June 29, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Cavaliers earn some top grades

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 he’s been unable to consistently knock down open shots. When you’re a specialist and you struggle at your specialty, you don’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 he’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: He’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 doesn’t run away with league MVP honors. While we’re at it, he should also receive some type of All-Defensive team recognition. Grade: A+.

Tarence Kinsey: The youngster didn’t do much but cheer for the first 40 games, but he’s shown some promise recently. At the very least, he’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 he’s really picked things up since moving into the starting lineup. Of course, history tells us it won’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 he’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 it’s hard to remember he’s even played. Grade: B+.

Ben Wallace: Big Ben has been active on defense and the boards while supplying physical toughness, and that’s all the Cavaliers ask of him. Grade: B.

Delonte West: The left-hander was having a tremendous season as the team’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 — or even 25 — any night he wants to, but he’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 there’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 Brown’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 rickn@ohio.net or 330-721-4061.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.