The Cleveland Cavaliers will be on ESPN tonight. That feels pretty surprising, but it’s an opportunity to showcase part of the process of how the team is building. The casual NBA fan might not think Kevin Love is a star anymore, but he’s been playing like one. The casual NBA fan might have assumed Tristan Thompson would be worthless without LeBron James, but he’s not. The casual NBA fan may not know anything about Collin Sexton or Darius Garland (outside of Kentucky and Florida, I’m not sure how much SEC basketball really moves the needle for the average sports fan) and ... well, they haven’t exactly had full-on NBA coming out parties just yet.
They’ll have their chance to do it against a Washington Wizards team that doesn’t seem to be very good. Let’s take a look.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (2-5) vs. Washington Wizards (2-5)
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Capital One Arena — Washington, DC
Where to watch: ESPN
The Wizards are an interesting team for a few reasons. First, they’re starting former Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Isaiah Thomas. Even though the Cavs are a very different team from the one he played on, it’s fair to assume he might see this as some sort of revenge game. His time in Cleveland, quite obviously, did not go particularly well. He was hurt, and he was traded. His personality did not really fit with the Cavs in the locker room, but it should be pointed out that the Cavs did not become some juggernaut once he left. Injuries derailed his career and it’s good to see him bounce back a little bit.
The second reason they’re interesting is that Bradley Beal is really good. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well this season, and he’s probably miscast a bit as a team’s top player, but he’s out there working. The roster of the Wizards, to me, looks like it should be bottom-3 in the league, but he might keep them out of it. The team is young and might finally be building the right way, having had no real choice after John Wall’s horrific injury combing with his devastating cap hit.
Just like the last time the Cavs played a lottery team, we seem destined to learn something about where they are overall. Beating a team relatively close to their expected level would be good for morale, and it’s too early to worry about ping pong balls. With the new lottery rules, having the fifth to eighth best record gives you a better chance of jumping up anyway. You’re really at the mercy of the basketball gods, so you might as well get some development going. We’ll continue to look for signs that Darius Garland can score at the NBA level — he’ll have somewhere between 60 and 75 more games to show us, hopefully, and this time we’ll be tuned into ESPN.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
Isaiah Thomas gets his 20 points, but the Cavs win on the road. Cleveland 104, Washington, 93.