It's Stupid How Right We Were About the 2021-2022 Cavs

click to enlarge We're sorry, Kevin Love! - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
We're sorry, Kevin Love!

Before this magical, delirious, roller-coaster Cavaliers season began, we made 10 statistical predictions that we winkingly referred to as "absolutely insane (but correct)." We were high on the Cavs' prospects after drafting Evan Mobley, and we allowed our optimism to guide our early assessments.

Turns out, many of our predictions were on the money.

Here's how we fared:

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.

This one is almost absurd. Garland did indeed best Kyle Korver's mark, making 174 total three-pointers. He also shot .383 from deep, within the range we designated, and averaged 21.8 points and 8.6 assists per game. Even our generous outlook did not anticipate Garland's leap to the stratosphere as a distributor, but otherwise this one was perfect. 

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.

We forecasted a breakout season for Markkanen and missed the mark. The Big Finn was a core component of Bickerstaff's experimental tall-man starting five, but a few minor injuries and early-season inconsistency limited his offensive impact. (One player did, however, best Garland in total three-point field goals: KEVIN LOVE.) 

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.

Mobley was the runaway favorite to win ROTY for most of the year, but the heroics of the Raptors' Scottie Barnes could jeopardize his crown. In any case, the spirit of this prediction is correct. Mobley averaged 15 pts and 8 rbs, (even better than we'd surmised), and wowed on the defensive end as predicted. Two blocks per game was, in retrospect, a ludicrous benchmark. Mobley only reached 1.7 per game, but easily led all rookies in that category. He looks to be a defensive anchor and franchise cornerstone, alongside Garland, for years to come.

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.

Rubio's mid-season injury renders this prediction null and void, but we believe he would have earned 6th man attention had he competed at his early-season level all year long. The spirt of the prediction was once again on target. Over 34 games, serving primarily as a backup, Rubio averaged 6.6 assists per game.

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. 

Darius Garland did, on 1/12/22. (For the record, on Dec. 28, Rubio had tallied 27 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists before he left the game with his season-ending injury.)

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.

We were simply way off-base on Love's contributions this year. We thought he'd take a backseat. Instead, he emerged as the team's most consistent bench player and best shooter. An inspirational season all around. Love did indeed eclipse World B. Free and Campy Russell on the scoring list, but also Larry Nance, slotting into the franchise's 9th all time, right behind Kyrie Irving.

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.

We were right, were we not, that Windler would not be a factor this year. Windler played in 50 games, (far more than the 30 we predicted), but only logged 459 minutes of action. By comparison, Brandon Goodwin, who only appeared in 36 games, logged 502. After averaging 5 points per game in his rookie campaign, he dropped to just over 2 ppg this year and had more games without points (27) than with points (23).

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.

Allen's absurd .677 FG% actually did not lead the team. (Ed Davis managed to make even more of his shots (.688) in limited minutes.) But among all rotation players, Allen led by far. His injury derailed his total minutes played.

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.

9) N/A
Prediction derailed by injury, but this would've been correct.

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.

The Cavs are indeed in the play-in tournament (though in the 7-8 game, not the 9-10 game as we predicted), and did defeat the Bucks in their final home game of the season. The particulars of the Eastern Conference standings are off, but if the Cavs defeat the Nets Tuesday and then face the Bucks in the first round, this may look even more prescient. 
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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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