Recently, I talked about consistency with a group of athletes I coach at the high school level. The word “consistency” is used a lot in the sports world and that’s no different with a team that we love in the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have definitely struggled with consistency this season and that has affected the team’s performances and thus a very mediocre 18-14 record as they approach the midway mark of the season.
There have been a variety of reasons for this rollercoaster of the season so far. Two of the team's main stars Darius Garland and Evan Mobley have both been injured this year and have missed several weeks already. Other stars Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen have also missed multiple games too due to injury.
The injury bug has left their head coach J.B. Bickerstaff using a multitude of other bench players over the season. There too has been an issue because he hasn’t settled on a consistent rotation of bench players. Caris LeVert, Sam Merrill, Georges Niang, Damian Jones, Isaiah Mobley, Craig Porter Jr. and Tristan Thompson have all gotten minutes this season.
Dean Wade and Isaac Okoro have been inserted into the starting five in the absence of Garland and Mobley. There too have been some inconsistencies with each player as their production has been up and down.
If you look at the case of both Okoro and Wade, you’ll see two players that are playing well in spurts. In the last 10 games for Okoro, he had five games where he played more than 30 minutes. In those games, he scored 22, 12, 16, 11 and 18 points, respectively. When Bickerstaff played him less than that he scored 8, 5, 7, 3, and 1 point. Can you see the issue? As a coach myself, it’s difficult to understand Bickerstaff’s thinking at times. Okoro is a good defender and when you play him, then he produces.
With Wade and his production, it may be more about his own ups and downs in the last 10 games. It’s hard to get a grasp on Wade’s stats. He’s one of the team’s best defenders and I’m happy that Bickerstaff is playing him more because of that. But, it would be good to see him get more consistent in his offensive play.
In Wade’s last 10 games, he’s had some nice games where he went for 11,12, 16, and 20 points, respectively, but then he’s gone for 0, 3, 5, 8, and 9 in other games. He’s been getting a consistent number of rebounds in games from six to eight a game, getting a few steals and blocks, and rarely turns the ball over. But, the consistency of scoring buckets has to improve. I’d like to see Wade get 10 shots or more up while he’s in the starting unit. Right now, he usually gets up around five shots a game and that’s not enough as a starter.
There was a lot of optimism going into this season as the Cavs were coming off their best season in years and made it to the postseason. By many accounts, this season was going to be the next step in getting this team to an NBA title run.
None of that has come to be at this stage of the season. Poor play from the team’s defense to the inconsistencies on offense has really put a damper on what was supposed to be a great season.
Cleveland sits as the No. 6 seed in the East standings, which isn’t tbat far from their actual seeding a year ago. But things just feel off this year. The best teams in the East like the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks seem like they are light years ahead of the Cavaliers right now.
There’s still a ton of season left, but Cleveland needs to get more consistent quickly. We can point to injured players being a legitimate reason for the team’s struggles, however, if you recall this team was struggling even when Garland and Mobley were in there.
Bickerstaff needs to settle in on a more consistent eight or nine-man rotation. The players also now in that rotation need to be more consistent.
In the end, the Cavaliers are still right in the mix of the Eastern Conference standings, but they need to start playing more consistently as a team and in their individual play as well if they want this season to go far.