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The Cavs shift from rebuild mode to a win-now approach

Cavs point guard Darius Garland, 22, is an NBA All-Star in his third year in the league.
Cleveland Cavaliers
Cavs point guard Darius Garland, 22, is an NBA All-Star in his third year in the league.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are working to build off of last season’s turnaround. In the past two weeks, the team drafted an NBA-ready college standout and signed two key players to contract extensions.

Commentator Terry Pluto says drafting 22-year-old Ochai Agbaji signals a new approach for the team.

A four-year college draft pick

Agbaji played all four years at Kansas, which is unusual. Most college players play just one season and then enter the NBA draft.

"For example, Darius Garland played one year at Vanderbilt and turned pro. Evan Mobley played one year at USC and turned pro. But the Cavaliers feel that with Agbaji, a small forward from Kansas, that he can fill a need right away," Pluto said.

And Agbaji had an unconventional path to becoming a college standout.

"Kansas kind of brought him in late with a scholarship offer. He was a local guy. He wasn't on any of the top recruiting lists. They were even going to redshirt him his whole freshman year, but they had a bunch of injuries. He started to play, kind of moved into the lineup, and he just gradually got better and better every year," Pluto said.

"It's not a scramble like it was in the past to just bring in anybody and try to do something because we stink. Those days are over."
Terry Pluto

Garland finds his way to a max deal

Pluto says it's a smart approach for the Cavs, since many teams have struggled with signing 19-year-old draft picks.

Darius Garland, who was 19 when he was drafted in 2019, had a miserable rookie season. Now, the same age as Agbaji, Garland has become an All-Star and has signed a maximum contract.

Win now

Pluto says the Cavs are turning to a win-now approach, following last year's winning record and berth in the play-in tournament.

"They're starting to say it's time to bring guys in that can help right away," Pluto said.

The Cavs also signed veteran Ricky Rubio to a contract extension. He was key in the Cavs' turnaround before suffering a season-ending ACL injury.

"He's not going to be able to play probably until December or January. And they brought in a third point guard, an older guy, to kind of hold the fort until Rubio is back. His name is Raul Neto. He's decent. He's not great, but he's decent. He's better than what they had before," Pluto said.

Pluto says it will be interesting to see how the team performs this upcoming season.

"They have to figure out what to do with Collin Sexton. He's a restricted free agent. But, they have three core players on their team: Garland, Mobley and All-Star center Jarrett Allen. You add Agbaji into that, you bring back Rubio and maybe they pick up one or two other veterans to help out.

"But the point is, it's not a scramble like it was in the past and just bring in anybody and try to do something because we stink. Those days are over," Pluto said.

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