Cavaliers, WWW

How good was the Cavs bench in its prime? While We’re Waiting

Kyle Korver Cavs Warriors

In the span of just three weeks, David Griffin pulled off his latest wizardry. By adding guard Deron Williams, forward Derrick Williams and center Andrew Bogut, all off the free agent haystack, Griffin stacked up the bench for the defending NBA Champions.

So the question du jour is this: How good would this new Cleveland Cavaliers bench be, if all of the players were in their respective primes?

Let’s review the facts: Deron Williams is a three-time All-Star and former No. 3 pick. Andrew Bogut, the No. 1 pick in 2005, has an All-Rookie, Third-Team All-NBA and Second-Team All-Defense nod to his career. Richard Jefferson averaged 18-plus points per game in five different seasons. Kyle Korver was an All-Star just two years ago and one of the NBA’s all-time great three-point shooters. Channing Frye is Channing Frye. Derrick Williams was a No. 2 pick. Iman Shumpert has had his moments.

It’s a fun team to think about. Maybe Deron Williams and RJ, as the two leading scorers in their peak, wouldn’t provide enough efficient outside shooting for today’s day and age. But Korver and Frye would be nice secondary offensive complements, plus the defense and athleticism from Bogut, Derrick Williams and Shump would fit well, too.

How many games do you think such a team would win? Well, thanks to the concept of, we can actually test this out a bit. I put together a team of those seven players at their best seasons, added in James Jones’ best season, and threw in four final random Cavs-y scrubs: recent end-of-the-bench seasons from Jared Cunningham, Joe Harris, DeAndre Liggins and Chris Andersen.

WhatIfSports roster

For ease of simple analysis using the free methods on WhatIfSports, I just attempted to simulate how this fantasy Cavs bench team would perform against the 2015-16 Cavaliers playoff schedule. So I just matched them up against all of those 2015-16 rosters. And I just made sure to edit the depth chart a bit to fit the reality of basketball positions.

WhatIfSports depth chart

They proceeded to do quite well in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They swept Detroit, beat Atlanta in five games, then promptly swept Toronto. So that’s even better than the real-life Cavs did last season! But after winning Game 1 in Golden State in the NBA Finals, they then ultimately fell in six games.

The fictional WhatIfSports “payroll” of this Cavs team was $44 million, just north of the $43.9 million of the 2015-16 Warriors. So they’re clearly quite talented. The fictional romp through the Eastern Conference playoffs might seem a bit optimistic to me, but clearly this would be some type of high-40s or low-50s-win competitive team, if you could somehow magically cross eras and styles.

Meaningless experiment? Sure. But it just goes to show, if only in one narrow example, how impressive it is that David Griffin has pulled all of this off recently. Deron Williams and Bogut aren’t in their primes anymore, that’s for sure. But they certainly have a chance to be far more valuable than the youngsters who were getting burn so far this regular season for the Cavs.

Random other tidbits from around the sports world:

  • Kudos to the folks at The Athletic for launching this week. I’ve got a sneaky feeling that they’ve made an awesome choice with the Cleveland sports market as one of their early targets. And Jason Lloyd was an absolute slam dunk of a hire. Many fans on Twitter are already announcing their $40 purchases, even if only for Lloyd’s Final Thoughts alone. It’ll be wild to see how this new website develops over the next 6-9 months.
  • The Dayton Flyers are the Atlantic 10 Conference men’s basketball regular season champs after a victory over VCU on Wednesday. It’s hard to overstate the job that Archie Miller has done to revitalize this historic program and bring them back on the national stage. Definitely beaming with pride over this conference championship and excited about where March might lead with Archie’s first full class of seniors.
  • This weekend is the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. I’ll be attending for a fourth year in a row. It’s always a fun spot to mingle with Sports Twitter, see the big wigs in analytics, and network throughout the industry. David Griffin is on a panel this year. It’ll definitely bring me back to the days of that big feature I wrote on the Cavs and analytics from post-Sloan in spring 2014….