With the Cleveland Cavaliers game last night in Phoenix, they have officially reached the season’s halfway point. The Cavs sit at 26-15, which is good for a top four seed in the Eastern Conference.
Cleveland’s marquee offseason addition of Donovan Mitchell has worked out better than anyone could have imagined. His presence alongside Darius Garland makes the Cavaliers one of the top backcourts in the league.
While Cleveland’s backcourt is lighting up the scoring column so far this season, the Cavaliers dynamic frontcourt duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are making their mark on this season.
The Cavaliers entered their 41st game of the season with the #2 defensive rating in the NBA. Cleveland is also giving up 106.8 points per game (#1 NBA) and 46.3 percent from the floor, which is 8th-best in the league.
Like most other teams in the league, the Cavaliers aren’t without their flaws and inconsistencies, but with such high expectations entering this season, Cleveland is in a good position overall, entering the second half of the season.
Cavs Stock Up: Donovan Mitchell
As mentioned above, the Donovan Mitchell experience has been a rousing success in this first half of the season.
While Cleveland made a substantial move in the right direction last season, they were still missing that bonafide star player that would take the Cavaliers from a fun, upstart team to a team that could truly be a contender.
Mitchell’s acquisition also gave Cleveland a player you can count on to get a basket (or baskets) when it matters most.
While Mitchell has had a magnificent start to the season, he is doing this all within the framework of the Cavaliers system, and he is making plays for others and stepping up as a leader on and off the court.
He is a level-headed, humble superstar, which is rare these days, and Mitchell always makes sure to credit his teammates for his success on the court.
Despite being just 26 years old, Mitchell brings a plethora of playoff experience to the team.
But nothing highlights Mitchell’s season thus far more than his unbelievable 71-point game earlier this month against the Chicago Bulls. He displayed he could put the Cavaliers on his back and carry them to win, which Cleveland lacked prior to Mitchell’s arrival this season.
Cavs Stock Steady: Jarrett Allen
While the addition of Mitchell has undoubtedly been the highlight of this season, the Cavaliers big man has been a beacon of consistency all season.
Jarrett Allen is averaging a double-double on the season with 13.6 points and 10.1 rebounds and also gets over one block per game.
Not surprisingly, Allen is connecting on nearly 70 percent of his shots within five feet of the basket. Where Allen has taken a leap on offense is his mid-range game.
Last season Allen connected on just 36.8 percent of shots between 10-14 feet from the basket. This season, however, Allen has improved that mark to an impressive 56.7 percent.
With Allen now expanding his offensive game while still being a dominant presence on the defensive end, that is an excellent sign for the Cavs going into the second half of the season.
Cavs Stock Down: Kevin Love and bench scoring
One of the reasons for Cleveland’s successful jump a season ago was the willingness of Kevin Love to go to the bench and embrace a sixth man role. He finished as the runner-up for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, too.
In 74 games, Love anchored the Cavaliers bench as he scored 13.6 points per game and connected on 39 percent of his three-point attempts.
Entering this season, Love would be relied upon again to be one of the scoring leaders coming off the bench. Thus far, Love’s scoring is down, as he is averaging just 9.5 points per game, and his three-point percentage has gone down slightly to 37.8 percent.
Overall the Cavaliers bench entered Sunday 27th in the NBA in bench scoring with 29.3 points per game. However, one positive sign from Cleveland’s bench is that they currently own the best net rating of +3.5.
Moving forward, Cleveland will have to get better performances from their bench on offense as a whole if they are going to make a deep run in the playoffs this season.