For once, the Cleveland Cavaliers are entering the NBA season with some optimism. This isn’t a throwaway year full of strategic losing and tanking for the best possible draft pick. No, the Cavaliers have goals for the first time in a long time and the difference between making the playoffs or falling back into the lottery will come down to a few key factors.
The Cleveland Cavaliers can go in some drastically different directions this season. How these x-factors perform will decide it all.
Koby Altman of all people is likely one of the most committed to making the play-in tournament this year. The pressure is mounting as this rebuild approaches some notable crossroads in the form of player contract extensions (Collin Sexton) — and of course, whether or not Altman will be the GM moving forward. Patience may be a virtue but not in this league. Four years of missing the playoffs will not bode well for Altman as he is already deep in the hot seat for many.
This sense of urgency played a role in Altman’s decision to trade for Lauri Markkanen, a younger prospect who can help fill one of Cleveland’s biggest voids immediately as a 3-point shooter. Trading away the fan-favorite Larry Nance Jr. in order to maximize the current roster’s ceiling was a bold yet necessary move.
Markkanen will be joining a collection of young talent with a lot to prove. Sexton is gearing up for his biggest statement yet with a potential max extension lingering over his head. Meanwhile, Darius Garland has emerged as one of the league’s more underrated rising stars and is expected to take another leap forward after a strong sophomore season.
Rounding out the rest of the roster are more promising prospects (we will get to them later) and a veteran backup point guard in Ricky Rubio. All things considered, this is one of the strongest lineups the Cavaliers have had since the LeBron James’ era and it is easy to get excited about what is to come. But, their success will be determined by these three major x-factors.