click to enlarge
NBA.com / Cleveland Cavaliers
A Young Bull, Triumphant.
The Cavs season begins tonight. Thank God.
The uniforms are still hot garbage, but the black City Edition Rock Hall threads have grown on me, and there are glimmers of hope both on-court and off to nullify the horrendous artwork. (This constitutes me Letting Em Know)
Very tall men in their early twenties are everywhere, comprising what the team calls its "young core." Collin Sexton and the front office didn't manage to agree to a contract extension, but that doesn't mean there's no future for him in Cleveland. (See No. 9). Handsome Spaniard Ricky Rubio is here, coming off an absolute ejaculation of production in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics of 2021. Kevin Love is here too, having accepted, at last, his circumstances and proving it to his haters by showing up to training camp in decent physical shape. Oh, and were you aware that one of the most exciting young NBA prospects of the past dozen years is a member of the Cavaliers? This shit is almost surreal.
It'll be a bumpy ride at times, but the multi-year rebuild is clearly headed in the right direction, grammatically maddening core values notwithstanding
. The team is hungry for victory and is led in their hunger by ascendant point guard Darius Garland. The boys may take a substantive leap if a handful of players perform up to or beyond expectations.
Here are some predictions, because why not?
1) Darius Garland, the ascendant point guard himself, will make more than 164 three point field goals,
good for one of the top five seasons in Cavs history in that category, (besting Kyle Korver, who drained 164 threes in '17-'18). Though Garland will fail to crack 40% from downtown, (he'll stay in the .382-.396 range), his uptick will come from increased shot volume, as encouraged by head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. His confidence will continue to soar as he flirts with 22 points and 6 assists per game.
2) Lauri Markkanen will make even more threes than Garland — SAY WHAT — and will lead the team in total three-point field goals by season's end.
3) Rookie Evan Mobley will win rookie of the year — you heard it here first, folks! — largely on the basis of his dazzling two-way performance. While he'll average a sporting 14 points and ~6.0 rebounds, his biggest contributions will be on the defensive end, where he'll average better than two blocks per game
and top Hot Rod Williams' 167 total blocks as a Cavs rookie in 1986-87.
4) Ricky Rubio will finish among the top four vote getters for the NBA's sixth man of the year award. In his first season serving primarily as a backup, he'll still manage to average more than six assists per game, becoming the first Cavalier in history to do so while coming off the bench.
5) Someone will record a triple-double.
89 triple-doubles have been recorded in Cavaliers history, but 64 of them were by LeBron James. Since the 1999-2000 season, only three players have managed to notch triple-doubles: LeBron a whole bunch, Andre Miller four times, and Kyrie Irving once. This year, someone's joining the club, and my money's on Rubio.
6) For the first time in his career, elder statesman Kevin Love will not average double digits in points
. Love figures to be a key reserve on Bickerstaff's bench and will likely play in the neighborhood of 18-22 minutes per night. He'll find ways to contribute, but more importantly, will find zen on any number of mental health apps. In that headspace, he'll be content to average a noble 9.0 pts and 5.0 rebounds. In doing so, he will eclipse both World B. Free and Campy Russell on the franchise points leaderboard, slotting into the Cavs number 10 all-time. He'll also pass Jim Chones on the rebounding list, and move into the Cavs' seventh all-time.
7) The frenetic, fragile Dylan Windler will fail to appear in more than 30 games
. After a broken leg derailed his rookie season before it began, Windler logged minutes in 31 contests in 2020-2021, but suffered a broken hand and dealt with lingering lower body issues. A bruised hip is already keeping him out of the season opener, and broken bones lurk around ever corner with the ginger workhorse.
8) Jarrett Allen, he of the five-year, $100 million offseason contract, will lead the team in both total minutes played and field goal percentage, besting .600 from the field once again.
9) By season's end, if Collin Sexton remains in a Cavs uniform, he will have transitioned to a bench role, serving as a microwave scoring option in the Jordan Clarkson mold. Isaac Okoro will slide over to starting shooting guard and will still be tasked with defending the opposing team's most potent offensive weapon. The positional stars will thereafter align, and while Sexton's scoring numbers will naturally dip from his stratospheric 24.3 ppg last year (he'll likely level off in the high teens), he'll be unleashed in his minutes, attacking opposing defenses with his speed and ferocity, more or less running routes for the bearded, 30-something quarterbacks Rubio and Love, who can be counted upon to find the blazing Young Bull from enormous crosscourt distances. He'll still close out games when buckets must be got and will, without warning, graduate from a player that fans love to hate to one they simply love.
10) The Cavaliers will squeak into the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, securing a #10 seed — the East will be extremely bunched from #3-#12 — after defeating the Milwaukee Bucks at home in the final regular season game of the year. The Cavs will then defeat either the Pacers or the Hornets in the so-called Nine-Ten Play-in Game and then
defeat either the Knicks or the Bulls to miraculously secure an 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, after which they will be absolutely disemboweled by the Bucks in the first round, during which Giannis will effortlessly average something like 34 pts and 16 rbs per game while barely cracking 30 minutes of action.
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.