Cleveland dropped all three of their games this week. Its contests with the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards were respectably close, but there was nothing respectable about their performance Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers. Despite the losses, though, there were still some positives to take away. Here’s what we learned this week.
The Cavs can have a competent looking offense with Kevin Love.
Love played his first game since October this week against the Wizards. He only played the first six minutes of the game, but for one of the first times this season the offense had some semblance of a modern NBA offense.
The offense desperately needs someone who can break down a defense and find the open man when the defense collapses. Love was able to do exactly that in his limited minutes against Washington. Love quickly reminded us what kind of passer he can be when he’s the focal point of the offense.
In this play Love was able to establish good position in the post, beat his man, force a help defender, and then spot a wide-open David Nwaba for an open three.
Here Love was able to save a broken play by tipping the ball to himself, driving to the basket, and then making a nice pass out to Deng Adel who was able to swing it over to Nwaba for an open corner three.
Neither of these plays were exceptional by any means, but they are the type of plays that have been absent from the offense for most of the season. This team has struggled immensely to create decent looks in the half-court due to their inability to breakdown a defense or find an open man when the defense does breakdown. Love can do both.
This offense doesn’t have the pieces to be a good offense, but it’s nice to see that maybe they can look like at least a competent offense for stretches when Love is out there.
The Marquesse Chriss experience has begun.
It doesn’t hurt the Cavs to take a flyer on Chriss. He’s 21 years-old and has the skills and athleticism to be a solid NBA player. However, he can’t seem to get out of his own way long enough to show those skills.
Chriss had a solid outing against Washington where he finished with 13 points and eight boards on three of five shooting from deep. He followed that up an average showing against Indiana where he finished with seven points, three boards and two assists in 24 minutes of action. He also started against the Pacers.
The thing that stood out about both of those performances is just how good he looked at times. He showed that he has the ability to stretch the floor with his shooting and attack the basket with his athleticism. Unfortunately. those thoughts vanished quickly as he reminded us why this is his third team in two seasons.
For every effortless dunk there seems to be two or three inexcusable plays like this. Here, Chriss inexplicably dribbles into the corner, picks up his dribble, and tries to make a pass to Nwaba that was very easily picked off:
Lack of awareness on both ends of the floor have forced teams to give up on him way early then they should. In this play Chriss fails to recognize the backside cutter as he stares only at the man he’s guarding in transition.
In just two games, we’ve seen how skilled Chriss is and why teams have given up on him early. Fortunately for Chriss, he will be given an opportunity to figure out the game in Cleveland for the rest of the season. It will be up to Larry Drew and his staff to figure out how to get the most out of the former lottery pick.
Brandon Knight could be a nice asset in Cleveland.
Knight looked solid in his first outing in Cleveland. He finished Saturday’s game against Indiana with nine points and two assists in just over 11 minutes of action.
Knight is still overcoming an ACL injury, and a subsequent infection, that has kept him away from basketball for almost a year and a half. Playing in Cleveland will give him a good chance to get back to reestablish himself in the league without any expectation. Ideally Knight could regain his form over the next year which would allow the Cavs to flip him and his expiring contract at the deadline next year for more picks.
This roster needs wings.
This roster isn’t constructed to compete, but usually even tanking teams have guys to play every position. The Cavs have had a shortage of wings for most of the season, but now they basically have one NBA caliber wing currently playing after the trades and with Cedi Osman out of the lineup.
The current roster construction doesn’t matter, but it would be nice to see what guys could do if they weren’t constantly playing out of position. The Cavs are asking a lot of G-Leaguer Deng Adel and 6’4” David Nwaba to be the only conceivable wings on the roster.
Collin Sexton is making progress.
It’s been a rough season at times for Sexton, but it’s good to see him actually make some progress. The rookie had solid outings against Boston and Washington where he put up 27 points in each game. On the week Sexton averaged 23.3 points on 52.9 percent shooting from three on 5.7 attempts per game.
The most encouraging part of Sexton’s week is how he’s been looking for the right kind of shots. Sexton took only 21.4 percent of his shots from mid-range on the week which is progress considering 39.8 percent of his shots this year have come from mid-range. Sexton has been looking to initiate contact at the rim this week and is more willing to turn in the long mid-range jumper for above the break threes. As a result we’ve gotten shot charts like this last one against Washington:
Sexton is far from a finished product, but it’s encouraging to see his willingness to work on his game. He’s shown flashes of being a good scorer this week. Hopefully the habits he’s built from these games can continue for the remainder of the season.