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.
The Cavs were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this year. In fact, many Vegas sportsbooks had the wine and gold with the lowest win total in the league. After starting the season 4-5, including their last two wins each being by double digits, Cleveland has gotten a dose of reality over the last eight days. They are not only currently on a four-game losing streak, but outside of their one-point loss in Philadelphia last Tuesday, each loss as been by at least 11 points.
These kinds of rough patches were expected to happen. The Cavaliers are going to be on quite a rollercoaster all season, it just is what it is. The valleys aren’t great, but given the fact that they are in Year 2 of a rebuild, it’s part of the process. Add in that the Cavs were without Larry Nance Jr. (thumb injury) the last two games and Kevin Love (back) Monday night, the wine and gold’s depth is being tested—and it’s not great.
I’ve already pointed out that the Cavs’ second unit hasn’t been good. They lack playmakers. When they are without some key players, that depth and second unit’s struggles are going to become more and more noticeable, as we have already seen.
Luckily, it’s still only November and given the type of coach Beilein is, this team will only get better as they continue to gain more chemistry and improve and develop, both individually and collectively as a group. Until then, this rollercoaster of a season might be a very rough one at times. Just continue to stay the course and make the most of it. Luckily, this team is easy to root for and is fun to watch, which is all we can ask for as Cavs fans.
Before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look back at the last seven days and dissect some of the wins and lessons during a week that has been filled with much more of the latter:
Win: The frontcourt (and Kevin Love’s knee)
Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson have continued to be two of the biggest bright spots on this team. The two veterans have not only been the team’s most vocal leaders but are also putting up solid numbers while continuing to help the young players develop.
Love is averaging a team-leading 18.2 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists while shooting 44.4% from the field and 34.7% from beyond the arc in 32.6 minutes per game. Thompson, meanwhile, is averaging 14.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks while shooting 53% from the field. Although it’s quite a small sample size, the big man is also shooting 42.9% from three-point range in 31.6 minutes a night as well.
Oh, and about Love’s knee. He fell awkwardly during Sunday’s game. Thank goodness, it wasn’t something more serious. My goodness, that would have been horrific.
Lesson: The rookies and second-year guy
It continues to be quite a tough stretch for Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. Luckily, that’s expected given the fact that they are both only 19 years old and just starting their respective NBA careers. They’ll go through rough patches but what’s most important is that they continue to learn, develop, and improve as they gain more experience.
So far this season, Garland is averaging 9.1 points, 3.3 assists, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.1 steals while shooting a dismal 33.8% from the field and 29.8% from beyond the arc in 27.9 minutes. After receiving the first start of his career Monday night in New York while filling in for Love, Porter is averaging 7.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists, Porter is also shooting a not-so-great 38.5% from the field and 23.3% from long distance 20 minutes a game.
As far as Sexton goes, I just need to continue to face the fact that he will never be a big assist guy even though he’s considered the point guard. Through 13 games, the second-year guard is averaging 17.9 points (second on the team), 3.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists a night while shooting 43.6% from the field and 36.4% from three-point range in 30.3 minutes. Although it’s a small sample size, Thompson (29 assists) currently has more assists than Sexton (28). Yes…the team’s starting center has more assists through 13 games than the team’s starting point guard.
Win: Jordan Clarkson
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve hated on Clarkson quite a bit, especially lately, but the veteran continues to get the job done. He’s the sole reason the second unit is even decent.
So far through 13 games, Clarkson is averaging 14.6 points (third on the team), 2.4 assists, and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 42.9% from the field and 30.2% from beyond the arc in 23.3 minutes a night. Don’t look now, and we all know that he’s much more of a shooter than a passer, but Clarkson’s 31 assists are currently third on the team.
Lesson: Cedi Osman
Ever since Cedi signed that extension, the forward has struggled. Luckily, there’s still plenty of season left to improve those numbers.
So far, Osman is averaging just 7.9 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.0 assists while shooting a mediocre 40.8% from the field and 37% three-point range in 30 minutes per game. Whether it’s just creating for himself or passing up opportunities to score, Osman’s 7.9 shot attempts per game is currently sixth on the team.
Lesson: Life without Kevin Love is not good
If Monday night proved anything, it’s that life without Kevin Love is not only not good, but one that Cavs fans shouldn’t want. Eight days after dominating the New York Knicks by 21 in Madison Square Garden when the wine and gold had their entire starting five intact, the Love-less Cavaliers lost by 18 in MSG to that same Knicks team.
Cleveland was able to rack up some points in the fourth quarter, but it was rough for much of the game, especially for the starting five. Outside of Kevin Porter Jr. (minus-17), the other four starters had a plus-minus of at least minus-27. That’s horrendous.
Head coach John Beilein continues to preach that the Cavs need to pass the ball more. Given the fact that the Cavaliers are averaging just 19.5 assists per game (second-fewest in the NBA), that’s something that this team must improve on going forward. It will not only make things easier offensively, but it will also get more players involved.
It doesn’t help the fact that Sexton isn’t a pass-first point guard, but it is what it is.
More assists means easier points. It’s a win-win.
Lesson: Team shooting
The Cavs need to pass the ball more, obviously, but a big reason for their less-than-ideal assist numbers is due to them just not shooting that well as a team. So far this season, they are shooting 48% from the field (fifth-lowest) and 32.7% from beyond the arc (sixth-lowest). Those numbers must improve going forward.