Cleveland Cavaliers basketball is back. And it looked a little bit different than last year’s version. Here are three takeaways from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 108-107 loss vs. the Atlanta Hawks from Tuesday night in Atlanta. The caveat is that it’s preseason and there’s no value in looking too far ahead, but there’s some parts of this game worth looking at.
Letting the three-pointers fly
In the first half when the Cavs had their rotation players in, they took 21 three-pointers. Last season, they averaged 31.6 per game. PER GAME. If this is a sign of what’s to come with the Cavs’ offense this year, this marks a seismic change in how the Cavs want to play.
It’s also easy to see how it happened. Max Strus opened up his Cavs preseason account with this three. It’s a kind of shot — quick trigger above the break three — that the Cavs lacked last year from its role players.
I believe this is why Cleveland went and got Max Strus. pic.twitter.com/fnCEu4HE9I— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 10, 2023
Georges Niang, for his part, came off the bench and was 2-4 from three and provided some real spacing to create room for everyone else on the floor. It’s one half of one preseason game, but this looked different.
Evan Mobley with a chance to do more
Cleveland went with Caris LeVert in the starting five in place of the injured Jarrett Allen, giving the Cavs a smaller look with its opening lineup.
This put Mobley literally in the center of the Cavs’ action. Everything in this set stemmed from him and placing him in a spot where he was asked to do more than screen or hang out in the dunker spot.
Cleveland leaning into using Mobley as a hub. Elbow action, add movement but look after the action. Mobley at the elbow, can go to Garland or Mitchell. Flow into a pick and roll and get two. pic.twitter.com/phWrDETvxp— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) October 10, 2023
This offers a few new-ish wrinkles for the Cavs. For one, it sees Cleveland starting their sets quicker — look at the shot clock as it gets going. Too often last year, the Cavs got going later in the shot clock against a more set defense. This seems to be an intentional way for them to speed things up.
It’s also more responsibility for Mobley. The results were perfect — there are kinks to work out — but this is Mobley being empowered more on offense. This is how he takes a step forward on that end of the floor.
With Allen out, here’s who played in the first half for the Cavs:
- Donovan Mitchell
- Darius Garland
- Evan Mobley
- Caris LeVert
- Max Strus
- Damian Jones
- Isaac Okoro
- Georges Niang
- Ty Jerome
(Sharife Cooper played too, but that doesn’t really count.)
That left Dean Wade on the outside looking in, among others. It saw Jerome get minutes with Ricky Rubio away from the team and another guard needed. Sub Allen back in for Jones when healthy and this is a 10-man group that makes a lot of sense.
Up next: The Cavs host the Orlando Magic on Thursday in Cleveland. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.