What is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ biggest remaining question?

Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports) /

The 2023 NBA offseason gave the Cleveland Cavaliers an opportunity to improve after a heartbreaking 4-1 loss against the New York Knicks in the playoffs.

After battling for a 51-31 regular season record, the Cavaliers could not keep their momentum and energy in the postseason. The biggest flaw came from subpar 3-point shooting, allowing the Knicks to suffocate Cleveland on inside shot attempts with inconsistent consequences. Defensively, the Cavaliers were spread too thin and could not rebound properly against the aggressive New York bigs.

Cleveland had an active summer to address these issues, bringing in Max Strus, Georges Niang, Ty Jerome, Damian Jones, and fan-favorite 2016 champion Tristan Thompson. Along with these moves, the Cavs signed Caris LeVert to a two-year deal to bring him back. Each of these players can improve the Cavaliers in one of these two areas, with Strus and Niang namely upgrading Cleveland’s long-range shooting. Thompson and Jones can battle on the boards at any given moment, giving the Cavs the post presence they need.

In the 2023-24 regular season, Cleveland head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will have his best roster since stepping into the head coaching job in February 2020. As he enters his fourth full season in this position, Bickerstaff will have a career-defining year, for better or for worse. Along with criticism toward Cleveland’s players after the playoffs, Bickerstaff’s stagnant offensive gameplan earned him some contention by the Cavaliers fanbase.

A number of high-profile head coaches across the Association found themselves searching for their next job this summer, and many expected to see Bickerstaff’s job under fire in tow. Instead, Cavs GM Koby Altman announced to the public that the team is putting their trust in Bickerstaff to start the season.

Cleveland’s decisions this summer showed a focus on building upon their current core and trusting long-term development goals over short-sighted reactions and drastic decisions. The team strengthened their weakness and recommitted to their best qualities.

With the Cavaliers’ upgrades this summer, they still have one major question to answer

In their current iteration, the Cavaliers will be prepared for a greater level of success this year than their last campaign. Although they are much improved on the perimeter and have greater depth, the Cavs undoubtedly have a critical need that will need to be fulfilled this season.

A heavy burden the Cavaliers faced last year was a team culture that was nice to a fault. Their lack of intensity in the playoffs was not a sudden shift in behavior. When Cleveland faced off against physical opponents, they would often get embarrassed on the boards and had nobody who could fire up the team to get back to necessary energy levels.

Following tough losses, the Cavaliers would recognize their poor intensity, but the problem continued. In a February loss to the Atlanta Hawks, both Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen acknowledged the team’s soft rebounding and lazy energy.

Additionally, after a tough 118-107 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Mitchell addressed the embarrassing performance to the media.

"…It was kind of upsetting to come out the way we did as a group, especially the starters. I put it on the starting five.– Donovan Mitchell, per Cleveland.com"

Mitchell can hold himself and his teammate accountable after a loss, but the changes need to be made mid-game. The Cavaliers’ complacency for bad nights needs to end, because it is the biggest factor that led to a wasted 50-win season and a fizzling out in the playoffs.

As great as the Cavaliers can be, they seem to forget it quickly once challenged physically. The aforementioned lack of shooting has allowed defenses to crowd the paint in Cleveland’s half-court offense, which has undeniably contributed to much of their downfalls. The solution should not be to grow stagnant offensively and suffer the consequences, though. Both the coaching staff and players need to have the gull to switch their mindset and game plan mid-game to counter their opponent’s attack.

Offensive variety and unwavering mental fortitude is the greatest need for the Cavs for the 2023-24 regular season. Trading away Jarrett Allen as a punishment for a bad postseason will not fix a dilemma present throughout the entire team. The Cavaliers should remain active on the trade market for depth purposes, and in time Allen’s fit with the Cavs may lead to a separation. The frontcourt pairing of him and Mobley has its own flaws; however, a true leader needs to emerge in Cleveland. Otherwise, next season may simply be a rerun of the last.

Next. The Cavaliers with the most to prove. dark

It is not all doom and gloom in the Land, though. With a blossoming young core and an All-NBA talent in Donovan Mitchell, the Cavaliers can have every tool necessary for a long run in the postseason. All that is left is the implementation and hard work.