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10 Greatest Cleveland Cavaliers Players Of All Time

10 Greatest Cleveland Cavaliers Players Of All Time

In 53 seasons, the Cavaliers have made the playoffs 22 times. That is not the poster story for a successful franchise, but Cleveland has owned a reputation of being a gritty team. After bursting into the scene in the 70s, the Cavaliers made the Conference Finals in 1976, which was their first playoff appearance in six seasons. By the late 80s and early 90s, the Cavaliers were playoff contenders, even making a Conference Finals in 1992. It wasn’t until a young, talented prospect out of Akron, Ohio made his way to the team that the team tasted the NBA Finals for the first time.

The Cavaliers will always have a place in history for their magnificent run to the NBA Finals each year from 2015 to 2018. Despite their 1-3 record during that time, the Cavaliers ruled the Eastern Conference. That included winning it all in 2016 when the franchise finally won their first championship in team history. There were some special players during those four seasons, but there were some other great players that were special to the franchise despite never making the NBA Finals.

These are the all-time greats with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Honorable Mentions

Anderson Varejao

Anderson Varejao

Years in Cleveland: 13 (2004-2016, 2020-21)

Cleveland: 7.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Career: 7.2 PPG, 7.2 PPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG

Honors: All-Defensive Second Team (2010)

It was a long career with the Cavaliers for Varejao. He ranks in the top-10 for games played at eighth overall. His hustle and rebounding are what made him a fan favorite. Varejao ranks fourth in offensive rebounding, seventh in defensive rebounding, and sixth in total rebounds. His defense also stands out as he ranks eighth in both steals and blocks.

His 23.9 defensive win shares rank fifth all-time, while his 45.7 total win shares rank seventh. While Varejao was never an All-Star, he made one All-Defensive Team. The one part of his career that broke everyone’s heart was that he was traded to the Warriors during the 2015-16 season, when the Cavaliers later won the NBA title.

Tristan Thompson

Tristan Thompson

Years in Cleveland: 9 (2011-2020)

Cleveland: 9.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Career: 9.0 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Honors: NBA Champion (2016)

Thompson was an instrumental part of the team’s championship run. His presence in the middle helped bolster the team’s defense, and he was very durable. Thompson ranks seventh in games played and eighth in minutes played. His rebounding was his greatest trait. Thompson was a strong offensive rebounder. He is one of two Cavaliers players of all time that own more than 2,000 career offensive boards.

While ranking second in offensive rebounds, his fifth place rank in defensive rebounding helps him rank third overall in team history in total rebounds. Thompson also ranks sixth in career blocks while ranking in the top 10 in offensive and total win shares. Thompson was as good as it gets when it comes to the best role players.

World B. Free

World B. Free

Years in Cleveland: 4 (1983-1986)

Cleveland: 23.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Career: 20.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Honors: None

Despite never making an All-Star appearance with Cleveland, Free enjoyed a successful career with the team. During the 1984-85 season, Free averaged a career-high in the playoffs at 26.3 points per game in a first-round playoff loss to the Celtics. It was that type of scoring that saw him end with 23.0 points per game average. That average is second-best in Cavaliers history.

Free is one of four players in team history to average over 20 or more points per game in his career. Two of those players won a championship with the team. Free was constantly depended on to be the offensive force for the Cavaliers during his playing days. He was used 30.1% of the time on offense, trailing only LeBron James, who was used 31.7% of the time.

10. Terrell Brandon

Terrell Brandon

Years in Cleveland: 6 (1991-1997)

Cleveland: 12.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Career: 13.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Honors: 2x All-Star (1996, 1997), All-Rookie Second Team (1992)

Brandon was selected 11th overall in the 1991 NBA Draft by the Cavaliers. He spent the first three and a half years of his career as the backup to Mark Price. By the time the Cavaliers traded Price to the Washington Wizards, Brandon was ready to take over as the starter. He responded with two straight All-Star appearances.

In 1997, Brandon was labeled as the “Best Point Guard in the NBA” during one of their issues. Brandon led the team in points, assists, and steals. Today, Brandon ranks fourth all-time in assists with 2,235 assists and fifth in steals with 621. For a solid stretch of the 90s, the Cavaliers had some of the best point guard play of the decade.

9. Hot Rod Williams

Hot Rod Williams

Years in Cleveland: 9 (1986-1995)

Cleveland: 12.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.8 BPG

Career: 11.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.6 BPG

Honors: All-Rookie First Team (1987)

In nine seasons, Williams managed to find his way into the top 10 in numerous records. Williams currently ranks fifth in games played, where he is one of the most durable Cavaliers ever. He is one of four players ever to record at least 20,000 minutes with the franchise. Williams ranks third all-time with 20,802 minutes played. Along with his durability, his defense was prevalent during his time. His 1,200 career blocks rank second in franchise history.

Other stats that Williams ranks in the top-10 include field goals, two-point field goals, and free throws. His 1,620 offensive rebounds are third, while his total rebound total of 4,669 boards is fifth. In the end, it comes back to defense where his defensive win share of 30.7 is ranked third overall and is just 0.3 away from being second best. There were no honors given to Williams besides his rookie season, but his name is all over the record books.

8. Austin Carr

Austin Carr

Years in Cleveland: 9 (1971-1980)

Cleveland: 16.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.1 BPG

Career: 15.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.1 BPG

Honors: All-Star (1974)

A former No. 1 overall pick, Carr played the sixth-most games and played the sixth-most minutes. Despite ranking sixth, Carr made the most field goals in franchise history before LeBron James came along. Carr remains second in all-time field goals and two-point field goals. Among his other accolades, he ranks sixth in made free throws and ninth in career assists.

Carr is one of four players in team history who own 10,000 career points. His 10,265 career points rank fourth all-time. While one All-Star appearance is lackluster for a former No. 1 overall pick, Carr was a successful player with Cleveland. That included helping the team make the Conference Finals in 1976.

7. Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Years in Cleveland: 14 (1996-2010)

Cleveland: 13.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.6 BPG

Career: 13.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.6 BPG

Honors: 2x All-Star (2003, 2005)

Ilgauskas was a true fan favorite. He was potentially the most likable Cavalier player during the 2000s outside of James when he was in pure MVP form. Ilgauskas ranks second in multiple categories. That includes games, minutes, and points. As for big men, Ilgauskas is the greatest player in team history. He owns the record for offensive rebounds and blocks. He ranks second in total rebounds and third in defensive rebounds.

When the Cavaliers made the NBA Finals in 2007, Ilgauskas was a contributor. He was coming off of a 2005 All-Star appearance. He was the team’s second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer. His 1.3 blocks per game led the team. The Cavaliers ultimately were swept by the Spurs in four games. Even though Big Z never won a ring, he was beloved by many in town.

6. Kevin Love

Kevin Love

Years in Cleveland: 8 (2014-Present)

Cleveland: 16.3 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Career: 17.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Honors: NBA Champion (2016), 2x All-Star (2017, 2018)

Before Kevin Love was traded to the Cavaliers, he was rebounding champion and an All-Star with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was not an outside threat. He was someone who dominated the boards inside. As time passed, Love developed his game and developed an outside shot. He is one of two players in team history with at least 1,000 made three-point field goals. If Love can find a way to finish his career with the Cavaliers, he could make a run at the record.

Rebounding was something Love still did while with Cleveland. He ranks seventh in total rebounds and fourth in defensive rebounds. Love holds the team record for defensive rebound percentage at 29.4%. Love ranks ninth in career points, offensive win shares, and win shares. While these records are nice, Love will always be remembered as the third piece of the big three with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving that helped the team land the 2016 title.

5. Larry Nance

Larry Nance

Years in Cleveland: 7 (1987-1994)

Cleveland: 16.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.5 BPG

Career: 17.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.2 BPG

Honors: 2x All-Star (1989, 1993), All-Defensive First Team (1989), All-Defensive Second Team (1992, 1993)

Three players in team history own at least 1,000 blocks with the franchise. Nance ranks third all-time with 1,087 career blocks with the Cavaliers. Between 1989 and 1993, Nance averaged at least 2.0 blocks per game each season. Nance once averaged 3.0 blocks during the 1991-92 season, which helped him make the All-Defensive Second Team. The following year, he averaged 2.6 blocks.

The season that Nance received First Team saw him average 16.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. Altogether, Nance was an instrumental part of the 1991-92 team that made the Eastern Conference Finals. Nance ultimately retired with the Cavaliers in 1994 after averaging 1.7 blocks per game in 33 appearances. It was the only time he averaged less than two a game with the Cavs.

4. Brad Daugherty

Brad Daugherty

Years in Cleveland: 8 (1986-1994)

Cleveland: 19.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Career: 19.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.7 BPG

Honors: 5x All-Star (1988, 1989, 1991-1993), All-NBA Third Team (1992)

Daugherty is a former No. 1 overall pick from the 1986 NBA Draft. Daugherty played his entire eight-year career with the Cavaliers before injuries cut his career short. During that time, Daugherty accumulated a ton of minutes, which now ranks fourth best. His career featured a ton of ups, as he was a true all-around player.

When Daugherty retired, he was the record holder for free throws made and defensive rebounds, where he now ranks second. That included being the all-time leading scorer with 10,389 points. Now, he ranks third. Among other accolades, he ranks fourth in rebounds, seventh in assists, and ninth in blocks. Daugherty was another key member of the 1992 Conference Finals team. It’s a shame that he had to leave the league sooner than expected.

3. Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving

Years in Cleveland: 6 (2011-2017)

Cleveland: 21.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Career: 23.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.4 BPG

Honors: NBA Champion (2016), 4x All-Star (2013-2015, 2017), All-Star Game MVP (2014), All-NBA Third Team (2015), Rookie of the Year (2012), Three-Point Contest Champion (2013)

Irving ranks in the top-10 for nine statistical categories with the Cavaliers. However, those records are not going to be what Irving is remembered for. For starters, fans will resent that he wanted out of Cleveland after the 2017 NBA Finals loss. Then again, there are plenty of loyal fans that will always remember his clutch three-point shot in the final minutes of Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2016. Irving’s shot is what helped the Cavaliers claim and clinch the lead to win the title.

Irving also came into a tough situation in 2011. After LeBron James left the Cavaliers in 2010, the Cavaliers fell to the bottom. That led to Irving being taken with the No. 1 overall pick. Irving quickly turned into an All-Star at a young age. Then, he became the second-best player on a championship team. Who knows what records Irving would have or be nearing if he stayed one extra season, but Irving’s career in Cleveland should always be remembered as a positive.

2. Mark Price

Mark Price

Years in Cleveland: 9 (1986-1995)

Cleveland Cavaliers: 16.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.1 BPG

Career: 15.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG

Honors: 4x All-Star (1989, 1992-1994), All-NBA First Team (1993), 3x All-NBA Third Team (1989, 1992, 1994), 2x Three-Point Contest Champion (1993, 1994), 40-40-90 Club (1989)

Perhaps the greatest point guard in team history was Mark Price. When Price retired, he was the all-time leader in assists. He was also the leader in made three-point field goals and steals. Price does hold one record with the team as his career 90.6% shooting at the free throw line is the best. Price is the second-best player in team history according to advanced stats, as his offensive and total win shares are second to LeBron James.

Along with James, Price is only one of two players in team history to record All-NBA First Team honors. Price made four All-NBA teams with the Cavaliers, including making the 50-40-90 Club during one of those seasons. When it comes to guards, Price was the best in playmaking, stealing, and shooting from three-point range. There was only one player better than Price at most of those skills.

1. LeBron James

Years in Cleveland: 11 (2003-2010, 2014-2018)

Cleveland Cavaliers: 27.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG

Career: 27.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG

Honors: NBA Champion (2016), Finals MVP (2016), 2x MVP Award (2009, 2010), 10x All-Star (2005-2010, 2015-2018), 2x All-Star Game MVP (2006, 2008), 8x All-NBA First Team (2006, 2008-2010, 2015-2018), 2x All-NBA Second Team (2005, 2007), 2x All-Defensive First Team (2009, 2010), Rookie of the Year (2004), Scoring Champion (2008)

You name the record and James likely has it. The list for James goes long. He owns the team record for games played, minutes played, field goals, two-point field goals, three-point field goals, free throws, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, assists, steals, turnovers, points, triple-doubles, minutes per game, points per game, player efficiency rating, usage rate, offensive win shares, defensive win shares, win shares, box plus/minus, offensive box plus/minus, and value over replacement player. From a stat aspect, James is the greatest Cavaliers player ever. That doesn’t even include the two MVP Awards, his 2016 Finals MVP, and the eight All-NBA First Team appearances.

James will also be hailed as a hero for coming back to Cleveland in 2014. He left the team in 2010 and was villainized for winning titles in 2012 and 2013 with the Heat. He came back and led the Cavaliers to four straight NBA Finals appearances. All five appearances in the Finals feature James on the team. Despite the team’s 1-4 record in the Finals, Cleveland would never have been in that spotlight without him. James could go down as the greatest player of all time. Because of that, Cleveland will always be remembered. 


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