• Evan Montella

2018-2019 Off the Glass Team Preview Series: Cleveland Cavaliers


Sports Illustrated

The 2018-2019 NBA season starts October 16th and to get you ready for tip-off, Off the Glass is previewing all 30 teams. Today we look at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

2017-2018 Record:

50-32, 1st in the Central Division. Lost 4-0 in the NBA Finals.

Season Recap:

In the aftermath of the Kyrie Irving trade, the Cavaliers entered this season with their most vulnerable looking roster since LeBron James returned from Miami. A poor start and serious chemistry issues led to major upheaval at the trade deadline with Iman Shumpert, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, and Channing Frye being exchanged across multiple teams for Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill and Rodney Hood. The one constant was James who, at age 33, played 37 minutes a night in all 82 contests and dragged this team to 50 wins. The Cavs were tested by the Pacers and Celtics, with both playoffs’ series needing seven games, and were swept upon meeting the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Key Losses:

LeBron James, F.

Key Additions:

Collin Sexton, G; David Nwaba, G; Sam Dekker, F.

Player to Watch:

Kevin Love, F/C

Preview:

The Cavaliers return 10 of the 15 players on their roster from last season, unfortunately zero with the last name James. A small consolation prize is 8th overall pick Sexton who played the ‘do everything or we lose role’ at Alabama that James recently held in Cleveland and will have the opportunity from day one to fill a major hole in the offense. But this is Kevin Love’s team. After spending the last four years trapped in the third banana Chris Bosh role, Love has the opportunity to return the form that made him a perennial all-star in Minnesota. The Cavaliers should have enough chemistry and talent to be competitive for the 8th seed in the East.

Depending on whether you feel Cleveland should rebuild immediately or attempt to remain competitive will shape your perspective on a potentially major issue with the Cavs having a veteran blocking an intriguing young player at each starting position. If head coach Ty Lue manages his rotations well this might not be an issue, as some of the older guys could be more effective in shorter playing stints.

The draft pick the Cavs sent to Atlanta in the Kyle Korver trade is top ten protected for the next two years. This upcoming draft is perceived as a weaker one might so the Cavs hope to be middle of the road so the pick will convey. Then next offseason, armed with their own pick and the expiring contracts of Smith, Thompson, Clarkson and Korver all gaining value on the trade market, Cleveland can kick off their rebuild from a better position.

Worst Case Scenario:

It becomes readily apparent that LeBron’s leadership on and off the court masked issues kept dormant for the Cleveland franchise. Dysfunction spreads from the owner on down to the locker room leading to forced trades and multiple firings.

Best Case Scenario:

Love returns to his Minnesota form with a modern twist averaging 28 and 13. Smith is diligent with checking the score and Sexton elevates his play with superior talent around him, capturing Rookie of the Year honors and providing post-LeBron hope as Cleveland clinches the 8th seed.

2018-2019 Prediction:

27-53, 5th in the Central Division.

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