NBA Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

2019-20 Regular Season Record: 19-46 (.292%), 15th in Eastern Conference, Missed Playoffs
Head Coach: John Beilein (14-40) & J.B. Bickerstaff (5-6)

The second post-LBJ era in Cleveland has been just as bad as the first, as the team has gone 38-109 (.259%) without the Akron native leading the charge. New head coach John Beilein lasted only 54 games before moving to another role in the organization. He was replaced by JB Bickerstaff, who is getting his 3rd crack at coaching an NBA team. Check out a timeline here for how bad things got between Beilein and the players. For Cavs fans sake, it’s best to skip the rest of the review and look forward to this upcoming year.

How will Isaac Okoro fit?

Okoro was drafted 5th overall and is best known for his defense. At 6’6”, 225 lbs., he has an excellent combination of size and athleticism that should allow him to be an impact defender straight away in the NBA. Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl said that Okoro was the best defensive guard he’d ever coached, so the Cavs should be happy with Okoro from a that standpoint. Okoro won’t be asked to do too much on the offensive end, as there are better options in front of him (Collin Sexton, Kevin Love, Darius Garland et al), and he doesn’t have a reliable jump shot at this point in his career. He should be able to chip in on the fast break when the Cavs get out and run as he is an explosive leaper and finisher at the rim. Overall, Okoro should fit in well with the Cavs youth movement and impact the team positively with his defense.

How will the young guards develop?

The Cavs should be looking to develop the trio of young guards that they’ve drafted in recent years – Collin Sexton (8th overall pick, 2018 draft), Darius Garland (5th overall pick, 2019 draft) and Kevin Porter Jr. (30th overall pick, 2019 draft). Of the trio, Sexton has showed the most potential to be a star player, averaging 20.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg & 3.0 apg last year, with respectable shooting numbers – 38.0% 3-point shooting and 47.2% overall. Garland was terribly inefficient in his rookie year, as he shot 40.1%, resulting in 12.3 ppg as a shoot-first type of point guard. He will need to improve his playmaking ability and shooting for the Cavs to be competitive. When he went down with an injury on March 1st, Matthew Dellavedova took over and was able to average 9.2 apg over the final 5 games prior to the COVID shutdown (vs. Garland’s 3.9 apg all season). Many of those assists were sent Sexton’s way, as he benefitted most from the veteran’s presence running the point. Porter Jr., the last of the drafted guards, was okay in his rookie year, averaging 10.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg & 2.2 apg while shooting 44.2% from the field. As long as his recent gun charges don’t interfere with his on-court progress, we could see Porter Jr. improve on his rookie year.

Do the Cavs have any chance to make the playoffs?

With the trio of young guards and Okoro still developing, as well as veterans Kevin Love, Andre Drummond and Larry Nance Jr., the Cavs simply don’t have enough weapons to compete for a playoff spot. They owe Love, Drummond and Nance Jr. $70M (out of a $123.7M salary cap) this year and with Drummond and Nance Jr. being non-shooting big men (in a league heavily skewed towards quality shooting), it doesn’t bode well for the Cavs. Both Love and Nance Jr. are heading into the 2nd year of a 4-year deals, which leaves Drummond as the odd-man out as a free agent next year. 

Tom's Take: When the Cavs fade out of the playoff picture in late January, look for them to shop Drummond around.

Photo Credit: Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire