawn Kemp, Larry Nance, Austin Carr, and Mark Price

But this is our chance to compare the first 30 years with these past 20 years:
  • 4 additional 1st overall picks in the draft (compared to the first 2)
  • 5 additional all-stars (compared to the first 12)
  • 8 additional coaches (compared to the first 13)
  • We have 9 more playoff appearances (compared to the 13 in the first 30 years)
  • 8 more 50 win seasons (versus the 3 back then)
  • 5 NBA Finals appearances (versus the zero back then)
  • The addition of a true NBA MVP player
So what does the all time team look like now?

I consider an all-time player someone who has some combination of:
  • A long tenure with the Cavs
  • An incredible performance as a Cavalier
  • Someone who helped lead the Cavs to glorious achievements
  • Someone who we can look back at fondly
I give my top 15 players (5 starters + 10 for the team)
StartersBrad DaughertyLarry NanceLeBron JamesKyrie IrvingMark Price
ReservesZydrunas Ilgauskas (C)Kevin Love (PF)Campy Russell (SF)Austin Carr (SG)Terrell Brandon (PG)
''Tristan Thompson (C-PF)Anderson Varejao (C-F)Hot Rod Williams (C-F)World B. Free (SG)Mo Williams (PG)

Honorable Mentions:
  • Jim Chones, Bingo Smith, Jim Brewer, Foots Walker (1970s)
  • Mike Mitchell (Early 1980s)
  • Roy Hinson, Ron Harper, Craig Ehlo (80s)
  • Bobby Phills, Chris Mills, Danny Ferry (1990s)
  • Shawn Kemp, Wesley Person, Brevin Knight (Late 90s)
  • Andre Miller (Early 2000s)
  • Carlos Boozer, Drew Gooden (2000s)
  • JR Smith (2010s)
My reasoning:
The top 5 should be self-explanatory. Even though Irving is a point guard, I'm sure he could share some time at shooting guard because of his ability to shoot and his size (we're very point guard heavy on the list). In terms of Nance VS Love, they were neck to neck, but I went with the better defender.

Z managed to make 2 all-star teams despite his injury history, which is remarkable. And he was arguably the second or third best player on some of those mid-2000s playoff teams. Carr was a pure scorer who managed to score 10000 points with us despite his own injury history. He and Campy were probably the best of the 70s (the others were either not true stars nor played in their prime with us). And Brandon was one of the better Cavaliers in the 90s, despite backing up Price for the majority of the first several years.

Thompson and Varejao were neck to neck as well, but they could play either center or power forward based on matchups and their teammates on the floor, so why not both? I believe Hot Rod could play 3 different positions (center, power forward, and small forward), and did by necessity (we were weak at small forward in the 80s and 90s). World B. Free was probably one of the better scorers in the 80s (Mitchell could score, but played on awful Cavs teams). He brought back basketball fandom by himself. I put Mo over Andre or Harper because he was the second or third best Cav on several playoff teams (who had 60+ regular season wins), and he managed to make an all-star team.

The majority of the guys left off had some good qualities, but were known more for the bad things (not enough games, not good enough, or not remembered in a good light).
I think I'd run a small lineup and stick Love in there over Nance. The more 3PT shooters the better.

I think I might run Hot Rod at C so long as James is on the Court.

Brad was a great center, and great big-man passer, but rim protector he was not.
 

rabman_gold

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I think I'd run a small lineup and stick Love in there over Nance. The more 3PT shooters the better.

I think I might run Hot Rod at C so long as James is on the Court.

Brad was a great center, and great big-man passer, but rim protector he was not.
During this generation of NBA basketball, I would agree wholeheartedly. Because Love's range probably outranks Nance Sr's dynamite defense and rim protection.

But (playing devil's advocate), we're talking 50 year's worth of Cavs basketball. Nearly 10 years without a three-pointer (70-80), an era without zone defenses (the 90s), and maybe some teams with more talent and other teams with more physicality. Exactly which era does this particular Cavs team work the best with? And do the more talented players manage to bring out each other's best qualities due to their high IQ?
 

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