Former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Ty Lue said last season won’t be measured in wins and losses, but rather “wins and lessons.” New head coach John Beilein has continued that, stating that this year is all about development will improving game by game. With that in mind, and in honor of the NBA Champion head coach, WFNY is going to follow along with what we learn every week.
As long as this team remains competitive, fun to watch, and continues to develop and improve, I’m fine with whatever else happens during this season for the Cleveland Cavaliers. This season is about so much more than just the final score on the scoreboard or what The Diff on the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse jumbotron shows us. While winning is obviously important and every competitive person wants to rack up the Ws, that’s not the most important aspect of the game for the wine and gold this season. Development and improvement is the top priority; wins are just a bonus.
This week, the Cavs not only proved yet again that they are such a fun team to watch and easy team to root for, but Cleveland also went 2-1 this week, with both wins coming by double digits, which was quite a feat in itself.
Last Tuesday, the Cavs hung around but eventually lost to the Celtics, 119-113, which was their third-straight loss. Then with two opponents that they could beat on the road, the Cavaliers did just that, taking down the Wizards in D.C., 113-100 on Friday and capping off the weekend by embarrassing the Knicks in Madison Square Garden, 108-87.
The Cavs were the only NBA team last season without a double-digit road victory. Looks like they may get a second in two games? Cavs? https://t.co/yKJvxPtVPf
— Jacob L. Rosen (@JacobLRosen) November 11, 2019
The legend Austin Carr put the Knicks to bed Sunday night with this mic-drop-type tweet.
Cavs’ Austin Carr on the Knicks: ‘If you look at their players, they’re rejects from other teams.’
— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) November 11, 2019
Given the 2-1 record (now 4-5 overall) and how well the wine and gold played the final two games of the week, there are plenty more positives than negatives to look at looking back at last week. Let’s take a look:
Win: Five-man starting lineup
If the first nine games of the season have proven anything to us, it’s that the Cavs’ starting lineup — Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson — can compete with basically any team in the NBA, it’s just their second unit that is the problem. Time and time again, good team or bad, the starting five has either kept up or even won much of the battles against the opponent.
That five-man lineup has played the second-most minutes (142) together of any lineup in the NBA. They have a 16.1 net rating to show for it, which is beyond impressive given how many believed the Cavs would be really bad this season. Among lineups that have played at least 50 minutes together this season, Cleveland’s starting five has the fifth-best rating.
Lesson: The backups
The starting lineup can compete with any team in the NBA. The problem is when the Cavs take out one or more players in that five-man lineup.
While the Cavs’ starting five has a very good 16.1 net rating, when at least one member of that five-man lineup is on the bench and at least one reserve is playing, Cleveland has a minus-9.5 net rating. That right there is the biggest problem for this team so far this season.
Win: Collin Sexton
Don’t look now, but Sexton is currently leading the team in scoring, averaging 18.8 points per game, just ahead of Kevin Love’s 18.3. The leap he has already made is quite impressive and the second-year guard will only continue to improve and develop.
Whether it’s shooting 44.3% from the field or 42.2% from beyond the arc, Sexton has continued to work on his shot and efficiency as well. That all came to fruition Sunday night in MSG when he scored a career-high 31 points while knocking down 10-of-16 from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point range. Sexton led such an embarrassing blowout for the Cavs that it led to the Knicks front office needing to have a postgame press conference. It was glorious.
Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry addressing media after blowout loss to Cavs. Mills: "We aren't happy where we are. This is not where we expected to be…(Jim Dolan) still believes in the plan that we put together." Knicks have lost 8 of 10 games.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 11, 2019
Mills and Perry answered questions for several minutes after embarrassing 108-87 loss to Cavs — prior to David Fizdale news conference. Essentially, management suggested effort and execution should be better, that team is built for more success than it has experienced so far.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 11, 2019
Sexton has already proven that he will work his butt off to make sure that he continues to develop, whether it be his ability to find an open teammate, create for himself, or knock down an open shot. Time and time again, that has become noticeable.
Collin Sexton is shooting 46.5% on Catch and Shoot 3s since last year’s All-Star Break
— Mike Zavagno (@MZavagno11) November 11, 2019
Add in that he’s doing everything he can to be a better player on defense and it’s just so easy to root for him.
Win: The frontcourt
Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson have continued to impress, both in terms of on-court production and as the leaders on this team. The veterans are one of the main reasons the Cavs are currently 4-5.
Love is averaging 18.3 points (second-most on the team), 13.4 rebounds (first), and 3.7 assists (second) in 32.9 minutes per game. The fact that he’s not even shooting that well (48.1% from the field and 34.6% from long distance) makes those numbers even more impressive. Imagine if the big man can become just a little more efficient.
Thompson has continued to outplay expectations so much that some think the Cavs should sign him to an extension (depending on the money) rather than trade his expiring contract at the deadline or let him walk in free agency this upcoming offseason. The center has averaged 16.4 points (third-most on the team), 11.3 rebounds (second), 2.6 assists, and 1.6 blocks (second) in 33.6 minutes a night this season. He’s also shooting 54.2% from the field.
Both leaders on and off the court, the fact that Love and Thompson are producing in the box score as they have makes things that much easier for the Cavaliers.
Win: Free-throw shooting
Whether you’re a good or bad team, knocking down free throws is vitally important for a team’s success. So far, so good for the Cavs, as they have made 79.6% of their free throws through the first nine games of the season, good for seventh-best in the NBA.
The thing that makes that even more impressive is that they have knocked down an impressive 89% of free throws during their last three games.
Lesson: Three-point shooting
As the team has continued to impress from the free-throw line, they must get better from beyond the arc. The improvement can happen, but it needs to take place sooner rather than later. As a team, the Cavs are shooting just 33.1% from three-point range. That’s not ideal.
Win: Cedi Osman
He might only be averaging 9.3 points per game in 30.5 minutes a night, but the Cavaliers play better when Osman is on the court, which tells you all you need to know. Shooting 41.3% from the field and 41.9% from beyond the arc, the points will start to come at some point and when they do, it will be a huge boost to the offense.
Add in that his plus-minus of plus-6.1 leads the team and it proves yet again that Osman
Lesson: Patience with the rookies
Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. have shown spurts of how good they can be, but it’s important to preach patience when talking about the rookies as well. Remember, they are both only 19 years old. As they continue to get more comfortable and ease themselves into the NBA game, they will become much more efficient as well.
So far this season Garland is shooting just 33% from the field and 26.7% from long distance while KPJ is shooting 34.6% from the field and a dismal 16.7% from three-point range. Just wait until they are much more efficient.
Win: John Beilein
I, like many Cavs fans, was skeptical about hiring a first-year NBA head coach at the age of 66 years old. So far though, Beilein has proven that he is the right man for the job. Whether it’s developing the players, putting them in the best position to win that they can possibly be in and it’s awesome to watch. There’s a reason so many fans believe this is a fun team to watch and easy to root for.