world be free cleveland

The Top Ten Cleveland Cavaliers of All-Time


We’ve hit the dog days of the NBA summer.  All the big name free agents have been snatched up.  Summer league is over.  Training camps are still months away.  So, now is the perfect time to reminisce a bit.  The Hoops Manifesto has gathered together a stellar collection of Bloguin basketball writers to determine the top ten players all-time for each of the 30 NBA franchises.  Next up: the recently jilted Cleveland Cavaliers.

Voting panel: Jeff Fox from The Hoops Manifesto, College Wolf from the TWolves Blog, Don from With Malice, Philip from Orlando Magic Daily, LIVES from Knicks Fanatics, Diego from Leaving It All On The Court Ed Isaacson from NBA Draft Blog.

10) Terrell Brandon – Cleveland Cavaliers – 1991 – 1997

Cavaliers accomplishments:

– two-time All-Star
– All-Rookie Team

“A player that time seems to have forgotten, unfortunately few remember how great Terrell Brandon once was.  In fact, Sports Illustrated named him the NBA’s best point guard in a cover story in 1997.” – Jeff Fox

9) Lenny Wilkens – Cleveland Cavaliers – 1972 – 1974

Cavaliers accomplishments:

– NBA Hall of Fame
– one-time All-Star

“The first player to rank in the top 10 on two of our franchise’s all-time lists (he came in fourth on Atlanta’s list) – Jeff Fox

 “Although Wilkens played just two seasons in Cleveland, he and Austin Carr formed a lethal backcourt for Cleveland in the ’70s.  Wilkens later returned to the Cavs organization as a coach.” – Diego Quezada

8) World B. Free – Cleveland Cavaliers – 1982 – 1986

Cavaliers accomplishments:


“Is there any doubt that this is the coolest name to ever grace an NBA player?  A phenomenal scorer with a penchant for being ostentatious (no… really?), the “Prince of Midair” scored at least 22 per for four seasons.” – Don

7) John ‘Hot Rod’ Williams – Cleveland Cavaliers – 1986 – 1995

Cavaliers accomplishments:

– NBA leader in games played in 1988/89 & 1989/90

“A solid scorer and rebounder, ‘Hot Rod’ was best at blocking shots – his 1200 career swats with the Cavs is second on their all-time list.” – Jeff Fox

6) Austin Carr – Cleveland Cavaliers – 1971- 1980

Cavaliers accomplishments:

– NBA leader in games played in 1972/73 & 1978/79
– one-time All-Star
– All-Rookie Team

“A little-known player to general NBA fans, but a very well-known player to Cavs fans. But here is some good info: he averaged 21.2, 20.5 and 21.9 points per game his first three seasons in Cleveland. He never really reached those heights again, but was the first jersey retired at Gund Arena/Quicken Loans Arena.” – Philip

“Now known for his college career rather than his pro game, Carr played a key role in the Cavaliers’ success when he wasn’t hurt. He led his team to the playoffs year after year, and his career is now overlooked because there were stronger teams.” – Diego Quezada  

“He lasted nine years as a Cav, but a promising career as a sharpshooter was hampered by troublesome knees.  Still the fans loved him and he is known for shooting the lights out his first three years as a pro, as he did in college.” – LIVES 

5) Larry Nance – Cleveland Cavaliers – 1988 – 1994

larry-nance-dunking cleveland 

Cavaliers accomplishments:

– two-time All-Star
– three-time All-Defensive Team selection

“We’ll just conveniently ignore the fact that the Cavs traded a draft pick (Dan Majerle) and Kevin Johnson to Phoenix to acquire Nance” – Jeff Fox

“Nance was the missing piece for Cleveland in the late ’80s to help the team contend for a title, as he and Brad Daugherty formed a solid presence in the post.” – Diego Quezada 

“NBA’s first ever dunk contest winner, the “Ayatolla of Slamola” was a double threat at the 4-slot, a killer inside with a good shot at mid-range.  Nance was no slouch at the other end either – a good rebounder and a great shot blocker.  He still holds the team (single season) record of 243 regular season blocks (and still has the record for the most blocks by a non-center).” – Don

 4) Zydrunas Ilgauskas – Cleveland Cavaliers – 1997 – 1999, 2000 – 2010

– Cavs leader in career games played, offensive rebounds, total rebounds and blocks
– NBA leader in games played in 1997/98
– two-time All-Star
– All-Rookie Team

“Big Z had an up and down time with Cleveland. Never really fulfilling his potential, but playing well enough to remain on the team. The fans loved him either way.  When LeBron left, they torched his jersey. When Big Z left they applauded his grace in departure. The full page ad in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer did not hurt.  Ilgauskas always struggled with a recurring foot injury and it greatly affected his quickness. Big Z definitely did not have the flash but he had the heart of Cleveland (or I think he did, at least).” – Philip

“Z will go down as one of the Cavs’ greats based on his loyalty alone.  People though often forget that in his 12 seasons with Cleveland he was a model of consistency, averaging almost 14 points and eight rebounds a game through this stretch.” – Ed Isaacson 

3) Brad Daugherty – Cleveland Cavaliers – 1986 – 1994

Cavaliers accomplishments:

– Cavs all-time leader in defensive rebounds
– five-time All-Star
– All-Rookie Team selection
– All-NBA selection

“The first overall pick in the 1986 Draft had a very solid career and played every minute in Cleveland. He averaged 19.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.  He was always solid, but never spectacular.  Injuries cut his career short and he played only eight seasons (only 50 in his final season). Just makes you wonder what could have been.” – Philip

“A player who retired as the Cavs’ all-time leading scorer and rebounder, Daugherty was a five-year All-Star and led the team to the Conference Finals in 1992.” – Diego Quezada 

“Huge NASCAR fan, Daugherty chose #43 to honor Richard Petty… and Cleveland honored him by retiring the number in 1997.” – Don

2) Mark Price – Cleveland Cavaliers – 1986 – 1995

Cavaliers accomplishments:

– Cavs all-time leader in three-pointers made & assists
– NBA leader in free throw % in 1991/92, 1992/93
– all-time NBA leader in career free throw %
– four-time All-Star
– four-time All-NBA selection

“My brother said something very fitting when we were discussing the backlash in Cleveland against LeBron after he left this summer – ‘I guess Mark Price wouldn’t have pulled something like that’.  True indeed.” – Jeff Fox

“When I was growing up Price was the face of the Cavaliers. He was a sharpshooter and spunky player who seemed to come up with big shots during the regular season (but not really in the postseason). He was a 40.2 percent three-point shooter in his career and scored more than 15.0 points per game in every season after his rookie year. Price was not a perfect point guard or shooting guard, but he probably helped make the three-point shot acceptable for coaches. Oh, and he was pretty sweet in NBA Jam.” – Philip

“Most remember Price as a player with an amazingly sweet shot, and his free throws (all time NBA leader for FT% for both regular season and playoffs – .904/.944), but Price was damn good at distribution as well.  The aforementioned Brad Daugherty was often on the end of a 7.2 assist average whilst a Cav.  Price is one of only five players in the history of the NBA to be in the 50/40/90 club – 50+% FG, 40+% 3s; 90+% FTs.” – Don

1) LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers – 2003 – 2010


Cavaliers accomplishments:

– Cavs career leader in minutes played, field goals (made & attempted), three-pointers attempted, free throws (made & attempted), steals and points
– NBA leader in minutes played in 2004/05 & 2006/07
– NBA leader in field goals made in 2004/05 & 2007/08
– NBA leader in free throws made in 2008/09
– NBA leader in minutes played per game in 2004/05
– NBA leader in points per game in 2007/08
– fifth all-time in career minutes per game in the NBA
– third all-time in career points per game in the NBA
– two-time NBA  MVP
– Rookie of the Year
– six-time All-Star
– All-Rookie Team selection
– six-time All-NBA selection
– two-time All-Defensive Team selection

“Wrote the how-to guide on going from beloved to hated in the Cleveland area.  The best player in Cavs history should have his number retired there after he hangs up his hightops, but will Cleveland’s hearts or minds rule the day?” – Jeff Fox

“Even eternal hatred could not change the fact that he is greatest player to play as a Cavalier.  Although he has won no championships, he made the Cavs relevant again.” – LIVES 

“I hope people don’t stupidly punish his place in the rankings because of how his tenure in Cleveland ended.  He’s clearly the best player they’ve ever had.” – College Wolf

Cleveland may hate him now, but he ushered the greatest era in Cavaliers basketball in the franchise’s history. James almost made Cleveland forget about its miserable sports history. That is almost something. And sorry Cleveland fans, I had to take that cheap shot. I will go back to my corner.” – Philip

Previous franchises done: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago.

About Jeff Fox

Jeff Fox is Mr. Manifesto - the Supreme Leader and evil mind behind The Hoops Manifesto, The MMA Manifesto, & A Dry Heat.