Cleveland Oh. – As we near the first half of the NBA regular season, the Cavs sit at 19-15. That record is good enough to be tied for 7th in the conference, and just outside the top six that get the automatic playoff spot. While they finished as the 4 seed last season, the Cavs have had a different route this year. I am going to talk about my takeaways from this season and give my suggestions on how the Cavs can improve.
The number one reason the Cavs are in the position they are in; is they haven’t been able to put the projected lineup out on the floor one time this season. Max Strus and George Niang are the only players to play every game thus far this season. With so many different guys in and out the lineup, it has been difficult to have a solid rotation. Sure, there have been surprises like Craig Porter Jr. who has become a solid rotation piece. Sam Merrill has been a pleasant surprise coming off the bench, especially the last couple weeks with Darius Garland and Evan Mobley out. But all in all, this team is built around the four headed monster of Garland, Mobley, Donavan Mitchell, and Jarrett Allen. All four players have missed time and Garland and Mobley will be out until at least February. The Cavs need to get healthy and build chemistry before the Playoffs start.
Size on the Perimeter
When healthy, the Cavs are an old school team in that they put out two 7 footers. While Allen and Mobley are excellent players and capable of switching and protecting the paint, they aren’t able to guard some of the league’s big wings. If there is a trade out there that can bring in a sizable wing, I think the Cavs should explore. Maybe it cost a young guy like Isaac Okoro, maybe packaging a couple contracts together with a future pick can work. But the Cavs need someone who can defend the Jayson Tatum’s and Jaylen Brown’s. Jimmy Butler. These are the type of players you will be facing in the playoffs. It would be a luxury to get a star, but the Cavs don’t necessarily need a star. Just someone who is capable of defending and can maybe knock down a couple threes. While I don’t know who the guy is I want, I know the Cavs would do well to get a little more size on the perimeter.
Look, the Cavs aren’t a bad team, and all is not lost. The fact they are in the position they are in, with all the injuries, is a testament to their depth, and how well they are coached. Jarrett Allen is blossoming into a point center. Maybe that’s carried away but seriously, with him having the ball in his hands more, the Cavs are incorporating more of dribble handoffs and it’s opening up the offense. In a recent game against Washington, Allen had 7 assist. These are the areas where if they can continue when they do get healthy, all of a sudden, they open up new options and become even more dangerous. Having guys like Sam Merrill and Craig Porter Jr. continue to grow and be able to be called on even when the Cavs are at full strength.
And then there’s Donovan Mitchell. He has been solid this year but has been an even better playmaker with Garland out. As he continues to be a better leader, the Cavs will benefit. Mitchell is already one of the top 20 players in the league and has continued to play at an elite level. The Cavs season hinges on him remaining healthy and giving the Cavs the guy who can win them a game in the playoffs. As long as he can be that guy, the Cavs are going to be a team that has a chance.
Stay The Course
Overall, the Cavs are in a good position. Assuming no more injuries, they will get their guys back in time for the playoff push. The biggest issue will be reengaging the guys when they come back. But Coach JB says, “Because Evan and Darius are so unselfish, because they are willing passers, it shouldn’t be an issue continuing to play the same way.” Of course, there will be some adjustments, but if this is an indication of how the Cavs are going to play, when they get their guys back… All of the goals are still very much in front of this team. A deep run to the playoffs isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. So going into a game against the Wizards on Friday night, the 19-15 Cavs look to win their 20th game. If they can do so, it’s another continued step in the right direction.
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