The first month of 2021 is finally over, and for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the beginning must feel like eons ago. Thanks to a slew of injuries and a four-team mega-trade, the Cavs have gone through roughly 3,000 iterations of their 15-man roster since last writing. But the new players are settled in, the lineup sheets are no longer drenched in ink, and the Cavs are leading the pack in the hunt for the play-in tournament. With stocks and trends all the rage this week, here are the Cavaliers you should be investing in—and the ones you should avoid at all costs.
Note: Stats taken from games played Jan. 15-Feb. 1
Kevin Love: No Change
Love still hasn’t played since he aggravated a calf injury all the way back in December, though he’s inching closer to a return. Much of the discourse surrounding Love understandably centers around how and when he’ll get to a new team, but there’s an almost-perfectly Kevin Love-shaped hole on his current one: the Cavaliers shoot the second-fewest threes and grab defensive rebounds at the fourth-worst rate in the league. Love’s future still likely lies elsewhere, but in the meantime, there’s still plenty of room for him in Cleveland.
Collin Sexton: Soaring
Since last writing, Collin Sexton scored less, shot worse, and played fewer minutes than his season averages, all while turning the ball over more. Now throw all the stat sheets in with the slag and ashes from his 42-point calamity against the Brooklyn Nets, because there’s more than enough to bury such a slight drop off. Not only was that easily Sexton’s best game of the year, it might be the signature performance of any NBA player this season. ...actually, grab those stats, because we need one more: Sexton followed up on his big night by tossing nine assists (one short of his career-best) in his very next outing and is averaging 4.9 assists per game since coming back from injury.
One thing to monitor: Sexton rarely shoots threes (4th percentile among guards, per Cleaning the Glass), instead opting for the dreaded mid-range shot (96th percentile). If he continues to stretch his range and hone his passing while remaining the bloodthirsty bucket-hunter he’s always been, this won’t be the last All-Star campaign headquartered in Cleveland.
Darius Garland: Stabilizing
The Cavs signed their starting point guard out of sickbay on January 20, but he was only operating at full capacity for three of his six games since. Garland wobbled at first, playing limited minutes and shooting a combined 5-for-22 in his first two games back. But once he got his feet under him, he picked up his previous pace again; Garland is averaging just over 18 points in games since rejoining the starting unit, scored a career-best 24 against the New York Knicks, and dished 11 dimes against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The biggest difference between rookie- and sophomore-Garland has been his command and confidence as a ball handler, and an injury and lineup reintegration could have torpedoed that. They, uhh, didn’t. Garland was playing the best basketball of his career before his injury. He appears well on his way to regaining that form.
Isaac Okoro: Holding Steady
The early returns on Okoro are roughly what most expected. The rook is playing fantastic defense—he just finished a death march that saw him line up across from Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James—and shoddy offense. But direct your attention away from the flat scoring numbers (where Okoro was never going to shine this season), and you’ll find plenty of positives. For one, Okoro upped his scoring over the last seven games (8 points per game to 9) on one fewer average attempt (8 per game to 7). His field goal (41.4) and three-point (29.3) percentages are low, but he’s converting on nearly 70 percent of his free throws (68.3). He’s also a heady cutter and a surprisingly deft finisher—toss in his penchant for basketball thievery (1.2 steals per game), and Okoro is practically the personification of defense into offense.
Andre Drummond: Falling
The Drummond experience remains the same as it’s ever been: rack up a first-half double-double, do something that makes you think, ‘you know what? I think he’s figuring it out,’ and then do something (really, a lot of somethings) that makes you think, ‘oh, right, that always happens.’ Andre responded to the gigantor Jarrett Allen trade with a leviathan of a game: 33 points, 23 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals. But it’s telling that in spite of his outsized numbers, Drummond sat for the final 4:12 of regulation and both overtimes in the Cavs’ signature win of the year against Brooklyn. With Allen in tow, Drummond won’t be in wine and gold for much longer. A trade for a first-round pick looks like wishful thinking.
Cedi Osman: Up
Fun (read: not fun) fact: the Cavaliers have been one of the most injured teams in the Association this year. Fun (read: fun!) fact: Cedi Osman is the only Cavalier who hasn’t yet missed a game! But for the most consistent Cavalier, Osman sure hasn’t been consistent. Prior to January 13, Osman’s 35.4 field goal percentage only put him above Marques Bolden, Kevin Love, and Dylan Windler—all of whom have hardly played this season. Since then, though, Osman has turned his flamethrower so it’s no longer blowing directly back into his face; he’s scorching the nets at a 44.8 percent clip from the field and 46.9(!) from three. When Cedi’s off his game, things can get ugly fast. But Osman’s ability to slide around multiple positions has been crucial to the Cavs’ survival, and that locks him in as a key rotation piece.
Larry Nance Jr: On the mend
It’s no secret that Larry Nance Jr.’s leap has been a huge reason for the Cavs’ mad dash out of the gate. The Cavs are a bit lint-pocketed when it comes to reliable distributors and outside shooters, so Nance Jr.’s ability to knock down threes and act as a tertiary frontcourt distributor has been a defibrillator that’s (barely) kept the offense from flatlining. But how’s this for impact: In Cavalier wins, Nance Jr. is shooting 57.6 percent from the field and 53.3(!!!) percent from three, and handing out 4.5 dimes per game. In Cavalier losses, those numbers swan-dive into the hardwood: 39.5 percent from the field, 27.8 from three, and 2.4 assists per game. Apropos of nothing Nance Jr. recently scored a combined 4 points on 2-for-12 in losses to the New York Knicks and the Timberwolves which might have been the Cavs’ two worst showings of the season. Get well soon, Larry.
JaVale McGee: Down (and on the move?)
The earth-shattering James Harden Jarrett Allen trade certainly altered Drummond’s long-term trajectory the most, but thus far, it’s JaVale McGee who’s borne the brunt of the tremors. Since Allen arrived and leapfrogged him, McGee has spent most of his time hanging out on the bench (DNP in five of the last eight games). When he’s been on the court, he’s shot much (16.6 attempts per 36 minutes, behind only Sexton and Drummond) and dribbled often, to varying degrees of success. He’s recently been linked to the Nets in trade rumors, so it looks as though McGee’s days as a point guard Cavalier are numbered.
Damyean Dotson: Down, but still in good shape
There have been few constants in the Cavaliers’ rotation, but count Damyean Dotson among them. With SexLand back in action, Dotson’s minutes waned from 25.3 per game before January 13 to 16.8 since. No longer burdened with starting point guard duty, he’s performed well: Despite the precipitous drop in playing time, Dotson’s pre- and post-January 13 counting stats look nearly identical. The Cavs’ backcourt is thin behind its young duo, but Dotson is a solid backup/third-string combo guard and is playing well as a bottom-of-the-rotation spark.
Dylan Windler: Real! (and rising)
Good news, Cavs fans: Dylan Windler is an NBA player! Up until recently, Windler’s pro career was mostly theoretical thanks to an unrelenting streak of bad injury luck. But after making his return on January 23 against the Houston Rockets, the 2019 26th-overall pick has finally logged his first prolonged stretch of pro basketball. He’s already proving his skills are more than just theory: Windler is knocking down 44.4 percent of his triples, and he’s shown himself to be a sneaky-good passer in addition to a knockdown shooter. Maybe the most encouraging statistic, though, is that the Cavaliers outscored the Detroit Pistons by 29 points in 22 minutes with Windler on the court in a 122–107 win on January 27. At the very least, Windler should provide a coveted skill at an in-demand position with some sprinkled-in playmaking to boot.
Dean Wade: Down
As expected, the Cavs dug their way out from the avalanche of injuries that nearly buried them in early January, and Dean Wade got left in the snow. Wade hasn’t played more than eight minutes since January 12, nor has he scored a single point. Expect this to be the norm moving forward.
Lamar Stevens: Still Alive?
Lamar Stevens had appeared in just two of the Cavs’ previous eight games before injuries forced J.B. Bickerstaff to get weird(er) with positions. Enter the undrafted rook, who played power forward and contributed 5 points, 4 rebounds, and some energetic defense in a win over the Timberwolves on Monday. Stevens isn’t a rotation player, and one game (in which he was minus-18 in 14 minutes) won’t change that. But positional changes can save careers, and Bickerstaff might have given Stevens a blueprint to prolonging his.
Marques Bolden: Relegated
Bolden has only DNPs to his name since January 13. Now, he’s headed to the Canton Charge and will play in the G-League bubble. Perhaps he’ll get some minutes there, but the Cavs’ roster is already cramped with rotation-quality bigs, especially ones who don’t stretch the floor. That logjam will eventually sort itself out, but Bolden hasn’t shown enough to be considered a... uhh, priority log..?
NEW: Jarrett Allen
Jarrett Allen said in his first media session as a Cavalier that he’d stick to what he’s good at—namely, dunking and blocking basketballs. Evidently, the big man was telling the truth; Allen is tops in the league in field goal percentage (70.7(!!!!!) since arriving in Cleveland) in large part because he dunks almost as much as he breathes. Cleveland’s best afro has also wasted no time developing chemistry with its starting point guard; in seven games together, Allen has completed nine dunks off Garland assists, and they often aren’t well-intentioned. His blocks aren’t particularly kind, either. The best part? Allen won’t turn 23 until April. The Cavaliers have found their center of the future, and created a potentially lethal pick-and-roll duo in the process.
NEW: Taurean Prince
The other piece in the Allen trade, Taurean Prince has been anything but a footnote as a Cavalier. Prince isn’t an ultra-athlete, nor has he mastered any singular skill. But he has the size, quickness, shooting, and playmaking ability to congeal into any holes that need plugging. But don’t ask us; ask the Nets, who sent Prince to Cleveland essentially for free, only to watch him put up 15.5 points, 5 boards, and 2.5 assists across two games against them. One odd statistic, though: Prince is shooting just over 41 percent from three, but barely above 32 percent on two-point tries. Those should level out, and Prince should remain a solid contributor off the pine.