The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a rough time the last couple seasons, with back-to-back last-place finishes in the Central Division after four straight NBA Finals appearances, including one championship. That downturn was to be expected when LeBron James, the best player in the league, left Cleveland for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles and the Lakers.
Even if the struggles aren’t surprising, it’s hard for the players and fans to settle for after having such a successful run for the several years prior. At least one Cavs player felt things would be different for the team this season, but that prediction is not going well yet.
Collin Sexton predicts the Cavaliers are “back on the map”
In early February, third-year Cavs guard Collin Sexton wrote a piece in The Players’ Tribune that described his thoughts on the Cavs’ season. After discussing his pre-NBA basketball life a little, he got into the Cavs. He talks about there being “all these positive vibes out there” about the team, but he feels they’re misleading by making people think the Cavs are “coming up out of nowhere” because it’s not an overnight success.
In his words, “it’s been a journey, man….. with a lot of ups and downs.” He says that they’ve been “been building to this” from scratch. After being excluded from the NBA’s bubble restart last season, he said that was a big turning point for them.
He feels they were finally building momentum, but then the season was paused and they couldn’t complete it. Sexton feels that frustration is a motivator for the team, which he says is “back on the map,” and he wants to “stay a while.”
The Cavs’ actual results don’t mesh with Collin Sexton’s prediction
Sexton is optimistic about the team, even though the Cavs were 10-12 on February 3, the day that column was published. They’ve added just four wins since then and currently have a 14-22 mark heading into the All-Star break.
That record puts them in fourth place in the division and 13th in the Eastern Conference. Sexton is certainly doing his part to help the team. He’s having a career year, averaging 24.1 points and 4.5 assists in more than 36 minutes per game, and he has started 31 of the Cavs’ 36 games so far this season.
But overall, the team isn’t doing well. The Cavs are tied for last in the NBA in scoring average, with 104.6 points per game, and their 16.1 turnovers per game are the most in the league. That is a losing combination because if you’re not scoring and you’re giving the other team the ball a lot, that is going to put you in a significant deficit more often than not.
The Cavs’ major issues
The Cavs’ biggest issues are mainly on offense. As Fear the Sword writes, the Cavs don’t try enough three-pointers. Three-point attempts is another statistical category where they rank last in the NBA, with 27.4 per game; the Jazz have the most, and their 42.8 average is almost 15.5 more than the Cavs.
That needs to change because going for threes should be a part of any team’s offense in the NBA today. Having Kevin Love out with a calf injury isn’t helping them in that respect because he took seven three-point tries per game last season, which is more than a quarter of the team’s output in the stat this season.
Another problem the Cavs have is making shots at the rim. They take plenty of shots at or near the rim — they’re near the top of the league rankings in the stat — but they’re near the bottom of the ranks in percentage of successful shots in that area. That should be an easy shot, and you have to make it when you take it.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference