A new season always brings new opportunities. Typically, in the NBA, there is always a team that surprises and confounds the preseason favorites. Cleveland looks like the perfect candidate for such a role. The team continues to develop and is nearing its peak. However, there are several concerns and issues that are quite bothersome.
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So, what can we expect from Cleveland in the upcoming season?
Last season’s results: 4th place, 51-31.
Incomings – Ty Jerome, Max Strus, Georges Niang, Emoni Bates (49th pick).
Retained – Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Sam Merrill, Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Isaiah Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley.
What to Expect from the Team
There’s no reason to panic in Cleveland, at least not yet. However, the management should have some cautious concern, especially given their performance in the previous playoffs.
Firstly, the team struggled in the center position. Allen, with his $25 million contract, and Evan Mobley, one of the most promising young players in the league, were overshadowed by Mitchell Robinson in the series against the Cavs. Robinson played as if he were a reincarnation of Hakeem Olajuwon, single-handedly grabbing 18.1% of offensive rebounds compared to Mobley’s 17.3% and Allen’s 11.4% in defense.
Secondly, star guards didn’t perform at their best. Mitchell had one of the worst playoff series in his career, scoring 23 points on 43% field goal shooting and 29% from beyond the arc. This was a significant contrast to his stellar regular season, where he averaged 28 points on 48% field goal shooting and 39% from three-point range, even breaking his personal record with a 71-point performance against Chicago. Garland also had a lackluster appearance, notably in Game 3, where he scored 10 points on 4/21 field goal shooting and 1/7 from beyond the arc.
Additionally, there’s a noticeable issue at the small forward position, particularly with a forward who can shoot from long range. During the summer, the Cavs made several attempts to address this issue by signing Max Strus (64/4) and Georges Niang (25.5/3). Niang has been one of the top shooters in the league, making 41% of his three-point attempts with an average of four tries per game over the last five seasons. However, it’s unlikely that he’ll be considered a starting five player. He’s more of a bench reinforcement and provides additional three-point shooting options. Strus, on the other hand, made 38% of his three-pointers over the last two seasons, with nearly seven attempts per game on average. But he can’t be considered a quality small forward, especially due to his size. He’s more of an upgrade for Caris LeVert’s role—a player who’s less demanding in terms of ball-handling, better on defense, and a threat from long range. The Cavs also extended their cooperation with LeVert, but with a more reasonable contract of 32 million over two years.
In the draft, they picked Emoni Bates, somewhat of a “lucky pick.” If he develops well, it will be fine. If not, it’s not a significant loss, considering he was the 49th pick. He’s an extremely talented player but has certain limitations. Firstly, he’s too skinny and light, weighing only 77 kg, which is somewhat comical for the NBA. Secondly, he has discipline issues. Thirdly, he has problems with his basketball skills, especially in defense, decision-making, and shot selection.
Player to Watch: Evan Mobley
The development of Evan Mobley in the upcoming season will be crucial for the franchise’s future. It primarily concerns his offensive abilities, including his three-point shooting. If he doesn’t show significant improvement in this area, they might need to explore trade options for Allen and utilize Mobley as a center. However, Mobley’s greatest strength is his defense, which helped the Cavs claim the top spot in the league for defensive rating last season, and the second spot for net rating.
Mobley’s progress will also impact the future of Donovan Mitchell, who, according to various insiders, is not in a hurry to re-sign with Cleveland. He has a player option for the 2025/26 season. Therefore, the Cavs don’t have much time to put the team on the right track. Otherwise, if Mitchell doesn’t change his mind, they’ll have to bid him farewell.
Prediction: 5th place in the Eastern Conference.