Cleveland Cavaliers News: All Signs Point to Jarrett Allen Returning at Most Crucial Time

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been hopeful that center Jarrett Allen can make his return from a finger injury before the end of the 2021-22 NBA regular season. That appears all the more likely as the Cavs begin a two-game road trip on Tuesday in Orlando.

Allen’s absence came at a brutal time for the Cavaliers. Cleveland has since slipped to the No. 7 seed and will almost certainly partake in the play-in tournament. But JA’s return could give the Cavs the boost they need to advance to the standard playoff bracket.

The Cavaliers have struggled mightily since Jarrett Allen’s injury

Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen dunks the ball during an NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers in March 2022
Jarrett Allen dunks the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 4, 2022 | Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Allen spent the majority of the 2021-22 season as one of Cleveland’s defensive anchors and a rim-rolling threat who excelled in pick-and-roll sets with Darius Garland. Things have gone south for the Cavaliers without him on the floor.

The Cavs are 6-9 since March 8, Allen’s first game on the sidelines. A previously sound defense hasn’t gotten any stops. According to NBA.com, Cleveland ranks 21st in defensive rating in the last 15 games, and the Cavaliers are just 2-6 in their previous eight contests.

Other factors have played a part in the losing. Rookie sensation Evan Mobley has missed the past four games with an ankle injury. It’s hard to win games without your starting frontcourt and two best defenders.

It’s not as if everything has fallen apart, either. Garland has quietly put up prolific numbers in Allen’s absence, averaging 25.1 points, 10.4 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 18 games since the All-Star break.

Still, the Cavaliers need Allen on the floor if they hope to make a surprise playoff run. Fortunately for Cavs fans, it appears as though his return could come sometime in the final two games of the regular season.

Allen joined the team for the flight to Orlando

If Jarrett Allen didn’t plan to participate in basketball activities and ramp things up in his efforts to return from injury, he probably wouldn’t have joined the Cavaliers for their two-game road trip. But he is indeed with the team.

Chris Fedor of cleveland.com reported Allen was on the flight to Orlando. Although Fedor later added that Allen has already been ruled out against the Magic, his presence indicates he might try to take the floor against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.

The Cavs likely want to ensure that Allen can take contact and his finger gets back to full health. But they also would assuredly desire him to get game reps before the play-in. The more reps, the better, so he could play in Brooklyn rather than returning for the regular-season finale at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.

With Allen on the verge of rejoining the rotation and Mobley almost certainly right behind him, can the Cavs rediscover the midseason form that made them an analytics darling in the Eastern Conference?

A fully healthy Cavs squad has sleeper potential

Should the Cavaliers successfully integrate Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley back into the lineup, they will be a scary team for any Eastern Conference favorite to face in the first round.

Opponents will have difficulty getting points inside with Allen and Mobley lurking in the paint. The threat both bigs pose on short rolls could also open things up for Garland as a scorer and playmaker and do more to space the floor.

Consider this, for example: The Cavs are 2-1 against the Bucks this season, including a 19-point destruction of a full-strength Milwaukee team on Jan. 26. Why is that significant? Well, the Bucks are just 0.5 games back of the No. 2 seed in the East and could well face Cleveland in the first round.

Perhaps that’s too much cherry-picking. The Cavaliers could just as easily play the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers in the first round, and they’re a combined 1-6 against those teams. Cleveland also has to advance past the play-in before any of that happens.

Still, Allen’s potential return makes the Cavs much more dangerous. If nothing else, they could give an Eastern Conference favorite a fight.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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