Author: Dean Carr
Last Updated: September 12, 2022
To most NBA fans, the Cleveland Cavaliers were a must-watch League Pass team last season.
Though far from a serious contender, their exciting young roster always delivered competitive and fun basketball, particularly before injuries derailed their season.
It’s truly the first time since LeBron James was drafted in 2003 that there has been genuine excitement surrounding the franchise without the presence of the King on the roster. Boasting a young core that features NBA All-Stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen, as well as future perennial All-Star Evan Mobley, Cavs fans already had plenty to be optimistic about.
That optimism was multiplied tenfold after they used Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, three first round picks and two pick swaps to acquire 3x All-Star Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. It gives the Cavaliers four young stars that could all warrant All-Star consideration in the upcoming season.
It had appeared likely that Mitchell would he heading to the New York Knicks before the Cavs pulled off what many thought to be an unlikely trade earlier this summer. With such a young core in place, you would’ve been forgiven for believing that they would take their time in assembling the roster and waiting until they thought they were truly ready to contend.
However, given the asking price on offer and Cleveland’s historic inability to attract free agents to Ohio, even when James was the star of the show, this deal was a no-brainer. The 26-year-old is under contract for the next three seasons and has a player option for the 2025-26 season too.
Throughout the duration of that contract, Mobley will still be on his rookie deal and, if his Rookie season was anything to go by, will be heavily outperforming the monetary value of his salary. They also have Garland and Allen signed over the next six and four seasons respectively, giving them multiple years to construct the correct roster around this quartet.
Though many will make the obvious comparisons between Cleveland’s new miniature backcourt with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the latter pair were never given two elite defensive big men to compensate for their lack of size. Mobley and Allen will be able to cover for much of the deficiencies of Garland and Mitchell on that end of the floor, while Mitchell will also relieve much of the pressure on Garland to run the offense, often single-handedly at times last season.
From a betting perspective, this has unsurprisingly shortened the Cavs’ odds in most major outright markets ahead of the new NBA season. Most NBA betting sites took the immediate step to slash their odds on winning the NBA Championship, Eastern Conference and Central Division before sports bettors could take advantage of the additional value.
The Cavs compete in the Central Division alongside the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers and have been made the second-favorites to win it at +375. The Bucks are still heavy favorites at -300, although Cleveland has taken a leap on the Bulls at +625. The rebuilding Pistons and Pacers are each +20000 as heavy outsiders.
When it comes to winning the Eastern Conference, there are now just five teams ahead of J.B. Bickerstaff’s team in the betting ranks. They are the Boston Celtics, (+275), Bucks (+325), Brooklyn Nets (+400), Miami Heat (+800) and Philadelphia 76ers (+850). The Cavs find themselves in a middle zone at (+1200), with the next two closest teams being the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors at +2500.
Winning the title in their first season with Mitchell looks to be a huge ask, particularly given the lack of Playoff experience between their current leading trio of Garland, Allen and Mobley. Those who want to back the Cavs to win the title can get a price of +2500 to do so — a price that matches that of Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks and Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies.
How Far Can They Go?
As mentioned before, this is the first time that Cleveland fans will have hopes of a deep Playoff run without LeBron for more than 20 years. Expectations have risen with the acquisition of Mitchell, but keeping a lid on them will be important, especially in the early months of the season.
This isn’t the Eastern Conference that James dominated for four straight seasons in his second spell in Cleveland, reaching the NBA Finals in consecutive years without a significant foe in his way.
This is one of the most competitive Eastern Conferences that we have seen this century, which is highlighted by the fact that two of Cleveland, Boston, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Miami or Philadelphia won’t make it out of the first round. That’s before you mention other Playoff contenders such as Atlanta, Toronto or Chicago, who will have their sights set on making the postseason as a bare minimum.
Appreciating the journey without thinking about the destination should be the key for Cleveland this season. Making the Playoffs after losing out in the Play-In game last year would be a success for this young Cavaliers team.
This likely won’t be the year for them to be competing for a Championship, but they will once again be must-see TV for all and one of the best teams to watch in the NBA.