At 39-25, the Cleveland Cavaliers are poised to have their first playoff berth since 2018, when the LeBron James-led Cavaliers were swept by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Building their success off of a defensive foundation, Cleveland received a major boost this season in the form of All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, a playmaker that allowed the Cavs to weather the storm during the early-season absence of fan favorite Darius Garland. They have great starting big men; buoyed by Mitchell and Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are able to focus on their defensive responsibilities while largely playing off their star backcourt.
However, while Cleveland is undoubtedly one of the better teams in the league, they’re not without flaws.
Nobody knows what to make of their bench, a unit that doesn’t mesh particularly well and has not been particularly productive. Furthermore, they have no reliable perimeter scorer outside of Mitchell and Garland, be it on the wing or in the backcourt.
“Eight, nine will probably be the most,” Bickerstaff says. “It could depend on our opponent and what we need in the moment. Four of the five starters I think are going to end up playing heavy minutes. So now we’re just trying to piece the guys around them that night to fit the matchups best.”
Outside of the quartet of Mitchell, Garland, Mobley, and Allen, wings Isaac Okoro, Caris LeVert and Cedi Osman are all likely to remain staples of the team’s rotation. As for the other one or two players, Dean Wade — who they opted to play in the rotation over Kevin Love — and veteran point guard Ricky Rubio are also likely to play heavy minutes.