The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards have been compared for years. It all started with the rivalry that developed between the Gilbert Arenas led Wizards and the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers. As your local Wizards fan on the Hardwood Houdini staff, I’ll admit that I had some hate for the Cavaliers and James for quite some time.
Year after year the Cavs would put the Wizards out of the playoffs. Each time it was a competitive series and it also got chippy. And with each loss that was even more spite I had for James and that team.
Since the 2008 playoffs–the final time these teams played and the last time the Wizards made the postseason–both teams have taken two dramatically different paths. The Cavaliers continued to have success up until the 2010 season where LeBron made his infamous decision.
The Wizards, on the other hand, couldn’t keep any of their star trio of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron butler on the floor. That core would end up being broken up throughout the next few seasons and replaced with much younger guys.
The Wizards eventually drafted John Wall with their number one overall pick in the 2010 draft. Wall came into the league with such high expectation. This was after Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook had shown promise in situations like the one Wall was about to be in. He still has a lot to prove as a Wizard.
The same season, the Cavaliers went onto becoming the worst team in the NBA with a 19-63 record. They won the lottery and got the number one pick in the 2011 draft after the Wizards did the previous year.
They, too, would end up drafting a point guard with plenty of talent to give in Kyrie Irving. Irving would prove to be a stud in his rookie year as he shot amazing percentages from the field.
Now the two up-and-comers are compared and contrasted throughout NBA circles all the time. It seems as though these two teams can’t get enough of each other and are fated to meet again someday.
That brings us into our comparison. The Wizards vs. The Cavaliers.
Position by Position Comparison
On the surface, you’ve got two young studs at point guard for each team. They both play two very different brands of basketball.
John Wall is a fast pace, athletic blur on the floor.Many people say he plays at one pace–though he’s improved on that tremendously with the help of NeNe.
On the other hand you have Kyrie Irving who is a slow, smooth kind of player. He’ll slither through a defense in the half-court and knife his way to the bucket for a score.
Wall’s averages were 16.8 ppg and 8.0 apg to Irving’s 18.5 ppg and 5.2 apg. On the surface, it appears as though Wall has Irving beat but its much closer of a race than that. Take a look at the chart below via basketball reference.
As you can see, Kyrie Irving was much better from the field than John Wall. Also, John Wall’s three point shooting percentage took a steep drop and was one of the worst in the NBA.
Irving is a much more versatile scorer than Wall and it really shows when they play. Wall may be a better passer, but he needs to step it up when it comes to putting the ball in the hoop efficiently.
Irving’s PER is 21.8 compared to Wall’s 17.7 as well. Wall was wildly inconsistent last year and seemed to lose confidence in his scoring ability as the season went on.
The great part about it is he’s still just learning and he managed to stay healthy for a full season. I’d say that Irving is much more advanced as a scorer than Wall, but not as a point guard. Though, he isn’t far off.
Behind them both isn’t much. John Wall has A.J Price and Shelvin Mack who don’t really bring much to the table. Irving faces the same dilemma with his backup point guards being Donald Sloan, Daniel Gibson, and Jeremy Pargo. Though Pargo has shown some promise, I wouldn’t say that anything is guaranteed here at the backup position.
With all of that being said, I’d take the Cavaliers point guards here. Wall isn’t as advanced or as smooth in the half court–where point guards should dominate–as Irving is. I believe it will come, but its just not there yet.
Both teams are relatively weak at this position. The Wizards have Jordan Crawford who is known for chucking up shots until the day that he’s 6 feet under.
He’s not a very efficient player by any means, but he’s a serviceable shooting guard. I don’t know if he’d be a good starter to have on a good team but he gets the job done.
The Wizards also drafted Bradley Beal. Beal should be able to spread the floor for the Wizards like he was known for at Florida.
In the summer league, Beal also showcased some playmaking ability that many didn’t know he had. He looks very promising for the third pick in the draft. Beal will bolster the shooting guard position with Crawford for the Wizards.
The Cavaliers really have nothing to offer at shooting guard. They just signed C.J Miles who is coming off of a disappointing season and Kelenna Azibuke who was out of the NBA last season.
Dion Waiters shows promise as a two guard, but will likely come off of the bench and handle the ball for the second unit. In Syracuse, he led them in scoring but is known to throw up some head-scratchers himself. The Cavaliers have to get better here.
I’m going with the Wizards.
The Wizards recently drafted Chris Singleton with the 18th pcik of the 2011 draft. Singleton could be a steal if he pans out to be the elite defender the Wizards think he will be.
They also bolstered the small forward position with the trade of Rashard Lewis for Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. Ariza will bring some experience and skill to the small forward position that the Wizards have lacked since Caron Butler left.
Ariza is known for his defensive tenacity and his ability to spread the floor with his three point shooting. He’s a player who has championship experience and that’s invaluable to a young team like Washington.
They also feature floor spacers in Cartier Martin and Martell Webster.
The Cavaliers have Alonzo Gee, Luke Walton, and Omri Casspi at this position. All have proven to be serviceable players in the NBA, but I don’t think that any of them are starters. Gee was a D-League prospect for a while, Walton has never really been productive, and Casspi hasn’t looked very good since his rookie year.
I’m going with the Wizards here as well.
The Wizards have plenty of depth at power forward. Last season it seemed like they shuffled a different one into the line-up almost every week. Kevin Seraphin made strides last season and looked like a starting caliber power forward last year. Jan Vesely has shown that he’ll need to continue to develop and the same can be said for Trevor Booker.
NeNe will be a solid option at the power forward spot as well if he can stay healthy because of the acquisition of Emeka Okafor.
The Cavaliers have plenty of depth here , too. They’ve got Anderson Varejao who will make every hustle play in the world for his team and get under the oppositions skin. Celtics fans know him all too well.
Tristan Thompson is the very same way. He’s a player that will do all of the dirty work for your team while not putting up huge numbers. Defensively he’s a monster whether its help defense or one on one defense.
Luke Harangody was a popular player coming out of college but hasn’t really seen the floor for the Cavaliers much at all. I’m sure they’ll look to factor him in at some point during this season.
Both teams have some talent at this position so I’m going to say its a push between them both. NeNe almost gives Washington the edge but you never know how he’ll turn out health-wise. Its always a gamble.
The center position for Washington isn’t very deep at all. They feature Emeka Okafor, who is a very good center, and NeNe depending on the line-up.
Okafor is someone who almost has a double double for his career and is a good all around defender. That’s what Washington was missing with Javale McGee. He’d only block shots–one on one defense wasn’t his thing.
Earl Barron is an available option but, lets face it, by the end of camp he may not be on the team.
The Cavaliers have Tyler Zeller in the fold as their new up and coming center. He’ll bring a much needed offensive presence to their front court and will specialize in getting down the floor on the fastbreak.
Samardo Samuel is also an available option.
Both teams are paper thin here, but I’m going Wizards.
In case you all didn’t know, Byron Scott coaches the Cavaliers and Randy Wittman coaches the Washington Wizards.
They both fell into their jobs in two completely different ways. Wittman was the beneficiary of the firing of Flip Saunders last season after a 2-14 start. Wittman was hired as the interim head coach and was given the job previously in the offseason.
Scott was hired in 2010 after Mike Brown was fired. He was brought in with the expectation of developing a team that would be good in years to come.
After LeBron left the organization knew it would be a rebuilding process. Scott is big on player development and that’s why he was hired.
He’s developed great point guards in the past. After playing with Magic Johnson, he helped Jason Kidd grow into a great point guard and did the same thing with Chris Paul. Many think that Kyrie Irving is the next in line and we’ll find out soon enough.
Wittman has never really had the players that Scott had. He’s getting another shot with his fourth stint as a head coach with this Wizards team and John Wall’s development will be key.
When comparing their records and successes Scott destroys Wittman. Take a look at the charts below.
|Season||Age||Lg||Tm||G||W||L||W-L%||W > .500||Finish||G||W||L||W-L%||Notes|
|Season||Age||Lg||Tm||G||W||L||W-L%||W > .500||Finish||G||W||L||W-L%||Notes|
As you can see, Wittman has never had a winning percentage above .400 in his coaching career. Scott, on the other hand, has coached multiple playoff teams and has been to two Eastern Conference Championships. Though his winning percentage for his career isn’t above .500 its still an impressive resume.
The coaching comparison here really isn’t one. Scott has proven that he’s a better coach throughout his career. Wittman’s best team only won 32 games.
These two teams are relatively close in each area aside from coaching.
They have very similar rosters that aren’t particularly filled with talent. They’ve got plenty of young pieces that can be developed into potential stars in the NBA but that will take years to happen. Right now, I think that a series between these two teams would go seven games.
I think that the Cavaliers would have the edge here. I believe that their best player (Irving) is better than the Wizards best player (Wall) and could will them to victory.
However, if Wall plays exceptionally well and better than Irving–which he can–it would have a totally different outcome. The Wizards need to work on being consistent as a group. They are a potential playoff team if all pieces come together and play a cohesive brand of basketball.
The coaching advantage is something that would help the Cavaliers in the end. Scott has way more experience with coaching an NBA team. He’s had many successful teams in the past and knows how to lead.
The Cavaliers won more than the Wizards last year and pulled out some of the games that the Wizards collapsed in. The Wizards don’t have much to do to get to their level though. The Cavaliers would win the series 4-3.