3 experimental lineups Cavaliers could deploy in 2023-24

Caris LeVert and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Caris LeVert and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /
3 of 4
Cleveland Cavaliers
Tristan Thompson and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

Lineup #2: Old and New

PG: Darius Garland

SG: Donovan Mitchell

SF: Emoni Bates

PF: Evan Mobley

C: Tristan Thompson

This lineup is more about the intangibles than the actual statistics. At first glance, we see Cleveland’s big three featured in the lineup. We saw last year what a backcourt of the star guard duo of Garland and Mitchell could bring to this Cavs team. Not to mention how quickly Evan Mobley has grown into his role. The two that stand out here are the newcomer Emoni Bates and a familiar face, former Cavalier champion – Tristan Thompson.

When Cleveland made the announcement they had signed Tristan Thompson to a 1-year deal for the upcoming season, fans knew his presence in the locker room and championship experience would be essential to the development of the team moving forward. TT left Cleveland in 2020 after 9 years with the organization. Taken in the 1st round as the 4th overall pick, Thompson had been through it all with the Cavs in those years. From a rebuild to the return of LeBron James to four finals appearances and a championship to the start of another rebuild. During his final year in Cleveland, he played alongside then rookie point guard, Darius Garland. Now, Tristan is returning back to The Land where that rookie guard has taken over as the leader of the team.

A guy like Tristan Thompson is just what this young Cavs team needs, especially after just getting a taste of the playoffs. While he might not be the same center from his early days, he is still an able-bodied NBA player. Last year he played six games in the playoffs with the Los Angeles Lakers, and with Evan Mobley alongside him in the frontcourt, Thompson can be utilized more as a stopper. Speaking of Mobley, one of Tristan’s biggest strengths has always been his energy – by putting him in a lineup with Evan, Bickerstaff might be hoping to see Thompson encourage the third-year power forward to vocalize more on the court and make his presence known.

Evan Mobley is one of the key pieces to this entire Cavs team. While he has been a defensive powerhouse, and he’s been making the effort to improve his offensive skillsets, one area he needs to focus more attention on is his leadership and talking on the court. Maybe playing with Tristan Thompson can help Mobley tap into a new mindset on the court.

Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell – Cleveland’s star guard duo. Not much needs to be said about these two as far as why they’re in the lineup. Between Garland’s 21.6 points per game last year, and Mitchell’s 28.3 – this backcourt is always a must-play. There are times when it might benefit the flow of the game to let one of the two sit out for a few minutes, but ultimately the duo should be kept together for the team to see success. Per Statmuse, when Garland was on the floor with Mitchell he averaged 20.9 points, 7.6 assists, and 2.6 rebounds. Vice versa, when Mitchell played with Garland, he averaged 27.3 points, 4.0 assists, and 4.1 rebounds.

The other player in this lineup that stands out is the rookie and Summer League 2023 champion, Emoni Bates. Drafted by the Cavs with the 49th pick in the 2nd round, many people have dubbed Bates as a potential steal of the draft. For now, Emoni will see most of his minutes as a forward for the Cleveland Charge in the G League. But, there is always a possibility he gets a chance to shine in the big leagues. If Bates gets the call from the Cavs, then this lineup would be ideal for him.

Cleveland’s top three players are Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, and Evan Mobley. Putting Emoni Bates in a lineup with that big three would do wonders for the kid’s development. At only 19 years old, Bates has a lot of basketball ahead of him. Bates emerged as one of the stars of the NBA Summer League this year – putting up an average of 17.2 points per game, along with 6.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. Granted, the competition Emoni would play against in this lineup is not quite the same as the Summer League, but it’s still impressive to see a rookie come in and put up those numbers. Getting a chance to see some real NBA minutes alongside that big three, plus former champ, Tristan Thompson could be monumental to Emoni overall.

This lineup of old and new faces can help each other out in various ways. DG, Spida, and Mobley can improve this unit based on their talent alone, while Emoni’s untapped potential could be the engine this unit needs with Tristan’s veteran experience driving it all forward.

Let’s build a unit focused on defense to wrap things up.