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How the Cavs Turned Around Their Franchise

How the Cavs Turned Around Their Franchise

Led by star SG Donovan Mitchell, along with Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, and others, the Cavs had an optimistic look into the 2023-24 season. They have won 17 of their last 19, and have taken over the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. Let’s take a look at how they got here.

Rewinding to free agency in 2018, after leading the Cavaliers back to the finals and falling to the Warriors again, LeBron James decided to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. This was the start of a rebuild for Cleveland, with the Cavs having a very difficult 2018-19 season, finishing 19-63. After an abysmal 0-6 start, the Cavs fired their championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue and hired the coach of the future: J.B. Bickerstaff.

That rebuild started with the Cavs drafting the shifty guard Darius Garland out of Vanderbilt with the fifth overall selection in the 2019 NBA draft. Garland had a pretty rough start to his career, but he has developed into a great scorer and a star guard for Cleveland. 

While the Cavs developed some young talent, they still fell very short of the playoffs, at 19-46 the year after they drafted Garland. They drafted 6’5” wing Isaac Okoro out of Auburn in the following draft, and the next year they were still nowhere near the playoffs, at 22-50. Isaac Okoro has developed into a very significant role player for the Cavs, who is known for his physical defensive presence. 

On January 14th, 2021, the Cavs engaged in a 4-team trade which led to former Nets center Jarrett Allen going to Cleveland. The Cavs gave up Dante Exum and a first and second round pick. This move ended up being an integral part of the rebuild, as Allen has developed into a very valuable center for the Cavs, averaging 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game during the 2023-24 season. 

Later, in the 2021 NBA draft, the Cavs selected 6’11” forward Evan Mobley out of USC, making for a dynamic frontcourt duo between Mobley and Allen. Emphasizing the importance of height, the Cavs also acquired 7’0” forward Lauri Markkanen from the Bulls. The Cavs went into the 2021 season new and improved, and it was time to see if they could put it all together. 

54 games into the 2021-22 season, the new roster improvements were working for the Cavs and had them sitting at 33-21. The Cavs decided to trade for 6’6” SF Caris LeVert. They finished the season with a 44-38 record, but fell just short of the playoffs, losing 107-101 to the Hawks in the play-in game. 

The 2022 offseason was when the Cavs made the big splash that would change the entire trajectory of the organization. They decided to trade for star Utah Jazz SG Donovan Mitchell. They gave up many assets and picks, including earlier acquired Lauri Markkanen, and talented guard Collin Sexton. This trade stunned fans and teams all across the league, as many thought Mitchell would go to the Knicks.

With Mitchell added, the Cavs finished the 2022-23 season at 51-31, the 4th seed in the East, and a major improvement from just two seasons before. 

However, they fell to the Knicks 4-1 in the playoffs, and many question marks surrounded the team. During the 2022 offseason, the Cavs went out and got 6’6” Max Strus, a talented shooter from the Heat. 

With the entire roster healthy, the Cavs have opened up the 2023-24 season with a new identity, sitting at 35-17, the 2nd best record in the East. As the Cavs continue to play great basketball, many wonder how far this team can go in the NBA playoffs this season.

 

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