1 question for every Cavaliers player as countdown to NBA playoffs begins

Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers
Atlanta Hawks v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages
1 of 2

Time is ticking for the Cleveland Cavaliers to make their case for the NBA playoffs. Amid their most disappointing stretch of the season, the Cavs have a plethora of questions left to answer.

While injuries have derailed much of Cleveland's season, they cannot use these as excuses to underperform in the playoffs again. Another exit in the first round will raise serious questions about the long-term abilities of this squad. This regular season has been tremendous, as the Cavaliers have overcome countless injuries and proven looming doubts wrong time after time. With head coach J.B. Bickerstaff's mid-season evolution as an offensive strategist, the Cavs have every tool at their disposal needed to set a new standar of excellence in Cleveland.

The true test starts now with few games left before the playoffs begin. There is not a single team in the Eastern Conference playoff picture who will take a night off against anybody once it begins. Over last summer, the Cavaliers made necessary improvements and look ready for a major leap. Despite their recent slide, Cleveland is poised to make noise and win in the playoffs.

Before they get there, ever Cavalier has something more to prove. From top to bottom, the Cleveland fanbase and outside onlookers will want to see what they can bring to the table when it matters the most.

Will Donovan Mitchell elevate his teammates?

Looking at Donovan Mitchell's season, the question for Cleveland's best player is not about his ability to score, pass or show intensity. He has had another defining season, topping his tremendous work last year. But, can Mitchell elevate his teammates to this same level in the playoffs?

The world knows what elite talent Mitchell can display, but he as yet to overcome the second round of the postseason. If he cannot carry the offense, he has had trouble consistently finding ways to rely on his teammates. WIth the Utah Jazz, their star power was severely hampered by Rudy Gobert's repeated playoff mishaps. The Cavaliers, though, have two elite big men who can thrive alongside Mitchell. The question for him is whether or not he can motivate his teammates and unlock the best version of them.

Can Darius Garland handle the playoffs?

In the last two seasons, Darius Garland has flamed out after game 82. When Garland was the captain of the crew in the 2022 Play-In Tournament, the All-Star shooting, distributing and mentality vanished. The 2023 playoffs threw Garland for a loop. Can the Cavaliers depend on Garland when it matters most?

The greatest moments of Darius Garland are truly special. When he skips away after draining a dazzling three-pointers, every viewer can easily recognize the legendary talent Garland possesses. Unfortunately, his best moments rarely come when something real is on the line. Garland was young in the 2022 Play-In, but at 24-years-old, Garland has the experience and talent to make it happen. This playoff series will be critical in DG defining his career as a playoff performer. Otherwise, the narrative and overall perception of a mesmerizing guard could be squandered.

How confident can Evan Mobley be on offense?

If there is any single compliment that Evan Mobley has earned this season, it is that he always comes back from injury ready to play. He does not need a ramp-up period to make an impact again. The Cavaliers will need an aggressive, willing scorer in Mobley to make a playoff push. If he is shoved around on the boards and looks nervous to shoot an open jumper again, Cleveland will fight an uphill battle every game.

In his the season, the young forward has accomplished remarkable feats and is steadily improving as a playmaker and scorer despite frustrating injuries. Mobley's question is somewhat related to Donovan Mitchell's question. If Mitchell can continue to take on the leader role he has in Cleveland, then Mobley will be able to realize his capabilities in the playoffs. His mid-range jump shot is not going to be defining Mobley this year, but the Cavs have to be able to trust him to extend his game to the perimeter in the postseason and not just a few regular season match ups.

Will Max Strus stay hot?

Every shooter has highs and lows throughout an 82-game season. The Cavaliers need Max Strus to be at his best for the coming 16-game season. While Strus' willingness to shoot at volume even on an off night forces defenses to guard the perimeter every game, Cleveland needs a steady lift on offense from Strus to make it to the next round.

Max Strus has contributed at a much higher level this year than the Cavs likely expected when they signed him. Strus did not have a reputation as a passer or hustling rebounder, but he has made a unique impression in every aspect for Cleveland. His defense has also been worthwhile, forcing opponents into tough shots and working to only allow his match up to get past him if he is in position to lead them right into the towering Mobley and Jarrett Allen. These areas of Max's game have been reliable throughout the year, leaving his shooting to be the only major question.

Is Jarrett Allen able to play physical enough?

There is not too much to ask about Jarrett Allen in the final stretch of a career year. His efforts and tone setting for the Cavaliers this season is nothing short of invaluable. Allen's impact has only been eclipsed by Mitchell, though Donovan may be the first one to say that he would have not been able to do it without the Fro behind him.

The question remains, then, can Jarrett Allen handle the physicality of the NBA playoffs? The New York loss still stings. While Allen acknowledges and laughs at his bright lights comment, nothing he does in the regular season will matter if the playoffs are too tough for him again. Allen knows this and seems prepared, but the question will not be answered until the moment arrives.