CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Cavaliers center Walter “Edy” Tavares, who received a call-up from the Raptors 905 on April 12, was named NBA Developmental League Defensive Player of the Year on Tuesday.
Tavares was given the honor, which former Cavaliers swingman DeAndre Liggins earned last season, by a vote of the D-League’s 22 head coaches.
Tied for the league lead in blocks at 2.7 per game, Tavares helped anchor the top defense, holding opponents to 98.0 points and 42.8 percent from the field while the Raptors 905 finished with a 39-11 record.
It’s that defensive prowess that led to the Cavaliers waiving Larry Sanders and replacing him with Tavares prior to the postseason.
“Walter is one of the very few people I believe can dunk flat-footed and that will be cool in a circus but that’s not what he’s here to do,” General Manager David Griffin said recently. “Walter is really, really special as a shot blocker. We’re excited about having that on the back line potentially, whether he actually appears in a playoff game, I don’t know but it will make practices a hell of a lot more competitive and that’s really important.”
In his Cavaliers debut, the regular season finale against the Toronto Raptors, the 7-foot-3 center showed glimpses of his potential, scoring six points to go with 10 rebounds and six blocks, the most by a Cavaliers player since Zydrunas Ilgauskas in 2007.
“The D-League did good for me to learn how NBA players play,” Tavares said. “I got a lot of playing time and it helped me a lot to get confidence in my game and my defense and offense too. They gave me that confidence in the D-League.”