5 Flaws that could crush Cleveland Cavaliers' playoff hopes

The Cavaliers could make a second straight early playoff exit if they cannot find ways to address these shortcomings.

Cleveland Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland
Cleveland Cavaliers, Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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The Cleveland Cavaliers are facing a ton of pressure. They were upset by the Knicks, despite having homecourt in the first round of the playoffs last season. Cleveland has to make a run if they hope to keep Donovan Mitchell. The five-time All-Star has one season plus a player option remaining on his contract. He is extension-eligible this summer. If Mitchell refuses to sign, the Cavs must explore his trade market.

Cleveland is in the top three in the Eastern Conference and battling the Bucks for the second seed. They have three All-Stars and a future one in Evan Mobley. The Cavaliers upgraded their talent from last season, but can the franchise win a playoff series for the first time since LeBron James departed? If not, more changes are on the horizon.

Their roster has multiple flaws that could sink them in the postseason. The Knicks proved it in 2023. Where is Cleveland weak, and can the Cavs plug those holes when the games matter most?

5. Lack of experience

Mitchell has led his team to the playoffs for six straight years from 2018 to 2023, but they have never advanced beyond the second round. Several of the Cavaliers' rotation pieces just have last season’s first-round exit under their belts. Max Strus reached the NBA Finals in 2023 and the conference finals in 2022 with the Miami Heat. Adding his experience was key, but it is only one player.

Sam Merrill and Tristan Thompson have both won championships, but neither will play a significant role in the playoffs. Thompson is serving his 25-game suspension, and Merrill has been in and out of the rotation.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' lack of playoff experience could bite them, especially in a series against the Heat or Bucks, who have made multiple deep playoff runs. It is not just their times in the moment. The Cavs have some on-court flaws too.