The Cleveland Cavaliers (11-9) were expected to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference coming into this season. However, through 20 games, they are in eighth place in the East due to some bad losses along the way. When looking at Cleveland’s numbers, it’s clear why they have not played as well as they should have.
3 Takeaways From the Cleveland Cavaliers Through 20 Games
After an impressive win over the Brooklyn Nets to begin the 2023-24 season, things started to go downhill. Cleveland promptly experienced a three-game losing streak, including losses to the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks. To be fair, the Pacers and the Knicks have been playing well this season, so those aren’t exactly bad losses.
However, if the Cavaliers are going to be a potential championship contender, they have to beat those teams. That said, here are three takeaways from Cleveland’s season thus far through 20 games.
Defense Is the Name of the Game
For the Cavaliers, one factor they’ve been able to count on is their ability to play effective defense every night. Heading into Tuesday’s games, Cleveland is eighth in the NBA in defensive rating (111.3), indicating their efficiency on that end. Part of that is due to the great work of players like Evan Mobley and Donovan Mitchell.
Mobley, who is averaging 1.7 blocks per game, is doing a great job of protecting the rim for the Cavaliers. He has been an integral part of their defense, especially in the paint. Mitchell, averaging 2.1 steals per game, has been better defending on the perimeter this season compared to his past.
The Offense Has to Improve
Despite having players like Mitchell and Darius Garland lead the offense, there are still improvements to be made. The Cavaliers rank 23rd in the league in offensive rating (110.7) and 17th in pace (99.5).
Along with the slow pace, the biggest culprit of the poor offense is the long-range shooting. For Cleveland, they are shooting 34.4% from behind the three-point line (26th) on 31.9 attempts per game (23rd).
Moving forward, it’s clear that the offense needs a boost in terms of playing faster and shooting the three-ball better. That will require Mitchell (34.4%) and Georges Niang (34.8%) to shoot better from that range, among others.
Turnovers Are An Issue
One of the factors that has been impacting Cleveland this season is how much they have turned the ball over. Through 20 games, the Cavaliers are turning the ball over 14.6 times, the 10th-most in the NBA. The main player turning the ball for Cleveland is Garland, who averages 4.3 turnovers per contest. However, as the team’s ball-handler and point guard, it will be a tall task for him to accomplish.
Mitchell, who has the highest usage rate, also has one of the lowest turnover percentages on the team. A possible change could be seeing him handle the ball more to give Garland a break with setting up the offense.
The Last Word
Cleveland’s performance through 20 games is about as expected, given how strong their schedule was. However, despite the level of competition, there are still areas of improvement for the Cavaliers on their journey to the postseason.