With a new October comes a new season of Cleveland Cavaliers basketball. Over the summer, the Cavaliers further emphasized the rebuild of the ongoing roster by picking up key rookies. With the fifth overall pick, the Cavaliers selected sharpshooting guard Darius Garland from Vanderbilt. They then added another shooter in Dylan Windler, a forward from Belmont, and traded for rookie Kevin Porter Jr. with the Detroit Pistons. Porter Jr. had shown high potential with a high ceiling during predraft workouts and throughout college at the University of Southern California.
During free agency, the team let go of older veterans such as J.R. Smith, Channing Frye and Nik Stauskas, further committing to their rebuild. The Cavaliers also parted ways with Head Coach Larry Drew. To replace him, the University of Michigan Head Coach John Beilein was hired. Beilein is a first time NBA head coach, and he is known to be an offensive guru.
With the current roster, Beilein was handed the reins to develop the Cavaliers’ young players and maximize their potential. The two key young stars would be sophomore Collin Sexton and rookie Darius Garland, with Cedi Osman also being a star on the rise. With stars Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson being key veterans on the team, the emphasis of the Cavaliers has shifted towards player development in order to build a strong core to lead the team in the future.
After the first eight games of the regular season, the Cavaliers stand at 10th place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-5 record. Beilein has given his young players such as Sexton, Osman and Garland an opportunity to grow by giving them big minutes. With an upset over the Pacers and a win over the Washington Wizards, the young players have shown flashes of brilliance.
In the win over the Wizards, Sexton and Garland has 15 and 16 points respectively with Garland also having a team high six assists. Sexton has been a spark for the Cavaliers, averaging 18.7 points per game and shooting 39.6 percent from three point territory. Love is one of the leaders on the Cavaliers in points, rebounds and assists per game, and he continues to be a consistent performer for the team. Veteran Thompson has also been a dependable performer for the team averaging about 17 points and 11 rebounds a game, making him a hustle player that every team needs.
The Cavaliers’ next four games include two games on the road against the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, followed by two games at home against the Miami Heat and the 76ers. The game against New York is winnable as both these teams are young and developing. The Knicks are at the bottom of the conference, a win behind the Cavaliers. The Heat and the 76ers are two of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference, and these games will be an uphill challenge. The Heat have a 7-3 record, with rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn along with All-Star Jimmy Butler leading the charge. The 76ers will also pose a challenge for the Cavaliers, with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Al Horford looking to dominate against the smaller Cavaliers.
Even though the season has just started, the goal of the Cavaliers has been clear. This is a team that will focus on rebuilding. Winning now will not be a priority; developing their young players and gaining assets to win in the future will be the point of emphasis this season. While the team may not win many games immediately, a new young core is starting to take shape and could possibly lead this team back to the playoffs in a weaker Eastern Conference soon.