The Cleveland Cavaliers greatly overachieved this past season, finishing the regular season 44-38 and coming within minutes of winning the play-in tournament and making the NBA playoffs.
Overall, they’re in an enviable situation, as they boast a rising All-Star point guard in Darius Garland and a potential future superstar big man in Evan Mobley.
Other than Garland and Mobley, Cleveland has a number of role players, most of whom are young and may have a bit of upside.
Many feel the Cavs will make the playoffs next season, but could they go a step above that and have a puncher’s chance at winning the Eastern Conference?
That will likely be too lofty a goal at the moment, but there are three reasons why they can make some serious noise in the 2023 postseason.
Garland Is A Special Player
Perhaps Garland won’t end up being as special as Kyrie Irving, who, like Garland, was drafted by Cleveland a year after a LeBron James departure.
But Garland has proven that he is a star, and the only question is how much better he will become in the years to come.
He can not only score, but score efficiently, as he averaged 21.7 points on 46.2 percent overall shooting and 38.3 percent from 3-point range.
But perhaps Garland’s best attribute is his passing and playmaking, two things that many have raved about.
Darius Garland playmaking:
Combination of speed/quickness with his pullup shooting ability makes forces a lot of defensive rotations when he drives and doubles/traps when running PnRs in space.
Also helps he’s a really good passer and overall decision maker in pressure. pic.twitter.com/jHtKZw7bGr
— SangxHarden (@SangRockets) July 9, 2022
He posted 8.6 assists per game this past season, and he upped that figure to 10.0 dimes a game after the All-Star break.
Garland may not be as phenomenal a ball-handler as Irving, but some of his skills in that department seem reminiscent of the North Jersey native.
These Darius Garland highlights 🔥pic.twitter.com/VR14yN9ASZ
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 2, 2022
As Garland and the rest of the team improve, it is easy to imagine him putting up some big, clutch performances come playoff time.
Evan Mobley Could Make A Big Jump In Year 2
Mobley averaged 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots per game in 2022, and many feel he is barely scratching the surface of his potential.
With his ability to handle the ball and create off the dribble, combined with how strong a finisher he is at the rim, he could perhaps challenge for an All-Star selection next season if his offensive game improves enough.
In that scenario, he would take lots of pressure off Garland when the game slows down and make Cleveland that much harder to defend in its halfcourt sets.
The biggest key for Mobley may be developing a reliable perimeter shot and building range out to the 3-point line.
The Cavs Are A Very Good Defensive Team
Cleveland is one of the NBA’s youngest teams, and young teams normally have trouble getting the job done on the defensive end.
But head coach J.B. Bickerstaff got the Cavs to finish seventh in defensive rating and fifth in points per game allowed.
That attribute will give them the opportunity to win games against more talented and mature opponents by virtue of keeping them competitive in such contests.
The Cavs do need to improve on their paltry 20th ranking in offensive rating and the fact that they finished 26th in pace despite possessing plenty of youth and athleticism.
But if they do, they could easily overachieve again in the 2022-23 campaign.
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