The Cavaliers reached the midpoint of their season with an NBA-worst 8-33 record and on a 10-game losing streak as they began a very difficult six-game road trip Wednesday in New Orleans.
Having not won since a week before Christmas, they’re so bad they don’t even have to stop tryin’ in order to get the best odds of drafting Zion (Williamson), which is reflected in Professor Noland’s midterm report card:
Jaron Blossomgame: Like dozens and dozens of guys who never quite make it at basketball’s highest level, the two-way G League player is 6-foot-7 with some physical talent, but has no one skill that makes him a consistently productive NBA player. Grade: D.
Alec Burks: He’s got some skills, but is maddeningly inconsistent and makes way too many mental mistakes, which means he fits in perfectly with this team. Grade: C-.
Jordan Clarkson: The young man can score and has been among the Cavs’ best players all season. The question is whether he can become a Lou Williams-type player off the bench for a good team, or whether he’ll always be an individualistic gunner on a losing squad. (His epic struggles in the playoffs last season could be a hint.) Grade: B.
Matthew Dellavedova: Delly plays hard, does his best to run the team at point guard and plays defense. Those qualities stand out on this team. Grade: B-.
Channing Frye: He’s a good locker room guy and can still make 3-pointers, but a broadcasting career is in his near future. Grade: C-.
John Henson: History suggests his lanky 6-11 frame will play well enough at times to tease the Cavs, but a broken wrist has prevented him from seeing the floor in Cleveland. Grade: Incomplete.
Rodney Hood: The left-hander should be a better player than he is, but a lack of assertiveness hurts him. A sore Achilles is also cause for concern. Grade: C-.
Jalen Jones: See: Jaron Blossomgame. Grade: D.
Kevin Love: Surprise, surprise, he’s hurt again and has only played in four games. Love’s easily this team’s best player, but too often he’s not available. Grade: Incomplete.
Larry Nance Jr.: No. 22 has been one of the bright spots in this dismal season. He’s a versatile defender, good ballhandler for a big man and far and away this team’s best passer, which doesn’t speak well of Cleveland guards. All that remains is to add a consistent jumper from 15 to 17 feet, because opponents frequently leave him wide open. Grade: B.
David Nwaba: He plays hard, competes and is capable of guarding much bigger players, but his offensive skills are abysmal aside from an occasional strong drive to the hoop. Grade: D.
Cedi Osman: He’s a great kid and decent player in all phases, but Professor Noland expected a lot more this season. Too often, he gets toasted defensively. Too often, he disappears for long stretches offensively. Grade: C-.
Cameron Payne: He’s the guard equivalent of Blossomgame and Jones. Grade: D.
Collin Sexton: The 20-year-old is averaging 14.6 points, which looks good on paper, but he’s gotten worse as the season has progressed. Until going 5-for-8 Tuesday against Indiana, the rookie had shot less — and most times, a lot less — than 50 percent in 12 straight games, going 55-for-167 (.329) in that stretch. He has no idea how to run an NBA offense (2.8 assists) and often gets peeled defensively. Grade: C-.
J.R. Smith: The guy has the best job in the world. He’s making $14.7 million to stay at home. Grade: A+.
Tristan Thompson: Double T has been the Cavs’ best player this season, but when you say that about a career role player, you know you’re in deep trouble. Thompson has been much more aggressive offensively and has been great hitting the boards at that end of the floor, but he’s not even average on the defensive glass. (As an aside, Professor Noland can’t help but remember how adamant T.T. was in the preseason that the Cavs were going to prove a ton of people wrong and make the playoffs.) Grade: B+.
Ante Zizic: How can a 6-foot-11 player who just turned 22 and has some skills totally disappear on the league’s worst team? Great question. Grade: Incomplete.
Larry Drew: After taking over when Tyronn Lue got canned, injuries have made an already tough coaching job even tougher for “The Voice.” For the most part, Drew has done a decent job of keeping his players working hard, though there have been repeated signs of slippage in that area in recent weeks. It’s hard to see him being back as coach next season. Grade: C-.
Koby Altman: Supposedly, the Cavs were better prepared for life after LeBron James this time around, but that’s been anything but the case. Injuries to Love and others certainly haven’t helped, but let’s face facts: This team wouldn’t have been very good, regardless. Grade: D-.
Overall: It’s hard to see the Cavs matching their 19 wins in 2010-11, when James left for the first time. The likely 14 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick through the draft lottery and landing Duke’s Williamson gives (remaining) fans a reason to be optimistic, but it could be a long time before this organization is relevant again. Grade: F.