After last season’s post-LeBron debacle, Cavs fans can rest easy knowing that Cleveland will not go winless in the 2019-20 campaign. Otherwise, it’s a lot of good news/bad news combos. For instance:
1.The Good News is the Cavs have jumped into the three-point revolution with both feet, and are shooting five additional threes per game. It’s noticeable. When I asked a good friend and noted Cavs aficionado what he thought of this year’s version, he said, and I quote: “Throwing up threes like whoa.” Sounds about right. The Bad News is the Cavs are hitting...the exact same number of threes as last season. Even though they’re taking a lot more, they’re making the same amount, so their slightly-above-average 35.5% from downtown has dropped to a fairly putrid 30.8%, squarely in the bottom quarter of the league. I’d rather not look and see which six teams are making fewer, because those percentages might make me physically ill.
2. The Good News is the Cavs are only giving up 7.0 offensive rebounds a game -- they lead the league! Cue the Hallelujahs! The Bad News is that’s largely because Cleveland is so bad defensively that it just lets the other team make most of their shots, and then they don’t have the opportunity to hit the offensive glass because they’ve already scored. Last year, they let opponents make nearly half their shots -- literally 49.5% of them -- and this year they’ve ‘clamped down’ to get that number under 47%, but let’s go easy on the high-fiving. Last year’s team was historically bad on defense, so just not being the worst defensive team ever is a pretty low bar to clear. It’s like being Justice League: just because you’re not Suicide Squad doesn’t mean you were a good movie.
3. The Good News is Kevin Love is still healthy! The Bad News is it’s only been three games, and last year he got hurt in game four, so there’s still time. But seriously folks, there are far worse things than your best player dropping 15.7 points, 15.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game while shooting 37.5% from downtown. If the Cavs are just waiting to get bowled over by a godfather offer for Love, he is certainly keeping his value high. So are expiring contracts (and alleged basketball players) Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson. We’ve seen a few too many seasons from Thompson to think that his 19.3-12.3-1.7 statline is sustainable beyond the small sample size, but if the right team comes calling for an energy big who won’t let a relationship with a Kardashian derail his on-court prowess, Thompson’s value may be at an all-time high as the deadline approaches. The same goes for the Human Heat Check, Clarkson, whose seventh on the team in minutes and third in shots. Fella is on-brand.
4. The Good News is Collin Sexton picked up where he left off, and should have a future at the very least as a scoring combo-guard in the Association. His per game averages are almost exactly the same as his rookie season, and since he’s playing slightly fewer minutes, and hitting more of his threes, we can call this a win. There are many worse things than a 21-year-old second year player putting up a 17.3-3.3-2.0, and the Cavs agree, as they just picked up his third-year option. The Bad News is the trio of first round picks that the front office really needs to provide a talent injection to the franchise have yet to show much of anything at all. Darius Garland has shown decent three point range, but has not yet so much as been to the free throw line even once in three games. Kevin Porter Jr. has gotten 18 minutes a game to put up a negative PER. The league average is 15.0. A negative PER could conceivably mean the Cavs would be better off just playing 4-on-5. Ye gods.
It’s pretty early for a make-or-break week, but with Chicago, Indiana, Dallas, and Boston due in Week 2, we’ll get a pretty good look at the type of team Cleveland will be this year. Chicago and Indiana have one win between them, while Boston and Dallas look playoff-bound. ‘2-2’ or better would mean the Cavs aren’t checking to see when Duke’s season tips. ‘1-3’ and worse means we can start firing up those draft lottery simulators.