After getting swiftly bumped right out of the playoffs last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers want to prove that they’re a legitimate contender. But a slump as the 2023-24 regular season comes to a close is making it harder for outside observers to buy them as a real threat.

The Cavs are 3-7 in their last 10 games, taking some gnarly losses despite having at least three of their core four players. Donovan Mitchell has been in and out of the lineup but even with him in, Cleveland has gotten smoked. The earlier portion of the season where they were rolling and overcoming injuries to key players feels very distant.

There’s no great time for a team vying for a deep playoff run to go on such a skid but Max Strus recognizes that it’s better that it happens now rather than later. According to Chris Fedor of, the sharpshooting wing said that the team knows change is needed and is pulling in the same direction.

“We talked about it as a team, I guess it’s good this is happening now and not in two weeks,” Strus said, via “Hopefully we can figure it out and change it so we are ready for the playoffs. But we all know there needs to be an adjustment made and we need to figure out a way to be better. Going to get together and stay in the saddle as a unit. We have enough in this locker room to be good enough. Everybody is on the same page. Everybody has the same goals. We have good guys in this locker room. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to do the right thing. Have to find a way to do it.”

Cavs looking to snap slump before playoffs

With Mitchell’s looming free agency still up in the air, the Cavs have to prove they’re a team that can compete with the best of the best. It’s not championship or bust but it’s going to be hard to justify keeping this exact same core together again if they’re bounced from the postseason.

Once Isaac Okoro and Dean Wade recover from their respective toe and knee injuries, the Cavs will have some much-needed size on the wings. Strus provides critical shooting and playoff experience that should be very helpful, too. Still, it all comes down to how well Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen can play together.

The good news for the Cavs is that they are all but certain to have a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference. The second seed is still in play, too. The bad news is that they could draw a matchup with the Miami Heat or Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. Facing the defending conference champions and a team that plays like a juggernaut at full health will be extremely tough.

The Cavs have four more regular-season games left on their schedule. The final three are all at home. As they finish out their West Coast road trip and finish the season at home, they have to figure out a way to get back on track.