A franchise that has seen one title in its 50-year existence, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been irrelevant more often than not. Other than their recent success due to the likes of LeBron James, the Cavs rarely even see the Conference Finals.
In my 20 years of life, the Cavs are 560-342 with LeBron James, and 215-497 without. Obviously, losing an all-time great will do that to you, but the Cavs are building something now that has promise.
At a 4-3 start, Cavs fans’ interest has skyrocketed, thanks to the criminally underrated Collin Sexton. He’s coming off two seasons playing every single game, averaging 20.8 points on .472/.380/.846 shooting. Scoring 20 in all 7 Cavs games this season, he even provided a game-wining three over the Hawks who are on the rise.
The backcourt of Sexton and Garland has the potential to be lethal offensively. Garland picked up 17.2 points and 6.3 assists during his 6 games this season. The flip from last year was expected, considering Garland is a 20-year-old who barely played any college games. He has the looks of a true point guard this year who has been tough to stop in the pick and roll with Andre Drummond. The consistency on his floater and three-point shot will allow him to thrive in the league for years.
Speaking of Andre Drummond, he is another victim of the small-market cities. Playing in Detroit and Cleveland his whole career, he does not get nearly the credit he deserves. It’s not out of reach to say that Andre Drummond is the best rebounder the NBA has ever seen. He isn’t the crafty stretch big that is popular today in a guy like Anthony Davis, but his old-school dominate the paint style of play works if you surround him with shooters. Drummond is averaging 1.9 blocks, 1.9 steals, and 14.1 rebounds per game this year. He could be building a Defensive Player of the Year case, although it’s early in the year.
Lottery pick Isaac Okoro has shown exactly what the Cavs need in his start. He brings defense at a high level to guards and wings. In the Pistons game, his late closeout against Jerami Grant forced a bad shot and overtime. Once Okoro’s offensive game gets more advanced, he could be a nice starting piece.
Role players like JaVale McGee and Larry Nance Jr. have thrived in their roles this year. McGee provides relief for Drummond and brings the presence in the paint similar to Drummond. Larry Nance Jr. has been a surprising triple-double threat this year, posting 8.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. With a three-point shot that is continuing to develop, Nance has the looks to be a perfect role player with his ability to shoot, pass, and defend a lot of positions.
Excitement is back for Cavs basketball, but they still might be one more piece away. Depending on how consistent they can play this year, it won’t be the worst thing to end up with another lottery pick. In a ridiculously deep draft, there is the potential to have multiple franchise players selected. The young core of Garland, Sexton, Porter Jr., Okoro, Windler, Nance Jr. and a big-time lottery pick could be big time contenders in the east in due time.