This week we compare the 2009-10 Cavalier Bench to the 2008-09 Cavalier Bench…
By the end of the 2008-09 season (and in the 2009 playoffs) the Cavalier Starting Line-Up consisted of Mo Williams, Delonte West, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, LeBron James and Anderson Varejao. That leaves our bench primarily consisting of Joe Smith, Wally Szczerbiak, Daniel Gibson, Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic.
The 2009-10 Cavalier Starting Line-Up (projected, as this line-up has yet to be used due to the Jamison trade and subsequent injuries) consists of Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James and Antawn Jamison. That leaves a bench of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, J.J. Hickson, Delonte West and Jawad Williams (Williams has gotten more meaningful minutes over Moon recently so he will be used for this discussion).
Lets look at the per 36 minute production of the bench players
(Note: I am using the per 36 minute statistics, because this is the best representation of the production the player would have as a starter.)
2008-09 Season Statistics (per 36 min):
Joe Smith – 11.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.61 spg, 1.23 bpg
Wally Szczerbiak – 12.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.66 spg, 0.24 bpg
Daniel Gibson – 11.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.88 spg, 0.32 bpg
Ben Wallace – 4.5 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.32 spg, 2.05 bpg
Sasha Pavlovic – 10.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 0.75 spg, 0.55 bpg
2009-10 Season Statistics (per 36 min):
Zydrunas Ilgauskas – 12.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.41 spg, 1.31 bpg
Anderson Varejao – 10.9 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.14 spg, 1.14 bpg
Delonte West – 12.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.26 spg, 0.68 bpg
J.J. Hickson – 14.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.79 spg, 0.86 bpg
Jawad Williams – 11.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 0.56 spg, 0.28 bpg
Behind the numbers: Right off the bat, you notice that this year we have three 2008-09 starters coming off our bench. That is a big advantage this year’s bench has over last years. Andy and Z have proven in the past that they work well together with their inside (Andy) and outside (Z) combo. Additionally, Andy is a bigger difference maker as a 6th man compared to when he is in the starting line-up. Delonte West is our best two guard, arguably should be in the starting line-up and is in games at the end anyways, so he is a big upgrade over either Wally or Sasha. J.J. Hickson has been starting all season and gives our bench a different style big to throw in the game to change the momentum and/or pace of the game. Jawad will see sporadic minutes come playoff time, and be used in different match-up situations to take advantage of his length. This is something we did not have against the Magic last season, and Jawad’s development this season allows Mike Brown to have the confidence to play him in any situation. This is something Coach Brown never had with Sasha Pavlovic.
Beyond this, the 2009-10 version of the bench provides much more scoring. Adding the per 36 minute production shows that the 2009-10 bench is scoring 62.5 points per 36 minutes and the 2008-09 bench is at 50.8. This is a difference of 12 points per game. For years the Cavaliers have not been able to consistently put the ball in the basket when LeBron takes his rest, so the additional scoring provided by this bench is much needed.
Defensively, you might argue that the 2009-10 version does not have someone comparable to Ben Wallace defensively. That depends on what Ben Wallace you are talking about. By the end of the year last year he was done. During the regular season, he averaged 23.5 minutes per game. In the playoffs that fell to 12.6 minutes per game. His per 36 minute production also fell in every category from the regular season to the playoffs: -1.2 ppg, -2.2 rpg, -0.50 spg, -1.24 bpg. Anderson Varejao is the defensive stopper on this year’s team. He has gone from being the Floppy Haired Flopper, to being a tough aggressive defender who will be considered for the All-Defensive teams. His rebounding leads the Cavaliers this year despite coming off the bench. He has the ability to guard the Center and Power Forward positions, as well as hold his own on pick and roll switches. He is far and away better than the 2008-09 version of Ben Wallace, and an extremely valuable piece of the puzzle for the Cavaliers in 2009-10.
Last but not least, Zydrunas Ilgauskas has embraced his roll as back-up center and is doing a very solid job. At this point in his career, Z is still a very capable starting center. He is no longer capable of playing at an All-Star level consistently, but as a back-up, he is a very tough match-up for opposing team’s back-up centers. First off he is 7’-3” tall. This means there is only one active player who Z looks up at (the 7’-6” Yao Ming). Second, he ranks 14th in NBA history for three point shots made by someone standing 7’-0” or taller with 31. This stretches the defense and opens up the middle for guys like J.J., Andy and Antawn. Third, he is one of 10 players to accumulate 1,000+ offensive rebounds over the last 5 years. This is a highly underrated part of Z’s contributions and it is a very important part of the game.
All this adds up to a much more productive bench for the Cavaliers. This is critical to the success we all hope to have during the upcoming playoffs.
Cavs Statistical History: