3 Cavs that earned untouchable status, 4 that should be cut loose

Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Donovan Mitchell and Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images /
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After the Cleveland Cavaliers had a terrific regular season, finishing with 51 wins, and returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2018, they flopped. Cleveland lost in their first round series to the New York Knicks 4-1 in a matchup where they were the higher seed, at No. 4 in the Eastern Conference.

It was a rough ending to what was a season filled with promise. Cleveland had the NBA’s second-best net rating in the regular season, and last offseason’s bold move for Donovan Mitchell gave the team one of the best perimeter scorers in the Association.

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, their playoff run was not much of one, as evidenced by the Knicks dispatching them in five games.

The Cavs have plenty to build on from the 2022-23 campaign, and it was an important step for this team, which is still very young in some crucial areas. One would have to assume Koby Altman and company are going to be active this offseason in looking to upgrade this group, though, and helping out the bench and wing situation are the obvious plays at first glance there.

Even with that in mind, Cleveland does have a handful of guys who should fit the bill of “untouchable,” regarding possible trade movement status, but there’s some Cavs who clearly should be cut loose, whether it’s via trade or being let walk. Let’s examine both sides of that conversation here, starting with the untouchables.

Cavs untouchable No. 1: Evan Mobley

Not necessarily in a particular order as it pertains to the “untouchable” tag, Evan Mobley is a player who looks to just be getting started with the Cavaliers.

Mobley needs to improve as a shooter, and needs to show some stretch big capabilities ideally this next season for Cleveland. The three-point range is not there much from him yet, and over the offseason, Mobley making progress in tightening up his handle should be a point of emphasis for him to take the next step as a shot creator.

Those things aside, Mobley will be entering his age-22 season in 2023-24, and he’s only two seasons into his NBA career. This season, he had 16.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 blocks per game, and demonstrated tangible offensive growth. In the second half of the regular season, his assertive play offensively paid dividends for him and the team, and he got better and more comfortable as a passer.

Mobley underwhelmed offensively in Cleveland’s first round series loss to New York, similarly to others, but he’s only going to get better from here on that end, provided he puts the work in and can make strides in the aforementioned improvement areas. Him gradually getting stronger should make a difference, too, and it did more as the regular season wore on; he just has to take that a step further for playoff runs to come.

With Mobley’s wide-ranging defensive abilities also in mind, as a switchable big, rim protector and with his terrific basketball IQ, with what he has shown on offense, he has the highest ceiling of any player on the Cavaliers. It’s going to be on him to be able to put it all together, but from Cleveland’s perspective, he shouldn’t be going anywhere for a long time, and rest assured, needs to be eventually locked up long term.