In case you haven’t noticed, the Cleveland Cavaliers are actually playing some decent basketball of late, as they have won four of their last six games. Of course, those four wins have come against some of the worst teams in the league, as they have beaten the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies while also topping the New York Knicks twice during that span, but hey, wins are wins.
The good news for the Cavaliers is that, even though they have beaten a couple of the teams contending for the No. 1 draft pick with them, the rest of the contestants in the tank-a-thon have actually been winning some games themselves, with the Knicks and Suns actually picking up some victories recently (although Phoenix does appear to be in a class of its own as far as tanking is concerned).
Let’s face it: the road to rebuilding is going to be a long and difficult one for the Cavs. They don’t really have elite-level young talent, with Sexton representing the only truly intriguing prospect at the moment (although Chriss can get there at some point), but right now, it’s all about evaluating what they have and trying to see who can stick going forward.
We know that Sexton is going to be around for the long haul. The kid has a solid feel for the game, and last month, he averaged 18.8 points a night while making 41.1 percent of his three-pointers.
But what about Osman? What about Chriss? Heck, what about Larry Nance Jr.?
These are all questions that the Cavaliers are going to have to find answers to over the next couple of months, but lately, Osman is coming on strong, and Chriss is actually showing some signs of life after just being dumped by two teams.
Nance? We probably know what type of player he is by now: a glue guy who can get you some rebounds, finish some alley-oops and show some versatility on the defensive end, but can he get better with a bigger opportunity?
Of course, the main goal for Cleveland is to earn the No. 1 pick and draft Zion Williamson. After all, that’s how the Cavs got LeBron James back in 2003, and it’s also how they got Kyrie Irving years later. Sure, it’s also how they landed Anthony Bennett, but, to be fair, that 2013 draft class did not have a consensus No. 1 overall pick at that time.
Plus, this time around, I’m sure the Cavs would get it right and take Williamson if they are fortunate enough to earn the top draft choice again.
But it can’t all be about Williamson. We know that you need a legitimate team to win in this league, and the Cavaliers need to determine how many guys on their current roster are worth keeping around for the long haul.
With Cleveland playing some better basketball of late and the club appearing to have some more fun now in general, it’s very possible that things may begin to take shape between now and the draft in June.
For example, did anybody expect Osman to be averaging 13.1 points per game off respectable efficiency this season? Probably not, and in February, the 23-year-old actually registered 16.8 points a night while making a ridiculous 57.6 percent of his shots and 55.2 percent of his triples.
Suddenly, Osman looks like someone who may be an actual piece going forward, which is probably something the Cavs did not anticipate coming into the 2018-19 campaign.
As for Chriss? He was a top-10 pick in 2016 for a reason. While he is still incredibly raw and his feel for the game is questionable, he is very athletic and has the ability to defend multiple positions, so he might be someone who can develop into a very solid role player for the Cavaliers.
They are not taking any risk by giving the 21-year-old significant minutes going forward, and think about that for a second: he is just 21 years old. It is far too early to give up on him. Maybe all he needed was a change of scenery and/or a genuine opportunity?
Make no mistake: Cleveland is not going to be good again for a while. This is not going to be a swift process, and it’s one that the Cavs have not really navigated sans LeBron. But, it has to be done, and right now, the Cavaliers seem to be in a good position for this summer.