The start of the 2010s for the Cleveland Cavaliers was another chapter of the same story for the majority of the franchise’s history. The team struggled mightily after LeBron James, who is obviously going to be a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers all-decade team, bolted for the Miami Heat following the 2009-10 season.
Cleveland Cavaliers Best from the 2010s
Recapping the 2010s
From the 2010-11 season through the 2013-14 season the Cavaliers had a combined record of 97 wins and 215 losses with the few bright spots from that stretch being budding superstar point guard Kyrie Irving and their always available big man Tristan Thompson.
Following a promising 33 win season in 2013-14, James elected to come back home, to Cleveland. The Cavaliers then went on one of the most dominant stretches in NBA history. The Cavs made it to the NBA Finals in each of the four seasons James returned for and even won their only Larry O’Brien trophy following the 2015-16 season when they came back from a three games to one deficit to knock off the 73-9 Golden State Warriors.
James again left behind his home state following the 2017-18 season to join the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately, the second time James has left hasn’t gone any better than the first time. The Cavaliers finished the final two seasons of the decade with a putrid 38 and 109 record.
Cleveland Cavaliers All-Decade Team Starting Five
Guard – Kyrie Irving
Irving is a no brainer on the all-decade team for the Cavs. Despite his tumultuous exit following the 2016-17 season, Irving was one of the best point guards in the NBA during his tenure in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers selected Irving with the number one overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft out of Duke University. He immediately showed flashes of brilliance on a terrible Cavalier team.
Irving had highlight-reel moments every night during his 2011-12 Rookie of the Year season in which he averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.7 rebounds. He was a glimmer of hope for a Cavalier franchise that missed the James’ days of the mid-2000s.
Irving’s rookie season, however, isn’t the reason he is on the Cavaliers’ all-decade team. Over the course of six seasons in the wine and gold, Irving had per-game averages of 21.6 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.4 rebounds.
Irving’s playoff run during the Cavaliers lone NBA championship season was splendid. If it wasn’t for the numbers James put up in the NBA Finals, Irving would have been the unanimous Finals MVP. He averaged 27.1 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.9 rebounds and hit the championship-clinching shot.
Guard – J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith’s Cavalier tenure was anything but boring. He had explosive and clutch performances in the NBA playoffs and he also threw soup on assistant coach (and former Cavalier) Damon Jones. His final season in Cleveland lasted 11 games until the front office told him to stay home until they could find a trade, or his contract expired.
Smith’s numbers don’t jump off the page but what he provided was big-time shot-making and the ability to get hot in an instant. He also transformed himself into a very good perimeter defender. Smith typically took the responsibility of guarding the opposing teams best perimeter offensive player each night.
Over the course of his five seasons in Cleveland, Smith averaged 10.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.
Outside of the soup incident, Smith will be best remembered for getting the Cavaliers back in the game, early in the second half of Game 7 against the Warriors.
Forward – LeBron James
As the Cavaliers all-time leader in basically every statistic in franchise history, James will go down as one of the greatest NBA players to ever play the game. James left Cleveland for the Miami Heat following the Cavaliers being eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the 2010 Eastern Conference semi-finals despite the Cavaliers holding the NBA’s best record that season.
James was public enemy number one for the Cavaliers fan base and owner Dan Gilbert. He played four seasons in Miami, appearing in the NBA Finals all four years, and winning two NBA championships. Following the 2013-14 season, James decided to return to his home state with a promise of bringing a title back to Cleveland.
In his first season back in Cleveland, James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for Cleveland, they were decimated with injuries in the playoffs when Kevin Love separated his shoulder in the first round and missed the remainder of the playoffs and Irving dislocated his knee in overtime of Game 1 of the Finals. James nearly led the Cavaliers to the title, eventually falling in six games to the Warriors.
The following season, however, was a different story, Irving and Love remained healthy throughout the playoffs and the Cavaliers overcame a three games to one deficit to win their first and only NBA title.
James played four seasons with the Cavaliers in the 2010s and led them to four NBA Finals appearances. Unfortunately for Cleveland, they ran into an all-time great dynasty with the Warriors and only came away with one title.
The 2016 NBA Finals MVP averaged 26.1 points, 8 assists, and 7.7 rebounds in his second stint in Cleveland. This time around for James, he is still loved in Cleveland.
Forward – Kevin Love
Despite often being a scapegoat and finding himself in trade rumors, Love has had an excellent tenure in Cleveland. When the Cavs were losing to the Warriors, the blame was often placed on Love’s shoulders. Experts and analysts often suggested that the Cavaliers trade Love. However, that just wasn’t a realistic option for Cleveland.
Love provided floor spacing and excellent rebounding for the Cavs. Both would have been hard to replace in a potential trade. He also had moments of brilliance as a Cavalier including a 34 point quarter a couple of years ago.
Off the floor, Love has been grade-A also. He has led the charge with the NBA’s mental health initiative, along with DeMar DeRozan. Now, with the coronavirus outbreak, Love was the first NBA player to pledge a donation to his team’s arena employees when he pledged $100,000 to help cover some of their pay during the NBA’s suspension.
While he isn’t the player he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Love has still posted excellent numbers with Cleveland. In six seasons with the Cavaliers, Love has averaged 17.2 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Center – Tristan Thompson
The final member of the Cleveland Cavaliers all-decade team starting five is big man Tristan Thompson. The Cavaliers were able to nab Thompson in the same draft that they added Irving, they selected Thompson fourth overall in the 2011 NBA Draft.
As a specialized big who really focuses on rebounding, Thompson has had his fair share of criticism. Shooting with any sort of range has been an issue for him throughout his career. Up until this season, he had only attempted nine three-pointers and had made zero. This season, Thompson is 9-for-23 from deep. He is also averaging a career-high 12.1 points per contests currently.
While he is never going to be a high-volume scorer, Thompson has always played extremely hard and been a very durable player. He is also, perhaps, the best big man in the NBA at switch out onto ball-handlers during a pick-and-roll.
In a massively important Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Thompson was a beast down low. He finished the game with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, and pulled in 13 rebounds, including 7 offensively.
Thompson is in the final season of his current contract with the Cavaliers and it remains to be seen whether he will be back. The acquisition of Andre Drummond throws a wrench into the plans also. The Cavaliers will surely try to bring Thompson back on a team-friendly deal to back Drummond up. If he wants to be a lifer in Cleveland, he will likely be back. However, if he wants another payday, he will be donning different colors next season.
For his career, Thompson has per-game averages of 9.4 points and 8.7 rebounds.
Cleveland Cavaliers All-Decade Team Bench
Guard – Matthew Dellavedeova
Matthew Dellavedova has been an underdog in NBA circles since he went undrafted out of Saint Mary’s College. His stats won’t impress. His attributes won’t impress. But his leadership, heart, and IQ will. Dellavedova has scratched and clawed his way into an NBA career that he can be proud of.
While he is in his second stint in Cleveland, it’s his first stint as a Cavalier that the fanbase adores him for. After Irving went down in Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals, Dellavedova took over as the team’s second-best player. Seriously. In a very important Game 3, Dellavedova poured in 20 points and added 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
For his career, over the course of two stints in Cleveland, Dellavedova has per-game averages of 5.4 points and 3.4 assists.
Guard – Collin Sexton
Although he has only played two seasons in the NBA, Collin Sexton was the best option for the second guard spot and 10th overall player of the decade for the Cavaliers. The simple fact of the matter is Cleveland didn’t many other options this decade and Sexton has put up great numbers.
He came into the NBA labeled a point guard, but the fact of the matter is that he is an undersized off-guard. Sexton can score at will on most nights and is only getting better.
Recently Sexton went head-to-head with budding NBA superstar Jayson Tatum and finished with a career-high 41 points.
Over the course of nearly two full seasons, Sexton has per-game averages of 18.5 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. If he continues to improve, he has shown the ability to be a very effective scorer in the NBA.
Forward – Iman Shumpert
Ultra-athletic wing Iman Shumpert started 43 games over the course of four seasons in Cleveland. He had some fantastic moments and was a key piece to the Cavaliers 2016 NBA title thanks to some excellent defense.
He had an enormous four-point play in Game 7 of the Finals that gave the Cavaliers a brief lead. Shumpert is another fan favorite in Cleveland for his highlight-reel dunks and tenacious defense. He possessed some of the quickest hands in the league during his time in Cleveland. Cavs’ late play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod even coined the term “shumped him” for when Shumpert would strip an opposing player going up for a shot.
Shumpert had per-game averages of 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in Cleveland.
Forward – Antawn Jamison
Many fans won’t remember Antawn Jamison playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They made a move to try to appease James in the 2009-10 season by acquiring Jamison. Jamison only played two seasons in the 2010s with the Cavaliers. The lack of options, combined with Jamison’s stats makes him the pick here over players like Larry Nance Jr., Richard Jefferson, or Channing Frye.
In the two seasons in the 2010s with Cleveland, Jamison averaged 17.6 points and 6.5 rebounds. Jamison was very underrated throughout the majority of his career and even more so during his short time with Cleveland due to the fact that he played on some terrible Cavalier teams outside of his first half-season with them.
Center – Anderson Varejao
Another no brainer for the Cleveland Cavaliers all-decade team is Anderson Varejao. While he was never a big scorer, he was excellent around the rim, and as the roll-man. He formed a fantastic duo with James, early in his career, and with Irving, late in his career. Varejao also formed a terrifying offensive rebounding duo with Thompson. He also had some great moments, especially during the early stages of Irving’s career.
In the early stages of his career, Varejao played on some great Cavalier teams that never got over the hump. He then had to play on some of the worst teams in the history of the franchise until James came back. The Cavaliers traded Varejao during their 2015-16 title season in the deal for Frye. He was bought out and ironically enough signed by the Warriors and would lose to Cleveland in the finals.
Over the course of 12 seasons with the Cavaliers, Varejao averaged 7.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
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