Throughout the 2022-23 season, the Cavaliers ranked 25th in the NBA in points per contest, scoring only 112.3 points per game. They managed to compensate with their stellar defense, only allowing 106.5 points per game against them.
The Cavaliers’ sluggish 96.27 pace placed them last in the NBA in pacing and led to their low scoring averages. In the playoffs, the New York Knicks predicted Cleveland’s halfcourt offense to a T, forcing them into last second contested shots and frustrating misses time and time again.
One of the driving factors in acquiring Max Strus was his constant motor on both ends of the court. His talent as a motion shooter and athletic slasher gives the Cavaliers an offensive weapon they did not have last year. Oftentimes, Cleveland’s pace slowed because of the suffocating interior defenses teams could implement without the threat of a 3-point onslaught in return. Strus and Niang should fix this, if the Cavaliers can actually take advantage of it.
The player with the best chance to change this for Cleveland is star point guard Darius Garland. As the on-court leader and primary coordinator, Garland is in prime position to push the pace for the Cavs, pressuring opponents to contest him on a drive and leave somebody open on the arc.
A faster pace will not magically make Cleveland the Eastern Conference favorites, but running rather than walking up the court can open up their options to maximize the wealth of talent on the roster. The Cavs will not be topping the league in pace, but a better rhythm on offense will help Garland dissect the defense and find the open shot or teammate.
The season is nearly underway, and the Cavaliers look immensely improved from last. Their playoff failures need to be a motivator this year, correcting their flaws and making the right plays. It starts with Garland as the captain of the offense and with head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to call the right X’s and O’s. Otherwise, a failed year could lead to palpable changes in Cleveland.
The first week of action will be critical for the rest of the season, and a strong start could prove the Cavaliers have what it takes to compete against the best of the best.