Cavs Rookie Report
All three took some circuitous routes to the North Coast, but the Cavaliers youngest youngbloods have come together in Cleveland and have slowly worked their way into Byron Scott’s rotation.
While the triumvirate of tenderfoots grow into their roles in the NBA and with the Wine and Gold, we’ll check in periodically on their progress in Cavs.com’s Rookie Report …
- Christian Eyenga is routinely described as a “project.” That’s a fair assessment, considering the actual time he’s logged as a professional ballplayer. In fact, there aren’t many first-rounders who have played less than Eyenga – and that makes his success at this level even more surprising.
In 2008-09, he played 25 games with CB Prat Juventud, averaging 30.3 minutes per contest. In that same year, Eyenga played four Euroleague games with DKV Joventut Badalona, averaging four minutes per game. With DKV in 2009-10, Christian played in 29 games, averaging 12 mpg. In 11 Europcup games with DKV, Eyenga averaged 9.7 minutes per.
All in all, Eyenga logged 1,229 combined minutes of floor time in Spain.
The high-flying Congolese swingman spent 15 games with the D-League’s BayHawks before joining the Cavs full-time. So far, Eyenga’s averaging 26.3 minutes per game, logging 393 minutes (or roughly one-quarter of his combined floor time in Europe) against some of the NBA’s best ballplayers – including LeBron James and Danny Granger in successive games last week.
Eyenga has started ten games with Cleveland – ten more than he had in his professional basketball career overseas – and has been better with each outing. He’s notched double-figures in each of his last three games.
- With so many young players, the Cavaliers would seem to be one of the league’s youngest teams, but at 16th, they’re right in the middle of the pack.
The Cavaliers average age is 26.7 years, with 3.93 years of NBA experience. The youngest team in the league is Minnesota (24.3, 2.73 years of experience) and its oldest is the Miami Heat (30.1, 8.07).
In terms of Cleveland’s rookies, Samardo Samuels – who just turned 22 on January 9 – is the old man of the group.
- Although Eyenga has filled up the boxscore lately, Manny Harris has been the Cavs most consistent rookie since January 25. His 12.4 ppg average ranks him fourth among first-year scorers in that span, trailing only Blake Griffin (23.8 ppg), DeMarcus Cousins (17.6) and Greg Monroe (13.6).
The Cavs three rookies have combined for 449 points this season – already more points than the Cavaliers have gotten from first-year players in any season since LeBron James’ rookie season.
- Last week, the teams were announced for the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge, but none of the Cavs frosh were aboard.
This year’s team includes Eric Bledsoe (L.A. Clippers), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings), Derrick Favors (New Jersey Nets), Landry Fields (New York Knicks), Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers), Wesley Johnson (Minnesota Timberwolves), Greg Monroe (Detroit Pistons), Gary Neal (San Antonio Spurs), and John Wall (Washington Wizards).
San Antonio’s Neal is the only undrafted rookie on this year’s team. The only undrafted player on the Sophomore squad is Wesley Matthews, who dropped 31 points on the Cavs this past weekend.
- Cleveland ranks third in the Eastern Conference in percentage of points from its rookies.
The Wizards lead the East, with 16.3 percent. The Knicks are next at 11.2, with the Wine and Gold right behind, with 10.7 percent of their scoring done by first-year players.
- After a solid 16-point effort against the Magic, Samardo Samuels – the subject of this month’s Growing Up … - has been relatively quiet. The former Louisville star knows that he and his young teammates have their work cut out for them.
“As a baby, you have to crawl before you walk – and that’s what we’re doing right now,” said Samuels. “(We’re) just a bunch of young cats, we just have to play hard. We can’t get into bad habits. And I’m still not used to losing. It’s hard, but you control what you can control.
“You don’t know how to stop the bleeding. But when you do, you start healing.”
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.