The Cleveland Cavaliers conclude preseason with a trip to central Florida to take on the Orlando Magic. The Cavs will be resting a majority of the top of their rotation, but we are expected to get our first look at Evan Mobley tonight.
Where: Amway Center - Orlando, FL
When: 7 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass
Opposing blog: Orlando Pinstriped Post
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Raul Neto / Caris LeVert / Isaac Okoro /Evan Mobley / Robin Lopez
Cavs injury report: Darius Garland (OUT - rest), Donovan Mitchell (OUT - rest), Jarrett Allen (OUT - rest), Kevin Love (OUT - Knee), Dylan Windler (OUT - ankle), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL), Dean Wade (OUT - ankle),
Expected Magic starting lineup: Cole Anthony / Terrence Ross / Franz Wagner / Paolo Banchero / Wendell Carter Jr.
Magic injury report: Admiral Schofield (QUESTIONABLE - knee), Jonathan Isaac (QUESTIONABLE - hamstring), Gary Harris (QUESTIONABLE - knee), Markelle Fultz (OUT - toe), Jalen Suggs (QUESTIONABLE - knee)
Three things to watch
Cedi Osman’s fight for a rotation spot.
A lot has been made about the fight for the starting small forward position. However, the Cavs’ glut at the wing — with no clear cut hierarchy — means rotation minutes aren’t guaranteed. Osman had a firm spot within the rotation last season but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to get minutes going forward.
Bickerstaff has stated that he wants to run a ten-man rotation which would be an increase from what he ran a lot of season. But, if he does, we’d assume that there are four players getting minutes at the two and the three. Mitchell, LeVert and Okoro are guaranteed three of those four slots. That leaves one slot open (provided Lopez is getting minutes at the five) for Dean Wade, Lamar Stevens, Dylan Windler and Cedi Osman.
The Cavs need someone who can provide consistent shooting at the wing. The best version of Osman can do that like we saw on Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks. He finished that game with 16 points on 6-12 shooting which included going 4-9 from deep while finishing the game as a game-high plus 28. That said, the less than best version of Osman leaves a lot to be desired which is what we saw in Monday’s outing against the Philadelphia 76ers where Osman went 1-7 from the field and finished with 4 points and no assists, steals or rebounds.
The rotation is going to be in flux all season. What we see for game 1 won’t be the same for game 82, but it’s important for guys on the fringe like Osman to make a case for that spot now while they still have an opportunity to show what they can do in a game setting.
RJ Nembhard Jr. needs a strong performance.
The Cavs are invested in developing players through the G League and two-way deals as seen with the recent success of Wade and Stevens. Nembhard was picked up as an undrafted free agent last off-season and earned a two-way contract with his play. He showed promise as a scorer in the G League last season averaging 23.8 points and 5.3 assists on .441/.312/.712 shooting splits for the Cleveland Charge.
The Cavs are however in a very different place as a franchise now than they were when they signed Nembhard to a two-way deal. They may not have the luxury of having two developmental players on two-way deals who can’t give decent spot NBA minutes when needed. Isaiah Mobley is all but guaranteed to be on the team through this season which means they might look to get some use this season out of the other two-way spot. This is especially true considering how strong of a preseason Mamadi Diakite has had.
Nembhard has not made the most of the limited opportunities he’s gotten this preseason. He finished his first preseason outing with 1 point on 0 of 7 shooting in 17 minutes of play. He’s only played 11 minutes combined in the next two games totaling 2 points on 1 of 3 shooting with a turnover.
We don’t know how Nembhard has looked in camp which makes it hard to guess what decisions will be made. That said, he hasn’t looked great in preseason and the front office may value keeping a roster spot open while giving a two-way deal to a more NBA ready player like Diakite. Either way, it’d be in Nembhard’s best interest if he had a solid showing tonight.
Evan Mobley’s season debut.
We’ve spent the whole summer hearing about how Mobley has progressed as a scorer and more specifically as a shooter. Now we get our first glimpse of whether that summer work will translate to an NBA setting.
#bgU— Olin Simplis (@osimplis) August 18, 2022
#DISCLAIMER : NO! this is not a player comparison post‼️
Our team have been working with EM ( @evanmobley ) on pick ups to pockets and off the catch/shoot action… We use KD ( @KDTrey5 ) as a study sample based on same length / levers into his shot. pic.twitter.com/JC23tjPqRf
The Cavs ceiling this season and going forward will be determined by Mobley. He has the potential to be the best overall player on this team. The sooner he asserts himself as such, the sooner this team can compete in the Eastern Conference. We may be years away from that or it could happen this season.
Tonight, is our first look to see how far along the timeline Mobley is. That is reason enough to spend your Friday night with (some of) the Cavs.