In the 2022-23 campaign, the Cleveland Cavaliers topped the NBA with a 109.9 defensive rating. Conversely, the Kings ranked 24th with a 116 defensive rating. Offensively, Sacramento led the league in offensive rating at 118.6 while the Cavaliers ranked eighth at 115.5.
The Cavaliers prioritize their tough defense anchored by Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. In the playoffs, though, an easily predictable offense forced the Cavs out of the first round in only five games against the New York Knicks. In the offseason, Cleveland added offensive versatility and long range shooting. Namely, Max Strus has emerged as a prototypical 3-and-D wing in his first season with the Cavaliers. Overall, though, this season will be defined by Cleveland’s ability to maintain their defensive identity while improving their shooting and offensive gameplan.
The Kings reached the playoffs with their dominant combination of Fox and Sabonis and a strong core of other offensive options around them. In the postseason, though, the Golden State Warriors exposed Sacramento’s poor defense reliability. Superstar guard Stephen Curry dismantled the Kings’ perimeter defense, and Draymond Green pestered Sabonis in the post every possession. In the offseason, Sacramento bought into their current structure, extending veteran forward Harrison Barnes and banked on internal growth.
As two teams with lopsided approaches that caused an early playoff exit, their game against one another will test their resoluteness to answer their problems from last season. Led by former Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown, the Kings’ offensive-minded approach is contrasted by Cleveland’s nonstop defense. Whichever team’s offseason decisions improved their shortcomings better will likely enter the contest with a significant advantage.
Entering the 2023-24 campaign, the Cavs and Kings also have a uniquely similar construction of proven and developing talent, another factor that will play a pivotal role in the match.