Don't Look Now, But the Cavaliers Are a Team to Watch
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
Ever since LeBron James left Cleveland in 2018, the Cavaliers have been aimless. They've cycled through three head coaches over the last two seasons. Kevin Love has had on-court temper tantrums. It hasn't been pretty without the disputed Greatest of All Time to carry the team on his back.
After drafting undersized combo guard Collin Sexton eighth overall in 2018, there were some questions about how his game would translate in the pros. Still, he made an immediate impact for the Cavs and was selected to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Now that they had a point guard of the future, many expected Cleveland to go after a forward to learn under the aging Kevin Love. They proceeded to select Darius Garland, yet another undersized point guard who played just five games during his freshman season at Vanderbilt.
Garland didn't have a spectacular rookie year, but the Cavaliers added another weapon in Andre Drummond in February for close to nothing. With the two guards, rookie Isaac Okoro, and Drummond, Cleveland has managed to piece together an exciting team this season.
In the season opener against Charlotte, Sexton and Garland scored a combined 49 points and 11 assists, with the former going 3-for-4 from deep and the latter going 4-for-8. Drummond added 14 points and 14 rebounds, but Larry Nance Jr. was the big man who stole the show that night. Nance had 13 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in the starting lineup, filling in for an injured Kevin Love.
The young Cavs had even hotter hands against the Pistons, with Sexton scoring 32 points and Garland added 22 points and 12 assists, plus an encouraging 3-for-3 from behind the arc. Drummond also had a monstrous game playing his former team, pouring on 23 points and 16 rebounds.
It seems that Cleveland has established an identity on offense behind their two contrasting guards. Garland cuts through defenses like they're butter, pulling up from deep off of screens and setting up his teammates for easy looks. Sexton is the serrated knife that plays a turbocharged game, shows fight on defense, and is a vocal leader for his team.
This isn't even to mention sophomore Kevin Porter Jr., who was a pleasant surprise last season for Cleveland. He hasn't taken the court due to personal reasons this year, but he can mature into the third star for his team in the future. Additionally, though he won't have a major offensive impact, rookie Isaac Okoro should serve as a valuable wing defender. That's the next step for Cleveland; they need defensive stoppers to balance their growing offensive onslaught.
Of course, three games is a minuscule sample size to judge the Cavaliers' success this season. Sexton proved last season that he's a dangerous scorer, and I think that Garland is for real. There's a reason he was drafted fifth overall despite playing only five games in college. The city of Cleveland can't expect a playoff run from their Cavs this season, but several players give a reason for optimism.