Cavs' consistency prompts optimistic speculation
The Cleveland Cavaliers 2023 season is underway and as a fan of the team, my expectations have never been higher.
From the Top
Cleveland's sports teams have seen consistent performances across the board, but in my opinion, the Cavaliers have demonstrated the most stability.
Since J.B. Bickerstaff took over as the full-time head coach of the Cavs in 2020, he's made significant improvements in the number that matters most: wins. He had 22 wins in his first season, 44 wins in his second, and last year concluded with an impressive fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference, tallying 51 wins.
This level of consistency is particularly noteworthy for a team with many young players.
The strong leadership doesn't end with Bickerstaff. Koby Altman, the Cavaliers' General Manager, has consistently shown his ability to assemble a competitive roster.
It may feel like just yesterday that the Cavs' front office made one of the biggest draft busts of all time when they selected Anthony Bennett first overall, in 2013. However, a decade has passed, and this offseason the focus shifted to the potential steal of the draft in Emoni Bates.
While the Cavaliers may not have made as big of a splash as last offseason when they acquired Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz in a blockbuster trade, they have added depth to the roster. These new additions create depth unlike anything seen even during LeBron James' tenure.
The most significant move the Cavs made this offseason was trading for former Miami Heat guard Max Strus. Strus made an immediate impact in the first game of the season, scoring 27 points against the Nets and bringing a much-needed level of consistency on the wing, which was lacking during the time of Cedi Osman, who was traded in July to the San Antonio Spurs.
The Cavaliers have also added significant championship experience this offseason. Strus, with deep playoff runs and two trips to the finals, comes from one of the league's most stable organizations, known for its "Heat culture." Having a player familiar with the necessary steps for success is invaluable.
The return of a familiar face, Tristan Thompson, provides veteran leadership, a quality that the young Cavs team has been missing.
Other additions, such as Georges Niang at small forward, the re-signing of Caris LeVert and drafting the rookie playmaker Emoni Bates make the depth of this roster a reason for optimism.
Speculation and Optimism
Now, let the fan in me take over for a moment.
I wouldn't be surprised if this team racks up 55 wins this year. With the consistent leadership in place, I anticipate Bickerstaff and Altman being finalists for Coach and Executive of the Year if the team reaches 50+ wins and makes a deep playoff run.
While Emoni Bates has yet to see the floor this year, during the preseason we saw that he has the ability to score points at will. Although I won't go so far as to predict Bates will be Rookie of the Year (that's for the Spurs' Victor Wembanyama to lose), if Bates gets consistent minutes, he could easily lead all rookies in points per game.
It's worth noting that the Cleveland Cavaliers have not had an MVP since LeBron won the award in back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010. While I don't expect that to change this year, I do anticipate a Cavs guard finishing in the top three for MVP this season.
Some may argue that they're too young, lack playoff experience, or lack a true superstar, but I believe they can contend for the title. For me, the floor is the Eastern Conference Finals or bust.
The Cavs are currently 1-2 and 4th in the NBA's Central Division, following a loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.This week, the Cavs face the New York Knicks in back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday, the Pacers away on Friday Nov. 3, before the Golden State Warriors come to Cleveland on Sunday.