The young Cavs team got exposed in the preseason opener
The youth-oriented Cleveland Cavaliers played their first NBA game together in the preseason against the Chicago Bulls–and it didn’t look pretty. When the final buzzer sounded, the Cavs left United Center on the receiving end of a harrowing 131-95 beating.
With the youngest projected starting lineup in the league, the Cavs are expected to go through a lot of growing pains this season. Sure enough, the promising young core of Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, and Collin Sexton visibly struggled offensively early in the game.
Falling behind by double-digits after tallying a grand total of a lone field goal, things stabilized drastically once the second unit led by veterans Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio checked in past halfway through the first quarter, closing the period with 22-straight points to cut the deficit down to six.
After getting as close as three to open the second period, it all went downhill for Cleveland from thereon as they went into the halftime break down 69-48. They trailed by as much as 48 at one point in a contest where they committed 20 turnovers and had few answers for the Bulls scoring onslaught led by Zach Lavine.
Sexton led the Cavaliers in scoring with 14 points but also turned the ball over five times. Rookie Mobley had a decent outing of 10 points, eight boards, and two blocks, while newcomers Lauri Markkanen and Ricky Rubio combined for 23 markers off the bench.
No need for the Cavs to press the panic button
Not to make any excuses for the team, but the reality is that the Bulls have legitimate All-Stars leading a team with playoff aspirations. A team much further along than the Cavaliers.
Of course, it is still only the preseason, and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff will have plenty of time to make adjustments while the players get acclimated to sharing the court together. The floor spacing is also a major concern to address.
Needless to say, there is a lot of work to be done, and getting exposed this early can only be good for the long term. While Saturday’s Wine and Gold Scrimmage gave the fans a lot of excitement and hope, the preseason opener doused cold water on the hype and brought everyone back to reality.
Several members of the organization have talked about potentially competing for a play-in/playoff spot, but the fact of the matter is, this team is still nearing the tail end of a long rebuild. The wide-eyed young players should continue to look to grizzled veterans such as Rubio and Love to help lead them along.
Sure, setting a goal this early is good, but let us remind ourselves that this is a team that has won a total of 60 contests in the past three years. Still a team with a tremendously high ceiling, but also a low baseline.
It’s not like the Cavs were able to sign or swing a trade for a marquee player during the offseason. As talented as the young players are, there is no way of telling how good the team can become without actually going through a significant amount of games.
There are a lot of learnings to be done for sure, and with one of the youngest teams in the league, they are bound to figure in ugly games like this one every once in a while. Luckily, we are still in the preseason, and these results hardly matter.
But again, the more reps the squad collectively gets while playing meaningful basketball together, the better they should get. On to the next one.