Cleveland Cavaliers: Who was the MVP of second half?

The Cleveland Cavaliers huddle before the start of a game. (Photo by Lauren Bacho/Getty Images)
The Cleveland Cavaliers huddle before the start of a game. (Photo by Lauren Bacho/Getty Images) /

The close to this now-past season was not a stellar one for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs lost 12 of their last 13 games, and while it did appear that before that point, they may have had a play-in shot, that quickly evaporated.

The Cavaliers were very injury-riddled throughout 2020-21, and even more so in that closing stretch of games though. The likes of Larry Nance Jr., for one, not being available in that batch of games (fractured right thumb) didn’t help their cause, and Matthew Dellavedova and Isaiah Hartenstein for the most part didn’t either.

Taurean Prince’s bench scoring/shooting was a loss in that realm too, and clearly, Cleveland being without Darius Garland in seven of the last eight games didn’t aid the Wine and Gold’s cause.

Granted, so many teams dealt with injuries, albeit for such a young team like Cleveland, throughout the season, and also in the second half, it did take its toll.

On the plus side, there was growth from a number of young pieces, and in the second half of the season, that was on display to a large extent. Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Dean Wade come to mind in that way, especially, and all three had very encouraging seasons overall. I did like what I saw from Lamar Stevens when he was in there as well, before he ended up being sidelined with a concussion.

Somewhat along those lines, we’ll take a look at which Cavs players were notable performers for them post-All-Star, and touch on who was their second half team MVP.

To clear things up, I’ll first acknowledge that, largely given injury problems for Nance, and with him not seeming to be himself nearly health/approach-wise, he’s not a guy that was in the conversation.

His performance when healthy was solid though, and he had 9.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists per outing, to go with 1.7 steals per contest overall on the year. He just wasn’t nearly himself in the season’s second half, but I’d expect Nance to be contributing in a number of ways again next season.

From there, Kevin Love, who did miss the majority of the season because of right calf injury complications, didn’t appear to be at close to his best, either.

There were some nice performances shooting and playmaking-wise for Love, but a few hot shooting games did somewhat juice up his three-point shooting clip to 36.5 percent in his 24 games active. He was underwhelming, honestly, as evidenced by 12.2 points per game, and Love had by far his least amount of free throw attempts of his career at only 2.0 per outing.

Okay, so from there, the guys that were in the conversation for this were Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, realistically. Jarrett Allen didn’t quite make the cut to be in the conversation.

Firstly, we’ll touch on both of Garland and Sexton’s statlines in that span briefly for context.

Garland’s second half splits:

  • 18.8 points on 57.0 percent true shooting, 40.4 percent from 3
  • 6.3 assists per outing

Sexton’s second half splits:

  • 24.6 points on 56.6 percent true shooting, 34.3 percent from 3
  • 4.3 assists per outing

Alright so now I’ll get into my rationale for who was the second half MVP for Cleveland.

Garland was the Cavs second half MVP.

I went back and forth on whether or not Sexton or Garland was the Cavs second half MVP, but I ended up going with the latter.

Garland had quite the bounce-back campaign after a fairly underwhelming Year 1, and in the second half, to a large extent, his playmaking was often on display. From there, his vision, handle and shiftiness led to plenty of deep shooting from him post-All-Star, especially, and the playmaking prowess/handle/deep shooting aided him as a driver.

Garland seemed to really be coming into his own in April too, when he had the best month of his young career so far. In that stretch, he had 20.5 points and 7.3 assists per contest, and knocked in 38.5 percent of his then-6.4 triple attempts per game.

It was clear that his confidence was at another level, which was great to see, and as the season showed in a general sense, it was apparent that DG wasn’t affected by his prior meniscus injury that cut short his collegiate season short at Vanderbilt.

That reportedly did impact his mindset in Year 1, and him seemingly fully himself on-ball led to him being so much more unlocked as both a scorer and playmaker in 2020-21. And before Garland missed eight of his last nine games (left ankle sprain), that was even more so the case.

Now, this was a tough decision for me with what Sexton provided game-to-game when he was active, and from my perspective, at this point, Sexton being very durable throughout his career thus far, with his scoring polish, passing growth and mindset, he’s the Cavs’ best player. He should be signed via sizeable extension this offseason, too, and if it ends up being a max deal at some point this summer/offseason, I’d get that.

Many within the Cavaliers organization do reportedly believe Garland is the Wine and Gold’s best player now though, per Chris Fedor of, also factoring in Jarrett Allen. I can understand that too, albeit there are some legitimate concerns with Garland in relation to potential health problems, given his still-thinner build, and on defense, Sexton on-ball I believe had shown better development.

But, Garland’s team defensive instincts did improve last season, and his 1.3 steals per outing in Year 2 were a positive sign.

Next. Garland's Year 2 should have Cavs fans very optimistic. dark

Anyhow, circling back, given how he closed out last season pre-injury, Garland was the Cavaliers second half MVP, to me.