Sure, it’s not as if the Cleveland Cavaliers have begun the 2023-24 season lightning fast out of the gates. Cleveland is 6-6 on the campaign, and as their early-season record indicates, this club has not found a ton of consistency really by any means. They have just one instance where they’ve tallied consecutive wins this season.
Thus far, the Cavaliers have had a net rating of minus-0.7, which is 19th in the NBA. Going into Friday night, Cleveland was 10th in the Eastern Conference, and the Cavaliers were 19th in point differential. After their win on Friday over the Detroit Pistons in Cleveland’s second game of Group Play in the NBA In-Season Tournament, Cleveland is still remaining at 19th in net rating and in point differential.
All of that being said, this is still a talented group for the Wine and Gold, they’re working out some things and getting some guys acclimated to the squad. With those things in mind, and with how this team has the make-up to be far better than their early-season splits on defense, it was eye-catching to see Cleveland mentioned as one of five current bad clubs with a realistic chance of making the playoffs.
In a recent piece published on Friday with that topic, Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report touched on the Cavaliers first, stated how that was such an easy choice, and essentially how this team will be plenty fine it seems.
Cleveland hasn’t gotten off a great start, at the aforementioned 6-6 mark. Despite that, as Hughes alluded to, it’s not as if the sky is falling for this Cavaliers squad.
The Cavaliers have endured injuries, reshuffling of lineups and they have been integrating new pieces into the fold, however, this is a talented group, and there have been signs they can turn things around pretty soon. It has been a plus to have Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland back, at least to a large degree, also, and gradually, the team’s chemistry should improve.
Cleveland’s defense has been up and down, too, but as Hughes emphasized, the Cavs are not giving up top-quality shots for the most part, and some of Cleveland’s defensive woes at times have some to do with opponents shooting the lights out from three. That is going to be due to level out, as Hughes referenced. These stats (the linked stats were via Cleaning The Glass subscription but are easily accessible) were prior to Friday’s Cavs win, as an aside.
"“The biggest hint that redemption is ahead has to do with the marksmanship of Cleveland’s opponents. Teams are drilling 40.5 percent of their long-range attempts (including 41.3 percent from above the break) so far, a laughably unsustainable rate. The league average last year was 36.1 percent, so regression is imminent.Perhaps more importantly, the Cavs are allowing the right kinds of shots. They’re among the top 10 in suppressing opponent three-point volume and effectively limit shots at close range. The combined length of Allen and Evan Mobley also makes it nearly impossible to finish inside, and Cleveland is holding opposing shooters to the third-lowest field-goal percentage at the rim.”"
The Cavaliers have some difficult games ahead, with Cleveland next facing the Denver Nuggets, and then facing the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat in a Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-back. And they’ll then host LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers next Saturday as well, which is always tough.
Even with those games coming up, and the less than stellar start, though, for the Wine and Gold, they’ve had a number of injuries already, and that’s included Garland, who has been largely off as a shooter, and hasn’t nearly played how he’s capable as a playmaker. But that shouldn’t continue with Garland, and as he and guys like Allen find their stride, also with Evan Mobley and now Max Strus playing so well of late, this Cleveland team should be able to refind their rhythm, and the defense will be there.
The Cavs will benefit from when Isaac Okoro returns, especially considering how he was playing before he’s been sidelined with knee soreness. Plus, Ty Jerome can help as well when he’s back from an ankle sprain, but the overarching take is, as Hughes expressed, as the Cavaliers settle in more, they should re-emerge as one of the East’s top squads.
Cleveland will be more than fine soon enough, and as the Cavs get healthier, they should be a much more cohesive unit on both ends.