The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a nice start to preseason play.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have started their preseason 2-0, following two wins over the Indiana Pacers. They took the opening matchup 107-104, and the second matchup 116-106.
This marked the first time the Cavs took the court since March and included many new faces on the court for the first time including the debuts (for the Cavs at least) of 2019 first-round pick Dylan Windler, and 2020 first-round pick Isaac Okoro.
Collin Sexton also has yet to make his debut this season, or preseason realistically, from a twisted ankle injury he suffered recently but isn’t reportedly a serious injury.
There have been some bright spots, though, and it’s been nice to see.
After a successful start to the preseason for the Cavs, here are three takeaways from the first two games.
The first relates to the starting small forwards.
#1: The Cavs’ starting 3 battle is getting interesting
Cedi was the team leader in points finishing with 23 points and five rebounds with three three-point shots knocked in. Okoro finished with 18 points and three steals. He also capped off his debut in impressive fashion by contesting the Pacers’ final shot and scoring the game-winning basket in transition by finishing while getting fouled.
Cedi didn’t play in the second game, due to a minor ankle sprain, which also doesn’t seem at all serious, but Isaac played and finished with 15 points, four assists and three rebounds.
The battle is going to be a good one to watch this preseason with both putting up noteworthy performances.
While Okoro could seemingly end up being the player getting it because of the Cavs’ investment in his development and his defensive upside, Cedi did look very good in that preseason opener and should make this an interesting battle if a similar level of play continues, should he be in there again.
We know this has been preseason, but both Okoro and Osman have made things happen.
#2: Okoro looks like everything Cavs fans hoped he would be
While it’s only the preseason and only two games have been played against the same team, Okoro has shown he can make the difference you hoped he could make.
He’s made plenty of plays on both sides of the floor and seems to have the upside you hoped for from the fifth pick.
Making a big difference on defense was expected, but to be able to find opportunities offensively has been exciting to watch at such an early stage. He has been great at finding chances to take advantage of defenses and has hit three of his five three-pointers so far, and his movement in settled and transition offense has jumped out, too.
Since the rookie had a shorter offseason, this preseason is the perfect opportunity to get experience before the season begins, and he has already taken advantage of it.
Although The Athletic‘s Joe Vardon (subscription required) reported that there are questions coming out of Cavs training camp about if Okoro is “big enough” to play the wing, with his physicality, switchability/defensive abilities and finishing, that wouldn’t honestly seem to be all that much of a concern.
Okoro at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, with his athleticism and feel, would appear likely to fill in there just fine, looking onward.
#3: Dante Exum could be a solid Cavs’ backup guard this season
Dante Exum was traded to Cleveland last season via deal with the Utah Jazz, and played in 24 games averaging 5.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per outing, and shot 35.1 percent from deep in those instances.
Exum logged five assists in each contest versus the Pacers, while putting up a team-high 23 points off coming off the bench in his second game in only 26 minutes.
Dante was able to create offense from everywhere and was even able to hit three shots from deep on Monday.
The former fifth overall pick has looked good so far and has been vital for the bench’s offense. This playmaking ability and size could likely earn him valuable minutes in the rotation at both guard positions, also when considering his defensive capabilties.
It was only preseason, and Exum, even with rust being understandable, did have nine turnovers in the two outings, too.
It was nice to see him get his chances, though, and if Exum can stay mostly healthy (I know, an if), he could potentially be a rotational fixture.