Founded in 1970, the Cleveland Cavaliers had one of the most frustrating stretches in the NBA, not winning their first championship until 2016. Contributing significantly to the heartbreak of many Cleveland fans for decades.
Despite toiling for what seemed like eons, the Cleveland Cavaliers have actually had 6 number one picks in the history of the NBA Draft dating back to 1947 – more than any other NBA franchise.
Here is a look at the ten best players to ever lace up for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
World B. Free – Nicknamed World due to his sensational vertical leaping ability, Lloyd Bernard Free spent four seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers where he provided much needed scoring.
10. John Hot Rod Williams
Career stats with the Cavaliers: 12.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.9 SPG (1986-1995)
Hot Rod was drafted by and spent nine seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. For much of his time with the Cavs, Williams functioned primarily as a sixth man. Williams peaked in the 1989-90 season, averaging 16.8 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game and over 2 blocks per game.
Career stats with the Cavaliers: 9.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG (2011-2020)
After being selected fourth overall in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thompson was the highest drafted Canadian born player at the time. Thompson made a name for himself by being a consistent and outstanding offensive rebounder.
Career stats with the Cavaliers: 7.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 SPG (2004-2015)
Largely viewed as exclusively as an effort player, Varejao proved to be an outstanding defender and rebounder for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2010, he was selected to an All-Defensive Second Team.
7. Kevin Love
Career stats with the Cavaliers: 17.2 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.7 SPG (2014-2020)
Traded to the Cavaliers specifically at the behest of LeBron James, Love arrived in Cleveland and went from being a borderline MVP candidate to a markedly decreased role alongside LeBron and Irving. Despite this, Love still contributed significantly with excellent shooting and voracious rebounding.
6. Kyrie Irving
Career stats with the Cavaliers: 21.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.3 SPG (2011-2020)
Frequently outspoken but extremely talented, Kyrie Irving has one of the most dazzling skill sets in the NBA today. With his hypnotizing ball-handling skills and dependable jump shot, Irving was a necessary number two option for LeBron in order to for them to capture the championship.
5. Larry Nance
Career stats with the Cavaliers: 16.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG (1987-1994)
After a trade that shipped Nance and Mike Sanders from the Phoenix Suns to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Nance spent the entire second half of his career with the franchise. Despite being 29 at the time of the trade, Nance enjoyed some of his best seasons in Cleveland. As a Cav he would garner two All-Star selections and three All-Defensive Team selections.
Career stats with the Cavaliers: 13.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.5 SPG (1996-2010)
Except for his final season where he played with the Miami Heat, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was practically a Cavalier lifer. The towering Lithuanian stood at 7’3” and possessed deft footwork, making him a capable scoring threat deep into his career.
Career stats with the Cavaliers: 19.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.8 SPG (1986-1994)
A talented, scoring center – Brad Daugherty spent his entire career with the Cleveland Cavaliers after they selected him with the first overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. He was the franchise’s all-time leader in points and rebounds until LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas respectively broke his records.
2. Mark Price
Career stats with the Cavaliers: 16.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.3 SPG (1986-1995)
Price was the rare breed of point guard that was both undersized and slower than average for his position. Despite lacking both athleticism and size however, he was one of the most valuable players in the franchise’s history. The five time All-Star was only the second player in NBA history to join the revered 50-40-90 club.
1. LeBron James
Career stats with the Cavaliers: 27.2 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 7.3 APG, 0.8 SPG (2003-2010; 2014-2018)
The only thing debatable about LeBron’s legacy is whether he is in fact the greatest or second greatest player in NBA history. He is unquestionably the greatest player in Cavalier’s history. He leads the franchise in games and minutes played, total rebounds, steals, assists, free throws, 3-point field goals, and many more.
Clint is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, and contributed to various sports publications prior to his work with Upside Hoops.