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Sports

Four Years Into Their Rebuild, The Young Cavs Must 'Show Promise' This Season

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love (0) interviews Cedi Osman (16) during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, in Independence, Ohio.
Ron Schwane
/
AP
Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love (0) interviews Cedi Osman (16) during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, in Independence, Ohio.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, just six seasons removed from winning an NBA Championship, have been one of the worst teams in the NBA the past three seasons. Entering year four of the second post-LeBron James era, the team has high hopes of making the playoffs this season.

While this may be unrealistic considering their 60 wins the past three seasons (out of 219 total games), their exciting young core, with an average age of younger than 22, provides a sense of optimism.

Commentator Terry Pluto has low expectations for the Cavs this season but isn't surprised considering results of the first post-James era, after James' infamous departure to Miami in 2010.

"One thing Cavs fans know by now is when LeBron leaves, it is abysmal."
Terry Pluto

Young core

Pluto says the post-LeBron struggles stem from the team trading away draft picks in favor of experienced players who could help James and the Cavs win.

Now, their starting lineup consists of nothing but draft picks from the past four years: Collin Sexton, age 22; Darius Garland, 21; Isaac Okoro , 20; and Evan Mobley, 20.

Pluto believes this year's No. 3 overall draft pick Mobley is special.

"[In a few years] I think Mobley is the best of the bunch," Pluto said. "He's 7-foot. He rebounds. [He] blocks shots and can score."

Another important young piece for the Cavaliers is 6-foot-11-inch center Jarrett Allen, who signed a five-year, $100 million contract extension this offseason. They also acquired Lauri Markkanen, 24, another 7-footer who shot at a 40% clip from the past season.

Veterans on the bench

Though the addition of veteran point guard Ricky Rubio shows signs the Cavs are looking to be competitive this season, the presence of another former Cavs starter continues to permeate.

Kevin Love, now a bench player, has not seen the court very often in recent years because of a series of injuries. Once the team's centerpiece, his value has plummeted in recent years.

Love received a big contract extension after James departed in 2018. Now, the team finds itself unable to trade him or buy him out.

Pluto says Love is a detriment.

"They are trying to build a team. You don't build [a team] with a 33-year-old with injury history," Pluto said.

"[The Cavaliers] have reached a point where they have to show promise [this season]. It is hard to look at this team and see a lot of wins coming."
Terry Pluto

Expectations

The Cavs are pinning their postseason hopes on the NBA's new 10-team playoff format that features a play-in game.

However, Pluto's expectations remain low, especially looking at the schedule. The Cavs begin the season with a tough stretch of eight away games. Pluto says the NBA will be unforgiving to a young team like the Cavs.

"Generally the teams that win have older guys, and younger guys need to grow quickly. And generally, they don't," he said.

Pluto says "basketball purists" like himself will enjoy watching young players like Darius Garland and Evan Mobley develop. Still, he sees the Cavs finishing with a 30-52 record and missing the playoffs.

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