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The Virtual 1980s Cleveland Cavaliers, Part II

Posted by Neil Paine on December 24, 2008

Okay, last time we established the ground rules and picked out the blunders we're going to wipe away from the history books forever. Now it's time to put the method to the test, starting with...

1979-80
Actual record: 37-45
Actual points scored: 9360
Actual points allowed: 9332
Actual pythagorean record: 42-40

Not a whole lot to change here, just the Butch Lee-Don Ford swap for the time being... I split Ford's minutes up evenly amongst Cleveland's forwards.

Player          Ag      Ht      Pos     Min     ORtg    %Pos    DRtg
---------------+----+------+--------+--------+--------+------+-------
Mike Mitchell   24      79      F       2947    111.8   23.0    106.8
Randy Smith     31      75      G       2677    103.2   23.1    108.2
Dave Robisch    30      82      C       2670    118.7   17.6    106.8
Foots Walker    28      72      G       2422    113.1   15.3    105.7
Kenny Carr      24      79      F       1873    103.6   21.5    103.3
Austin Carr     31      76      G       1595    102.8   23.4    110.5
Bill Willoughby 22      80      F       1522    109.0   15.4    106.2
Campy Russell   28      80      F       1400    99.3    25.4    105.4
John Lambert    27      82      C       1324    99.9    15.0    104.8
Willie Smith    26      74      G       1051    97.1    17.8    105.9
Earl Tatum      26      77      G       225     87.2    19.8    104.9
Bingo Smith     33      77      F       142     96.8    21.7    108.9
Butch Lee       23      72      G       55      74.8    29.0    109.7
Walt Frazier    34      76      G       27      87.5    24.8    103.9

The result? 9350 points scored, 9343 points allowed, and a pythagorean record of 41-41. So Ford actually helped the Cavs by about 1 win in his 419-minute stint with Cleveland, but that's not really the point of reversing this trade anyway (the point is to keep a 1st-round pick in the 1982 draft).

1980-81
Actual record: 28-54
Actual points scored: 8670
Actual points allowed: 9068
Actual pythagorean record: 29-53

Now, once again, we're erasing the trades that brought in Mike Bratz, Richard Washington, Jerome Whitehead, and Geoff Huston, and we're retaining Bill Robinzine (Butch Lee was out of the league at this point). And again, I split the lost guards, forwards, and center's minutes evenly by position amongst the remaining players -- but I capped players' MPG at their career-highs to avoid certain players playing ludicrous amounts of minutes, so I had to add a hypothetical "replacement-level" player to Cleveland's roster to make up for the extra minutes.

Player          Ag      Ht      Pos     Min     ORtg    %Pos    DRtg
---------------+----+------+--------+--------+--------+------+-------
Mike Mitchell   25      79      F       3198    108.2   23.9    111.2
Randy Smith     32      75      G       3116    104.3   23.6    109.3
Kenny Carr      25      79      F       2800    107.7   20.1    106.0
Replacements    --      --      --      2597    94.8    15.4    108.6
Bill Laimbeer   23      83      C       2466    112.3   14.6    107.4
Roger Phegley   24      78      G       2271    107.9   20.4    111.3
Bill Robinzine  29      80      F       2159    100.6   22.2    107.7
Dave Robisch    31      82      C       373     107.8   14.0    109.2
Kim Hughes      28      83      C       332     68.4    10.8    104.0
Walter Jordan   24      79      F       222     87.5    18.8    107.3
Mack Calvin     33      72      G       206     93.6    23.0    110.3
Robert Smith    25      71      G       32      99.8    20.5    112.7
John Lambert    28      82      C       8       104.7   38.6    108.0

This team scores 8699 points and allows 9040, for a pythagorean record of 30-52, which doesn't really represent a change from the real-life version. That's because we improved the defense by never acquiring Bratz ('81 DRtg: 109.7) or Ford (111.7), and held the offense steady by giving more minutes to Carr and Smith. 30-52 still isn't good, mind you, but at least this team got there without having to relinquish 5 first-round picks.

1981-82
Actual record: 15-67
Actual points scored: 8463
Actual points allowed: 9161
Actual pythagorean record: 20-62

OK, so this time around we're not sending Laimbeer and Carr to Detroit, in addition to all the other moves we haven't made. And remember, we also retain our 1st-round pick following the season.

Player          Ag      Ht      Pos     Min     ORtg    %Pos    DRtg
---------------+----+------+--------+--------+--------+------+-------
Bob Wilkerson   27      78      G       2509    96.9    20.0    110.3
Ron Brewer      26      76      G       2396    103.5   21.6    114.1
James Edwards   26      84      C       2209    108.1   20.6    111.3
James Silas     32      73      G       2011    110.0   22.3    114.5
Kenny Carr      26      79      F       1968    104.3   19.8    108.4
Scott Wedman    29      79      F       1673    103.2   17.1    111.0
Bill Laimbeer   24      83      C       1592    113.3   16.9    106.9
Mike Mitchell   26      79      F       994     100.7   23.2    113.6
Cliff Robinson  21      81      F       966     103.0   22.9    106.3
Roger Phegley   25      78      G       787     107.7   18.6    113.8
Bill Robinzine  29      79      F       665     92.3    24.5    109.2
Reggie Johnson  24      81      F       630     115.6   13.9    112.8
Keith Herron    25      78      G       374     87.9    17.3    114.7
Kevin Restani   30      81      F       345     92.9    10.2    111.0
Mickey Dillard  23      75      G       307     88.5    19.6    113.8
Brad Branson    23      82      C       153     91.4    16.0    112.0
Mike Evans      26      73      G       103     76.9    28.2    110.4
Lowes Moore     24      73      G       97      113.2   26.5    108.6
Mel Bennett     27      79      F       23      49.0    19.4    112.2

These virtual Cavs have a pythagorean record of 22-60 (8484 PF, 9111 PA), which is terrible and only a marginal improvement over the real-life version, but there is good news... That pythagorean mark is still the worst in the league, so our Cavs will have the #1 overall pick in the draft (unlike in real life, where they traded it away back in 1980). So the spoils of this awful season? James Worthy, plus more picks on the way.

1982-83
Actual record: 23-59
Actual points scored: 7964
Actual points allowed: 8574
Actual pythagorean record: 22-60

Up to this point, our virtual Cavaliers haven't exactly been significantly better than the real thing, despite wiping away a number of really dumb transactions. On the other hand, almost all of those trades involved sending out future 1st-round draft choices in exchange for lousy veterans, and this season is the first one in which we'll see the fruits of hanging on to those picks instead, as James Worthy joins Cleveland for his rookie season. We also nixed the preseason trade which sent a 1986 2nd-rounder to Detroit for Steve Hayes. Now it's time to see how we fared in 1982-83...

Player          Ag      Ht      Pos     Min     ORtg    %Pos    DRtg
---------------+----+------+--------+--------+--------+------+-------
Bill Laimbeer   25      83      C       2871    113.0   16.6    102.9
Bob Wilkerson   28      78      G       2618    87.6    18.2    106.6
Cliff Robinson  22      81      F       2601    99.5    24.5    103.2
Kenny Carr      27      79      F       2331    105.2   18.4    103.4
James Worthy    21      81      F       1970    108.7   20.2    104.5
World B. Free   29      74      G       1938    106.3   28.9    108.3
Scott Wedman    30      79      F       1290    101.1   21.9    108.7
Bruce Flowers   25      80      F       936     111.7   16.8    105.9
Larry Kenon     30      81      F       835     101.9   18.0    107.1
Jeff Cook       26      82      F       782     107.7   13.4    104.6
Ron Brewer      27      76      G       563     95.5    19.7    108.7
Sam Lacey       34      82      C       483     85.9    13.7    106.6
Carl Nicks      24      73      G       198     95.3    21.2    106.5
Darren Tillis   22      83      C       189     98.5    15.5    104.3
James Edwards   27      84      C       150     101.2   22.0    105.8

With an established forward like Jamaal Wilkes in front of him, the Lakers had the luxury of bringing Worthy off the bench as a rookie; on a team like this Cavs squad, it's hard to assume that the same thing would happen. Still, we'll have to play by the rules, stick to the real minutes, and let Worthy come in as a reserve behind Robinson and Carr. At any rate, this Cavs team scores 8250 and allows 8455 for a pythagorean record of 34-48, a significant improvement over the real version, and they still have all of their 1st-round picks intact.

1983-84
Actual record: 28-54
Actual points scored: 8386
Actual points allowed: 8735
Actual pythagorean record: 30-52

By holding on to the 11th pick in the draft, the Cavs are able to select Derek Harper from Illinois, and now they've got a pretty decent nucleus with James Worthy, Bill Laimbeer, World B. Free, Kenny Carr, and company...

Player          Ag      Ht      Pos     Min     ORtg    %Pos    DRtg
---------------+----+------+--------+--------+--------+------+-------
Bill Laimbeer   26      83      C       2864    122.5   18.2    106.1
Kenny Carr      28      79      F       2455    112.4   20.8    107.3
James Worthy    22      81      F       2415    112.6   19.2    106.8
Cliff Robinson  23      81      F       2402    99.5    25.3    106.0
World B. Free   30      74      G       2375    107.9   29.2    110.5
Paul Thompson   22      78      G       1731    109.3   18.6    107.8
Lonnie Shelton  28      80      F       1240    99.0    19.9    107.8
Jeff Cook       27      82      F       1151    108.9   12.3    106.7
Roy Hinson      22      81      F       1097    99.5    12.7    105.4
Derek Harper    22      76      G       1011    97.4    15.5    108.9
Ben Poquette    28      81      F       507     106.9   11.0    107.6
Stewart Granger 22      75      G       436     99.4    18.5    111.0
John Garris     24      80      F       158     119.3   19.7    107.3
Geoff Crompton  28      83      C       14      61.2    28.8    105.7

Well, now we have something! While the real-life Cavs languished (again), our virtual '84 Cleveland team scored 8731 points and allowed 8630, good for 44 pythagorean wins, which would be enough to secure 3rd in the Central Division and earn them a playoff spot. They would probably lose to the Bucks in the 1st round, but that's a lot better than what happened in reality, and with an '84 1st-rounder intact they have the potential to be even better in the future.

Next time, we'll finish by looking at how the virtual Cavs performed in the 2nd half of the decade...

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2 Responses to “The Virtual 1980s Cleveland Cavaliers, Part II”

  1. MCT Says:

    Two things to keep in mind: First, if the Cavaliers were better than they actually were in real life, their draft picks would have been lower, and they may not have realistically been able to get some of the players selected with their original draft positions. This is alluded to in the article with regard to the '82 team still having the worst record in the league and thus still being in position to get James Worthy. For '83 it doesn't matter, as the pick Cleveland traded to Dallas that year -- which ended up being Derek Harper -- wasn't actually their own (they had traded their own pick away years earlier, before Stepien was even on the scene). I'm not sure how you're going to handle this for future years. Unrealistic as it is, it may be simplest to assume that Cleveland was somehow able to get the same players chosen with their real-life draft positions, on grounds that figuring out which players they likely would have actually drafted is just too speculative.

    Second, because Stepien had traded away so many picks, the Cavaliers' new owners were allowed to buy a bonus first round pick in the 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986 drafts -- note that there 24 first round picks in those years, even though there were only 23 teams. The '83 pick was tacked onto the end of the round (#24), the '84 pick was in the exact middle of the round (#12), and the '85 and '86 picks were slotted immediately after the position of the Cavs' original picks (#9 and #8[*]). The Cavaliers used these picks to select Stewart Granger, Tim McCormick (rights traded on draft day in deal in which rights to Mel Turpin were acquired instead), Charles Oakley, and Ron Harper. Absent Stepien's pillaging of the franchise's future draft picks, Cleveland never would have had access to these picks, and probably would not have been able to get any of these players. At the very least, even if we're suspending disbelief and assuming that Cleveland was somehow able to get the same players they got with their real-life draft positions, they could have gotten either the players taken with their own pick or the player taken with the bonus pick, but not both (e.g., Tarpley or Harper in '86, but not both of them).

    Note that the above issues don't impact every first round pick during this period. As already noted, the Cavaliers theoretically should have been able to get James Worthy and Derek Harper even with the changes to history that you've made. Roy Hinson and Brad Daugherty were likewise selected with picks acquired in trades which don't appear to be dependent on anything that's been changed.

    [*]A side note: The draft lottery was started in 1985. Cleveland made the playoffs that year -- just barely -- but they were in the lottery in '86. Their original '86 pick, which they had traded to Dallas, ended up being the final pick of the lottery, so they had the next pick after the lottery. I'm not sure how things would have been handled had Cleveland's original pick ended up higher in the lottery in either of those years. In other words, did Cleveland pick immediately after the lottery in '86 because that happened to be one slot after their pick, or were they locked into that position no matter how high their pick ended up? If the pick had ended up #1, would they have picked #2, or still #8? I don't know the answer to this.

  2. Biros Says:

    cool picsxxx