The Cleveland Cavaliers have been a major surprise in the NBA this season. The young team was expected to show improvement, but not to the extent that they have done. They also sent two players, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, to the All-Star game while also having a lead contender in the Rookie of the Year sweepstakes in Evan Mobley. Cleveland is built to succeed right now and well into the future.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Contenders or Pretenders?
The Cavaliers started the season hot. They’ve been on somewhat of a cold streak recently however, mostly due to Allen’s absence due to injury. He should be back in a couple of weeks, but the team also just lost Dean Wade to a partial meniscus tear.
Cleveland’s recent slide has caused them to fall down the standings. They’re currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, but the surging Toronto Raptors are right behind them. It will be a tooth-and-nail fight for the sixth seed to close out the season in hopes of avoiding the play-in tournament and a possible date with the Brooklyn Nets.
The Cavaliers are an efficient offensive team. They currently rank eighth in the league in field goal percentage. This puts them ahead of some hot offenses such as those of the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, and Philadelphia 76ers. They’re also 14th in three-point percentage, that’s roughly average but still a good sign heading into the playoffs.
The Cavaliers play solid team basketball as well, averaging over 25 assists per game. This ranks ninth in the league. Finally, they’re 15th in rebounds per game. It’s not a stellar ranking, but overall solid. Cleveland has plenty of talented big men when healthy which will give them an advantage in the playoffs.
The first weakness, which can be subject to change, is the injury status. Allen is having an All-Star campaign and his absence has been affecting the team in a major way. This season he’s averaging about 16 points, 11 rebounds, and a block per game. Wade’s absence will also be felt as he is a solid piece off the bench.
Another weakness of the Cavaliers is their free-throw shooting. It’s not a glaring weakness, but free throws end up being crucial in every playoff game. The team is shooting 76 percent from the line, ranking them 22nd in the league. Their offense as a whole needs more explosiveness as well, as they’re 23rd in the league in points per game. This is the exact reason they traded for Caris LeVert.
Cleveland Cavaliers X-Factor
The two x-factors on this team are their two youngest stars – Garland and Mobley.
Garland is averaging about 21 points and nine assists per game. Mobley is averaging about 15 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks per game. Both players have completely exceeded all expectations which is why Cleveland is in the playoff hunt in the first place. Whether Cleveland takes the sixth seed or falls in the play-in tournament, all of their results will be directly influenced by the play of the two youngsters.
The Final Verdict for the Cleveland Cavaliers
The team has been a very nice surprise to both Cleveland sports fans and NBA fans. Whatever result they finish with this season will not affect their future standing as they aren’t going away for a long time now. This team is built for plenty of future success.
Holding the sixth seed will likely see the Cavaliers playing against the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, or Philadelphia 76ers. They wouldn’t be the favorite in any of those first-round match-ups. Should Cleveland fall to the play-in, they’d likely play the Nets and if they fail in the match-up they’ll have a ton of pressure versus a more experience Hawks team or a stellar offensive team in the Hornets. The road is too difficult for Cleveland looking forward, so they remain pretenders for this season at least.
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