The Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Orlando Magic tonight before heading out on the road. There’s still no Darius Garland, who likely won’t be back until the end of the week. But, with how well Donovan Mitchell handles the offense, Garland can get the night off against the young and impressionable Magic.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Orlando Magic
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse - Cleveland, OH
When: 7:00 pm EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass
Opposing blog: Orlando Pinstriped Post
Expected Cleveland starting lineup: Donovan Mitchell / Isaac Okoro / Caris LeVert / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs injury report: Darius Garland (OUT - eye), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL), Dylan Windler (OUT - ankle), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - G League assignment)
Expected Orlando starting lineup: Cole Anthony / Terrence Ross / Franz Wagner / Paolo Banchero / Wendell Carter Jr.
Magic injury report: Markelle Fultz (OUT - toe), Gary Harris (OUT - knee), Jonathan Isaac (OUT - Knee), Jalen Suggs (OUT - ankle), Mo Wagner (OUT - foot)
What to watch for
Wanted: Isaac Okoro’s offensive game
Through three regular season games, Isaac Okoro has been... not great on offense. Okoro is averaging 1.3 points on 20% shooting along with 1.0 rebounds and 1.3 turnovers in nearly 20 minutes. He’s also failed to connect on a single three-pointer on five attempts.
Okoro has been starting in place of Garland alongside Donovan Mitchell which, in turn, has given Okoro more opportunities on offense. For the most part, Okoro hasn’t really taken advantage of them - as his stats would clearly indicate. It’s a shame since he had a lot of positive momentum heading into the regular season.
Sure the games don’t count, but in four preseason games Okoro averaged 10.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals in 23.4 minutes per game. Clearly, there’s something there but Okoro couldn’t find a way to carry that momentum from the preseason to now. Granted, it’s still early into the regular season but, for now, it just looks like a new year, same Isaac Okoro on offense.
During the preseason, Okoro had his best game offensively against Orlando. Head coach J.B. Bickerstaff expressed it was part of letting Okoro grow offensively and not containing him within a box. Maybe a familiar opponent from less than two weeks ago can be the spark to get Okoro going again offensively.
Figuring out the rotation
While Okoro’s offensive woes are an issue within themselves, he’s still going to be part of the rotation for better or worse. Bickerstaff shared during the preseason that on a nightly basis, the goal is to have four of their seven core players on the floor at any given time. With that said, it’s safe to assume these are the seven players:
- Darius Garland
- Donovan Mitchell
- Caris LeVert
- Evan Mobley
- Jarrett Allen
- Kevin Love
- Isaac Okoro
When Ricky Rubio returns, it’s also safe to assume that this will grow to an elite eight. Ideally, Bickerstaff also said that he’s aiming to go about ten players deep into their rotation. That means guys like Cedi Osman, Dean Wade, Robin Lopez and Raul Neto will round out the back end of things.
Based on how minutes are breaking down early into the season, it appears that Osman (28.4 mpg), Wade (15.7 mpg) and Lopez (15.2 mpg) will be the three that balance things out. For now, it seems to be working for Cleveland but it’s definitely worth watching as the season goes on. Lopez could always get fewer minutes based on the matchup but with a team like Orlando, who has an abundance of bigs, it makes sense to give him roughly 15 minutes tonight. Again, it’s early into the season but it’s definitely something to start taking note of as the season goes on.
Several games into the season and no. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero has lived up to expectations for the Magic. Sure, it hasn’t exactly led to any wins quite yet. But, it appears Orlando has found the guy they can build their entire identity around going forward.
Banchero will provide an interesting matchup for star big man Evan Mobley. The Magic rookie has been multifaceted on offense, causing damage on the perimeter and the interior. If Cleveland wants to keep Orlando winless, they’ll have to be smart defending Banchero which Mobley, thankfully, can handle.
Mobley has shown a willingness to defend in space and is more than capable of defending Banchero on the interior as well. It’ll be an interesting test for Mobley and could give everyone a better scope of what to expect from him in year two on the defensive side of the ball.