OTG Team Awards: Cleveland Cavaliers
It wasn’t so long ago that we were looking at the Cavs at the All-Star break -- all of a sudden the season is in our rearview. It wasn’t a particularly memorable year on the shores of Lake Erie, but that doesn’t mean that some players didn’t distinguish themselves -- time for the hardware!
6th Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson led the team in scoring while coming off the bench. (I know, Kevin Love averaged more, but he’s not eligible for the scoring title after playing only 21 games.) His skillset is somewhat lost on a team as bad as the Cavs were -- there are more than a few playoff teams who would really benefit from having a player who could score as readily as Clarkson can. His 17.1 points per game were a career high, and when you examine advanced stats, you discover he was surprisingly efficient doing it. There’s no real argument here: Clarkson in a landslide.
Most Improved Player: Cedi Osman
This is somewhat by default, since there was so much roster turnover throughout the season that there are only three players who played more than 70 games in the Wine & Gold, and of them, only two were non-rookies that you could say actually improved. Most of Osman’s gains were due to the fact that his minutes per game tripled -- most of his per-36 numbers are actually about the same. So we’ll let Osman back into this honor, which he can put on his shelf next to his Rising Stars Challenge framed jersey.
Rookie of the Year: Collin Sexton
Who else, really? I’ve beaten the drum for Collin Sexton before, so I don’t need to walk down that path again, but he’s the obvious choice. The Cavs have a contributor who has the real potential to be part of the next generation of the franchise’s success. Can the same be said for the previous year’s eighth overall selection, Frank Ntilikina? Or the year before that’s, current Cavalier Marquese Chriss? Or the year before that’s, Stanley Johnson? Or even the year before that’s, another current Cavalier - Nik Stauskas? Collin Sexton’s rookie year was better than any year that any of those four players have had combined. Looking at that list, I’d be trading out of the eighth spot if I had it…
Defensive Player of the Year: Larry Nance Jr.
I had hoped for more from Nance this season. When Kevin Love got injured early on, it appeared that there would be a lot of minutes available for him, and with Tristan Thompson missing almost half the season, it looked like Nance could really blow up. Alas, I’m not sure he’s that type of player. He was one of very few with a positive net rating, and led the team in Defensive Win Shares by a fairly large margin, so he’s the obvious choice defensively. Maybe I wanted more on offense? That has literally nothing to do with being the team’s DPOY.
Most Valuable Player: Kevin Love
Strange choice for a guy who played only a quarter of the season? Absolutely. It’s the way the team played both with and without him that makes this in fact the obvious choice. It should come as little surprise that when the team’s best player, an All-Star the previous year, is felled by injury, that the team suffers as a result; the Cavs were AWFUL without Love. He makes his return and they’re basically a .500 team: a .500 team in the East competes for the playoffs.
A lot was made about how the Cavs weren’t honest about their intentions for the season, when at the outset there was discussion of aiming for the playoffs in the first year After LeBron. When you look at the number of former Cavs contributing to playoff teams -- George Hill in Milwaukee, Kyle Korver in Utah, Rodney Hood in Portland -- you can see that the talent was there. When they lost their most valuable player, though, those dreams flew out the window.
That player was Kevin Love.