The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off a promising 2022 season filled with hope for the future but ended rather blandly. The team showed a lot of growth and heart in 2022, especially with the continued growth of point guard Darius Garland and the emergence of rookie Evan Mobley. They lost 2 point guards for the season before the All-Star break when they lost both Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio to knee injuries. Cleveland ended the season with a 44-38 record, which was good for the 8th seed in the East but fell in the play-in tournament to both the Nets and Hawks.
Headed into the 2022-23 season, there is even more hope for a brighter future in Cleveland. The team recently acquired Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz without giving up much of the depth that helped them in 2021-22. Mitchell brings some much-needed scoring to the Cavs lineup, taking pressure off of Darius Garland in the backcourt, who was their leading scorer with 21.7 PPG last season. Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are a more than formidable duo as they make up the most defensively gifted frontcourt in the entire NBA. Coach JB Bickerstaff will look to build on what was a great foundation last year and improve greatly in 2022-23.
The Cleveland Cavaliers Will Be A Problem For Teams In The Eastern Conference
The addition of Donovan Mitchell to a young and hungry Cavaliers team is going to pay off great dividends on offense. The trio of Garland, Mobley, and Allen combined for a total of 52.8 PPG last season, with Garland leading the team with 21.7 PPG. Mitchell’s scoring ability alleviates the pressure from Garland a bit, opening things up for both of them to be playmakers and scorers. This also opens things up on the interior, with defenders having to respect the perimeter more. Mobley continues to improve his offensive game, especially in the post, while Allen is a relentless lob threat and offensive rebounder. The x-factor here will be Isaac Okoro and what he can bring to the table offensively.
A slight problem arises on the defensive side of the ball for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both Garland and Mitchell are 6’1” tall and below-average to average defenders. Opposing guards will look to isolate Garland and Mitchell and try to pick them apart with continuous ball movement as the Cavs’ guards will struggle to keep up. The big advantage for Cleveland is the presence of Mobley and Allen in the middle. Mobley brings the versatility and speed to switch onto smaller guards on the outside and strength and IQ to stick with bigs in the paint. If a few tweaks and the hard work the team will put in to prepare for the season, look for the Cavs to be one of the better defensive teams in their conference.
The Most Realistic Roster For The Cleveland Cavaliers
Starting Lineup: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Bench: Ricky Rubio, Caris LeVert, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Robin Lopez
The Cleveland Cavaliers starting lineup has improved for the 2022-23 season. Over the past couple of seasons, Darius Garland has proven to be a great choice for Cleveland as he has blossomed into a 20.0 PPG scorer and 8.0+ APG player. He will run the offense from the point guard position alongside new backcourt teammate Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell brings His 24.0 PPG or better over the last 3 seasons to a Cavs lineup that really needed another shot creator and scorer. With these two as the main offensive options, they will feed off of each other on offense and try to weather the storm on defense.
At the starting forward positions, Cleveland has Issac Okoro and Evan Mobley. Okoro enters his 3rd season with the Cavs as the starter at small forward. He has been solid at that spot for the Cavs so far in his career, averaging 9.2 PPG and 3.0 RPG over the past 2 seasons. He has been particularly valuable on the defensive end, where he possesses both the size to match up with forwards and the speed to keep up with guards. Mobley is an elite defender himself, with great instincts and lateral movement that allow him to nearly eliminate any and all pick-and-roll offense for opponents. His offense should open up in 2022-23 as he builds on a rapidly evolving post-game and the presence of two guards that can utilize the pick-and-roll. His improved scoring and shooting could be what puts Cleveland over the top moving forward.
What rounds out this 2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers team is their All-Star level big man in the middle, Jarrett Allen. The 6’11” center had a career breakout season in 2022 that saw him average 16.1 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 1.3 BPG. Allen proved to be so valuable to the Cavs success last season that in his absence due to injury that the Cavs stumbled to a 9-17 record without him. Allen will look to build on what was an All-Star season and help the Cavaliers reach heights they haven’t seen since LeBron James was in town.
The Cavs bench is one that is filled with question marks but still has great upside potential. Ricky Rubio was having a very nice season in 2022 before going down with a season-ending knee injury. Rubio averaged 13.1 PPG and 6.6 APG in 34 appearances for the Cavs in 2022. Kevin Love appeared in 70 games off the bench for the Cavs in 2022 and averaged 13.6 PPG and 7.2 RPG. Can he match the same production another year older? We also cannot forget about the presence of Caris LeVert. He is a tremendous scorer who appeared in 19 games for the Cavs in 2022 after being acquired from the Indiana Pacers. Between the 2 teams in 2022, LeVert averaged 17.0 PPG and 4.3 APG. That type of play off of the bench in 2023 could potentially put him in Sixth Man of the Year contention.
How Do The Cavaliers Stack Up Against The Eastern Conference Next Season?
The Eastern Conference is full of contenders and is probably the most stacked it has been top to bottom in over a decade. The Cavaliers have a tough road to travel through the East, and it may take a year or 2 of growth to get through. Let’s take a look at how they would look against some of the top seeds from 2021-2022 headed into the 2022-23 season, starting with the defending Eastern Conference Champs, the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are one of the best defensive teams in basketball, so they will surely match up with the Cavs in that department. However, if the Cavs duo of Mobley and Allen can shut down the interior by altering and blocking shots, The Cavs take advantage by turning it into a perimeter game. The blueprint was laid out in the Finals by Golden State, and the Cavaliers could be the perfect fit to duplicate it unless Mitchell and Garland are worthless on the perimeter.
The team that finished second in the East, the Miami Heat, also presents an interesting match-up for the Cavaliers. The Cavs will again try to rely on their bigs for both offensive and defensive relief. Mobley and Allen have a distinct size advantage over the Heat’s bigs and try to use that to wear down the defense. They will also operate the pick-and-roll a ton with the guards and open things up at all three levels. Bam Adebayo will be crucial for Miami to stop the inside attack from Cleveland. If Mitchell and Garland can get opened up offensively by Mobley and Allen, they could pick apart the Heat in a 7-game series.
The Cavaliers’ next big threat in the East is the Milwaukee Bucks. Clearly, the focal point on both ends of the floor will be to keep the ball away from Giannis Antetokounmpo. You want to attack where he isn’t on offense and prevent as many touches on defense as possible. Giannis’ power and experience give him the upper hand here, but if any duo could potentially throw a wrench in his game, it might be Allen and Mobley. The matchup on the perimeter is interesting as well, with Jrue holiday, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell, and Darius Garland going to battle. Ultimately, I think the talent and experience of Milwaukee may be too much at this point in time for Cleveland.
One more matchup that is worth mentioning is one with the Philadelphia 76ers. Any victorious outcome with Philadelphia and the Cavs could find themselves at the 5 or 6 seed in the East. As with Giannis and Milwaukee, the Cavs can not fully stop Joel Embiid on either end, so the best bet is to try to have Mobley and Allen force him further from the basket. James Harden is still an avid scorer and passer so he presents a world of issues for Garland and Mitchell on defense. Tyrese Maxey and Garland match up in an intense standoff between 2 young, up-and-coming point guards, with Garland taking a slight advantage already. Overall, Philadelphia may prove to be too much for Cleveland, but do not be surprised if the Cavs keep it interesting or even claim victory.
This all goes without mentioning teams like Chicago, Brooklyn, Atlanta, and Toronto, who all finished above or directly below the Cavs last season. With those teams continuing to grow, it is going to be a dogfight in the Eastern Conference for years to come. The Cavaliers have certainly improved this offseason but so have a few other teams. The Nets have seemed to calm the storm of a rocky offseason and head into a full season of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and hopefully Ben Simmons. Atlanta got better with the addition of guard Dejounte Murray. When all is said and done and the dust settles, it will be interesting to see where the Cleveland Cavaliers land.