How Koby Altman rebuilt the Cavs into contenders in just 3 years

Koby Altman, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Koby Altman, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images) /

After the Cleveland Cavaliers’ blockbuster trade to acquire Cavs star guard Donovan Mitchell, they went from a surprise team to a legit contender in the Eastern Conference. Honestly, I never thought a Mitchell deal would happen until it happened. I didn’t think the Cavs could’ve put together a package that would’ve satisfied the Utah Jazz without giving up Jarrett Allen.

Before this trade, the Cavs had an incredibly bright future with Jarrett Allen making his first All-Star appearance last year, as Darius Garland broke out as a star and one of the best point guards in the league and Evan Mobley, who has the most upside of anyone of this group, finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.

Still, they probably weren’t quite their best this past year and the expectation would be at best they would’ve gotten the sixth seed or in the play-in getting the 7th or 8th seed. Last year they finished with 44 wins, but that wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. Most years 44 wins are good enough to make the playoffs, but it’s just a testament to how incredibly strong the Eastern Conference has become. Five years ago 44 wins were good enough to be a top 5 seed; now that’s a likely play-in spot.

Obviously, the Boston Celtics are probably the favorites to get back to the NBA Finals and the Milwaukee Bucks are a close second, but I could see the Cavaliers being a top 4 seed in a brutal East. The package of players the Cavs gave up wasn’t a ton. The Cavaliers weren’t willing to break the bank on Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen is a good piece and Ochai Ogbaji is a rookie who could have been a good rotational player.

In terms of draft picks on the surface it appears steep and it’s always risky attaching unprotected picks that far out. That being said, considering the ages of Mitchell (25), Garland (22)  Mobley (21)  and Allen (24), these picks may end up not having a ton of value. It can’t be said enough, but getting a top 15 player like Mitchell raises the ceiling for next year, and the Cavaliers will be a contender in the East for the foreseeable future.

How did the Cavs get here? Just 3 years ago they were in the early stages of a rebuild and were viewed as a team that was many years away from competing. We’ll examine that and the outstanding work of Koby Altman here.