The Cleveland Cavaliers won two of their three games this week. There was a lot of ugly basketball mixed in with those two wins, but you can’t complain about style points too much when you have a young team like this. Here’s what we learned from a somewhat positive week.
The Cavs continue to play well against teams with losing records.
Cleveland is now 9-5 against teams with a losing record. This team doesn’t have talent, but they’ve done a great job of winning against similarly skilled opponents.
The thing that makes this interesting is how poor the Eastern Conference is. The top five teams in the East could conceivably win the conference. However, there’s no middle class in the conference besides Indiana and Brooklyn. The other half of the conference is full of tanking or rebuilding teams.
The Cavs schedule was incredibly tough out of the gate, but it is easing up considerably. Considering how bad the rest of the East is and how favorable the remainder of their schedule is, it’s possible for them to go on mini runs like this multiple times throughout the season. I would be feeling confident that the Cavs are going to hit the over this season barring any fire sales.
Darius Garland could be turning the corner.
Garland has had a rough start to the season, but his play the last two weeks show why the Cavs valued him so high in the draft. He’s finished with 14 points or more in four of his last six games. This includes two strong performances this week against Atlanta and Minnesota where he finished with 21 and 18 points with a combined 76.7% true shooting percentage.
Garland is yet to put together a string of good games. The consistency isn’t there yet. The high watermarks however have been impressive. His fourth quarter against Atlanta showed that he can take over the game for stretches with his unlimited range. Establishing his outside shot allowed him to knife inside the defense for easier looks at the rim. Garland showed that he can close games against Minnesota by knocking down the Cavs last two field goals while the game was still up for grabs.
The rookie still has a long way to go as a point guard. He turns the ball over way too much and has a dreadful 1.12 assist/turnover ratio to show for it. However, we’re beginning to see him get more comfortable with where he’s getting his shots up at. His shot profile is beginning to round into form. We’ll see if he’s able to build of this success in the coming weeks.
Kevin Porter Jr. has put together an impressive month.
Porter Jr. has showed flashes all season but he’s become a much more consistent player since the beginning of December. Porter is averaging 11.4 points per game with a 60.4% true shooting percentage this month. He’s also averaging 3.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.1 steals during that stretch.
Porter Jr. is trusting his outside shot much more this month. The rookie was hesitant to pull from deep to start the year, but he’s now shooting 3.5 threes a game this month. The increased confidence has resulted in him knocking down 40.0% of his threes.
The rookie has is also learning how to take contact while driving to the basket. KPJ was able to get to the 11 times in his previous two games against Boston and Minnesota. He still has work to do in this area, but his body control at the rim has been impressive from the start. He’s now beginning to see how he can use that skill to draw contact. The next evolution for him as a scorer will happen when he’s able to consistently get to the line.