How the Cleveland Cavaliers have evolved this season in the face of defeat

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Versatile offense gives Cleveland an edge

The adversity of losing two starters in December forced the Cavaliers to shake it up.

With Darius Garland at the point guard position, the pick-and-roll offense had some good games early in the season such as their November win over the Philadelphia 76ers. In November, the Cavaliers were getting into the paint effectively averaging 55.3 points per game (ranked fourth). Having this type of playing style is a nice thing to have in their bag; however, the more elite playoff teams have better rim protection and better ability to defend the switch. Thus, having some flexibility in your offensive sets will be key for April and beyond.

Since Garland’s injury, the offense has taken a more "bombs away" approach, emphasizing the outside shooting game and less straightforward pick-and-roll action. The percentage of points coming from the deep in November 2023 for the Cavaliers was 28 percent, good for 27th in the league. In January, 39.2 percent of their offense is coming from three-pointers, placing them fourth in the NBA. By comparison, only 31 percent of the last year's Cavs' offense came from the same range (ranked 18th). If anything, having this offensive approach might make life easier for Garland.

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The 2023/24 Cleveland Cavaliers have faced more than their fair share of adversity through the first half of the season. Rather than hanging their heads in defeat, this has allowed the Cavs to discover a different playing style, given the green light to outside shooters and allowed unexpected players to step their games up when it mattered. And for all those aspects, it has made the Cavaliers a better and more dangerous team for the playoffs.