What if the Cleveland Cavaliers played for the Cleveland Indians?


The Cleveland Cavaliers are moving on to round two of the NBA Playoffs, but what if they came out to play for the Cleveland Indians?

It is an exciting time in the city of Cleveland.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the NBA Finals and, entering tonight’s game with a 2-1 series advantage, the Cavs have an opportunity to give Cleveland it’s first title in more than 50 years. After a slow start to the season, the Indians have picked up the pace and appear more and more ready to contend for an AL Central crown as the season progresses. And the Browns… well, there’s always something exciting — or, perhaps more accurately, interesting — going on with the Browns.

At any rate, it’s a time to really soak in as a Cleveland sports fan. While the Cavaliers tip off in Game 4 tonight at The Q, take a look at what the Cavs’ roster would look like if they played baseball instead:

Pitcher: LeBron James

A great pitcher can beat a great offense. And a great LeBron James can beat, well, anybody. Just as we’ve marveled at the performance of Corey Kluber over the last season and a half, Cavs fans have been awestruck by the way James has put this team on his back throughout most of these playoffs. Like Kluber, James has struggled to get any support from the offense, but his greatness has been the key to the Cavs’ knotting this series at one ahead of Game 3.

June 7, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates with guard

Matthew Dellavedova

(8) the 95-93 victory against the Golden State Warriors in game two of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Catcher: Matthew Dellavedova

As a general rule, catchers get no love. Above all else, a catcher’s role behind the dish focuses solely on making those around him look good. Much like Tribe catcher Yan Gomes, Dellavedova has been instrumental in the success of his teammates. While his game is anything but pretty, Dellavedova has been a significant cog in this Cavaliers’ Finals teams. He’s a gritty defender who, unless he’s being accused of playing dirty, gets little credit for his enormous role with the Cavaliers. Plus, he’s a former rugby player. That’s like the Australian version of a catcher, right?

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  • First Base: Kendrick Perkins

    When Carlos Santana connects with one, there’s always a chance the ball could wind up in the second deck of Progressive Field. While fans may get frustrated with Santana’s inconsistency at the dish, he plays a significant role because he’s able to get on base and pass the buck to the next guy. Nobody — and I mean nobody — on the Cavaliers packs a powerful punch the way Kendrick Perkins does. Just ask Jae Crowder. Perkins hasn’t gotten a whole lot of minutes since signing with the Cavaliers but he, too, has a significant role. Perk is the elder statesman for the Wine & Gold and brings with him the attitude and the heart of a champion.

    Second Base: J.R. Smith

    As we witnessed during the month of May, Jason Kipnis boasts an impressive offensive skill set — and so does J.R. Smith. While neither is overwhelmingly strong on the defensive side, both players get by playing with as much heart as anyone on the team. Smith set a playoff record in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals by canning eight 3-pointers and scoring all 28 of his team’s bench points. There have been times, especially while James has been on the bench, when Smith’s offense is all the Cavs can muster up. Similarly, Kipnis has carried the load offensively for the Tribe as Michael Brantley has been in and out of the lineup.

    Jun 4, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center

    Tristan Thompson

    (13) and Golden State Warriors center

    Andrew Bogut

    (12) fight for a rebound during the second quarter in game one of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Third Base: Tristan Thompson

    It’s not called the hot corner for no reason. Third basemen are thrown in the line of fire on every play and they, much like catchers, are asked to risk their bodies for the good of the team. There may not be a player in the NBA who does that better than Tristan Thompson. The Cavs spirited big man walked away from Sunday’s overtime victory with a busted lip and a number of bumps, bruises and scraped. It was a hard-fought victory for the Cavaliers and, just as the Tribe hopes Giovanny Urshela can do, Tristan Thompson did his job offensively while making his presence felt tremendously on the defensive side. 

    More from Away Back Gone

    Shortstop: Iman Shumpert

    Defense. Shortstops are the focal point of a team’s defense, so much so that a good shortstop can mask defensive deficiencies within a team. Shumpert was brought to Cleveland to do just that, as he’s played frequently alongside both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — neither of whom is particularly proficient defensively. Much like Indians’ prized prospect Francisco Lindor, Shumpert covers a lot of ground on the defensive end but his little-discussed offensive game isn’t all too shabby either.

    Left Field: James Jones

    Dr. Smooth. Indians’ left fielder Michael Brantley is about as smooth as they come and, while Cavs’ sharpshooter James Jones isn’t an All-Star or MVP caliber player like Brantley, Jones is as smooth as the other side of the pillow. Selected midway through the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft, Jones was never expected to amount to much in the league. But the 6’8″ Jones has latched onto LeBron James and become one of two Cavaliers’ players to have appeared in five straight Finals.

    June 4, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving (2) moves to the basket against the defense of Golden State Warriors center

    Festus Ezeli

    (31) and guard

    Andre Iguodala

    (9) during the first half in game one of the NBA Finals. at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Center Field: Kyrie Irving

    Think young Michael Bourn here, folks. Bourn was one of the best lead off hitters in the game for several years with the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros. Bourn did it all, setting the table for his teammates and stealing bases to create runs. Irving does the same thing for the Tribe. The Cavaliers certainly miss his presence in the NBA Finals, mainly because of his ability to make plays for his teammates. He, in a lot of ways, is the lead off hitter for Cleveland. He puts himself in position to be the beneficiary of his clean-up hitter, LeBron James. 

    Right Field: Kevin Love

    Since joining the Tribe this offseason, Brandon Moss has been nothing but criticized for the things he doesn’t do well. He doesn’t hit for average; he’s not a great defender; he strikes out an awful lot; and, while all those things are true, there are a number of things Moss does really really well to help this team win. Sound like Kevin Love, yet? In what was a down-year for Love, the former UCLA Bruins’ star still notched 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. He played extremely well in his first year adjusting to both the style of LeBron James and his role as the third option. It hasn’t been easy for Love, but his production this season was severely under-appreciated.

    Designated Hitter: Timofey Mozgov

    While Timofey Mozgov doesn’t necessarily exude “designated hitter” considering his prowess as a defender, his role during this series has really appeared as such. Think about it. Mozgov is averaging 9.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in this series, but he’s been virtually non-existent in the second half. Largely because of the small-ball style of Golden State, Mozgov has been relegated to part-time — or no-time — duty in the fourth quarter of games. Much like a designated hitter, though, he’s been ready to make a big play whenever it’s his time up.

    What do you think Cleveland fans? What would your lineup look like?

    Next: Reasonable expectations for Urshela in Cleveland