Over the past several weeks, we’ve been “scouting the enemy,” as we’ve covered the outlook for the 29 other teams in the league ahead of the 2019-2020 season. Now, for the last one!
Former Grizzlies: Jarell Martin
Let’s take a ride across the country to a place known to many as “The Land” where in just 2016, LeBron James once came from behind 1-3 in the NBA Finals to beat the Golden State Warriors 4-3. This would instantly become one of the greatest accomplishments in recent sports history and maybe ever in the NBA. Nowadays, Cleveland is a place where Colin Sexton was just drafted 8th in the 2018 NBA Draft, and they still decided to spend the 5th pick drafting another 6’2 point guard in Darius Garland from Vanderbilt for the 2019 NBA draft.
The 2018-19 season was supposed to be the year Kevin Love proves he can lead a team to the playoffs as the “Alpha dog.” In reality, the Cavs finished 19-63, Coach Tyronn Lue was fired after starting 0-6, and the Cavs finished 14th in the Eastern conference. How did they do so? Well for starters, the Cavs averaged 104.5 points per game, good for 29th out of 30 teams. The defense, or lack there of, gave up a whopping 114.1 points per game, which placed them 24th out of 30 teams in terms of points scored against. They were bottom-five in defense, but even worse offensively which isn’t easy to do. The recipe for such includes your leading scorer in Kevin Love averaging only 17 points per game, despite averaging roughly 11 rebounds per game but his scoring output came on a nearly awful 38.5% shooting...from the FIELD! Now also factor in that Love only appeared in 22 games, but even when he did, it wasn’t nearly pretty.
Long story short, 5he Cavs endured a season where a rookie in Colin Sexton, who was called out by veteran teammates early on in the season for not knowing how to play the game, ended up virtually leading the team in scoring at 16.7 points per game — along with a young chucking veteran Jordan Clarkson who had nearly identical scoring averages and played 81 games. This is especially being that Love barely played & The Clarkson-Sexton scoring duo’s individual averages where nearly identical to that of Love anyways.
Now, the Cavaliers not only bring back Love for another year at maximum pay wages, but they also bring back several other terrible contracts with them, looking at you Tristian Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova, Brandon Knight, John Henson, and even Jordan Clarkson. This year’s team comes in with no expectations other than developing their core of prospects. That core as of now consists of Colin Sexton, Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr, Dylan Windler, Larry Nance Jr., and Cedi Osman. One would argue Jordan Clarkson should be in that group as well, but his contract begs to differ. My guess is that Kevin Love is a trade chip, and that any production he gives this year will be in efforts to increase his trade value for a possible deadline deal to a playoff team, if possible. That said, as long as Kevin Love is there and playing, he’s a threat to the opposition. In this case, that would be our beloved Memphis Grizzlies, so he’s definitely worth a scout.
Being that the Cavs have virtually no other big man prospects on the roster to even develop aside from Larry Nance and Ante Zizic, I expect them to make the most out of Tristian Thompson and Kevin Love’s performances, for if nothing else other than the fact they’re both on big contracts and beyond the rebuilding phase of their respective careers. Kevin Love just turned 31, and Tristian is no spring chicken at a high mileage version of 28 years old. Ante Zizic’s production wasn’t too shabby last year (eight points & five rebounds per game), but his lack of defensive versatility and inability to shoot from three-point land makes him very limited in terms of usage in the current climate. With that said, Zizic is a great rebounder and stat-stuffer, so expect him to get the usual 20 minutes per game unless his defense and/or three-point shooting has evolved.
Offseason in Review
Prior to the lottery, Darius Garland is the player many in Grind City were praying ended up in Memphis, if were forced to keep the pick. Now of course, the Grizzlies were blessed beyond their wildest imaginations in landing not only a star in Ja Morant, who’s the point guard of the future, and put them in position to cash in on peak trade value for Mike Conley and draft Brandon Clarke as a result. Darius Garland skipped Summer League 2019, as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL. Darius is a modern-day scorer in every sense — crafty handles, great shooter, potential limitless range, and, most important, a disciple of Yeezy fashion wear. He averaged 16 points per game along with 3 assists per game. Despite his struggles throughout the season, Sexton had a very impressive raw stat line, and that at least gave the inclination of his ability to be a high-level producer and proved worthy of being selected over guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox & Mitchell Robinson.
John Beilein is now the head coach, and rightfully so being he employed the two-guard offense. Beilein is known to get the most out of players &andis very good at development, with his recent long list of NBA guards and wings drafted mostly first round in the draft. Beilein will look to capitalize on the speed of his current roster and space the court in other instances a la Mo Wagner’s role at Michigan, none of which sound great for the likes of Tristian Thompson and Ante Zizic unless they have improved drastically as long range shooters. With that said expect to see a lot of Kevin Love and Larry Nance Lineups with John Henson helping out as a rim protector in spot minutes.
Cedi Osman will have to take it up another notch or two this season if he wants to remain a priority. Reason being is, the Cavaliers are expected to have high lottery picks in the upcoming drafts, which are all expected to be very loaded in wing talent. Osman has to become a more consistent high-volume scorer, as well as helping lead the floor as a now very experienced young veteran who has been all the way to the mountain top — though without winning the ring of course. He can further his development with improved ball handling and a set purpose for high activity at all times. Also improving his perimeter defense and reads wouldn’t hurt either.
I expect this Cavaliers team to find wins at a premium if you will. NThey have a new coaching staff that’s tasked with a roster filled with either raw prospects, one-dimensional players, or guys on bloated contracts — including their best player, Kevin Love.
The Grizzlies are already further along in their development phase, so when you see the Cavaliers come up on the schedule, you can turn on The Geto Boys’ “Damn It Feels Good To Be a Gangsta” and know the Grizzlies have a legit chance those games. Lord knows it’s nothing like a win in a rebuilding year, so that Grind City fans everywhere can go to bed that evening feeling too like The Geto Boys.
Stats found on nba.com.