The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the more surprising teams so far in the 2021-22 NBA season. While the Cavs entered the season with a promising young core, many still felt it would take more time for them to become a playoff contender. However, this group is maturing rapidly and holds an impressive 13-10 record heading into Sunday’s showdown against the mighty Utah Jazz.
Despite a huge setback with the Collin Sexton injury and some other health issues, the Cavs are still winning games and look like they’re the real deal, using a unique big lineup to do it. Here are two reasons why Cleveland will keep winning and definitely make the playoffs.
Cavs playoff push
Consistency despite setbacks
It needs to be said and understood that the Cavs are not a team of superstars, nor are they a threat in terms of winning the title. But they have a really promising group of young players, plus some veterans who can play, which is helping them finally have success after several awful years since the second departure of LeBron James.
Usually, the Cavs are seen as a perennial lottery team when James is not there, which is understandable. Since The Kings came into the NBA in 2003, Cleveland hasn’t made the playoffs once without him on the roster. However, this team has that potential to end that streak, using a consistently strong defense and a team effort to win games despite a number of health issues.
While Evan Mobley has been a true standout as a rookie, it’s really the effort of the whole team that’s responsible for the success. The Cavs are using every part of their roster to win games, getting true balance and teamwork. As of right now, the Cavs have eight players averaging over 10 points per game. This list does include Sexton, who’s out for the season, but it’s still impressive.
That balance and consistency of the team are what got them out of the perceived hole they were supposed to be in when Sexton got injured. Sexton got injured in mid-November, and then the Cavs won four out of the next six games. The losses were to the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns, both incredible squads that will be challenging for the title. More importantly, two wins came against direct rivals for the playoffs in the East in the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards. It is clear that other pieces picked up where Sexton left off, and if they can continue that for an entire season, the Cavs are making the playoffs.
Cavs holding own vs. brutal schedule in tight East
The Eastern Conference has been notoriously awful in the past, but things have changed this season. There are only two teams that have zero shot at the postseason in the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons, and there are currently 10 teams with a winning record.
Despite all of their health woes and an absolutely brutal schedule to start this season, the Cavs have held their own in a much-improved East. Cleveland has faced one of the more difficult schedules in the NBA, but that hasn’t stopped them. The good news is this means the rest of the schedule is looking a bit easier.
Quenton Albertie ·
It is also telling that in their games against their East rivals, the Cavs have really performed up to the task. Only three of their losses came against teams that will really challenge them for the East playoff spots. They lost once to the Charlotte Hornets, once to the Washington Wizards, and once to the Boston Celtics. They have seven wins against teams in this discussion, defeating the Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Hornets, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, and the Wizards.
In addition to these wins, Cleveland has road wins over the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Dallas Mavericks, plus a home victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. Needless to say, the Cavs have an impressive resume so far, thanks in large part to their second-ranked defense and an improving offense.
Given Cleveland’s success against such tough circumstances over a quarter of the way through the season, it’s hard to say this team isn’t legit. This is a group that has even more room to grow as the season goes on, especially on the offensive end of the court. With this in mind, the Cavs are going to shock the world and make the postseason, with a good chance of avoiding the play-in tournament altogether by getting a top-six seed.
The NBA needs to watch out for this up-and-coming Cleveland Cavaliers squad. J.B. Bickerstaff is doing an incredible job coaching this group up.