The Cleveland Cavaliers came into this season with rebuilding as their brand, or so we thought. They have been the most surprising team in the NBA and Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff has this group playing great basketball on both ends of the floor. Somehow, someway, the Cavaliers are hanging around in the Eastern Conference and just swept the Brooklyn Nets and their dangerous super-trio of stars.
In a year in which many people thought the Cavs would end up towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference, they have jumped out of the gate. They just beat the Nets twice, and Darius Garland and Collin Sexton have both returned from injuries. The addition of Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince are great pickups, and Cleveland isn’t a roll-over team by any means. The question remains: Is this sustainable?
Let’s see if this year’s Cavaliers squad could be back in the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left.
Are the Cleveland Cavaliers Good?
Garland and Sexton’s infamous nickname, “Sex-land,” is well-deserved. The Cavs young backcourt is arguably one of the better young backcourts in the entire league.
Garland is in his second year, Sexton in his third, and both seem to be hitting strides. Garland has missed a handful of games this year with an injury, but make no mistake, he can play. It’s a small sample size, sure, but he’s averaging more than 16 points per game this year. He has tremendous ball skills and as his shot continues to improve, the Cavs are in a great position.
Darius Garland ankle-breaker 😳
— ESPN (@espn) December 30, 2020
Sexton has been phenomenal, and quite possibly an All-Star in the Eastern Conference. The former Crimson Tide star is averaging nearly 27 points a game. His shooting percentages sit at 52 percent from the field and 46 percent from beyond the arc. He also just became the first Cavs player in history to score 20 or more points in each of the first 10 games.
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) January 23, 2021
Sexton returned from injury and dazzled against the Nets in their first game as a new super-trio. He had 42 points on 16-for-29 shooting from the field in a double-OT thriller and nailed a game-tying three in overtime.
As if that weren’t enough, he came out on Friday and dropped 25 points with nine dimes in another victory over the Nets. Sexton is a problem, and will only get better as the season progresses. The “Sex-land” vibe in Cleveland is real, and with more talent around them, the Cavs could be here to stay in the East.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The Bigs
Andre Drummond has been proving that he’s worth a big payday in the offseason. The center is averaging 18.8 points per game with a league-leading 15.1 rebounds. He has put up a double-double in all but one game this year and has been a force in the middle for Cleveland. While Drummond has been a star this season, but let’s not forget about the rest.
With the injury to Love, Larry Nance Jr. has played more minutes and he deserves it. While Nance won’t put up 20 points per game, he does so many little things. He is a pest on defense and always brings that defensive energy that Bickerstaff loves.
New addition Allen, who came over in the James Harden deal, has stepped right in and made a difference. Allen was a starter for Brooklyn, and for good reason. The former Texas Longhorn was averaging 11 points and 10 boards per game with the Nets, and he’s tough to guard down low.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The Supporting Cast
Prince also came over from Brooklyn and does so many things well off the bench. He can score, rebound, defend, and stretch the floor, which will be huge for the Cavs.
Isaac Okoro is one of the toughest defenders around, even more impressive that he’s a rookie. The first-year player went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant the other night and didn’t back down. Okoro can slash and finish at the rim as well as anybody in the NBA.
Isaac Okoro seals the deal for the Cavs with two-handed jam. 💪
— theScore (@theScore) January 8, 2021
Cedi Osman hasn’t been the player the Cavs hoped for, but he’s improving each season. He brings energy and hustle, can score, and play defense. Osman is in a great position with some young stars, so the pressure will alleviate eventually.
The Cavaliers are not a fluke. Bickerstaff has this team playing at a tremendous level and is getting early Coach of the Year Award buzz.
Real or Fake?
With the inclusion of the 10 teams in the expanded playoffs, the Cavs should be a lock. While the Eastern Conference is questionable, at best, some issues with some other teams should pave the way for them.
So, once again, are the Cavaliers legitimate? If Cleveland can continue to bring this level of energy and physicality on a nightly basis, they could be dangerous in the expanded playoffs.
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