Unfulfilled Dynasties: Cleveland’s Twin Eras

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The Cleveland Cavaliers have had two recent unfulfilled dynasties –

the first from 1988-1994 when Coach Lennie Wilkens had a team that featured Brad Daughterty and Mark Price that just could not get past Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls;

and the second from 2003-2010 with Jordan’s heir apparent LeBron James with a supporting cast that at one point included Shaquielle O’Neal.

The Struggle for Detroit’s Crown

From 1987-1991, Detroit’s “Bad Boy” Pistons made it to the Eastern Conference finals, winning three times including back-to-back NBA titles.  At that time, two other Central Division teams were emerging as their heirs – the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The Cavs featured a talented team with All-Stars Brad Daughterty (C), Larry Nance (F) and Mark Price (G) who also was a member of the Dream Team I .  With Hall of Fame Coach Lennie Wilkins, the team had eight playoff seasons in the next nine years, including three 50+ win seasons and one trip to the Eastern Conference finals.

Yet the team could never get past Michael Jordan and the Bulls who eliminated the Cavs in 5 of their 8 playoff appearances during this era.  Unfortunately, the team will forever be defined by Jordan’s heartbreaking series-winning shot in 1989 that has been immortalized as “The Shot”.

King James’ Court

The Cavs experienced a revival when local sensation LeBron James joined the team out of high school in 2003.  James won Rookie of the Year and two league MVP titles as he led Cleveland to 5 consecutive playoff appearances, including a 3 trips to the trip to the Eastern Conference finals and one trip to the NBA Finals.  One of James’ greatest performance was in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals when he scored 29 of the Cavs last 30 points in carrying the team to an overtime victory that set up the series clincher in Cleveland in Game 6.

The Cavs were then swept by the more balanced and experienced Spurs.

This time, the Cavs principal nemesis was the Bsoton Celtics who eliminated them twice in the Conference semifinals including LeBron’s last game with the Cavs in 2010.  The LeBron era ended shortly after that when the free-agent abandoned his home city for Miami.

The Record

Season Lg Team W L W-L% Finish Playoffs Coaches
2009-10 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 61 21 .744 1 Lost Eastern Conference Semifinals M. Brown (61-21)
2008-09 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 66 16 .805 1 Lost Eastern Conference Finals M. Brown (66-16)
2007-08 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 45 37 .549 2 Lost Eastern Conference Semifinals M. Brown (45-37)
2006-07 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 50 32 .610 2 Lost Finals M. Brown (50-32)
2005-06 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 50 32 .610 2 Lost Eastern Conference Semifinals M. Brown (50-32)
2004-05 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers 42 40 .512 4 P. Silas (34-30), B. Malone (8-10)
1993-94 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 47 35 .573 4 Lost Eastern Conference First Round M. Fratello (47-35)
1992-93 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 54 28 .659 2 Lost Eastern Conference Semifinals L. Wilkens (54-28)
1991-92 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 57 25 .695 2 Lost Eastern Conference Finals L. Wilkens (57-25)
1990-91 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers 33 49 .402 6 L. Wilkens (33-49)
1989-90 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 42 40 .512 4 Lost Eastern Conference First Round L. Wilkens (42-40)
1988-89 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 57 25 .695 2 Lost Eastern Conference First Round L. Wilkens (57-25)
1987-88 NBA Cleveland Cavaliers* 42 40 .512 5 Lost Eastern Conference First Round L. Wilkens (42-40)
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/26/2013.

The Team

Dynasty 1

Rk Player Age G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
1 Brad Daugherty 26 73 73 36.2 7.9 13.8 .570 0.0 0.0 .000 5.7 7.3 .777 10.4 3.6 0.9 1.1 2.5 2.6 21.5
2 Mark Price 27 72 72 29.7 6.1 12.5 .488 1.4 3.6 .387 3.8 4.0 .947 2.4 7.4 1.3 0.2 2.2 1.6 17.3
3 Larry Nance 32 81 81 35.6 6.9 12.7 .539 0.0 0.1 .000 3.2 4.0 .822 8.3 2.9 1.0 3.0 1.1 2.5 17.0
4 Craig Ehlo 30 63 62 32.0 4.9 10.9 .453 1.1 2.7 .413 1.4 2.0 .707 4.9 3.8 1.2 0.3 1.7 2.4 12.3
5 Hot Rod Williams 29 80 12 30.4 4.3 8.5 .503 0.0 0.1 .000 3.4 4.5 .752 7.6 2.5 0.8 2.3 1.0 2.4 11.9
6 John Battle 29 76 2 21.5 4.2 8.7 .480 0.0 0.2 .118 1.9 2.3 .848 1.5 2.1 0.5 0.1 1.2 1.5 10.3
7 Mike Sanders 31 21 20 26.3 3.9 6.6 .583 0.0 0.1 .333 1.5 2.0 .756 4.2 2.0 1.0 0.4 0.8 3.6 9.2
8 Terrell Brandon 21 82 9 19.6 3.1 7.3 .419 0.0 0.3 .043 1.2 1.5 .806 2.0 3.9 1.0 0.3 1.7 1.3 7.4
9 Steve Kerr 26 48 20 17.6 2.5 4.9 .511 0.7 1.5 .432 0.9 1.1 .833 1.6 2.3 0.6 0.2 0.6 0.6 6.6
10 Henry James 26 65 5 13.3 2.5 6.2 .407 0.4 1.4 .322 0.9 1.2 .803 1.7 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.7 1.4 6.4
11 Danny Ferry 25 68 1 13.8 2.0 4.8 .409 0.3 0.7 .354 0.9 1.1 .836 3.1 1.1 0.3 0.2 0.7 2.0 5.1
12 Winston Bennett 26 52 45 16.0 1.5 4.0 .378 0.0 0.0 .000 0.7 1.0 .700 3.1 0.7 0.4 0.2 0.6 2.3 3.7
13 Jimmy Oliver 22 27 8 9.3 1.4 3.6 .398 0.0 0.3 .111 0.6 0.8 .773 1.0 0.7 0.3 0.1 0.3 0.8 3.6
14 John Morton 24 4 0 13.5 0.8 3.0 .250 0.0 0.3 .000 2.0 2.3 .889 1.8 1.3 0.3 0.0 1.0 0.8 3.5
15 Bobby Phills 22 10 0 6.5 1.2 2.8 .429 0.0 0.2 .000 0.7 1.1 .636 0.8 0.4 0.3 0.1 0.8 0.3 3.1
16 Chucky Brown 23 6 0 8.3 0.8 1.7 .500 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.3 .625 1.0 0.5 0.5 0.0 0.3 1.2 2.5
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Generated 5/26/2013.

King James

Rk Player Age G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
1 LeBron James 22 78 78 40.9 9.9 20.8 .476 1.3 4.0 .319 6.3 9.0 .698 6.7 6.0 1.6 0.7 3.2 2.2 27.3
2 Larry Hughes 28 70 68 37.1 5.4 13.6 .400 1.1 3.2 .333 3.0 4.4 .676 3.8 3.7 1.3 0.4 2.2 2.3 14.9
3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas 31 78 78 27.3 4.9 10.2 .485 0.0 0.0 .000 2.0 2.5 .807 7.7 1.6 0.6 1.3 1.8 3.3 11.9
4 Drew Gooden 25 80 80 28.0 4.6 9.8 .473 0.0 0.1 .167 1.8 2.5 .714 8.5 1.1 0.9 0.4 1.4 2.6 11.1
5 Sasha Pavlovic 23 67 28 22.9 3.3 7.3 .453 0.9 2.2 .405 1.5 1.9 .794 2.4 1.6 0.8 0.3 1.5 2.2 9.0
6 Donyell Marshall 33 81 0 16.8 2.6 6.1 .424 1.2 3.3 .351 0.7 1.0 .663 4.0 0.6 0.5 0.5 0.8 1.6 7.0
7 Anderson Varejao 24 81 6 23.9 2.4 5.0 .476 0.0 0.1 .000 2.0 3.3 .616 6.7 0.9 0.9 0.6 0.8 3.3 6.8
8 Damon Jones 30 60 0 19.6 2.3 5.9 .386 1.5 3.9 .385 0.5 0.7 .682 1.1 1.6 0.3 0.0 0.6 0.9 6.6
9 Daniel Gibson 20 60 16 16.5 1.6 3.9 .424 0.9 2.1 .419 0.5 0.7 .718 1.5 1.2 0.4 0.1 0.7 1.6 4.6
10 Eric Snow 33 82 45 23.5 1.6 4.0 .417 0.0 0.0 .000 0.9 1.4 .637 2.3 4.0 0.7 0.2 1.4 2.3 4.2
11 Shannon Brown 21 23 5 8.8 1.2 3.2 .378 0.3 1.1 .280 0.4 0.6 .714 0.9 0.4 0.3 0.1 0.6 1.0 3.2
12 Ira Newble 32 15 1 8.6 1.1 2.5 .432 0.5 1.0 .533 0.4 0.7 .600 2.0 0.1 0.4 0.0 0.2 1.1 3.1
13 David Wesley 36 35 5 10.1 0.6 2.1 .293 0.3 1.1 .237 0.6 0.8 .714 1.0 1.1 0.3 0.1 0.5 0.9 2.1
14 Scot Pollard 31 24 0 4.5 0.5 1.1 .423 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.2 .500 1.3 0.1 0.2 0.0 0.2 1.1 1.0
15 Dwayne Jones 23 4 0 4.5 0.0 0.3 .000 0.0 0.0 0.8 1.5 .500 1.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 0.8 0.8
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/26/2013.
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