This might be the most average week in the history of Cavalier basketball. The Cavs traveled down to Miami and were blown out by the Heat for what feels like the fiftieth time in a row. That was followed up with impressive wins over the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors. Throw in a loss to a more disciplined San Antonio Spurs team and I could be talking about any week from the last seven seasons.
Here’s what we learned.
The Cavs are a totally different team at home.
The Cavs were blown out again on the road which has been a consistent theme. Cleveland has the worst net rating in the league (-7.8) due to their abysmal play on the road. They have a league worst -13.8 net rating on the road which has led to a disappointing 5-15 record. To put that in perspective, the second worst road team is the Orlando Magic with a -9.5 net rating.
Conversely, the Cavs are better than expected at home with an 11-11 record. Cleveland has a -2.4 net rating which is good for 22nd in the league compared with other home teams.
It’s typical for young and bad teams to struggle on the road, but a 11.4 net rating swing is extreme. There are many factors that could go into this, but the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols could have a larger influence on young teams who are missing out on shootaround and practice time that wouldn’t affect more veteran teams as much.
Whatever the cause is, the road record is what is putting the Cavs in a decent lottery position for the third straight year while the home performances are slightly better than expected.
Cedi Osman cold shooting continues.
Osman had another tough shooting week as he shot 22.2% from deep. This is unfortunately a common trend for Cedi as he is shooting 27.1% from distance on 4.9 attempts in his last 24 contests.
Osman’s game has always fluctuated with his three-point shooting. When his shot is on he looks like a good rotation player who could be a borderline starter. Conversely, when his shot is off he can be a tough watch. The latter has been true for the better part of the last two months.
Osman is a streaky shooter. Hopefully for him this is something he can break out of. You can’t say he isn’t due.
Collin Sexton takes everything personally.
Sexton is the type of guy you least want to play against in pickup. He tries hard, he’s good, and he takes everything personally. We saw that on full display in Sunday’s game as he got into a dust up with the Raptor’s Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell in the closing moments of the second quarter.
Sexton took this mini altercation personally as he poured in 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting in the ensuing third quarter. The third quarter ultimately decided the game for the Cavs as they outscored the Raptors 32-18. Sexton finished the evening with 36 points on 13 of 24 shooting with 4 assists and 2 steals. He appears to have broken out of his mini slump as he averaged 28.8 points and 3.8 assists while posting a 60.1 true shooting percentage in the four games this week.
The third-year guard remains one of the most interesting Cavaliers of the last two and half decades. His all-or-nothing attitude, reckless playing style, and ability to do the unexpected make him someone you can’t take your eyes off of whether you love or hate his playing style.
The Jarrett Allen and Larry Nance Jr. problem isn’t going away.
Allen looked like the center of the future after the Cavs decided to part ways with Andre Drummond. In the 8 games the Cavs played with Allen and without Nance and Drummond, the young center averaged 17.4 points, 13.5 boards, 2.0 assists, and 1.9 blocks on 69.6% shooting from the field.
Since Nance has returned to the lineup, Allen is averaging 10.2 points, 10.2 boards, 1.3 assists, 1.0 blocks on 50% shooting from the field. Lineups with both Nance and Allen have a -14.9 net rating since Nance’s return from injury.
Part of the reason why this is the case is their overlapping skillsets which show up most on the offensive end. They both do similar things well while doing their best work in similar spots on the floor. Both are good connective passers in the high post, they provide excellent vertical spacing with their ability to roll to the basket, and can finish through traffic in the lane which make them both great release valves for the guards when they attack the basket. Unfortunately, without proper spacing around a player with that skillset, the offense can become stagnant as we’ve seen for stretches the last two weeks.
This isn’t an indictment on either Nance or Allen. Both are good players and easily part of the four best players on the team. However, basketball often comes down to fit. The Nance and Allen duo is awkward right now. That could change and is something that can certainly be worked out. Just because a pairing doesn’t work now doesn’t mean it’ll never work. With that said, if this continues the Cavs may be better served with exploring other lineup options.
Darius Garland continues to be the most influential Cavalier.
While Garland isn’t necessarily the best Cavalier, he’s certainly the most important given the roster construction. Since the Cavs disastrous road trip ended in mid-February, the Cavs have a -1.9 net rating with Garland on the floor which is best among starters and a team worst (or best depending on how you look at it) -12.7 net rating when he’s not. In short, the Cavs are 10.8 points per 100 possessions better with Garland on the floor. The sophomore guard is averaging 17.4 points, 6.9 assists, and 1.4 steals during this 13-game stretch.
Part of the large disparity between the on and off numbers is due to the Cavs playing without a viable backup point guard option and not having many secondary creators. Sexton and Garland are the best and possibly only reliable play makers on the team. However, that doesn’t take away from Garland’s play. We are seeing him develop his skills as a playmaker in new and varied way which allow every player to be the best version of themselves.
We saw Garland take a step forward in the scoring department this week as he averaged 20 points while posting a 62.5 effective field goal percentage. The increase in points and efficiency was due to his ability to get to the line with increased regularity as he averaged 6.3 free throw attempts per game.
Garland has proven he can be a great passer. This, combined with a better understanding of how to manipulate defenses and finish in traffic or get to the line, gives you reason to be excited about his potential. Getting to the point where he’s confident launching six or more threes a game feels like the final piece in unlocking Garland’s full offensive potential. He certainly has the tools to become a premier point guard in this league.