Stock up, Stock down: Cavaliers who can make a difference in the new year

Georges Niang and Sam Merrill, Cleveland Cavaliers
Georges Niang and Sam Merrill, Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages
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With a new year around the corner, the Cleveland Cavaliers will need to look to their supporting cast to maintain their standing in the Eastern Conference with brutal injuries to their star duo.

As Cleveland fans hope for a safe and full recovery for Evan Mobley and Darius Garland, the Cavaliers will rely more heavily on remaining starters Donovan Mitchell, Max Strus and Jarrett Allen to carry the heaviest burden in the meantime. However, the Cavs have plenty of options for short-term personnel, starting with in-house talent. In stark contrast to last season, Cleveland's bench has plenty of production to help outlast their injury woes.

In their first match since the news, the Cavaliers defended their homecourt in a sound 127-119 victory against the Atlanta Hawks in a game with a career-high 13 assists from Mitchell. Their win came on the heels of a 3-game skid that pushed the Cavs back down to the eighth seed in the East. Cleveland followed that up with a 135-130 overtime win over the Houston Rockets, and their next two games will take place at home, giving them a chance to find their footing and adjust to the current situation.

The Hawks win came on the backs of a well-balanced, concerted effort from the entire Cavaliers roster. Six players reached 10 or more points, and four Cavs started had at least 15 points. As a team, the Cavaliers shot 38.1 (16/42) percent from deep and won the rebounding battle 49 to Atlanta's 34. Cleveland's 31 offensive rebounds led the way to 33 second-chance points.

If the Cavaliers are going to steady the ship without Garland and Mobley, these three players need to continue their rising value. Conversely, two Cavs have to find their way back.

Stock up: Isaac Okoro is earning a new contract with Cavaliers

Throughout the season, Isaac Okoro has occasionally fallen out of the Cavaliers rotation due to injury and fit. When he has touched the floor, though, he has displayed an improved level of confidence on offense and has become an efficient corner 3-point shooter, shooting 38.7 percent on corner threes this year.

Okoro has entered the starting lineup 7 times this year, including in his 18-point performance against the Hawks. The young wing is also averaging a career-high in rebounds (3.4) this season in roughly 25 minutes per contest. While Okoro still finds himself in foul trouble a bit more than the Cavaliers would like to see, he has had an impressive 2023-24 campaign thus far.

Although Okoro is not going to oust Max Strus from the starting five, Okoro has outperformed his role as a second unit contributor. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers currently have a surplus of shorter wing players, making his long-term fit and role still in question. Whether he is in Cleveland or elsewhere by the trade deadline, Isaac Okoro's stock has leaped significantly this season. The effort has always been there, but the results are starting to show now, too.