The Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t headed to the playoffs last spring when the NBA altered its season due to the pandemic. But with new head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and recent acquisition Andre Drummond, they were at least interesting. The Cavs aren’t expected to be playoff contenders either this year — oddsmakers project them to win a league-low 20 games in the 72-game season, which kicked off in December — but this season will shape where the Cavs are headed. Here are five storylines to watch.
Isaac Okoro’s Impact On The Cavs
The 19-year-old Okoro, the Cavs top pick out of Auburn University, is a 6-foot-6 wing who can defend four positions and has a chance to be in the starting lineup, according to Bickerstaff. “He’s a competitor. He’s a scrapper,” the coach said at Okoro’s introductory press conference in November. “So, our expectation is that he’ll go out and earn whatever is given to him.” Okoro can’t single-handedly change the Cavs defense, but he’s going to make it better.
The Cavs Defense
Over the last two seasons, the Cavs have been the worst defensive team in the NBA. “We all know we need to get better on that side of the ball, and we will continue to grow,” Cavs general manager Koby Altman said during the same press conference. Altman cited Bickerstaff’s coaching and adding Okoro, who Bleacher Report and others called one of the best defensive prospects in the draft, as two steps in the right direction.
Drummond’s First Full Year In Cleveland
Drummond is the Cavs biggest wild card. He played just eight games with the team last year, after being acquired from the Detroit Pistons, averaging 17.1 points and 11.1 rebounds. The All-Star center is in the last year of his current contract, so he might try to ball out to impress would-be suitors, including the Cavs with his elite rebounding and interior presence. Which Drummond the Cavs get determines whether he’ll be a boon or a bust.
Darius Garland and His Sophomore Season
Garland’s rookie year was hard to gauge after he played just five games as a freshman at Vanderbilt University. In his second season, the Cavs need more of the guard’s playmaking and Damian Lillard-like three-point shooting that made him worthy of the No. 5 pick in 2019. If not, it will raise fair questions about his place in Cleveland’s long-term plans.
Will Fans Be in the Stands?
In early November, the Cavs applied for a variance with the state of Ohio that would allow them to have some fans in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for games this year. The Cleveland Browns were allowed to have up to 12,000 fans outdoors after the Ohio Department of Health approved the team’s request. Although the Cavs indicated it may be a few thousand based on communications with ticket holders, currently they’re allowing 300 friends and family members of players per game.