NBA 2023-24 Season Tipoff: Cavs Team Preview

October 24, 2023

Tony Camino

Preview for 2023-24 Cavaliers Season as Season Kicks Off Wed 10/25

The young group of Cavaliers got their first taste of the postseason in 2023, losing a five-game first-round series to the New York Knicks. The lack of floor spacing hurt the Cavs offensively, and they struggled with rebounding inside. However, while the season-ending wasn’t ideal, they saw a seven-win improvement, finishing with a record of 51-31 and securing the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

The offseason was quiet but effective. The Cavs acquired sharpshooters Max Strus, Georges Niang, and Ty Jerome to significantly improve spacing and activity in the Cavaliers’ offense. Here’s a look at the Cavaliers before the 2023-24 season.

Projected Roster:

Guards: Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Ty Jerome, Sam Merrill

Wings: Max Strus, Georges Niang, Isaac Okoro, Caris Levert, Dean Wade

Bigs: Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Damian Jones, Tristan Thompson

The additions of Strus and Niang showed great promise in the preseason, as the Cavs’ offense made a significant effort to increase the overall pace, enhance their shooting, and generate more off-ball activity. Strus excels in this area, demonstrating his ability to work effectively off screens and draw defenders away from the paint, creating off-ball gravity.

Niang’s presence on the team offers flexibility in the rotation due to his size and impressive three-point shooting. This allows the Cavs to explore various strategies, including using him to close games when Jarrett Allen is on the bench to maximize offensive efficiency in the late stages of matches.

With the departure of Ricky Rubio, the Cavs will rely on either Jerome or Caris Levert to handle backup point guard duties, and each brings a unique skill set to the table. Jerome is a better shooter but a weaker defender; he can serve as a pick-and-roll ball handler and accumulate plenty of assists. On the other hand, Levert is less proficient in three-point shooting but possesses greater agility and the ability to create separation while driving downhill. Additionally, he provides a longer defensive presence in the backcourt, contributing to the Cavs’ defensive efforts.

Three Keys To A Deeper Run This Season

1). Shoot Consistently With Volume & Push The Pace

The offense heavily relied on the guards to produce last year, and the lack of shooting made it easy for defenses to focus on the backcourt and challenge someone else to beat them from the outside. The new additions appear to be significant improvements on paper, but their effectiveness and the volume of their shooting, as demonstrated in the preseason, will need to translate into tangible improvements for the Cavaliers’ offense.

One of the most effective ways to generate easy scoring opportunities when the half-court offense isn’t performing well is by pushing the ball in transition, something the Cavs did very little of last year. In fact, the Cavaliers ranked dead last in possessions per game, averaging just 99.5 per game. Increasing this number can create more space for our star players to operate in, preventing the defense from bringing help and providing a better chance for success.

2). Rebound Consistently

On paper, the combination of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley should be a dominant force on the glass inside. However, this wasn’t always the case last year, as the Cavs ranked 22nd in total rebounding percentage. Rebounding proved to be the second-biggest issue in the playoffs last season, with the Cavs struggling to capitalize on their defensive stops and keep Mitchell Robinson from grabbing offensive rebounds.

The Cavaliers have demonstrated their defensive prowess in recent years and have the potential to become even better if they can enhance their rebounding. Mobley is renowned for his versatility on the defensive end, and Allen is an effective rim protector. To maximize their defensive potential, they need to consistently secure rebounds and limit the number of extra possessions their opponents can generate.

3). Improvement From Young Stars

Ultimately, the key to the Cavs team reaching title contention and fulfilling their potential lies in the continued improvement of their young stars. Donovan Mitchell, their leader, may not have much room for improvement as he performed exceptionally well as the number one option last season. However, with Evan Mobley at 22 years old, Darius Garland at 23, and Jarrett Allen at 25, the team has a promising core.

Mobley and Garland have shown the potential to become perennial All-Stars over the past couple of seasons. Garland’s path to improvement primarily involves finding greater consistency, especially in the playoffs, with the added shooting around him helping to elevate his game. The same holds true for Mobley, who is already one of the NBA’s premier defenders. Unleashing his playmaking abilities and expanding his shooting range slightly could transform him into one of the league’s top players.

Realistic Goals & Expectations

The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics engaged in an offseason arms race, making significant moves in their quest to reach the NBA Finals. While the Cavs may not appear to be at their level, they have the potential for success with improvements from their young stars. They aren’t too far from being competitive, and it’s not far-fetched to think that these improvements could materialize by the end of the year.

The core of the team is young, and this season isn’t their only opportunity to contend for a championship, especially if they secure Donovan Mitchell’s long-term commitment. Personally, I believe that reaching the second round this year would be a great step, and if they can find their way into the Conference Finals, it would instill confidence in everyone about the upcoming window for championship success.

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