The Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005-06

Posted on August 30, 2006 by


If we are going in alphabetical order, then after Charlotte should come Chicago.  Chicago, who is featured prominently in The Wages of Wins, has already been reviewed in a previous post on Ben Gordon. So there seems no need for another post on the Bulls.

Consequently this post is about the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Over at The Disappointment Zone, Joel Witmer has already used Win Score to analyze the Cavalier’s point guards (Witmer’s analysis has also been re-posted at Swerbs Blerbs).  Witmer is in the process of offering a position-by-position discussion of the Cavaliers, with a focus on next season.  In this forum we are primarily concerned with what happened last season.  For those interested in a view towards the future, and a more detailed treatment of this team, one should look at what Witmer offers.

For those who just want to see what happened in 2005-06, though, you need to first look HERE – where the Cavaliers of last year are listed and evaluated.

Obviously the most productive player on this roster was LeBron James.  King James produced 20.4 wins (for an explanation of Wins Produced please go HERE and HERE) a mark only surpassed by three other players — Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, and Shawn Marion — in the NBA.  So LeBron is good.  He is also quite young.  LeBron won’t turn 22 until December 30 of this year. 

Thus far LeBron has produced nearly 50 regular season wins for Cleveland, for which he has been paid a bit less than $13 million.  Now $13 million sounds like a fair amount to play basketball, but given the amount of revenue he has produced for the Cavaliers it is not a stretch to say that LeBron has so far been exploited in the NBA.

Okay, brief economic lesson.  A worker is exploited if the worker’s wage is less than the revenue the worker generates for his/her employer.  Conversely, if your wage is more than what you produce in revenue, then you are not exploited.  For example, if you generate $5 an hour in revenue for your employee, but have an hourly wage of $7, then you are not exploited.  If you generate $12 an hour for your employer, but are only paid $9, then you are exploited.  And if you are paid $13 million by your employer, but you generate far more than that amount, then once again by definition, you are exploited.

Why has LeBron been exploited?  The rookie contract every first round draft pick signs sets the player’s wage according to the rookie salary scale. If a rookie turns out to be quite good – which is the case with King James – he will easily generate more revenue for his team than the scale will call for him to be paid.

LeBron just signed an extension that will keep him in Cleveland through at least the 2009-10 season.  The terms of that extension will bring LeBron’s wage closer to the amount of revenue he generates for Cleveland.  Under the terms of his rookie contract, though, LeBron has been an extremely good deal for Cleveland.

Okay, enough on “the King”.  Cleveland won 50 games last year, so although LeBron was a major part of their success, he is not a one-man team.  The second most productive player was Drew Gooden, whose signing I previously discussed HERE.  As noted, Gooden produced 9.7 wins last season, and with a contract that will pay him less than $8 million per campaign, he is quite the bargain – at least relative to Al Harrington.

As I keep noting, the average NBA player will produced 0.100 wins per 48 minutes (WP48).  With this benchmark in mind, we see that the other above-average performer on the Cavaliers is center Zydrunas Ilgauskas (WP48 = 0.166).  Two additional front-court performers — Anderson Varejao (WP48 = 0.197) and Alan Henderson (WP48 = 0.109) – were also above average, though neither spent much time on the floor.  Recent addition Scott Pollard, still another front court performer, has also been above average much of his career.

Hopefully you have noticed a theme.  In the front-court the Cavaliers have a number of above average players.  Yet Cleveland only won 50 games, a mere nine games more than an average team.  Given the plethora of above average performers in the front-court, what should we expect to see in the backcourt?

Obviously this is where the team’s problems reside.  Not a single guard for the Cavaliers last season posted an above average performance.  And looking at the Cavaliers moves this summer, it doesn’t appear that any new players are being brought in to fix this problem. 

Of course it is possible that Larry Hughes, who was hurt much of last year, will be healthy this year and be the player we witnessed in Washington in 2004-05 (WP48 = 0.229, 11.3 Wins Produced).  If that happens, then the Cavaliers will truly be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

And being towards the top is something this team will have to be in the next few years.  The summer of 2010 is not the far away.  If LeBron does not see this team contending for an NBA title by then, one wonders if a 25-year old LeBron makes the same decision that was just made by the 21 year-old King.

— DJ

Teams Analyzed Thus Far

Atlanta Hawks 

Boston Celtics

Charlotte Bobcats

Chicago Bulls