By RICK NOLAND
Assistant Sports Editor
The Cavaliers were an NBA-best 35-8 going into a game in Orlando on Thursday, so Professor Noland was all smiles as he handed out midseason report cards:
Daniel Gibson: Boobie has been one of the few downers in this amazing season, as heâ€™s been unable to consistently knock down open shots. When youâ€™re a specialist and you struggle at your specialty, you donâ€™t bring much to the team. Grade: D+.
J.J. Hickson: The rookie struggled early, especially from the neck up, but his game has grown considerably with Ilgauskas sidelined by a bad ankle. Hickson will never be a star, but heâ€™ll be a solid NBA contributor for a dozen years. Grade: B-.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas: The big fellow was quietly having an All-Star season until hurting his ankle. Finally, more fans are starting to appreciate just how solid he is. Grade: A-.
Darnell Jackson: Heâ€™s got an NBA body and an NBA mind, but the rookie seems to have hit a plateau of sorts. Grade: C.
LeBron James: If James stays healthy the rest of the way, there should be an investigation if he doesnâ€™t run away with league MVP honors. While weâ€™re at it, he should also receive some type of All-Defensive team recognition. Grade: A+.
Tarence Kinsey: The youngster didnâ€™t do much but cheer for the first 40 games, but heâ€™s shown some promise recently. At the very least, heâ€™s a great bench guy because he knows his role on the team. Grade: C.
Sasha Pavlovic: Alexander was having another emotionless, flat-line season until recently, but heâ€™s really picked things up since moving into the starting lineup. Of course, history tells us it wonâ€™t be long until he reverts back to doing nothing for long stretches. Grade: C+.
Eric Snow: He talks a heckuva game these days. Grade: Incomplete.
Wally Szczerbiak: Wally struggles when he has to defend quick guards, but heâ€™s held his own against some much bigger players inside, then made them pay by making 3-point shots. Grade: B-.
Anderson Varejao: The Wild Thing has really grown offensively and is having a very good year, but there are still occasional games when itâ€™s hard to remember heâ€™s even played. Grade: B+.
Ben Wallace: Big Ben has been active on defense and the boards while supplying physical toughness, and thatâ€™s all the Cavaliers ask of him. Grade: B.
Delonte West: The left-hander was having a tremendous season as the teamâ€™s starting shooting guard until breaking his wrist. The Cavaliers will need his toughness and grit in the postseason. Grade: A-.
Jawad Williams: The Lakewood St. Edward High product is happy to be in the league, which makes him the ideal practice player. Grade: C.
Mo Williams: The guy has been better than anyone could have imagined. He can score 20 â€” or even 25 â€” any night he wants to, but heâ€™s chosen to fit in perfectly with the Cavaliers and pick his spots. Grade: A+.
Lorenzen Wright: The veteran is a great locker room presence, but thereâ€™s not much left in the tank. Grade: D+.
Mike Brown: From starting West to offensive sets to substitution patterns to continuing to emphasize defense, this has been far and away Brownâ€™s best season on the bench. Grade: A.
Danny Ferry: Adding Williams was tremendous, but the general manager faces one more tough decision: Does he leave the chemistry-laden Cavaliers as they are, or does he move Szczerbiak for another veteran big man? Grade: A.
Noland may be reached at email@example.com or 330-721-4061.