It can often be inappropriate to reduce any team down to a numbers game, but the analytics for the Cavaliers help paint the full picture.
Last season, the Cavs were dead last in the NBA for pacing (96.27). While pacing might not be the first statistic that jumps out at a fanbase as to how their team plays, it is a crucial component of a team’s ability to make the most out of every possession. A team’s pace is the average amount of possessions that team uses within the 48 minutes of regulation. When a team is sluggish coming up the court and drains the shot clock every possession, they wind up settling for bad shots and subpar results like the Cavaliers did last season.
With such a young athletic roster, their complacency to waste time on offense halted their growth far too often. Coupling that with a stagnant offense defenses could easily predict every time down the floor, it was no surprise Cleveland could not find the answer in the playoffs – they had one gameplan and sank or swam with it every night.
They already have shown strides in the right direction this preseason, ending the preseason with a 105.38 pace, placing them 12th in the NBA. Jumping 18 spots suddenly is a major stepping stone for this season, especially considering the Cavs are not playing at full speed in preseason.
If the Cavaliers were to label any player as the X-factor in their increased pacing thus far, Max Strus may have the strongest argument for it. Strus’ unwavering hustle and dynamic confidence are the reasons the Cavaliers targeted him in free agency, securing him in a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat on a $62.3 million contract over the next four seasons. Plenty observers had questions whether or not Strus will be the same player outside of the Miami system, but thus far he has not lost a step.
Alongside Strus’ production has been internal growth of one key player who has already shown a fantastic two-man game with the former Heat forward.