When you ask any member of the Cleveland Cavaliers how the start of the season has been, the common theme is this: "average," Max Strus recently put it. The Cavs sit at 12-9 through 21 games, and it is clear that this team has not played up to its potential.
There are nights when they do, like when they beat the Atlanta Hawks by 23 at home. Or when they beat the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers in back-to-back games while shorthanded. However, there are games where the Cavs look like a bottom 10 NBA team. Losing to the Trail Blazers at home, blowing a 10-point lead with two minutes left against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and getting embarrassed by the Miami Heat at home by 33 points.
It has been really up and down for the Cavs so far. Fortunately, they finished the month of November with a 9-6 record. That is a great month for most teams, but it easily could have been 10-5, 11-4, or even 12-3. They know that they left wins on the table. At least there is hope that the team will turn it around, and they started the month off the right way. The Cavs crushed the Orlando Magic 121-111 at home on Wednesday, and had one of their more complete performances of the season. They are now 2-0 to start December.
That said, key players need to step it up in order to keep the good times rolling. Here are my three Cavs players that need to step up in December.
No. 1. Darius Garland
The month of November starts the season of giving, and Darius Garland took that a little too literally. He was giving the ball away on offense at an alarmingly high rate. Garland averaged four turnovers per game for the month, including five games of five or more. That is unacceptable for a starting NBA point guard, and a far cry from the Garland we have grown accustomed to over the last few seasons.
However, it was not all bad for Garland during the month of November. He had five 20-plus-point games, and nine games of at least six assists. He also had 47/35/82 shooting splits for the month, which is close to his normal efficiency.
Garland showed flashes of the All-Star level we all know he can play at, but it was largely an up and down month for him. Fortunately, he has started December off on the right foot. Garland was instrumental in the Cavs’ road win against the Detroit Pistons, as he had 22 points, five assists, and three steals. He then followed that up with one of his best performances of the season against the Orlando Magic. Garland had 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, and nine assists. The most important stat of Garland’s performance though was this: zero turnovers.
For the first time all season, Garland finished with no turnovers. It was the kind of efficient performance that can do a lot for a player’s confidence. Garland has to continue this level of play throughout the month. It would be a great Christmas gift for the Wine and Gold.