How much better are we?

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Wham with the Right Hand

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I wanted to compare the Cavs’ team from the play-in tournament to the team we will see in the playoffs next spring to get an idea of how much they will be improved (or not).

The first play-in game was on the road against Brooklyn with the Cavs losing 115-108. The Nets went all in; Durant and Kyrie each played 42 minutes. This was not like a regular season game - neither of them would play 42 minutes in that case. For the Cavs, Garland and LeVert played 39 and 40 minutes.

Since both teams went all out for the win this game is a good indicator of how good they were at the end of last season.

The Cavs were missing Jarrett Allen, Ricky Rubio, and Dean Wade, all of whom were injured. They still lost by only seven points on the road. Lauri Markkanen played 29 minutes with 12 points and 4 rebounds.

How good were the Nets at the end of last season? They were eliminated by the Celtics in the next round 4-0, losing by 1, 7, 6, and 4 points. IOW, they were very competitive with the team that ended up as the EC Champions. Yet the Cavs only lost by 7 despite missing their All-Star center and a key reserve in Rubio. Rajon Rondo played 26 minutes in that game. Cedi played 21. Love played 29 with Allen out.

Take that team that lost to Brooklyn, subtract Markkanen and Rondo, and add Allen, Rubio, Wade, and Donovan Mitchell. Is that team 8 points better?

If you ask me just putting Rubio in for Rondo for 26 minutes makes the team 8 points better. The rest of it is Mitchell, Allen, and Wade replacing Markkanen. I like that part of it even more.

The other play-in game was against the Hawks at home; the Cavs lost 107-101. With 1:27 left they were down by one point. The game was tied after three quarters but the Cavs only scored 17 in the 4th as Garland ran out of gas having played 43 minutes. Markkanen played 37 minutes and scored 26 points with 8 rebounds.

Jarrett Allen, with a bandaged thumb and unable to grip the ball properly, played 35 minutes with a line of 11/3/2. I don’t think he played another game last season for 35 minutes and only got 3 rebounds. He was playing one-handed.

The Hawks lost their next series to the #1 seed, Miami, four games to one. They were outscored by an average of 12 points per game.

Again, add a healthy Allen, plus Rubio, Wade, and Mitchell and do we lose that game? Not to mention another year of NBA experience for Mobley. I expect him to be a better player going into the 2023 playoffs than he was last year.

Next spring barring injuries we will have Allen, Rubio, Wade, and Mitchell in place of Markkanen and Rondo, who are the only Cavs players from last year’s play-in games who actually got on the court that we won’t have this year. I expect Mobley and Okoro to be better as well.

The improvement from the team that played Brooklyn and Atlanta last year will, by next spring, be immense. The fact that we only lost to Brooklyn on the road by seven and they went on to lose four games to Boston by a total of 18 points tells me that we’re a lot closer to the top of the EC than people are giving us credit for.
 
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Lyuokdea

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The improvement from the team that played Brooklyn and Atlanta last year will, by next spring, be immense. The fact that we only lost to Brooklyn on the road by seven and they went on to lose four games to Boston by a total of 18 points tells me that we’re a lot closer to the top of the EC than people are giving us credit for.

I think we are much better than last year - and a legit threat in the EC (probably slotted in at #4 or so).

I think basing this on 5 total games doesn't really make sense -- especially when the fulcrum team in this 5 game analysis is Brooklyn, who is probably the most unpredictable team in the league.
 

bronko

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I agree with Wham almost completely. My main concerns are Rubio recovering back to last year's level (and I was surprised by how much he had left in the tank then) and the youth of the team. Youth is an asset heading into the future, but may be the one thing preventing the Cavs from making big noise in the playoffs this year.
 

CavsFaninNJ

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I think basing this on 5 total games doesn't really make sense -- especially when the fulcrum team in this 5 game analysis is Brooklyn, who is probably the most unpredictable team in the league.
I agree that the methodology here is a bit weird. It's hard to look at a few games and then add and subtract players, especially with how depleted last year's team was in the games in question. That being said, this thought exercise by Wham points out pretty well that we are a lot better - as do many other ways of looking at the team last year (even healthy) vs this year. I agree with Wham totally.

If the roster was playing for the Knicks or Lakers they'd be talking it up as a genuine 1 seed but it plays in Cleveland so we may steal a 6th seed
I sometimes think about why that is. On one hand, you have all the media in NY - not just sports media, but media in general. It's the media capitol. So, these media types legitimately get excited about their own home team and fantasize about how good they might be. Same in LA, but instead of news media, it's the Hollywood influencer types. You also have people around the country who are fans of these big markets.

From there, I think things just snowball. "Big snow show, up to three feet headed to New York City"...there is value is hyping up these big markets, their fanbases, the media/Hollywood types, etc. Almost like clickbait for a huge market.
 

Cavatt

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I think we will start beating the best teams this year. They had a little trouble with that last year competing with the big names. They beat mostly same level and lower level teams.

Bucks, Nuggets and clippers were exceptions. I want to see more games like against the Sixers where it's a battle but Cavs come out on top.
 

CavsKermit

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A healthy Allen in either game is a major improvement. Being able to have one of Garland/Mitchell on the court at all times is a major improvement. Opposing teams being unable to hard trap Garland is a major improvement. Having a guy like Mitchell on the floor who can reliably get a bucket when opposing teams sell out to stop Garland is an improvement.

That said, unless the talent is really lopsided, the playoffs are about matchups, in-game adjustments, and some of our rotation flexibility left with Lauri. Lauri actually frustrated Durant a bit in the Nets game, defended the SF position well against the Hawks in the first half, and then got hunted by Trae in the 1-3 PNR in the second half after Capela got injured and the Hawks went small (which they only pulled off because Allen was playing one handed).

We have a glaring hole at SF and Altman should consider calling the Spurs in order to see how many second round picks turns Cedi into J. Rich.
 

buzzdog

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I think our goal for this season is competing in the ECF. nobody will be able to shut down our offense from scoring, not even in playoff, crunch time situations. The question is, will we be able to get stops with our pair of 6'1" guards? The key is who we plug in at small forward, needs to be a defense first guy who can guard long wings but is quick enough to be switchable onto quicker wings. I don't think we have that player on the roster at the moment.
 

Amherstcavsfan

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It's really hard to put an exact position on it at the current moment. Because the Cavs have so many young players, there can be such ebb and flow from either side to put exact numbers, totals, or goals for this year, IMO. However I'll give it a shot because it's fun to think about and I got nothing else to do on a lazy Sunday.

To me, the NBA is about the peaks and not about the overall strength of a team. It's why the Cavs won a title with guys nearing the end of their careers on the bench, because they were so overloaded at the top. So with that in mind, who, or what, does that look like for the East?

Bucks: Giannis, Middleton, Jrue
Celtics: Tatum, Brown, Smart
76ers: Embiid, Harden
Heat: Butler, Adebeyo(?), Herro(?), Lowry(?)
Nets: Irving, Durant, Simmons(?)

And then other teams who have stars but aren't quite on that same level, like Atlanta(Young, Murray, Collins) Toronto (Siakam, Barnes) or just average teams like Chicago (Derozen, Ball?)

So we can complain a lot about the SF, and I think it is a hole, if only because the Cavs only have 1 or 2 capable bodies to play SF. And while I did say that teams can be top loaded, they also need to cover their flaws. And you see a lot of those teams with at the top of the East (Giannis covers for Jrue's lack of scoring, Butler for Lowry, Tatum and Brown for Smart, ect).

So how do the Cavs stack up to that? How are the Cavs now a better teams? For one, I do think the Cavs missed a 1A option last year. Garland was great, but he also, IMO, showed that he's probably a second option as a scorer. And there is nothing wrong with that, being a play creator and a 2nd option offensively is amazing! But now, when the game is close and the Cavs NEED a bucket, they have one of the best in the NBA with Mitchell. One of Donovan's best traits is how he performs in big games and in big situations. I have no fear that he can carry the offensive load for the Cavs in crunch time, if needed.

But what else? Well, the Cavs have the benefit of having a top loaded roster with two explosive guard and two elite defensive big men. Not many teams have ever had this luxury, and it's why most teams built through super star wings or bigs (outside of the Warriors). But the Cavs have a very unique quality about them. They have two of the best defensive big men in the league, both of whom have shown good positional and explosive defensive ability.

We saw that a Mitchell lead offense can work because it's backed by a Gobert lead defense. And while the Cavs haven't shown it yet, I have no doubt in my mind that the Cavs defense can exceed what the Jazz were defensively. Mobley is still growing into his body but has shown to be an impact defender as a shot blocker and playing passing lanes. Jarrett Allen is the shot changing big man, be it at the rim or blocking shots. It puts less stress on the guards to be better defensively and less stress on the bigs to be more involved offensively. It's perfectly balanced.

Now, all that being said, where does that stack? I think we can pretty safely put Milwaukee ahead of the Cavs. While I've talked about how good the Cavs balance each other, Milwaukee has the destroyer factor, and that's not something we've seen the Cavs have yet. Giannis is a series winner, and can win games on his back alone. We saw it with LeBron, but Giannis also has a great 2nd option and an All-NBA perimeter defender that can get him over the line. Also, he has done it before, giving Milwaukee a bit of that extra advantage that teams need in the NBA sometimes.

I think we can also safely put the Celtics in the 1st tier. They have a super nova offensive player with the reigning defensive player of the year (I think he's the 2nd best defender on their team, but alas) and one of the best swiss army knife players on the planet in Brown. They also have just a really great roster, so they benefit from being top loaded and deep, for whatever that counts for, along with the experience of winning the EC.

Are the 76ers better? I would argue no. While Harden can control scoring and Embiid is one of the best bigs in the NBA, I don't think it's enough. Maxey took a step forward last year, but I don't think he's enough to change a game. And while I'd probably call Embiid and Harden the best two players on the court at any given time, I think they are wholly flawed. Harden and Embiid have to paper over so many holes that the Cavs simply do not have, even with the Cavs gaping shooting hole. At the very least, it's a conversation.

The Heat and Nets have major problems as well. While their top can be truly great, what else are you getting? With the Heat, it's up and down performances from Herro and Bam, while Lowry is simply aging out of usefulness anymore. With the Nets, you have two of the best offensive threats in the NBA, but what else? Is Simmons going to be your cure all? Is that team going to gel when both of their stars want out? I think they are clearly a step behind the 76ers and Cavs and way behind the Bucks and Celts.

So all this to say, I think we've vaulted a lot of teams. We've clearly and easily surpassed the Bulls, the Hornets, the Nets and the Heat, IMO. There is something to say about the 76ers and, if it were me, I'd say we've passed them barely, but it'd be close. And then there are the proven, in their prime powers at the top, that maybe we can catch but I need to see it first.

TL;DR: Cavs should be in the driver's seat for a home playoff series, for sure. A massive step forward.
 

Douglar

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TL;DR: Cavs should be in the driver's seat for a home playoff series, for sure. A massive step forward.

But until we see how the team crystalizes, it's really hard for me to say more than that right now.

Here's what Hollinger says---


Cleveland looks set up to be a force in the East. The biggest weakness of a Mitchell-Garland backcourt is its lack of size, but the twin terrors of Allen and Mobley on the back line lessen that concern. The Cavs don’t have an A-list superstar unless or until Mobley erupts, but they could put as many as four players on the 2024 All-Star team.
 

guitarguy

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There are a lot of factors to consider. Many of the ones mentioned already, but another that had a big impact was, how are the refs calling games? It was pretty great in the first half of last year, but then right back to full super star calls the second half, and totally sucked, imo. So we are going to have to adjust to that as much as we can.

Also hard to evaluate is what kind of improvements everyone will make. In one sense, if everyone averages 5% improvement over last year (youngins) (whatever 5% means?), it's hard to image we would not be fighting for 1 to 4 in the east.

A couple other things hard to predict. Kevin Love was awesome for us last year. Can we rely that he will play that good again this year? Will he stay healthy? Also, there is a big drop off after Love on the roster in the big man department. Last year we had 4 very solid or great bigs, this year we have 3... an injury away from having just 2. I don't think that can be understated.

Are we going to have any luck with injuries this year? Or will we have half our games depleted? We haven't been that lucky/smart on that front in the past.

But anyways, if we are generally healthy... and people make improvements. I see us in top 4 in East, and the team no one wants to play in the playoffs.
 

CavsFaninNJ

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Here's what Hollinger says---


Cleveland looks set up to be a force in the East. The biggest weakness of a Mitchell-Garland backcourt is its lack of size, but the twin terrors of Allen and Mobley on the back line lessen that concern. The Cavs don’t have an A-list superstar unless or until Mobley erupts, but they could put as many as four players on the 2024 All-Star team.
If they actually give the Cavs four All-Stars, they are a top 3 seed not far behind #2. Even with the east likely so bunched up again, in terms of record, no way they let four players on the All Star team from the 6 seed.
 

akeppler

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Bucks: Giannis, Middleton, Jrue
Celtics: Tatum, Brown, Smart
76ers: Embiid, Harden
Heat: Butler, Adebeyo(?), Herro(?), Lowry(?)
Nets: Irving, Durant, Simmons(?)
One thing to consider is the ages of all of these cores at the end of Donovan Mitchell's guaranteed contract and before his player option (his year 28 season).
First the Cavs for context:
Cavs - Garland (25) / Mitchell (28) / Allen (26) / Mobley (23)

Now compare with the ages of the cores of other teams in the East:
Bucks - Giannis (30) / Middleton (33) / Jrue (34)
Celtics - Tatum (26) / Brown (28) / Smart (30)
76ers - Embiid (30) / Harden (35)
Heat - Butler (35) / Adebayo (27) / Herro (25) / Lowry (38)
Nets - Irving (32) / Durant (36)
Raptors - Barnes (24) / Anunoby (27) / Siakam (30) / VanVleet (30)

The Celtics and Raptors will definitely still be in the height of their player's primes. But I don't know what a 36 year old Kevin Durant on a surgically repaired achilles looks like. I doubt Lowry will still be in the league and I don't know how productive Jimmy Butler or James Harden will be at 35 years old. Giannis' supporting crew will also be heading into their mid 30s as well.
 

Wham with the Right Hand

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IMO folks are making too much out of the Cavs being a "young" team. Looking at the key players come playoff time:

Garland - 4 years NBA experience (by the end of this season)
Mitchell - 6 years
LeVert - 7 years
Allen - 6 years
Mobley - 2 years
Okoro - 3 years
Love - 15 years
Rubio - 12 years

I'm seeing youth in terms of age but not in terms of experience. Mobley is the least experienced, but by the time the playoffs start he will have about 150 games under his belt and Okoro over 200. We won't be playing any rookies or guys who have been around a couple of years but haven't played much.

If anything youth is an advantage because teams with aging stars have to rest them during the season and they are more likely to be injured or worn down by April.

Durant turns 34 this month. In Boston, Horford is 36. He started 69 games for them last year and averaged 29 minutes. In Milwaukee Jrue Holiday is 32 while George Hill is 36 and Joe Ingles is 35. They have some old guards on that team.
 

Cavatt

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IMO folks are making too much out of the Cavs being a "young" team. Looking at the key players come playoff time:

Garland - 4 years NBA experience (by the end of this season)
Mitchell - 6 years
LeVert - 7 years
Allen - 6 years
Mobley - 2 years
Okoro - 3 years
Love - 15 years
Rubio - 12 years

I'm seeing youth in terms of age but not in terms of experience. Mobley is the least experienced, but by the time the playoffs start he will have about 150 games under his belt and Okoro over 200. We won't be playing any rookies or guys who have been around a couple of years but haven't played much.

If anything youth is an advantage because teams with aging stars have to rest them during the season and they are more likely to be injured or worn down by April.

Durant turns 34 this month. In Boston, Horford is 36. He started 69 games for them last year and averaged 29 minutes. In Milwaukee Jrue Holiday is 32 while George Hill is 36 and Joe Ingles is 35. They have some old guards on that team.

Yes and Okoro and Mobley have played a lot of minutes already
 

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