Here’s a Kevin Love-free Cleveland Cavaliers notebook for your Friday or weekend pleasure.
The Cavs do miss Collin Sexton
Collin Sexton has been out with injury the last few games and, spoiler alert, the Cavs miss him.
Have whatever opinions you want about the Sexland backcourt and what it is going forward. Right now, Sexton and Darius Garland engineer much of what works for the Cavs. Garland is the conductor of it all, doing a lot of the creative work and passing to make the offense works. (If the Cavs are scheming enough or are healthy enough to make life easier for everyone is a discussion for another day.)
But Sexton’s normal shot diet — drives towards the rim, an array of pull-ups and three-pointers — is needed. Aside from Garland, no one else on the Cavs’ roster really puts pressure on defenses from the perimeter in the same way. Sexton puts real pressure on the defense.
But Sexton also is underutilized. Most of this year, Sexton being off-ball has meant him standing around, waiting for the ball to swing back his way and generally not doing much. But, because he’s explosive and faster than a lot of defenders, he can do a lot of damage as a cutter. Case in point: Sexton’s last game pre-injury against the Hornets:
This is not only good offense, but a needed diversification of the Cavs’ offense. That should make it better and Sexton better at the same time. All of the pick-and-rolls and isolation attempts are good and all. But this is how you empower Sexton while also adding needed wrinkles to the offense. It’s a needed evolution.
Two other notes here. First: Note that these sets mostly came with the Sexton-Matthew Dellavedova lineups. There’s no reason the Cavs shouldn’t try this more with Darius Garland on the floor. Second: Note Isaiah Hartenstein passing to Sexton. It’s the one area Hartenstein is ahead of Jarrett Allen in. Expect Allen to get more reps as a passer from the nail, running dribble hand-offs and more going forward. It’s something Cavs GM Koby Altman mentioned wanting to develop Allen in when the trade went down.
The home stretch might be brutal for the Cavs
The Cavs have 10 games left in the 2020-21 season. Don’t expect them to tank as blatantly as the Thunder or the Rockets — they might not even be able to if they tried.
But Cleveland’s remaining schedule, plus injuries, might push Cleveland down towards the very bottom organically. As of Thursday night, here are the Cavs’ 10 final opponents’ net rating over the last two weeks. The only team the Cavs are higher over this stretch is the Pacers.
- Wizards: Third (+7.4 per 100 possessions)
- Suns: 19th (-2.3 per 100 possessions)
- Trail Blazers: Seventh (+5.7 per 100 possessions)
- Mavericks: Sixth (+6 per 100 possessions)
- Pacers: 26th (-6.1 per 100 possessions)
- Celtics: 16th (-0.1 per 100 possessions)
- Nets: 5th (+6.3 per 100 possessions)
Cleveland plays both Washington and Dallas twice. Every team in this stretch is still somehow involved in the playoff hunt or a battle for seeding. And, in a particularly cruel twist of fate, the Cavs have to play against the Heat and Trail Blazers on the second half of a back-to-back. In both cases, Miami and Portland are off the day before they play Cleveland.
The Cavs will probably pick off at least a game or two over this stretch. For instance: The Nets game takes place on May 16 and is the last game of the season. By then, Brooklyn will probably be resting its stars to be healthy for the playoffs. Maybe a win just happens there.
But overall, expect a lot of losing. That will at least give the Cavs some better draft odds depending on how things shake out for the other teams at the bottom of the league.
The intrigue of Joshua Giddey
This week, 18-year-old Australian prospect Joshua Giddey told ESPN that he will be entering the 2021 NBA Draft. Right now, ESPN has the 6’8, 205-pound Giddey as its No. 13 prospects while Sports Illustrated has him at No. 11 overall. Depending on how the draft process plays out, it would not be shocking to see him rise up draft boards.
Giddey’s size is what’s really intriguing about him from a Cavs perspective. He’s a big creator — something the team doesn’t have right now — who has versatility built into his game and, by all accounts, a really good feel for the game. Playing for the Adelaide 36ers, Giddey averaged 11 points, 7.1 assists and 7.2 rebounds in 31.9 minutes per game. It is a 23 game sample — not huge by any means — but it is impressive. Depending on what kind of defender he can be, he could allow for some real creativity in building lineups.
There are concerns. On tape, his shot looks slow. The numbers aren’t good either — 31.3% on 4.1 three-pointers per game, 65% from the free throw line on just 2.9 attempts per game. For him to be a clean fit in Cleveland or anywhere else, Giddey has to become a better shooter. Depending on how the draft lottery shakes out, Giddey should absolutely be on the Cavs’ radar.