Season-in-Review: Newcomers

May 30, 2013
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Wayne Ellington + Mo Speights + Shaun Livingston
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/GettyImages

Season Overview: For any NBA franchise, the team that arrives for Training Camp in October is rarely the same one that closes the campaign in April (or beyond). Such was the case for the 2012-13 Cavaliers, who underwent some in-season facelifts.

The Wine and Gold began the season with Donald Sloan as their backup point, Jeremy Pargo as their backup combo-guard and Samardo Samuels as one of the first bigs off the bench. By late January, those roles were replaced by NBA vets (and former first-rounders) Shaun Livingston, Wayne Ellington and Mo Speights, respectively.

Livingston took a circuitous route to C-town. He was part of a Draft day deal last summer that sent him from Milwaukee to Houston. He was waived by the Rockets just before the season started but caught on with the Wizards two weeks later. After 17 games with Washington, the former No. 4 overall pick was released once again. And on Christmas Day, he inked a deal with the Cavaliers.

Livingston played in 49 games for the Cavs down the stretch, starting 12 as Kyrie Irving nursed an injured shoulder. His maturity and leadership made an immediate difference on the NBA’s fourth-youngest team, especially his communication on the defensive end. In his stretch with Cleveland, Livingston tallied double-figures in 16 games, led the team in assists on nine occasions and used his unusual point guard size (6-7) to lead the squad in blocked shots nine times.

Ellington, drafted No. 28 overall by Minnesota in 2009, put up some of the best numbers of his career with the Cavaliers this season.

In three years with the T-Wolves, Ellington averaged 6.6, 6.6 and 6.1 ppg. After being dealt the Grizzlies over the summer, he averaged 5.5 ppg with Memphis. But the combo-guard from North Carolina flourished in his 38 contests with the Cavaliers – averaging 10.4 ppg with the Wine and Gold. For the entire 2012-13 season, Ellington shot nearly 43 percent from the floor, 40 percent from long-distance and over 90 percent from the stripe.

Injuries forced the former Tar Heel into the starting lineup for the final 15 games and he was even more impressive down the stretch – averaging 11.3 points per contest and netting double-figures in 10 of those games, including a pair of 20-point performances.

As good as Livingston and Ellington were in the second half of the season, Mo Speights was a little bit better.

Like Ellington, Speights’ numbers increased greatly after being dealt to Cleveland in exchange for Jon Leuer – averaging 10.4 ppg in 39 contests with the Cavaliers. (After averaging 6.6 ppg with Memphis.) Speights led the team in scoring five times and rebounds on seven occasions.

The former Gator went 10-for-10 from the floor in the first half of the Knicks matchup on March 4 – becoming the first player to do so since Derek Rose in 2009. In a win over OKC on Feb. 2, he became first Cavalier since Antawn Jamison (in 2010) to net 20-plus points and 10-plus boards off the bench. Speights notched at least 10 points and five boards in his first seven games in Cleveland – a first in franchise history.

Highlight: Although Livingston didn’t get into the act on this night, a perfect example of the new-look Cavaliers came in a February 23 win over Orlando in which seven Cavaliers – including Speights (18) and Ellington (15) – scored at least a dozen points each in a 118-94 win. The last time Cleveland accomplished that feat was 1993 and the names were Price, Nance, Daugherty, Ferry, Wilkins, Brandon and Ehlo.

Lowlight: The entire team – newcomers, rookies, sophomores, coaches – had a difficult final stretch of the season in which Cleveland dropped 16 of its final 18 contests.

Odds and Ends: Shaun Livingston, who was drafted out of high school by the Clippers in 2004 still wears the same size shoe (14) as he did as an eighth grader.

By the Numbers: 2 … combined games that the trio of newcomers missed due to illness or injury. Speights didn’t miss a single game as a Cavalier.

Looking Forward: Speights heads into the season with a player option, Ellington is a restricted free agent and Livingston is a free agent. The still-young Cavaliers could still use some veteran help, but both sides might wait until after the draft before making any decisions on next year.

Quotable: Mo Speights on his desire to play in Cleveland dating back to his days in Philly …

“A lot of people don’t know that I’m the one who signed off on getting traded. I came here because I knew they had a young team; great city; great fans and I always wanted to be here.”