The Cleveland Cavaliers end their preseason with a 118-95 loss to the Boston Celtics B-squad.
Positive: Finally some extended minutes featuring Collin Sexton and Darius Garland
Even if the minutes are ugly, this duo needs to have time together to figure out if there’s any chance they can work together.
While the minutes were occasionally awkward, there were times where you would see some good movement off-ball. Over time they’ll establish a hierarchy between the two, but that’s not something that can be established without time together.
Offensively they both had pretty strong individual performances. Being able to play well individually together will likely be the first hurdle before they learn how to play winning basketball.
Garland is still learning when to defer and when to hunt his own shot. That being said, he is probably the Cavs most composed guard in the half court and created some great looks for himself off-ball. It probably isn’t a high bar for him to clear, but that basketball IQ is going to make it easier to play him with almost anybody on the team.
Negative: The injury concerns continue to grow
Add Matthew Dellavedova to the growing list of Cavs players to have some ailment this preseason. Dellavedova sprained his right thumb in the second quarter and was unable to return to the game.
In all likelihood, he was a placeholder for Darius Garland in the starting lineup. Garland simply hasn’t had the time to get reps in at practice or in-game to earn that starting position. But if Delly misses time, that may open the door for Garland to impress over the next week ahead of Wednesday night’s season opener.
Beilein may opt to start Brandon Knight over Garland. But it is at least a possibility that we will start the regular season with the guard duo that will likely be the story of the Cavs season.
Delly joins John Henson and Ante Zizic as rotation players that are question marks physically heading into the regular season. While the Cavs have far less depth at center with Henson and Zizic out, especially compared to the glut of guards, having Delly as a calming veteran presence would still be a bonus to start the year. At least there’s eight days until the season opener.
Negative: The defense is still a mess
Yes, Tristan Thompson might help to some extent. But not enough to give you any reason to believe that this won’t be among the worst defenses in the league. Sexton was particularly bad as Carsen Edwards bombed away from deep. Darius Garland was also targeted with several screens as well, sacrificed to the human flamethrower of Edwards. Although having Jarell Martin as a pick and roll partner defensively certainly didn’t help matters either.
There are going to be issues on that end of the floor whenever you give meaningful minutes to this many young guys. But you would hope that as the year continues the team will improve their communication. Hopefully you’ll eventually see some signs of understanding at that end of the floor as well.
A healthy Cavs team this season will feature fewer players playing out of position defensively, at least in the front court. But none of that will matter much if the perimeter defense doesn’t take some steps in the right direction.