Cleveland Cavaliers in Nightmare Scenario, Entire Season in Jeopardy

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been the NBA’s Cinderella story this year, catapulting to near the top of the Eastern Conference after living at the bottom for the last three seasons.

However, after receiving plenty of praise during All-Star Weekend in Cleveland, the Cavs are in a nightmare scenario, and their season could be in jeopardy.

They not only lost to one of the worst teams in the NBA on Feb. 24 in the Detroit Pistons, but two of their stars, Darius Garland and Caris LeVert, are dealing with injuries. While neither is season-ending, they have both put the Cavs in a nightmare scenario.

Cavs stars Darius Garland and Caris LeVert are injured

Point guard Darius Garland has become an All-Star this year, and he is a major reason why the Cavs have been hovering near the top of the Eastern Conference all season. Despite losing Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio to significant knee injuries, the Cavaliers have been within striking distance of the No. 1 seed for the majority of the year.

However, Garland has been dealing with a lingering back injury for the past month. So, since Cleveland lost its two other perimeter scoring threats in Sexton and Rubio, the Cavs traded for Caris LeVert before the NBA trade deadline.

The Cavaliers then ruled Garland out for the team’s first game after the All-Star break against the Pistons, as rest is the only remedy for his injury due to it being a muscle issue (per Cleveland.com).

No problem, though, right? That’s why they traded for LeVert.

LeVert sprained his foot in practice. He is now out 1-2 weeks.

Garland’s injury timeline is unknown. As mentioned, rest is the only thing that helps, but with the competitiveness of the Eastern Conference, the team can’t afford to keep him out for very long.

This entire situation has put the Cavs in a nightmare scenario.

Cleveland is in a nightmare scenario

Cavs big man Jarrett Allen during a game against the Atlanta Hawks in February 2022.
Jarrett Allen of the Cleveland Cavaliers during a game against the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 15, 2022. | Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The importance of both Garland and LeVert showed in Cleveland’s first game back against the Pistons. Despite playing a now-14-win team, the Cavs lost 106-103. 

Their starting guards, Rajon Rondo and Isaac Okoro, combined for 23 points, but the offense lacked any sort of flow that it has with Garland, and the team didn’t have anyone like LeVert to turn to when it desperately needed a bucket.

Big men Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are great, but defenses can focus on defending the paint when Garland and LeVert are out. That, in turn, makes Allen and Mobley less effective.

With the loss, Cleveland dropped to 35-24 and fifth place in the East. The Cavs are only 3.5 games out of first place, but they are only two games away from falling into the NBA Play-In Tournament.

That’s why Garland and LeVert’s injuries have put them in a nightmare scenario. The Cavaliers need to win games against teams like the Pistons so they don’t fall too low in the Eastern Conference standings. Losing just two more contests could drop them from the four-seed at the All-Star break to the seven-seed and a spot in the play-in tourney.

Their schedule isn’t getting easier, either.

After playing the Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Charlotte Hornets, the Cavs play the Philadelphia 76ers (twice), Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, and Chicago Bulls between March 4–16.

Garland and LeVert could both come back during that stretch, but they might not be enough to beat some of these teams. That’s why games against the Pistons are so crucial. And if Cleveland can’t win those games without Garland, he won’t be able to get the rest he truly needs to help his back.

The Cavs have had a magical season, but injuries and their upcoming schedule could result in them taking a nosedive in the standings.

So, is there anything they can do?

The Cavs need to find help in the buyout market

Cleveland just recently freed up a roster spot to become a major player in the NBA buyout market. And it could help save the season.

It’s unclear who will be available, but adding someone like Eric Bledsoe or Gary Harris to help offensively could be crucial to the team’s long-term success. Garland could be dealing with his back injury the rest of this season, so having another reinforcement could be the difference between the Cavs earning a four-seed and a play-in tournament spot.

All in all, the Cavaliers have had a stellar season. But they could watch it slip away pretty quickly if they don’t get any help.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

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