The 2018 offseason has brought some changes to the Eastern Conference. LeBron James moved out west, Kawhi Leonard joined the Raptors, and although it isn’t a change per se, the Celtics will get two All-Stars back in their lineup this upcoming season.
Meanwhile, the Sixers revamped their bench and re-signed some important pieces, but other teams in the East will be looking to improve and move up in the standings.
Here at Sixers Front Office, we are in the middle of an Evaluating the East series that dives into the teams that are projected to be in the playoff picture this season. Each column will touch on the team’s key additions and losses, their outlook for 2018-19, and their threat level to the Sixers based on the colors of the US threat level system. The key is below…
In this week’s installment of Evaluating the East, we’ll be diving into the expectations of this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers finished the regular season with a 50-32 overall record and earned themselves the 4th-seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. They were ultimately swept in the NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors.
Notable Offseason Acquisitions:
Collin Sexton: Now with LeBron out of the picture, Sexton will be the focus of this offense. Head coach Ty Lue will most likely give him the keys and see what he does with it. Sexton had an incredibly high usage rate in college and you shouldn’t expect that to change now that he’s on the big stage. He’s a top candidate for Rookie of the Year because of his Russell Westbrook-esque style of play and the situation he has found himself in.
Channing Frye: The Cavs brought Frye back on a one-year deal, most likely as a locker room guy. I wouldn’t expect to see Channing play big minutes as this Cavs team looks to build around younger players.
Sam Dekker: Once seen as a high-potential player, (don’t forget he was an integral part of the Chris Paul trade) he lost all of his confidence playing for the Clippers last season. Dekker should see some significant play time in Cleveland, which will be good for his development, which has seemed to have peaked too early. He was once touted as a “3 and D” guy who could contribute on a playoff team. The Cavs are hoping that guy is still in there somewhere.
Notable Offseason Departures:
LeBron James: It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that James would be leaving Cleveland again after failing to compete with the Golden State Warriors in last year’s Finals. If you weren’t 100% sure he was leaving, you were damn sure after JR Smith gave away Game 1 of the Finals with a play that would’ve gotten a middle schooler benched. There’s no way they can replace what they’ve lost to the Lakers this offseason.
Jeff Green: Green played significant minutes in both the regular season and playoffs last season. He has played for six teams in his ten year career and just can’t seem to fit in anywhere. With LeBron’s departure you would have thought they’d have a spot for him this season, but the Cavs will probably continue to get younger as they attempt to rebuild themselves.
Projected Depth Chart:
G – Collin Sexton / George Hill / Isaiah Taylor
G – J.R. Smith / Kyle Korver / Jordan Clarkson
F – Cedi Osman / Sam Dekker
F – Kevin Love / Larry Nance Jr.
C – Tristan Thompson / Ante Zizic / Channing Frye
Two-Way Players: John Holland / Billy Preston
I’ve heard predictions for the Cavs ranging anywhere from 15 to 40 wins this upcoming season. People have no clue what to expect from the LeBron-less Cavs. The last time he left, the Cavs dropped from 61 to 19 wins in one season. The Cavs only hope is that Coach Ty Lue builds his new offense around Kevin Love and focuses on developing Collin Sexton into a pick and roll machine. If handled correctly, Love and Sexton can be a dynamic pick and roll duo. Between Sexton’s ability to get to the rim and Love’s ability to shoot from the outside, these two should be the core of a new look Cavs offense.
That being said, the Cavs are, at the very best, an 8-seed in the East and at worst, will be contending for a top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. While the combo of Love and Sexton can be fun, it isn’t a winning recipe. The rest of the team is atrocious and even when Love was at the top of his game in Minnesota, it didn’t translate into winning. The Wolves averaged 25.5 wins per season during Kevin Love’s tenure. The Love contract is just an attempt to keep the Cavs fan base interested in the team this season. Despite what Aloe Blacc has been telling us, Love isn’t the answer. I wouldn’t be surprised if they blew up this team and tried to build around Collin Sexton.
Expect the Cavs to ship out their high priced Vets to playoff teams in exchange for picks. George Hill ($19M), J.R. Smith ($14.72M), and Kyle Korver ($7.5M) should be moved as soon as possible to give as much playing time to the youngsters and to ensure the least amount of wins. The Cavs should match any offer given to Rodney Hood to ensure they at least get something in return for the recently unreliable shooting guard. If they decide to keep him, let’s hope it’s the Rodney who came off the bench in Game 3 of the Finals and racked up 15 points and 6 rebounds, and not the one who refused to enter Game 4 of the Cavs series against the Raptors.
The Verdict: Making the playoffs shouldn’t be the Cavs number one priority. I’d expect to see them at the top of the draft next year.
Threat level: Green – Low
The only way the Cavs could finish ahead of the Sixers is if the Phillies and Eagles both win titles this year resulting in complete destruction of the city.