3 Cleveland Cavaliers whose futures will be decided over the last 21 games
The Cleveland Cavaliers will see three players decide their fate over the next 21 games.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have looked all year for bench production and a starting small forward they can rely on for offense and defense. Right now, the Cavs think they have both. They have Isaac Okoro as their starter, Cedi Osman, Caris LeVert, and Ricky Rubio as bench scorers, and Dean Wade as a bench defender who can shoot threes.
The Cavs’ bench is also a mess. Made worse by the fact that the team parted ways with Kevin Love, who was the team’s fourth-best-producing player according to their box plus-minuses scores. Without Love, there is more pressure on the bench than ever to keep up with the starters.
Without Love, these three players have to prove that his impact won’t be missed, otherwise, all three could be gone in the offseason as the team tries to stay competitive in a league with constantly shifting parts.
Unlike the other two players, Okoro is entrenched as a starter right now. And he needs to be, as Darius Garland is just terrible on defense. He’s a great shooter, but my word, Garland couldn’t guard a three-week-old baby, in an incubator. That’s why Okoro is starting, to help take some of the pressure off of Donovan Mitchell defensively.
Mitchell is actually playing well defensively, at least if you look at his defensive box plus-minus stats. He’s at a +0.8 and climbing. Playing next to Okoro and in front of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley certainly helps. Which makes Garland’s struggles so much worse. He has no reason to be struggling as he is.
Okoro has got to keep up the defensive impact, otherwise, the team is definitely going to move on from him. While he’s improved offensively, he hasn’t improved so much that the Cavs can carry him should his defense falter.