Where the Cavaliers stack up among the East contenders

Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /
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Cleveland Cavaliers
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /


Boston Celtics

Regarding the field, the Celtics upgraded with the three-team deal that brought Kristaps Porziņģis to town. In matchups with the Cs, Cleveland must tag him with Mobley or Jarrett Allen, avoiding a 2-3 zone, because he attempted 22.8 percent of his tries from 3-10 feet of the basket, logging 53.4 percent last season.

Porziņģis gets to the center of the defense at high volume, and at 7-foot-3, the release point of KP’s jumper is unblockable. Size must stay grounded in front of him while he launches away from the perimeter. When covering pick-and-roll, the right scheme will be to play tight so he doesn’t score at the elbow or dive against the drop. As long as Porziņģis stays outside, the Cavaliers don’t have to overcommit with an extra body.

Then there’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who can each light up defenses from everywhere and drop at least 25 points a night. Isaac Okoro, Strus, LeVert, or whoever is guarding will need to be sharp in staying in front of the ball because the Green will hunt down DG and Spida if screens beat the on-ball defender.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks are running it back with two newbies, Malik Beasley and former Cavalier Robin Lopez. An injury to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s tailbone and Khris Middleton never being 100 percent healthy led to the Bucks’ early demise last playoffs. But when both are on the court, healthy and strong, Cream City has one of the most high-powered duos in the NBA because of their two-way prowess.

Beasley is another off-ball threat the Cavaliers can’t lose track of when covering Antetkounmpo’s drives or trapping the P-and-R ball handler. Lopez won’t likely see much time unless his brother Brook or Bobby Portis gets hurt. Still, with the returning crew, Milwaukee can have Jrue Holiday blow up Cleveland’s offense outside, and Allen and Mobley don’t have the strength to bang with the Freak, B. Lopez and Portis in the paint.