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Cleveland Cavaliers: To Breakup or Makeup? - OTBN 30-In-30

In this edition of our NBA off-season previews, we look at the Cavaliers and what questions need to be answered to take one step closer to the NBA Finals.

Cleveland Cavaliers

For a team that was the four seed and losing to the eventual NBA Finals there seem to be more questions than answers. At the start of the calendar year, the Cavs won 17 of 18 games, but most of which was done without the likes of Darius Garland and Evan Mobley on the floor. So, what went wrong? What went right? and What lies ahead?

What Went Wrong

Is the Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen Breakup Looming?

All conversations with where Cleveland goes next starts and ends with the two-big lineup that all NBA fans have had their opinions on over the years. Having both can be a floor raiser, as we have seen the Cavs reach 44+ wins in the two years of Mobley and Allen. But once the playoffs came around, the team has only a singular series win to their name.

Mobley and Allen are both great individual players, but looking when both are on the floor together versus one on and one off; the numbers are staggering.

Jarrett Allen averaged 17.1 Points and 12.1 Rebounds in the 32 games this past season without Evan Mobley. Where Evan Mobley has averaged 16.3 Points and just about 10 Rebounds in 35 games without Jarrett Allen in his career. Both seeing increases with the other not on the floor. With that being said, Evan Mobley has seen an increase in his 3-Point Percentage jumping from 22% to 37.3% this year on just over an attempt. If we continue to see an increase, the offensive spacing can figure itself out while maintaining the elite rim protection that the Top Ten Defensive Rated Cavaliers saw in the 2023-24 season.

Darius Garland Struggles

The former top 10 pick was expected to take a big step up playing alongside Donovan Mitchell this year and there was little to be desired. Playing next to a star, a step back can be expected, but even in a stretch without Mitchell, Garland struggled to take a step up and lead the team.

Number wise, his averages of 18 points and 6.5 assists are solid, but it certainly was a step back from his All-Star season in 2021 and his numbers in 2022 were better as well.

With the decline in numbers also came a decline in efficiency and shot attempts. The decrease in volume was expected playing next to a ball-dominant guard in Donovan Mitchell, but the efficiency getting worse hurt the team offensively. This was part in due to a facial fracture near his orbital bone. As he gets healthier next season, Cavs fans should expect closer to the All Star they saw in 2021.

What Went Right

Max Strus's Success and Improved Floor Spacing

In the 2023 offseason, the Cavaliers made an effort to improve their floor spacing by signing Max Strus and Georges Niang.

Strus was fresh off a NBA Finals run in Miami, and added valuable experience with floor spacing. He shot 35% on 7 attempts from the field, and also averaged a career high in assists, adding another ball handler while Mitchell and Garland were out.

Georges Niang was a valuable depth piece throughout the season, playing 22 minutes, and averaging 38% from deep on three attempts a game.

The team shot 37.1% from three and ranked 17th in the 2022-23 regular season. This jumped up to 42.2% from three and 7th this past season. There was an increase in attempts per game as well, proving that Strus and Niang were valued assets to a team that hopes to contend every year.

Donovan Mitchell Re-Signs for 3-year, $150.3 Million

Every talking head entered last season wondering where Donovan Mitchell would end up come the 2024 NBA offseason. Come July 2nd, Donovan Mitchell re-signed with the Cavs for a maximum extension.

With Mitchell now locked in, the Cavs are now going to have to find their footing among the top contenders out East.

What Lies Ahead

There still remains plenty of questions surrounding Mobley and Allen. Maybe new head coach Kenny Atkinson can help the club not only solve the two-big man puzzle, but also take the club to the next level.

Next season their remains hope that the core of Allen, Mobley, Mitchell, and Garland remain healthy. If Okoro were to re-sign, continuing to improve his 3-and-D skills along with Mobley to improve his floor spacing abilities, and this team will be able to keep up with some of the top Eastern Conference teams.

But with hope can come with the harsh reality that because of Mitchell's max extension, they will not be able to afford Isaac Okoro. A new head coach will not be able to solve the Mobley-Allen dynamic because Mobley takes a step back due to his 3-point inefficiencies; and with the ball dominant nature of Mitchell, Garland will not have the opportunities to flourish. Add in the improved Knicks and Sixers teams as well as the Pacers and Magic getting better, with the Celtics and Bucks ready to contend? This team could be in a battle to stay out of the play-in.

All things considered, this could be the last year of the Cavaliers core of Garland, Mitchell, Mobley, and Allen. Come this time next year, a big move for a superstar could be in the cards, and there will be few better blue chip pieces than Evan Mobley.

Exciting times lie ahead for the Cavaliers whether it is a few roster moves or contending for a title with some key improvements from star players.

Stay Safe Folks


Check out me on Twitter @craines38 and Check out Raines Radio!

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