It may only be the first week of November, but the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing phenomenal basketball. The team, who’s average age is tied with the Houston Rockets for sixth youngest in the league, plays with energy and passion the city of Cleveland embodies. Led by 23-year-old center Jarrett Allen, 22-year-old guard Collin Sexton, 21-year-old Darius Garland, and 20-year-old rookie forward Evan Mobley, among others, the Cavs are letting the league know the 2021-2022 version of the team could become the first Cleveland basketball team to make the postseason under Owner Dan Gilbert that does not have LeBron James on its roster. Currently sitting at 5-4 as of Nov. 4, the team has arguably already surpassed expectations heading into the season.
The team had high expectations for Mobley -- the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft -- this season, and he has shown signs he could become a All-Star level forward in the association. The USC product leads the league in contested shots with 136 as of Nov. 4, according to nba.com advanced stats. To put that number into context, 2021 Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is second on the list with 102 total contested shots. Mobley is on pace to potentially win the Rookie of the Year award. He’s in the Top 5 in every statistical category among his 2021 draft class teammates.
Allen has been worth every penny of his five-year, $100 million extension he signed with the Cavs over the summer. The 6’11 big man has averaged a double double with 14 points and 11 boards through the first nine games of the campaign. His 71% shooting percentage from the field is second for the Wine and Golders through the first 10% of the season. He only trails RJ Nembhard Jr, who has a 100% shooting percentage because he took and made one shot this season.
The backcourt duo of Sexton and Garland may be finally coming together in year three. Garland leads the team in assists with eight per game while Sexton leads the team in points per game with 18. However, it’s not just the young kids making an impact. Lauri Markkanen, who stands at 7’ tall, has shot 28% from three so far this year. The former Chicago Bull has filled the role Kevin Love supplied for the Cavs since the 2014-2015 season. He spreads the floor, makes timely shots from inside and outside the paint and can cover big men and guards outside on the perimeter.
Speaking of Love, he and Ricky Rubio have embraced their roles of being the veterans the Cavs need to take a step forward. Love, in limited minutes, has two double doubles and three games with 10 or more rebounds this season.
Rubio has been the swiss army knife of the team. The Cavs have used him in the starting lineup and off the bench, and he has been used in two-guard and three-guard lineups. The 31-year-old is shooting a career high 33% from behind the arc.
Led by their youth and motivated by smart, savvy veterans, the team plays inspired basketball for head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. They play together as a team, and they are winning against some of the best teams in professional basketball. Four of their five wins this season have come against playoff teams from last season (Hawks, Nuggets, Clippers and Blazers), and they competed for most of the game against last year’s Western Conference Champion Suns and the favorite to win the West this year in the Lakers. Their play should inspire Cavs fans in Cleveland and worldwide.
For the first time since making the NBA Finals four consecutive years from 2014-2018, the Cavs are a must-watch every night