2 things to watch in Cleveland Cavaliers’ opening week of 2023-24 season

Evan Mobley (right) greets his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates before a game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Evan Mobley (right) greets his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates before a game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Cavaliers
Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers. Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /

No. 1: Will the Cavaliers’ frontcourt make it work this year?

The Cavs ended last season with the league’s best defense thanks to the efforts of both Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley as constant presences in the paint.

In the playoffs, though, the duo’s lack of floor spacing was exposed every game as the Knicks swarmed the paint, daring Mobley, Allen or Isaac Okoro to take a deep shot. The poor spacing led to uncoordinated defense, pushing Mobley and Allen out of place for defensive rebounds. Eventually, their struggles allowed the Knicks to collect far too many offensive boards and overwhelm Cleveland’s frontcourt.

Entering this season, Allen and Mobley will have a knockdown shooter on the wing in Max Strus, along with Georges Niang and Dean Wade off the bench. If they’re going to make it work together, this is the year to prove it.

Both players are still young, but it is unlikely either will develop a 3-point shot this year. They will have to find a creative solution to their continued shortcoming. While the Cavaliers’ defense is best with both players on the court, Cleveland may opt to stagger minutes between the two, giving both of them an opportunity to play with an open lane and great options around them.

With Jarrett Allen’s absence in the preseason, Cleveland experimented with an array of lineups that capitalized on the improved long range shooting, placing Mobley at the focal point of the offensive attack as both a scorer and facilitator. Once Allen returns, the Cavs will be forced to find a way to continue their offensive versatility with two non-shooters in the starting lineup.

The ongoing struggles in a double center lineup might rear their ugly head once again, forcing the Cavaliers to make a difficult decision by the trade deadline.