The Cleveland Cavaliers have not had the start to the 2023-24 season that they would have hoped, going 2-3 and losing all three of their home games. It’s hard to pin much blame on the team, however, when Cleveland has been down its entire point guard rotation on top of missing star center Jarrett Allen.
Injuries have meant more opportunity, however, and it’s telling which players have stepped up and which have failed to seize the chance to make an impact. Evan Mobley has gone from exploding into superstardom one game to wholly overmatched the next, while Max Strus has displayed the streaky shooting that was a hallmark of his game in Miami. It matches the team’s up-and-down performance, including a bad loss at home to the New York Knicks followed by a gritty win in New York the following night.
For a few players, however, their performances have pushed into the stratosphere, sending their stock soaring. For another, the start to the season has been a disappointing one. Let’s dig into these standout performers, one way or the other, to see what they’ve brought to the table this season.
It looked like Isaac Okoro’s time as a Cavaliers may be over after last season, especially with the team adding a new starting small forward in Max Strus. But Okoro kept hanging around the edge of the rotation through the preseason, and when injuries struck he was ready to step up.
Okoro has looked more confident with the basketball this season, with his movements decisive rather than panicked or hesitant. He is shooting a perfectly fine 35.7 percent from 3-point range, which is good enough to keep him on the court in the regular season, and he is adding a high-energy 2.4 offensive rebounds per game, an extremely solid number for a player of his size.
Defensively he has been everywhere, averaging a steal a game and pulling in another 3.2 defensive rebounds, for a career-best 5.6 total rebounds per game. If he continues playing at this level he will force the coaching staff to keep him in the regular rotation even when everyone is healthy.