The NBA is back, even if the Cavs aren’t. For the lower half of the Eastern Conference — i.e. teams that aren’t real contenders and are soon to be thrashed by the Bucks or Celtics — they at least get some games in and are hopefully able to stay healthy. There are also a few ex-Cavaliers on these teams.
Two of the teams — the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic have no ex-Cavaliers. Indiana has players that would be nice fits on the Cavs. I quite like Malcom Brogdon’s game, for instance, and Domantas Sabonis is a stud. Myles Turner is also a really good modern center.
They also have Victor Oladipo. What is going on with Oladipo, who may or not play in the bubble as he works back from a serious quad injury. If he goes, he’s one of the most interesting players in the league off the bat.
As for the Magic, they seem destined to be a first-round out as the seventh or eight seed, assuming they make it past the play-in tournament. But they have Markelle Fultz, who forever is one of the most interesting players in the NBA because of literally every moment of his career being weird. Orlando also has Mo Bamba, who is jacked now. Jonathan Isaac’s possible return is something to watch to considering his upside. (Special shoutout to Jake Chapman, a former 92.3 The Fan producer/host now working in radio for the Magic, as well. He’s a real one.)
Elsewhere, the Washington Wizards technically have an ex-member of the Cavs organization Gary Payton II. Payton never played for the Cavs or the Canton Charge, but the Charge had his rights for two whole days in 2019. He, though, was traded to the South Bay Lakers for Sheldon Mac. Earlier this year, Washington did have ex-Cavs swingman C.J. Miles on its roster. Miles, unfortunately, was waived in January and is not currently with a team.
And then there’s the Brooklyn Nets. Most notably, they have Kyrie Irving as an ex-Cav and one of their two main franchise points. But he’s currently hurt, not in Orlando and won’t be back on the court until the 2020-21 NBA season starts. That’s really when Irving — who is somehow already 28 years old — will try and shape his legacy beyond his time in Cleveland. Here’s hoping he and Kevin Durant can be healthy.
Elsewhere in Brooklyn, there’s Joe Harris. A 2014 second-round pick by the Cavs, Harris’ injuries and the Cavs looking for veteran option cut his time in Cleveland short. But he’s become a really good three-and-d player who can be in a rotation. In Brooklyn, he waas a core piece in the team reshaping its identity under Kenny Atkinson. (This, of course, was pre-Kyrie and Durant arriving and Atkinson leaving.) Basically, he’s hit the best-case scenario version of what he was thought to be coming into the draft. Even now, Harris is the type of guy that would fit nicely on the current iteration of the team.
On the fringe of the roster, Brooklyn has Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who had a cup of coffee with the Cavs. Before he tore his Achilles and was waived, they also had David Nwaba, aka the best defender on the 2018-19 Cavs.
Moral of the story: If you want to root for ex-Cavs in the bubble, Brooklyn is your team in the lower half of the Eastern Conference. And in its case, there are ex-Cavs near the core of the team’s identity.