This week into next week, we’ll be doing roundtables here featuring the whole staff. We’ll also be kicking off a slew of offseason and draft content. It’s going to remain a busy summer. — Chris Manning
Your favorite moment of the Cavs’ season is…
Will Cunningham(@willocunningham): For me, it is undoubtedly the win over Brooklyn when Collin Sexton scored 42 points. Not only was it an incredible game and the best performance by a Cavs player since probably LeBron in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals, but it represented the high watermark of hope for the future of the franchise. Koby Altman had just landed Jarrett Allen by jumping in on the James Harden trade, and Sexton torched the Nets in Harden’s first game, hitting a buzzer-beater to send the game to double overtime and scoring 20 straight points to finish off a trademark Cavs win.
Leah Nemeth: (@leah_nemeth): Early April’s 125-101 victory over the San Antonio Spurs when Darius Garland secured complete control of the game at the tip, and poured in a career-high 37 points. It was then Garland won me over with not only his skills, but his confidence as a young player in the league. That same evening, Cavs’ newly-acquired big, Isaiah Hartenstein notched a double-double leading the team in rebounds, pulling down 12 boards while chipping in 16 points. These two players have shown great promise for Cleveland, and it was on full display that evening against the Spurs.
Nick Trizzino (@trizweino): Sexton vaporizing the Nets isn’t the most original choice. But, I mean...yeeeeeesh. It’s one thing when a player makes headlines for a scoring outburst to clinch a win. It’s another thing when your budding star shifts your team to the center of the basketball universe by going supernova on the league’s newly assembled Voltron. It might not hold in the long run, but for one night at least, the Cavs had a megastar of their own again, and it felt pretty damn good.
Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): The end of Cavs-Hawks where Lamar Stevens had a game-winning dunk. It was just tight, tension-filled basketball and that was not a common occurrence at all this year. And the ending was so random and bizarre. I love games like this.
Your favorite player to watch during this Cavs’ season was…
WC: Darius Garland. He improved so much this year and it was so much fun to watch his development, especially when it came to his passing. Garland and Allen had immediate chemistry in the pick-and-roll, and that allowed Garland to show off his improved passing chops, consistently finding Allen with slick bounce passes, quick dump-offs, and high-arcing lobs. Garland showed that he can be a legitimate threat as a creator in this league, and his development was one of the most important parts of this season.
LN: Isaac Okoro. Picking fifth in year three of a rebuild isn’t exactly living on Easy St. — it’s a legit gamble. Okoko suited up almost every night, and went all in on himself. He began the season earning his chips on defense and, hand-after-hand, called everyone’s bluff by shutting down the best player on the floor. The rookie played a team-high 67 games and showcased steady improvement on all aspects of basketball. Through the end — the bitter end — he was exciting to watch.
NT: Despite his flaws — hell, it’s toxic, but possibly because of them? — it’s Collin Sexton. He’s an advanced scorer with a near-automatic midrange jumper and a floater so feathery you could use it as a pillow. He’s also an insatiable scorer who would take on the entire Justice League if a bucket were waiting on the other side. Sometimes, Sexton’s impossible confidence breeds tensions with teammates and spells of inefficiency. Other times, it boils over and Sexton detonates for 15 points in a quarter. Whatever you think of his game, Sexton is rarely a boring viewing experience.
CM: Any of the three players already mentioned are good answers. I’d probably give a different answer on a different day. But I’m a sucker for what Okoro is and does. He flashes so much potential and plays so hard all the time. Ignore the defensive metrics — analytics people in the league will tell you that it’s hard to put stock in them vs. game tape. Okoro is already really good and he showed just enough offense talent that offers more upside than his raw numbers. I cannot wait to see what kind of player he looks like in year two.
Your favorite performance of any Cavalier this year is……
WC: Sexton’s aforementioned 42 points against the Nets. He added 5 points and 5 assists and shot 55% from the floor and 5/11 from three. He was efficient, and he stepped up when the team needed him most, scoring 25 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter and the two overtimes. In addition, Garland missed this game, so Sexton had to carry the offense, and he did an admirable job. This was the kind of game where we saw the best of Sexton, and it is the reason why some fans are so optimistic about him.
LN: Garland’s career-high 37 on the Spurs; 14 for 22 shooting (5-10 from three). Please see above.
NT: If there’s one thing I love more than variety for its own sake, it’s dominant center play. That’s why I’m rolling with Jarrett Allen’s very first start against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Fro kicked off the evening by thrashing a dunk attempt on his first defensive possession. He dropped an anvil off a lob from Garland for an encore. By curtain call, Allen had piledriven Minny for 23 points, 18 boards, and 5 blocks. There’s nothing quite like watching a big control the paint for 48 minutes. When’s the last time the Cavs had someone do that?
CM: The mentioned Sexton and Garland games are the right picks — seeing them each go off this year gives hope for the future. But just to be different, I’ll go with Okoro’s 17-point game in a loss against the Heat in April. The box score numbers aren’t huge and it doesn’t have a milestone attached a la him scoring 30 points. (Which, for the record, he did do later in the season.) But his defense in this game was on-point on and off-ball and showed what kind of two-way player he can be. This is a game that, if you want a glimpse of what he can be, is one to revisit.
Rank these role players from most interesting to least interesting: Lamar Stevens, Isaiah Hartenstein, Dean Wade, Brodric Thomas
WC: Isaiah Hartenstein, Dean Wade, Lamar Stevens, Brodric Thomas. Hartenstein showed legitimate potential as a backup center, as well as some decent passing ability. I think at the right price, he could be a solid option off the bench. I think Dean Wade could really have a place with the Cavs, or on any NBA roster. A power forward who can shoot the three at a respectable rate is a player that the Cavs could really use, given their struggles in that area. Lamar Stevens is an interesting option, who showed real flashes on the defensive end this season and could be a useful player going forward. Thomas was solid, but I don’t think he has the ceiling that the other three do.
LN: Isaiah Hartenstein, Dean Wade, Lamar Stevens and Brodric Thomas. It was a double upgrade at the center position for the Cavs with both Jarrett Allen and Isaiah Hartenstein. When does that happen? In a league that dismisses the need for a big guy in the middle, the Cavs went left. I dig it.
NT: Wade, Hartenstein, Stevens, Thomas. Wade is a solid rebounder and appears to be a very good shooter; he’s not exactly NBA starter material, but he looks like a solid rotation player. Hartenstein’s deft touch and playmaking popped at times, but it’s hard to find the time to capitalize on that when you’re committing roughly 1 million fouls per 36 minutes. Stevens actually looked like an actively good defender — the most vivid mental image I have of Stevens is him hanging with Kawhi Leonard in the post back in February—but he’s a 6-foot-6 wing who can’t shoot. That’s a dealbreaker. And Thomas is fine for a two-way player, but I don’t see him as a shoo-in for next year’s roster.
CM: Wade, Stevens, Hartenstein, Thomas. All four of these guys showed something, but Wade stands out as a willing and capable stretch big who at least battles on defense. He can be a bench piece in the league. I go Stevens over Hartenstein just because wings who can defend and makes winning plans is harder to find/develop than a backup five, but I’ll admit that this is probably wrong. And Thomas is long and all, but I need to see him at summer league to see him do more before going any further.
Give me your favorite Cavs highlight.
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ANYTHING SO BEAUTIFUL? pic.twitter.com/kec01UB7RN— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) April 20, 2021
NT: Darius Garland threw some mind-bending passes this year. This assist (and this camera angle!!!) had me on the verge of passing out.
CM: This was the first of many lobs to come: