3 best surprises for Cleveland Cavaliers this season, 2 biggest disappointments

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers
New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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The Cleveland Cavaliers are only three games away from reaching their second consecutive playoff berth, and the road to get there has been as dramatic as possible.

Despite a tremendous run from mid-December to the All-Star break, the post ASG Cavaliers have been disappointing at best. The ups and downs of the season have led to tremendous comeback wins and breakout nights for various members of the squad. From the onset of the regular season, the Cavs have battled back from countless and unstopping injuries, allowing role players and unexpected contributors to make their impression on the year.

As difficult as the last few weeks of Cavaliers basketball have been, it is important to take a balanced look back at the development of the team over the full year. Their true status as a contender will be tested in the playoffs, making every second count in their final few matchups of the regular season campaign. The biggest surprise successes of the season have likely secured a guaranteed spot on the roster next season as the Cavs build toward a true contender this offseason.

Not everyone in Cleveland has looked good, though. Despite another winning record and a superstar at the helm with Donovan Mitchell, the Cavaliers have endured crushing defeats and embarrassing performances from key players. If the Cavs' biggest disappointments cannot turn their year around and impact in the postseason, they may find themselves in a new city before next year's opening night.

Max Strus has been a big surprise in his first season with Cleveland

At the start of free agency last summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers came out swinging for the fences. Their first major acquisition was a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat for veteran wing Max Strus. After developing into a solid 3-and-D wing for the Heat, Strus joined the Cavaliers as an answer to the team's underwhelming perimeter presence.

In his debut night with the Cavs, Max Strus set a franchise debut record with seven three-pointers made. From the jump, Strus fulfilled his promise to be a confident volume shooter, helping the Cavaliers discover their potential as a versatile offense. At the time of Strus' arrival in Cleveland, volume shooting was all that was expected, but he quickly surprised and changed the narrative. Early in the year, Strus set himself apart by impacting every aspect of the game for Cleveland.

Playing in the largest role of his career, Strus has averaged career highs in assists (3.8) and rebounds (4.7) in 32 minutes per game. Strus' dynamic versatility has lifted the Cavaliers' offense, especially amid long stretches without integral players due to injury. Without Max's activity and hustle, this season would look much different for the Cavaliers.