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2023-24 Regular Season Thread II: March Toward Destiny

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That net rating is worse than San Antonio's starting unit.

It's worse than Utahs.


Starting unit has been trash together all season long.
The four-man lineup of Garland, Mitchell, Strus, Allen is +8.1 per 100 possessions. Adding Mobley to that group is what makes it less effective, unfortunately (though probably unsurprisingly).

Interestingly, though, our starting five is much more effective in third quarters: +11.4 per 100 possessions in 106 minutes. They really just have a problem opening the game together.
 
At this point the samples sizes are big enough and the numbers don't lie.

The Garland/Mitchell/Strus/Mobley/Allen unit, which is the starting lineup when everyone is healthy, is outscoring opponents by 2.7 points per 100 possessions (586 possessions this year).

The Mitchell/Strus/Okoro/Wade/Allen unit that started when Garland and Mobley were injured outscored opponents by 20.7 points in 486 possessions.

For whatever reason that second unit just works better. Actually, that's an understatement. It's like they're on different planets.

But the Cavs have a huge investment in Mobley's development. There's no way JBB can tell the front office that he's benching Mobley and starting Wade.

They also made a huge commitment to Garland and they're not going to bench him for Okoro and move Strus to guard, even though the numbers show they are better with Mitchell at the point, Strus at the 2, and Okoro at the 3.

The Cavs are going to have to continue starting Mobley and Garland and hope this unit can figure out how to score and defend better. They're averaging 114 points per 100 possessions, while the other unit is just under 124 points. Defensively, the regular starters are allowing 111 points while the Wade/Okoro group is at 103. The unit that started when Garland and Mobley were out were 10 points better offensively and 8 points better defensively.

It's amazing that the second unit is so much better offensively seeing how both Wade and Okoro are considered good defenders but offensive liabilities. And neither Allen or Strus is a shot creator. But somehow that group averages 124 points per 100. Mitchell running the offense is a powerful thing.

Bickerstaff could still start Garland and Mobley and after a few minutes sub in Wade and Okoro for them. If the starting unit we have now doesn't figure out how to score and defend better he may have to start doing that. Right now Mobley can't score beyond three feet from the rim and opponents shoot 3's over Garland like he's not there, which at 6'1", he pretty much isn't.

In the loss to the Bulls Garland was 7-for-14 on 3's and had just one turnover in 44 minutes. Mobley had 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. Both of them are starting to find their rhythm after missing six weeks, so maybe the starting unit will start beating up on some teams soon. Mitchell missed two games and has not been 100% since returning between having lost six pounds and playing on a sore knee.

I'm still holding out hope that once Garland, Mitchell, and Mobley are all 100% the starting five will figure it out and become the "Lineup of Death".

This month the Cavs play 17 games in 31 days, including a lot of strong opponents like the Knicks, Celtics, T-Wolves (twice), Denver, Philly, New Orleans, and Miami twice. It will be a great opportunity for the starting five to work on their game and figure out how to maximize their talent. JBB will have plenty of opportunity to continue to look at various combinations to see which ones work the best. This is an important month as it will be a springboard to the playoffs and the Cavs still have things to work out.
The only relevant sample size in terms of the post season is ratings against other playoff teams, and that sample size is way, way too small.

What was the Cavs rating against the Clippers, Bucks, Magic, and Pelicans without Mobley and Garland.
 
What can we expect from TT when he's back and off the juice? He had given us some good play here and there.
 
What can we expect from TT when he's back and off the juice? He had given us some good play here and there.

The Chicago game is a perfect example of why the team needs TT. The bigs looked gassed in the second half. In the two overtimes, they were broken.

I blame Bickerstaff for running wildly shallow rotations on a back to back, but the guys on The Chasedown said Wade was battling an illness. Even more clearly we saw the Niang is more of a fourth bigman than a third. TT isn't as good as he used to be, but the hole in the rotation will continue to stand out when the team doesn't get a rest day in between games.
 
this is such a brutal thread title for "half-empty" observers like me. :chuckle:
 
At this point the samples sizes are big enough and the numbers don't lie.

The Garland/Mitchell/Strus/Mobley/Allen unit, which is the starting lineup when everyone is healthy, is outscoring opponents by 2.7 points per 100 possessions (586 possessions this year).

The Mitchell/Strus/Okoro/Wade/Allen unit that started when Garland and Mobley were injured outscored opponents by 20.7 points in 486 possessions.

For whatever reason that second unit just works better. Actually, that's an understatement. It's like they're on different planets.

But the Cavs have a huge investment in Mobley's development. There's no way JBB can tell the front office that he's benching Mobley and starting Wade.

They also made a huge commitment to Garland and they're not going to bench him for Okoro and move Strus to guard, even though the numbers show they are better with Mitchell at the point, Strus at the 2, and Okoro at the 3.

The Cavs are going to have to continue starting Mobley and Garland and hope this unit can figure out how to score and defend better. They're averaging 114 points per 100 possessions, while the other unit is just under 124 points. Defensively, the regular starters are allowing 111 points while the Wade/Okoro group is at 103. The unit that started when Garland and Mobley were out were 10 points better offensively and 8 points better defensively.

It's amazing that the second unit is so much better offensively seeing how both Wade and Okoro are considered good defenders but offensive liabilities. And neither Allen or Strus is a shot creator. But somehow that group averages 124 points per 100. Mitchell running the offense is a powerful thing.

Bickerstaff could still start Garland and Mobley and after a few minutes sub in Wade and Okoro for them. If the starting unit we have now doesn't figure out how to score and defend better he may have to start doing that. Right now Mobley can't score beyond three feet from the rim and opponents shoot 3's over Garland like he's not there, which at 6'1", he pretty much isn't.

In the loss to the Bulls Garland was 7-for-14 on 3's and had just one turnover in 44 minutes. Mobley had 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. Both of them are starting to find their rhythm after missing six weeks, so maybe the starting unit will start beating up on some teams soon. Mitchell missed two games and has not been 100% since returning between having lost six pounds and playing on a sore knee.

I'm still holding out hope that once Garland, Mitchell, and Mobley are all 100% the starting five will figure it out and become the "Lineup of Death".

This month the Cavs play 17 games in 31 days, including a lot of strong opponents like the Knicks, Celtics, T-Wolves (twice), Denver, Philly, New Orleans, and Miami twice. It will be a great opportunity for the starting five to work on their game and figure out how to maximize their talent. JBB will have plenty of opportunity to continue to look at various combinations to see which ones work the best. This is an important month as it will be a springboard to the playoffs and the Cavs still have things to work out.

We’re locked in through the playoffs and should wait to judge till then, but there are disturbing signs that Koby significantly fucked up the construction of the roster. He can’t really back down either, he goes to management and says “hey you know those two guys I built our future around? They maybe don’t fit in so well…” then he gets fired. If you were going to choose two of the four to build around it looks like Mitchell-Allen might be the best bet but the org is too dug in on their own draftees
 
We were blowing out teams until the 76ers. Guess who's play deceleration wise started. Mitchell and Allen. Because they played their asses off with no b/b and extra days off while JB was forced to use parts from the bench and TT was a helper. Mitchell and Allen have faded, TT got suspended, JB stopped using his bench. Nothing new under the sun. It adds up especially with non-100% Garland who at 100% maybe could have bailed us out 2 games.

it goes back to seasonal flow and JB. The former we can't control. Ebbs happen. We can damn control the latter.
 
It’s pretty impressive the collection of talent that Koby assembled. We really might have one of the deepest teams in the NBA.

It’s equally impressive that our coach has all this talent and willingly chooses to go with an 8 man rotation
 
It’s pretty impressive the collection of talent that Koby assembled. We really might have one of the deepest teams in the NBA.

It’s equally impressive that our coach has all this talent and willingly chooses to go with an 8 man rotation

Fair assessment...but can you argue with the results? The team has gone from 20-something wins, to 44, to 51, to on pace for almost 60...
 
Interesting article posted on ESPN. Since it’s behind a pay wall I’ve pasted the article for you:

TWO-AND-A-HALF months ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers were teetering.

They had just lost their third straight game to fall to 13-12, falling to ninth place in the Eastern Conference, and just had All-Star guard Darius Garland collide face-first with Kristaps Porzingis' hip, leaving the floor general with a fractured jaw.

In the same news release in which the team announced Garland would miss four weeks, the Cavs also declared Evan Mobley, who finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting last season, would miss six to eight weeks to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

The sky was falling in dreary Northeast Ohio.

Or so it seemed.

In their next game, against Atlanta, the shorthanded Cavs logged 41 points in the first quarter -- the most J.B. Bickerstaff's team had scored in a period all season -- en route to a eight-point win over the Hawks.

They've barely lost since.

The Cavaliers, with an NBA-best 23-5 mark from Dec. 15 to the All-Star Game, have scaled seven spots over the past 2½ months to sit in second place in the Eastern Conference heading into the weekend.

All of which raises two fundamental questions -- both of which could shift the balance of power in the East.

How? And, perhaps more important, is it real?




BEING DOWN A star ball handler in today's offense-heavy NBA can derail a team's entire scoring attack. Yet the Cavs did more than merely avoid pitfalls. Instead, they created all sorts of tricks and traps to confound their opponents.

Donovan Mitchell, predictably, handled the ball far more while Garland was out. But rather than carry more of the team's scoring burden on his shoulders, Mitchell made use of the added defensive attention by spraying the ball around when defenses collapsed onto him.

Consider: Mitchell passed out of his drives to the basket almost 39% of the time during the 1½ months that Garland missed, up from the 33% pass rate he had before Garland's absence. The result: Mitchell, who averaged 4.5 assists with Cleveland last season, averaged nearly eight dimes with Garland out of the lineup.

Max Strus, the free agent newcomer from Miami, has also worked passing wonders, already having logged far more assists this season (227) than he did in 80 games during the 2022-23 campaign (171), which served as his previous career high.

Without their usual backcourt, the Cavs moved the ball at a better clip, too, going from 277.8 passes per game before Garland's injury -- a rate that ranked 18th in the league at the time -- to a league-high 312.2 with Garland out. The Cavs' assist percentage also jumped from 60.2% (20th) before Garland's injury to 66.5% (eighth) in the time he missed. Taken together, Cleveland's offense jumped from 25th in the league in efficiency at the time of Garland's injury to sixth during the 19 games he sat out.

The shift didn't come about by happenstance. This was a concerted effort to beat teams with the pass. Bickerstaff saw an opportunity, with the non-shooting Mobley out, to spread opponents out even more. Rather than allow teams to load up on Mitchell during his isolation looks, more passing would force defenses to chase, giving players more looks from 3.

"That's what you have to do when you're down your more talented players," Bickerstaff told reporters after a blowout win in January over Washington. "We're trying to jack as many 3s as we possibly can." (Days later, Cleveland took a franchise-record 57 triples in a win over Chicago.)

The Cavaliers accomplished the mission. Aside from giving center Jarrett Allenmore space to operate -- in Mobley's absence, he logged a franchise-record 16 straight double-doubles from late December to the end of January -- Cleveland has become a far bigger threat from outside. The Cavs ranked 26th in 3-pointers and 21st in 3-point tries prior to the Mobley injury, but ranked fourth in makes and third in tries while the big man was rehabbing.

The shift in shot profile was on full display during the comeback victory against Dallas on Tuesday. With Cleveland down 10 with just under four minutes remaining, Strus hit triples on four-straight possessions to bring the Cavaliers within one point.

Mitchell then hit a pair of 3s, setting up one of the most dramatic moments of the NBA season. After the Mavs scored what looked to be a game-winning layup with 2.6 seconds left, Strus took an inbound and launched a 59-foot, buzzer-beating heave that scorched the net to steal the Cavaliers a victory and send the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse into a tizzy.


BUT ARE THEY for real? As in, an actual threat?

No team in the NBA had a cushier schedule than the Cavs over those last 20 games before the break, which included three against the lowly Wizards, two against the Spurs, two against the Nets, two against the Bulls, and ones versus the Grizzlies and Pistons.

But what about the victory over the red-hot Clippers in January, or the multiple wins against the Bucks? Even if Cleveland's slate was soft, they outperformed expectations; especially while down two key starters for much of that time. (Based on each matchup's pregame expectations, and taking into account injuries, the Cavs were anticipated to finish 14-6 during that 20-game slate, according to data from ESPN Analytics.)

If questions remain about their legitimacy, consider this: The Cavs' 18-2 run heading into All-Star Weekend is the second hottest 20-game run in history into the break. The only team to do better was the 1964-65 Celtics (19-1), who went on to win the NBA title that season.

You simply can't win at such a level for a quarter of the NBA season and fake it.

But the team knows skeptics remain.

"I think it's just based off of last year's playoff performance. It's a product of our team as well. We're not getting that recognition, that love, because of how we finished last season," Mitchell told reporters, referring to their first-round dismissal at the hands of the New York Knicks. "Ultimately, you're as good as your last playoffs."

Still, there is precedent to monitor regarding the rapid ascent. It was only two years ago that the Celtics, under then-first-year coach Ime Udoka, had a similar run in the East, starting slowly before racing from the back of the pack to land the conference's No. 1 seed with an NBA-best 26-6 run from New Year's Eve to the end of the season. (Boston had an average slate -- the 14th-easiest schedule -- during that span.) That team reached the NBA Finals.

Can Cleveland maintain enough of its principles -- the increased passing and the open looks from deep those passes create -- from December and January against better competition now that Garland and Mobley are back?

Bickerstaff has now seen that other lineups can work. The Mitchell, Strus, Allen, Isaac Okoro and Dean Wade group has outscored opponents by 28.7 points per 100 possessions -- the NBA's second-most efficient five-man lineup among those that have logged 150 minutes since Jan. 3.

If they do regress, it won't be because of their defense, which remains elite, ranking among the NBA's best in rim protection, limiting clubs in transition and baiting teams into -- then absolutely stifling -- repeated one-on-one attempts. As such, Cleveland is 11-0 when holding opponents under 100 points.

The real thing to watch, though, after a quick first-round exit in which they were absolutely dominated on the glass by the Knicks last postseason, is how the Cavaliers rebound the basketball.

After a slow start, Cleveland has seen marked improvement on the glass. The club was poor at corralling misses prior to Mobley leaving the lineup in early December, ranking 22nd in the league in rebound percentage and 20th in defensive rebound percentage -- subpar metrics that were almost identical to where the Cavaliers ranked last season. In the seven weeks without Mobley, though, Allen and the team improved considerably, grabbing 52.7% of available rebounds and 74.1% of available defensive boards; numbers that ranked third- and second-best in the NBA, respectively, during that span.

Is that improvement enough to quiet the doubts that still exist about the team after last year's playoff flameout? Perhaps not. (It's only fair to mention here that Cleveland got absolutely manhandled on the boards, 74-39, in its Thursday double-overtime loss to the Bulls this past week, reinforcing those questions about toughness.) The unexpected hot streak heading into the All-Star break -- even without two of its stars -- might not have been enough, either.

But in an Eastern Conference where essentially every team aside from Boston has shown some sort of blemish lately, the Cavs have made enough tweaks and shown enough improvement from their top-end talent to be taken seriously as a contender -- even without a playoff series victory on this group's mantel.
 
Question: Given the current standings and the remaining schedule how would you feel about the last leg of the regular season if the Cavs finished 13-10 or 14-9?

The remaining schedule is the 8th hardest in the league (.523 winning percentage) with roughly half the games against top 6 teams in their respective conferences, only 4 games against teams that are tanking, 4 sets of back-to-backs, and a period with 11 of 13 games on the road.

Looking at where the team is and what is ahead, 52 wins seems achievable but not overly optimistic.

That's likely a 3 or 4 seed, but I'm not bullish on maintaining that 2 seed for long. They needed to bank these wins against soft teams, such as the Bulls or Embid-less 76ers to weather this storm.

But maybe I am being overly pessimistic.
 
Question: Given the current standings and the remaining schedule how would you feel about the last leg of the regular season if the Cavs finished 13-10 or 14-9?

The remaining schedule is the 8th hardest in the league (.523 winning percentage) with roughly half the games against top 6 teams in their respective conferences, only 4 games against teams that are tanking, 4 sets of back-to-backs, and a period with 11 of 13 games on the road.

Looking at where the team is and what is ahead, 52 wins seems achievable but not overly optimistic.

That's likely a 3 or 4 seed, but I'm not bullish on maintaining that 2 seed for long. They needed to bank these wins against soft teams, such as the Bulls or Embid-less 76ers to weather this storm.

But maybe I am being overly pessimistic.
More important that the W-L is whether the Cavs can incorporate Garland and Mobley into the starting lineup and still be as good a team as when they started the new year 17-2. Hopefully even better since they are deeper now.

But I see 12 games that should be wins; Knicks at home tomorrow, Atlanta away, Brooklyn and Phoenix at home, Houston, Miami, Philly, Memphis, and Indy at home and all three games against Charlotte.

The tough games will be Boston at home, Minnesota home and away, and New Orleans, Miami, Phoenix, Utah, Denver, Indy, the Lakers, and the Clippers - all on the road. The Cavs are 19-10 on the road, second best only to Boston, so I could see them winning four of those nine road games. So that would be a finish of 16-7.
 
Question: Given the current standings and the remaining schedule how would you feel about the last leg of the regular season if the Cavs finished 13-10 or 14-9?

The remaining schedule is the 8th hardest in the league (.523 winning percentage) with roughly half the games against top 6 teams in their respective conferences, only 4 games against teams that are tanking, 4 sets of back-to-backs, and a period with 11 of 13 games on the road.

Looking at where the team is and what is ahead, 52 wins seems achievable but not overly optimistic.

That's likely a 3 or 4 seed, but I'm not bullish on maintaining that 2 seed for long. They needed to bank these wins against soft teams, such as the Bulls or Embid-less 76ers to weather this storm.

But maybe I am being overly pessimistic.
I tend to be optimistic--except when Garland and Mobley went down. My original prediction was 54 games and I scrapped it when that happened. And then they won and won. So I'm back to 54 wins, which seems very acheivable, if we can keep everyone healthy. That's only a 15-8 record the rest of the way.

The only teams I fear are Denver and a healthy Bucks team. Good teams with good bigs. I figure we can beat all the other teams with use of Allen and Mobley big-to-big passing against whatever smaller defender we face. Then we have two flamethrowers in Mitchell and Garland, plus all our 3 point shooters. I'm going for the 54 wins!
 

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