Dean Wade shines but shorthanded Cavaliers end homestand with a loss

New Orleans Pelicans v Cleveland Cavaliers
New Orleans Pelicans v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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Where the Cleveland Cavaliers stand going forward

The Cavaliers entered their four-game homestretch on a three-game losing streak, barely staying above .500 in the standings. With Garland and Mobley suddenly announced for prolonged absences, Cleveland basketball was seemingly in a downward spiral with little stopping a full collapse. If the Cavs could not find a spark in this stretch, many media members believed the Cavs could look at drastic measures of change, including a Donovan Mitchell trade.

Following their latest loss, the Cavaliers are 16-13, sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference behind the fifth-seeded New York Knicks at 16-11 and sixth-seeded Miami Heat at 16-12. While Cleveland has regressed in the standings this season, their ability to stay afloat without two more star players has been a miraculous turn of events.

After 29 games, the anticipated starting lineup of Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Max Strus, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen has only appeared in 11 games, totaling 145 minutes together. With three of their five starters unavailable in their last two games, staying above .500 signifies the reality of this Cavaliers roster. While last year's biggest flaw was depth and roster versatility, this team is more than capable of finding an extra boost from the end of the roster list.

Craig Porter, Jr. has been the best example of this all season, averaging 6.8 points, 2.7 assists, 2.1 rebounds and half a block per game as an undrafted rookie on a two-way contract. Against the Jazz, Sam Merrill willed the Cavs to victory with a career-high in points (27) and 3-pointers made (8). Veteran big man Tristan Thompson originally returned to Cleveland as the expected third-string center behind Allen, Mobley and Damian Jones. Instead, his tenacity on the boards and constant effort has put him into a larger role, averaging just under 11 minutes per game.

The Cavaliers are not without their flaws, still, as they continue to navigate a redundant frontcourt and backcourt and find themselves inconsistent night to night. While Cleveland officials have reportedly confirmed they are not shopping All-Star guard Mitchell on the trade market, there is no shortage of names on the Cavs that could be moved before the February 8 trade deadline.

Once the Cavaliers finally regain some semblance of health, they may find themselves needing to consolidate their depth to find consistent production out of their nightly rotation. Until then, however, these Cavaliers are not going down without a tooth-and-nail fight every time.

Next. 3 Cavs who need to step up without Garland and Mobley. 3 Cavs who need to step up without Garland and Mobley. light

Cleveland's next game will take place on Saturday, December 23 on the road against the Chicago Bulls at 8:00 pm Eastern Time. The Bulls, 13-17, are on a three-game win streak but are still without star guard Zach Lavine as he deals with an ankle injury.