The Cleveland Cavaliers are not just fun anymore. They are really good. Not many people predicted we would be talking more about the Cavs playoff chances than the Browns in December. That is exactly the situation. Zach Lowe of ESPN, as well as many other national writers, predicted the Cavs to be the worst team in the league heading into the season. This is partially due to the Cavs having so many questions heading into the season. Could three 7 footers play well together? Where was the shooting going to come from? Would Darius Garland make the leap? Just 29 games into the season, the Cavs are answering these questions. Currently 17-12, 4th in the East, they have their eyes on much more than just a spot in the play in tournament.
Possibly the most impressive of all, the Cavs are winning without Collin Sexton. Sexton, who suffered a season ending meniscus tear in his right knee against the Knicks on November 7th, has been the teams leading scorer during the last 3 years. Sexton is averaging 20 PPG since being drafted 8th overall in the 2018 draft. It has been a team effort to attempt to replace Sexton’s scoring. The Cavs currently have 8 guys averaging double digits in points. Darius Garland has most definitely made the leap. Garland is opening eyes across the league this season averaging 18.9 PPG, 7.5 assists, and shooting 46.2% from the field (38.6% from three). Ricky Rubio has been an outstanding addition as a mentor for Garland, his success has been a bonus. Rubio is currently averaging 12.8 PPG and 6.3 assists per game.
Speaking of young guys making a leap, how about Isaac Okoro. Okoro, still only 20 years old was drafted in 2020 with the 5th overall pick for his defense. Altman and the rest of the front office knew it would take some time for Okoro to develop on the offensive end. This season he is averaging 8.9 PPG and 4.0 rebounds per game. As of late he is showing signs of breaking out. In his last 3 games Okoro has scored 16, 20, 18, 7-14 from 3-pt range in this stretch. If the Cavs can continue to get anything out of Okoro on the offensive end that will really help with Sexton out for the year. Cedi Osman has also been a great threat behind the arc shooting 40% from three. Consistency will always be something to watch with Osman.
Kevin Love has also played a major role in the team’s resurgence. It is no secret Love has been disgruntled through the rebuild. This season he finally looks happy, getting involved on both sides of the ball. Love is averaging 11.9 PPG and 7.2 RPG. He is also shooting 40.4% from three. All of this in just 20 min per game which could help his durability over the course of the long season. He has finally showing signs of being that veteran leader, along with Rubio, that this team desperately needed.
Finally, the most fascinating part of this team’s success this season has been the “Tower City Trio” of Allen, Mobley, and Markkanen in the front court. Many people criticized J.B. Bickerstaff for his vision of having three 7 footers in the front court. He looks like a genius now. This has caused so many matchup problems for other teams trying to guard them. Mobley has been more than advertised after being drafted #3 overall in this year’s draft. He is a franchise changing talent who is already an absolute stud on the defensive end. Mobley has also been developing nicely on the offensive end averaging 13.8 PPG and 8.3 RPG. Allen is a potential MVP candidate early in the season averaging 17.3 PPG, 11.1 RPG and 1.3 blocks per game. Markkanen is the oldest guy in the starting lineup at just 24 years old, he was brought over in an offseason trade that sent Larry Nance Jr. to Portland, he has been an integral part of the team’s success as well.
The bottom line is this team has outstanding chemistry, and are 100% buying in to J.B. Bickerstaff’s vision. They were dealt a gauntlet of a schedule early on, they came out of it 17-12. They now have the easiest remaining schedule. They are the 6th best defensive team in the entire league, which is unbelievable for such a young team to be all in defensively. Barring any injuries this is going to be a sneaky team to watch all season. They are not just fun anymore. They are really, really good. The national media is starting to say they could sneak into the playoffs. Barring any injuries, they won’t just sneak into the playoffs. They might just sneak into the finals. Enjoy the ride Cavs fans, it has been a long 4 years.
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