The Cleveland Cavaliers need one of two things to happen. Ideally, this group will continue to grow together, they secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference and make it to at least the Eastern Conference Finals. That would serve as a “proof of concept” for how they have built this roster and for the man conducting things from the sideline.
If that can’t happen, they need something specific to go so poorly that they can identify it as the piece that has to be swapped out. The Cavs won the title in 2016 after swapping out their head coach; will J.B. Bickerstaff obviously need to be replaced after this year? The Toronto Raptors understood they weren’t winning a title with two guards as their best players, flipping DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard; do the Cavs recognize they need to separate Garland and Mitchell? The Golden State Warriors replaced a two-big lineup with Andrew Bogut and David Lee with one where the 6’6″ Draymond Green played power forward, then went even further by putting Green at center in place of Bogut in the NBA Finals; will the Cavs become convinced that they have to break up Mobley and Allen?
The worst outcome for the Cavaliers is that they have a good season, host another playoff series and are either very competitive or even win a single series but then lose convincingly to a true contender. They aren’t a clear contender but they also don’t identify the obvious flaw in their team’s makeup. Is it the coach? The two-big approach? The collection of players on the wing? Can a team with two small guards ever win it all?
Cleveland is going to be a good team next season. Some good teams never truly push for a title; just ask Mitchell’s last team, the Utah Jazz, who were good for a half-decade without ever really being in contention. The Cavs need to either break into the top level or learn what’s holding them back.
Being stuck in the middle will make next offseason all the more difficult, obscuring the path forward in fog.