The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t been able to pull out wins in their last couple of games after their opening night win at the Brooklyn Nets. Cleveland has since dropped their first two home games of the season versus the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers.
Cleveland has had some good stretches, and put themselves in good position to come up with a win versus OKC, but the Thunder had a late surge, and downed the Cavs.
Admittedly, Cleveland being without Jarrett Allen thus far hasn’t helped their cause defensively, and Darius Garland’s absence the last two games has led to some stagnation at points. There are things the Cavaliers have to clean up, and being without those players of late hasn’t been easy.
On the plus side, it has been nice to watch Cleveland look to push pace and get more threes up, to boost their offensive efforts. The Cavs were emphasizing doing so coming into the season, and it was evident the three-point volume was set for an uptick following preseason; pace is something that will continue to be monitored.
Now, regarding some of the positives thus far, Donovan Mitchell has had two impressive outings out of the gate, and Max Strus and Isaac Okoro have been playing high quality ball. Evan Mobley has had a pretty nice start as well, and is coming off a 33-point, 14-rebound and three-block effort against Indiana on Saturday.
One shouldn’t be discounting the play of those guys, but it’s also been encouraging to watch Caris LeVert carry forward his strong close to last season, and he seems to be primed for a very good season.
LeVert closed last season off strong for Cleveland, and after what was more so an up-and-down beginning of last year, he got better as the year progressed.
He looked more comfortable when he was shifted to having more of a bench role last season, too. In fairness, he was moved to being a starter for the last three games of Cleveland’s first-round series loss to the New York Knicks, and he was one of the bright spots for the Cavaliers in that series. In the five-game series loss, LeVert played well, and had 15.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest.
Thus far this season, LeVert has done nice work for a Cavs team that has not had nearly their full complement of players. He’s averaged 19.7 points, 5.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds per outing in his three games, and has connected on 37.0 percent of his attempts from three-point range early on.
In Cleveland’s past game, he had 22 first quarter points against the Pacers, before ultimately finishing with 31. LeVert and the Cavaliers had their lulls, especially as a club very short-handed in that contest, with Cleveland without Donovan Mitchell then as well, but LeVert’s efforts were still noteworthy, and he has seemed in-rhythm to begin the 2023-24 season.
Some of the splits for him have been due to the injuries for Garland/Cleveland, which have to be in mind there. That said, after an off first outing as a shooter in Brooklyn, when he shot four-of-17, LeVert has settled in, and made his share of looks off the bounce, and in some catch-and-shoot plays. His shot from three-point range was fairly on at the Nets, too, as an aside.
LeVert’s shooting stroke has been on-point and his rotation has been there consistently to begin the season, and he’s been able to knock down his share of attempts in the past two outings. The driving and transition game has been involved as well, and hopefully, from Cleveland stressing movement, that for LeVert can be prevalent.
To those points, he has gotten others going to some extent, as he’s had some great dimes to other Cavs in these early-season games. Also to LeVert’s credit, his passing was one of the constants in his play last season, and no matter who is available for Cleveland, that should continue, with him being one of the team’s best passers.
It’s been refreshing to watch LeVert seem ready to roll at the season’s outset here, and that’s included his defensive play. He has to carry it forward, and the team has to get healthier to gel more as a unit on that end, but LeVert has been one of the Cavs’ better players in an inconsistent start defensively, as his ball pressure and active hands off-ball have led to quality work.
Overall, LeVert has done a nice job, and coming into the season after a full offseason where he was able to work on his craft looks to have paid off.
After he reportedly was limited last offseason following him revealing he had a torn labrum after he was traded to Cleveland from the Indiana Pacers that required surgery after the 2021-22 season, LeVert has benefitted from that being fresher. As he seemingly expressed to reporters then, via Spencer Davies of Cavs Insider, LeVert was able to hone in on some things, and he’s looked sharp for the Cavs early on here as a result.
He’ll seemingly be slotted back into a first sub role when the Cavs get back to full strength or near that, however, it’s clear LeVert should be just fine either way this time around. He was re-signed by Cleveland over the offseason for his two-way play and as a cultural fit; that should continue to pay off as he gets more and more comfortable within the group.