The Indians make a "blockbuster" deal, immediately adding a new top prospect and power arm to the rotation. But it's still Pat Shurmur's world as the Browns make a late-season push to save his job.
1. Pat Shurmur, head coach, Cleveland Browns (last week: 1)
Pat Shurmur has somehow managed to take a team that was in the discussion for the next winless season to being (mathematically) in the playoff hunt with just three games to go. Relevance is not something that has been commonplace when it comes to Cleveland Browns football, and Shurmur -- with the help of Jimmy Haslam III's new television show and a relatively fortunate schedule -- has spearheaded a team that has shown that they can beat who they are supposed to beat while hanging with those who they are not.
The Browns will need plenty of luck, something that has also not been commonplace, along with plenty of help from three other teams -- the Steelers, Bengals and Jets -- if they are to in fact make the postseason. Even if they are left on the outside looking in, Shurmur has transformed himself from Dead Man Walking to a head coach who some fans would like to see get a third year with the team. With such a young core (72 starts by rookies alone) and the high level of recent play, especially during a period where things could have grown extremely toxic, this is a transformation that no one saw coming. Especially Haslam and team CEO Joe Banner.
Quote of the week: "That was the hardest, roughest looking slide I had ever seen. [Brandon Weeden] took a chunk of turf out of there. I thought they were going to stop the game and bring out a dump truck. Being a baseball player, I thought it would look a little easier."
2. Kyrie Irving, point guard, Cleveland Cavaliers (last week: 8)
After an 11-game stretch where the Cavs managed to win a mere two games, the physicans within Cleveland Clinic Courts miraculously decided that point guard Kyrie Irving -- who was out with a fractured index finger -- could be cleared to practice and play in his team's contest against the Los Angeles Lakers. The result: A 28-point, 11-assist box score and a win for the Cavaliers, sending Kobe Bryant and the Lakers home wondering what had just hit them.
Irving, still just 20 years of age, admitted to being a bit anxious, needing his teammates to calm him down at times. But when the game was on the line, it was the reigning Rookie of the Year with the ball in his hands, continually facilitating an offense that had run stagnant in his absence, creating space and ensuring that his teammates have the best shot attempts at their disposal. In a game that forced Bryant to score 42 points merely to keep the Lakers within spitting distance, it was Irving that was the most dynamic player on the court.
Byron Scott said that Irving's "true test" would come on the second night of the team's back-to-back set in Indiana. It's safe to say that he, as expected, has some work to do when it comes to conditioning. That said, he's still among the NBA's most promising young players. Oh, and he plays in Cleveland.
3. Trevor Bauer, starting pitcher, Cleveland Indians (last week: unranked)
Fewer sports-related items are more captivating than completed trades. Fewer items are more discussed than multi-team trades that include highly-touted prospects. As luck would have it, not only were the Indians a part of such a deal, seeing nine players find out they would have a new employer in 2013, but it would be the Tribe who would receive the player with the highest ceiling in the quirky, hard-tossing Bauer.
The four-pitch righty will be in the team's rotation from Day One. For a pitcher to be selected third-overall in his respective draft, fan more than a batter per inning, and be fast-tracked to the majors is remarkable on its own. For the Indians to be able to pry such a talent for what amounts to -- at most -- one year of Shin-Soo Choo is a very uncharacteristic coup by a front office typically left holding the bag at trade deadlines.
4. Shin-Soo Choo, former outfielder, Cleveland Indians (last week: unranked)
A solid teammate and an even better person, no one in Cleveland wanted to see Shin-Soo Choo traded. The writing, as they say, was on the wall -- he was not going to be in Cleveland come 2014, and with an injury-riddled campaign in 2011, his value wasn't extremely high.
While everyone assumed it would take an All-Star in shortstop Asdrubal Cabera to land a potential Cy Young candidate in Bauer, the Indians managed to get the job done by shipping off a would-be rental in Choo. That said, he's easily the best player in the deal (in the short term) and could reasonably be expected to put up a 25/25 season with Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds. He was the most reliable player in Cleveland last season, being moved to the lead-off spot based solely on him being the most consistent on-base threat; he responded mightily and never once complained about a move that would only serve to decrease his RBI total. Now, he'll be rewarded by getting to hit in front of Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto on a regular basis AND still get paid in the offseason. Not a bad deal.
5. Chris Antonetti, general manager, Cleveland Indians (last week: 3)
The man deserves credit. After an entire autumn of being tossed under the bus for his negligence at the trade deadline, Antonetti has come out swinging ever since he hired Terry Francona to manage his team.
After missing out on Shane Victorino and Kevin Youkilis, Antonetti managed to sign a 40-home run threat in Mark Reynolds and acquire an arm who could conceivably be among the league's best within the next three seasons. The fact that free agent outfielder Nick Swisher is still considering Cleveland's offer -- despite having interest from three perennial playoff teams -- speaks volumes.
He may have been the reason for the team's decline, but Chris Antonetti is doing everything within his power to make up for it.
6. Josh Gordon, wide receiver, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
Thought of as a huge risk just a few months ago, Josh Gordon is slowly flashing more and more potential each time he steps on the field. Once thought of to merely be an athlete who can run fly patterns and 10-yard come-back routes, Gordon is showing that the second-round supplemental pick used to acquire him may have been the most integral move made through all of the Browns' offseason -- his development has him looking like a No. 1 receiver who is still only 21 years of age.
7. Asdrubal Cabrera, shortstop, Cleveland Indians (last week: 6)
While Asdrubal Cabrera is still slotted as playing the crucial infield position for the Indians in 2013, it seems the Tribe did nearly everything the could to unload him. Cabrera was offered to the Philadelphia Phiilles in a deal that never materialized. He was later rumored in a deal that would net Bauer, but that deal ended up sending Choo to Cincinnati.
The market for a shortstop who can hit 20 home runs and make highlight reel plays is never dry. With another year of control, however, the Indians are by no means in a hurry to deal the All-Star; his current involvement in rumors merely shows how much value he has to other teams -- as they say, you have to trade value to get value. It is expected that, at some point, Cabrera will be dealt with the Indians receiving prospects, be they starting pitching or quality bats. For now, we wait.
8. Michael Lombardi, media vagabond (last week: unranked)
Lombardi has gone from a guy who is most recently known for his Bill Cosby-like sweaters in the NFL Network's "Cleveland '95" documentary to suddenly having his name attached to being a high-ranking official within the Cleveland Browns front office on a going-forward basis, much to the dismay of 95 percent of the fan base.
Sure, Lombardi has ties to Bill Belichick. He may also have lineage to the history that many in Cleveland cling to like a security blanket. But to replace Tom Heckert -- a general manager who is responsible for two of the best drafts since the team came back in 1999 -- would be an utter mistake. We just have to hope that...
9. Joe Banner, CEO, Cleveland Browns (last week: unranked)
...is listening. A business man at heart, Banner is the CEO and the CEO obviously wants to have his men in place. That said, as a CEO, it's also Banner's job to realize what he currently has in place and how it has reacted amidst a season of considerable turmoil.
Banner has stated that his decisions will be made on a macro level, but there is no one person in Cleveland who has looked better in a big-picture scenario than Tom Heckert. It won't be long before we see whether or not the future is driven by agenda.
10. Anderson Varejao, center, Cleveland Cavaliers (last week: 2)
Still putting up huge numbers, it would be utter blasphemy to pick a one-week wonder to place among Cleveland's top 10. Varejao, as expected, looks like a completely different person with Kyrie Irving back in tow -- his motion to the hoop is met with a perfectly executed pass each and every time. His motion without the ball has allowed Varjeao to get back on the assist train, racking up five more against the Lakers.
At this point, if Anderson Varejao is not a reserve come February's All-Star game, it's a complete shame. A shamockery, even.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson, Greg Little, Travis Benjamin, Byron Scott, Dion Waiters, CJ Miles, Jonathan Hankins, Jason Donald, Drew Stubbs, Mark Reynolds, Nick Swisher
Scott is a co-founder of WaitingForNextYear, where he writes about all three professional Cleveland teams. He's been voted "Ohio's Best Sports Blogger" for his work at WFNY. In addition to his writing, he's also made radio and television appearances on 92.3 The Fan, ESPN 850 WKNR, 100.7 WMMS, FS Ohio, WKYC, and SportsTime Ohio. Scott will be covering all things Cleveland, providing feature writing and weekly snapshots of what mattered and where we're headed in the world of Cleveland sports.