The 2021-22 season was an unexpected success for the Cleveland Cavaliers, as they won many more games than many predicted.
They finished the regular season with a 44-38 record, and had it not been for a blown lead in the play-in tournament versus the Atlanta Hawks, the Cavs would’ve ended up facing the Miami Heat in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff did an admirable job building the beginnings of a culture in Cleveland, as the team finished seventh in defensive rating, a rare accomplishment for such a young team.
But it ranked just 20th in offensive rating in 25th in points per game, and both numbers need to improve greatly if the Cavs are to return to the playoffs in 2023.
The culprit isn’t just 3-point shooting and turnovers, but also pace, as they were just 26th in pace and 20th in fast-break points during the regular season.
If the Cavs want to become a legitimate playoff team, not to mention unlock the potential of their young players, they need to play much faster from here on out.
The Cavs Have Players Who Can Thrive In An Up-tempo Offense
Unlike the 1990s and early 2000s, today’s NBA is largely based upon the up-tempo game, as many teams either play true fast-break basketball or use some sort of up-tempo, early offense attack.
In that regard, the Cavs are behind the curve.
Playing slowdown basketball may have been necessary a couple of years ago when the team lacked talent, but things have changed quickly.
In Darius Garland, Cleveland has a dynamic scoring point guard who can attack early in the clock and hit the open man like few others in the league.
Cavs With the IMPRESSIVE ball play!!!
Isaac Okoro Having fun with it!!!🙌pic.twitter.com/0wTXJSzNFs
— Cavs Nation (@CavsNationCP) January 17, 2022
Even better, first-round draft pick Ochai Agbaji is also very athletic and can run and jump at a very high level.
Perhaps the Cavs shouldn’t be a true fast-breaking team, a la the Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks or Golden State Warriors, but with all the young talent they now possess, they need to at least be in the top half or third of the NBA in pace and fast-break points.
Yes, Garland is a bit turnover-prone, but making him and his teammates play slowdown basketball would be akin to keeping a parrot in a cage rather than in an aviary or in a large outdoor area where he can fly and feel free.
Another Benefit Of The Cavs Going Up-tempo
One of the Cavs’ biggest weaknesses offensively is their 3-point shooting, and playing fast could get their players better looks, not necessarily on the initial thrust of the break, but more so in early offense.
In such situations, Garland has shown he is capable of effectively involving teammates such as Kevin Love in various types of pick-and-roll sequences which can free up teammates for open shots early in the shot clock.
Darius Garland/Kevin Love run the2-man flare (when i get doubled, you shoot) pic.twitter.com/ybEHWj1NjK
— Big Picture Kinda Guy (@highmusings718) January 25, 2022
The Cavs have gotten to the point in terms of roster construction where they’re no longer suited to playing deliberate ball on the offensive end.
Memo to Bickerstaff: Let your men run free a bit and bring a bit of showtime to The Land – the team will be better off as a result.