The Cavs 5-man lineup that is dominating opponents

Jarrett Allen and Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Jarrett Allen and Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images /
1 of 4
Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen of Team Cavs celebrate during the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /

With 9:08 left in the third quarter during the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ 124-116 loss to the Atlanta Hawks last Tuesday, Trae Young drove to the basket. Evan Mobley, up top anchoring a 3-2 zone, recovered to significantly alter what looked like be an easy layup for Atlanta’s star guard. Jarrett Allen snapped up the rebound and found an on-the-move Darius Garland who kicked ahead to Dean Wade for a 3-pointer in transition. Money.

While it was a disappointing loss on the eve of Cleveland’s All-Star festivities, this sequence was a sure-fire encapsulation of a Cavs’ lineup dominating opponents on both ends of the floor.

Per NBA tracking, this 5-man group – Garland, Wade, Mobley, Allen and Isaac Okoro – has a net rating of plus-22.4 this season; good for 4th in the league among lineups that have played 100 or more minutes. While it’s only featured in nine of Cleveland’s 58 games, this unit has actually been the Cavs’ second most-used based on total minutes this season (108).

Cleveland head coach J.B. Bickerstaff is making the most of its availability too. In the last 12 contests, this lineup has been used 6 times, including 5 starts for a total of around 75 minutes.

So what’s made this lineup so effective then? In a word, everything. Per NBA tracking, the Cavaliers have scored 121 points per 100 possessions with this unit; a figure that would rank 5.1 points better than the league-leading Utah Jazz this season. On the other end, the Wine and Gold have given up just 98.6 points per 100 possessions with this lineup, placing them 6.0 points ahead of league-best Golden State at 104.6.

Basketball-Reference breaks things down even further for us. Over the course of 100 possessions, this group is shooting better (+15.9 EFG%), making more shots (+11.5 FG) and 3-pointers (+4.6) while grabbing more rebounds (+5.0). Considering the average NBA game is around 100 possessions, those are scary differentiators for opponents as the Cavs continue their push towards the playoffs.

As impressive as these numbers may be, however, I was interested to see what this 5-man unit looks like overall. Has it simply been a case of rampant destruction or is there more to the story? After going back and watching every minute of this lineup over the course of the season, three big things stand out as we storm towards the postseason.