Still trying to adjust to life without Lebron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers posted one of the league’s worst record last season. Head coach Tyronn Lue was fired after a dismal start and then replaced by Larry Drew. Although their extension of Kevin Love might have sent out mixed signals, the Cavaliers are clearly in rebuild mode. They poached head coach John Beilein from Michigan University and gave him a 5-year contract. In the draft they added guard Darius Garland with the fifth pick, then added Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr. in the late first round. The Cavs likely will continue to be a bottom feeder this season, but they still have questions about their starting lineup that needs answers. Here are the ones they should be prioritizing.
Can Darius Garland and Collin Sexton Really Start Together?
The Cavs confused a lot of people in the draft with their selection of Darius Garland, who plays the same position as their other young guard Collin Sexton. The fact that forward Jarrett Culver was available, who seemingly would’ve filled an important long term need the Cavs had if they drafted him, made this even more perplexing. Apparently, the Cavaliers rationale behind their decision was their belief that Garland and Sexton could play together and form a dynamic backcourt, similar to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. While this may not be a terrible plan to have, it comes with significant risk. Firstly, neither appears to be a great or even average defender. Sexton has promise defensively but had a miserable rookie season based on advanced stats, while Garland’s lack of size will probably hurt him in the league. This makes acquiring perimeter defenders that can cover for their flaws important for the Cavs future. Secondly, there isn’t a clear hierarchy like with Lillard and McCollum, which could lead to some balance problems. Both are players who are looking to establish themselves, so they may not be willing to share touches or shots, leading to an awkward pairing.
How Much Does Kevin Love Have Left to Give?
Many people expected Kevin Love to be traded after Lebron left, but the Cavs surprised a lot of people by giving him a 4 year, 120 million contract extension. This means that Kevin Love, assuming he still doesn’t get traded, will be here for much longer than people anticipated. The problem is he might not have much in the tank left. He missed most of the season with a toe injury, and when he did play, he didn’t look like he was operating at full strength. It’s possible that, at 30 years of age, he simply might be past his prime. Even if he is, however, the Cavaliers will likely have no choice but to play him considering their lack of alternative options and his contract. This season will likely be a test for Love, as we’ll see whether he can reclaim his prior all-star form, or whether this decline was the sign of worse things to come.
How Respectable can this Starting Lineup be?
Look, the Cavaliers, barring a shocking development, are likely going to be pretty bad. They may not reach Charlotte Hornets level of ineptitude but expecting them to even be in the competition for a playoff spot is a mistake. Still, there’s hope that their starting lineup can at least be competitive and won’t just be a team other teams view as a free win. They don’t have anyone that feels like a franchise player, at least not yet, but they still have a couple of decent players that could be part of a respectable lineup. The Cavaliers will probably end up with one of the worst records in the NBA, but there’s hope that they won’t be completely unwatchable this season.