3 potential starting lineups for the Cavaliers in 2022-23

2021 NBA Draft prospect Cade Cunningham brings the ball up the floor. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
2021 NBA Draft prospect Cade Cunningham brings the ball up the floor. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
2 of 4
Cade Cunningham, Cleveland Cavaliers
2021 NBA Draft prospect Cade Cunningham greets teammates during game introductions. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Potential starting lineup #1 for the 2022-2023 Cleveland Cavaliers: Cunningham- Sexton-KPJ-Bates-Onyeka Okongwu

The Cavs defy all odds (again) and win back-to-back lotteries. This is definitely a pretty big long shot, but I don’t feasibly see the Cavs legitimately challenging for a playoff spot next year. They still will have a ton of youth, and will still have a long way to go defensively, and also, their roster is very oddly constructed.

The lottery odds for the teams near the bottom aren’t great for them and are far from a guarantee, but if the Cavs were to somehow win the lottery in 2021 and get Cunningham, I could see them take a good leap, be respectable with 34 or 35 wins, which would put them at seven-to-nine in the middle of the lottery likely.

Again, though, under these odds, it’s probably the best time to be a middling team. The seven-to-nine teams by odds going into the lottery have a 7.5, 6.0 and 4.5 percent chance to get the first  pick (per Tankathon), respectively, which isn’t the huge drop off the old odds were between one and the seven-to-nine range.

That still leads to it being far from a guarantee they’d land Bates, but with these odds, it’s more likely that the Cavaliers in this scenario could jump to one under these odds versus the old ones.

If this were to play out the Cavs I think would take a significant jump with a Cunningham-Sexton-KPJ-Bates-Onyeka Okongwu starting lineup. You would have two franchise superstar-caliber players in Bates and Cunningham, at least what could be established as that fairly early on.

This is a lofty comp, but with their talent, it’s warranted, but having a 1-2 duo this young that could grow together, think Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook as a duo with that talent. That’s with the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year in Bates, who put up 31.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, paired with the runner-up in Cunningham, who was the clearly the engine offensively for Montverde Academy, who had a perfect record.

The Cavs would have a chance to be very versatile defensively, too. Cunningham at 6-foot-7 is long and can defend, Bates at 6-foot-9 is long and can defend, KPJ in time has a chance to be more consistent and a plus defender and Okongwu would give the Cavs an elite rim protector who can also defend the perimeter on switches.

Okongwu is a player that would be an impact player right away next season, and he had 2.7 blocks and 1.2 steals per outing in his lone season at USC in 2019-20, per Sports Reference.

Related Story. Onyeka Okongwu could be a key part of Cavs' closing lineups. light

I think Sexton, who improved on-ball defensively this year, can be a quality defender in due time, too. Sexton gets a bad rap defensively. He still has to improve as a team defender, even more so, but he doesn’t have a ton of quality defenders around him and is asked to guard the opposing team’s best offensive guard.

If this became a reality, I could see the Cavaliers possibly taking the kind of leap the Philadelphia 76ers made in 2017-18 where they were pretty good in becoming a playoff team and won a playoff series.

Cleveland would need to add some quality veterans during the 2022 free agent period, but in this scenario, I think the Cavs could be a nice destination for guys like that looking to help a team that could be on the rise.

Next up, we’ll look at the second potential 2022-23 Cavs’ starting unit.