The Cavaliers are better than they showed in the playoffs

The Cavaliers added key pieces to a team that won 51 games last season.

NBA basketball returns on October 24. We’re counting down the days like seconds on a shot clock — I mean, that’s what we do. Starting Oct. 1, our writers will list 24 storylines for the 2023-24 NBA season.

A new storyline drops every day. Here it is No. 11:

The young Cavaliers are better than they showed in that first-round playoff loss last spring.

Let’s put it this way: If only they were good. Otherwise, a lot of time and passion is wasted on a team that barely showed up in New York’s five-game exit from the first round of the playoffs. Their production is anemic against the fifth-ranked Knicks – based on their field goal percentage (44.9%), their 3-point accuracy (32.7%) and their scoring average (94.2), they ranked, well, last, and last in the league last season. . A team accustomed to outscoring opponents by an average of 5.4 points per night was flipped to minus-5.4 in the first round. Additionally, the Cavs had no homecourt advantage as they dropped both the series opener and a Game 5 exit in their building.

Individually, the players also struggled. Donovan Mitchell averaged 5.1 points per game and game-planned on shakier shooting. Evan Mobley went from 16.2 ppg to 9.8, shooting less and missing more. Jared Allen scraped enough in his matchup with New York’s Mitchell Robinson that many Cavs followers began to question the viability of the Mobley-Allen combo.

Presumably, Mitchell will recognize the need and find ways to make teammates better in his second season in Cleveland. Mobley should be primed for a third-year leap. Continuity and maturity should bring a boost, and the Cavs are willing to trade a little defense for a more potent offense. Of course, adding shooters Max Strauss and Georges Niang for their cuts and their range will require a willingness to stretch the offense — those two combined to make 37% of their threes elsewhere, but the Cavs shot 36.7%. 31.6 3-point attempts, which ranks 24th, is key.

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Winning 44 and 51 games the past two seasons is a breeze compared to Cleveland’s ordeal in the three post-LeBron James years (99 games under .500). But that knock on the playoff door, while traditional, looks a little scary by comparison. A well-timed wake-up call, and an occasional surprise, won’t hurt. After all, it was a Knicks team still on training wheels. It’s time, Cavs.

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Steve Ashburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can email him here, find his archive here and Follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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