Fantasy Basketball Team Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers (9/4/10)

Cleveland is a very difficult fantasy writeup this season.  LeBron James is no longer running the show, so now a few second tier fantasy guys are going to have to step up.  The Cavs have a new head coach in Byron Scott and I believe their offensive philosophy is going to evolve into a more uptempo game, which should produce a few fantasy plays.  Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison are the obvious fantasy values, but J.J. Hickson and Ramon Sessions could be worthy of some fantasy love too.  Many questions will be answered in camp, so keep an eye on Cleveland and how they rebuild after losing the focal point of their past success.

Projected Depth Chart:
PG – Mo Williams, Ramon Sessions
SG – Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson
SF – Jamario Moon, Danny Green, Joey Graham
PF – Antawn Jamison, J.J. Hickson, Leon Powe
C – Anderson Varejao, Ryan Hollins
Head Coach – Byron Scott

I’m not a fan of the projected depth chart above.  If I were coaching the team and wanted to creat an uptempo offense, I’d think about a starting lineup of Mo Williams at PG, Ramon Sessions at SG, Antawn Jamison at SF, J.J. Hickson at PF and Anderson Varejao at Center.  The problem is that you would have very little bench depth.  The fantasy value of Hickson and Sessions would get a huge upgrade if either of them can work their way into the starting lineup.   Daniel Gibson could also be worth a late round flier if he’s the first guard off the bench.


2009 Team Stats
After losing LeBron, the look of this team is going to change greatly, so I’d take these stats with a grain of salt and remember how they were achieved.
Pace:     #25, 91.4 (avg. 92.7)
Offensive Rating:     #6, 111.2 (avg. 107.6)
Defensive Rating:   #6, 104.1 (avg. 107.6)
Team eFG%:   #3, 53.2 (avg. 50.1)
Offensive Rebounding:  #22, 25.1 (avg. 26.3)
Defensive Rebounding:  #2, 77.2 (avg. 73.7)
Opponent eFG%:  #3, 48.2 (avg. 50.1)
Points Per Game:  #10, 102.1 (avg. 100.4)


Playing Time and Usage Rate
Usage rate measures a players involvement in the teams offense.
Player (2009 Minutes Per Game)               Usage Rate (2009/Career)
Williams (34.2)                                                        22.0/22.6
Parker (28.3)                                                           12.0/15.5
Gibson (19.1)                                                           14.2/15.1
Sessions (21.1)                                                        19.9/20.8
Jamison (36.5)                                                         23.9/24.5
Hickson (20.9)                                                         18.9/18.6 
Varejao (28.5)                                                         13.1/13.8
LeBron (39.0)                                                          33.5/31.9

The biggest thing to notice here is the huge usage stat of 33.5 for LeBron James.  The real trick when trying to figure out the Cavs is how that 33.5 is going to be distributed among this year’s starters.  Williams should see a bump up to about 23.5 and his career usage rate of 22.6 shows that he could probably handle the increase.  Jamison could see 25.0, which is just a little higher than his career usage rate.   Sessions could be a fantasy winner if he can get the SG spot over Gibson and Parker.  Both Gibson and Parker have career usage rates well below average.  J.J. Hickson is a developing player and one who could have a big upside and possibly increase his minutes to around 30 a night while increasing his usage rate to 21.0.  For the best fantasy value, Williams and Jamison should be the two primary options on offense for the Cavs, with Hickson and Sessions being secondary options.


Shooting Ability and Shot Location
Player            Career eFG%        Career Per Game 3PT%       Jumper/Inside
Williams        50.4                        1.3/3.3   (39.6%)                      88/12
Sessions        45.2                          .1/.3  (17.9%)                         58/42
Parker            53.4                         1.2/3.0  (41.5%)                     91/9
Gibson           54.0                          1.4/3.3  (42.4%                      88/12
Jamison        48.7                          1.0/3.0  (34.7%)                     60/40
Hickson        54.3                            0/0                                         34/66
Varejao         51.9                           0/0                                         27/73
Hollins           54.1                           0/0                                         49/51

The first thing to notice here is the poor shooting from Ramon Sessions, which could be one of the primary reasons he’s been riding the pine for the last couple of seasons.  Parker (53.4) and Gibson (54.0) are much better shooters at the SG spot and both have the ability to hit the three at over 41%.  Parker and Gibson are both jumpshooters with almost identical ability and shot selection.  Sessions on the other hand has a jumper/inside split of 58/42 which shows his willingness to take it to the basket, mostly because his jumpshot is horrible.   Hickson and Varejao are inside offensive options, while Jamison shows a decent split with the ability to hit the jumper while still being able to take it inside when it’s available.  I’ve added Hollins to this list because he is an excellent shooter if the Cavs need offense from the center position.

The Cavs should be an excellent three point shooting team with three guys who can hit around 40% and a power forward in Jamison who can hit the three at a very acceptable 34%.  Defenses are going to have to respect the perimeter, which could really space the floor for Mo Williams to work some magic in the assists category.

The weakness for Cleveland may be inside scoring.  Varejao and Hickson have good percentages for big men, but their usage rates are still very low.   Training camp should answer many of the usage rate questions.


Mike Brown built a great defense in Cleveland, but I think Byron Scott is going to have some problems keeping the defense up this year, especially if he wants to move to a more uptempo system.  It also doesn’t help that Cleveland lost one of their best defenders in LeBron James.

PG – Mo Williams is a good offensive player, but an average to below average defender, he’s a little slow and sometimes quicker guards abuse him.  Sessions is a little better defender than Williams, but the Cavs lose more offense than they gain with Sessions’s defense.
SG – Anthony Parker is an above average defender while Daniel Gibson is a weaker option for defense at the SG spot.
SF – Jamario Moon is an average defender, but he isn’t going to see big minutes due to his offense.
PF – Antawn Jamison gives away a lot of size guarding opposing PF’s and at 34 he’s losing some of the lateral quickness needed to guard some of the better SF’s, but he’s still an average defender.    J.J. Hickson is athletic and makes some highlight reel blocks, but he still needs work on the team defense concept.
C – Anderson Varejao is on the court for his defense, but asking him to pull full time duty at center might be asking a little too much.

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